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CSA 2019 – Week 12

We have been selling our produce at various farmers’ markets now for more than 25 years. These last few years we attend 2 markets only – North York on Thursdays and Downtown Georgetown on Saturday mornings. It’s a privilege to deal directly with the persons who will eat the fruit of our labour – to talk and get to know them, and hear their comments & opinions about our vegetables. It’s also a lot of work – from picking & packing the day before, to early rising & loading the day of, and then driving to the market and setting up our stall.

In the spring when the days are longer the sun is rising during our trip in. There can be some beautiful skies!

But by this time of year it’s still dark for the drive in, and even when we arrive at market.

Market itself is usually a lot of fun – when the weather is good! Here are various shots of our market setup this season …

What’s in the box?

Sweet peppers, blackberries, cucumbers, carrots, onions, tomatoes & garlic.

extras – zucchini, & sunflowers

  • Sweet peppers always seem to take so long to ripen & mature. Our plants have been loaded with green fruit for a long while, but are so slow to colour up. We’ve had a handful of purple ones, and last week we picked the first few mini red & yellow peppers, but still we wait for the red shepherds and all their sweetness, and the beautiful orange and yellow bells. So, we’ll pick some more green ones this week and add them to the share. And we’ll continue to wait (im)patiently for more colour.
  • Everyone was excited for the blackberries last week. We have had enough rain & warm temperatures in the last while to ensure large, plump, delicious berries. The canes are heavy with fruit and (barring a bad weather event) we should be picking blackberries well into September.
  • The summer vegetables continue … cucumbers, carrots, onions, and of course tomatoes.
  • Our garlic is drying out nicely, so we are no longer calling it fresh. It’s been airing in the barn a few weeks now and is almost completely dried. There’s no difference in the way you use it, but it means that if kept at room temperature and away from moisture the bulbs will now last for many months. Enjoy!
  • Our CSA members are telling us that they are maybe getting zucchinied out! So we’ll move zucchini over to the “extras table” and you can grab some or not – your choice. However you might want try this recipe for a zucchini pizza crust. We like it a lot – https://kirbiecravings.com/zucchini-crust-pizza
  • We are also hearing that the heirloom cucumbers are not a hit – too big & seedy is the consensus. Thank you for letting us know! Next season we’ll put our efforts into some other crop rather. We always appreciate feedback on the contents of our boxes. It helps us decide what to grow, and how to improve our CSA.
  • There is a chance I overplanted sunflowers! At least it seems we are picking vast amounts each day in this warm weather. Please help yourself to a handful of these bright beauties along with all your vegetables. We have plenty for everyone to enjoy!


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CSA 2019 – Week 11

Abundance is our word of the day – as in we picked an abundance of vegetables and other crops today!! And we will do the same tomorrow, and probably all week. It’s a combination of the time of year (mid-August is prime vegetable season), the abundance of rain we received last week (3+ inches), and the bright sunshine & hot temperatures. Put it all together and the result is abundance!!

Here are some examples …

What’s in the box?

Blackberries, shishito peppers, cucumbers, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, onions, fresh garlic, zucchini.

  • Blackberries are always a highlight of the summer. It seems almost everybody enjoys blackberries. Picked properly they are a little sweet & a little tart. If they aren’t quite ripe, they are sour. Too ripe and they are soft & mushy, but incredibly sweet. We try to pick them as ripe as possible, but still firm. Unlike raspberries, blackberries are not hollow, but have a centre core which is soft & edible. The only way to eat a blackberry is to pop the whole thing in your mouth. Try to take a small bite, and you are covered in black, staining juice. Blackberries are best eaten fresh, but also make great jam, juice, sauce, ice cream …
  • Please note that we do use pesticides on our blackberries. For many years we did not. That was one of the good things about growing blackberries – no spraying necessary! Then along came the spotted wing drosophila. Spotted wing drosophila is an invasive vinegar fly that has the potential to cause extensive damage to many fruit crops – especially soft and dark coloured fruit like blackberries. In the last few years it has been found throughout much of southern Ontario and most of the fruit-growing areas of North America, and has become a chronic pest in berry and tender fruit crops. Effective biological controls are not yet available. There are cultural practices that we use to help reduce the insect populations, but the only effective control right now is chemical. And so we spray regularly to try to kill the spotted wing drosophila and protect our blackberries (and elderberries). We would rather not! But then again, we would rather not have worms in our blackberries!
  • Shishito peppers are a Japanese pepper – bright green, with a sweet, fruity flavour and thin, tender, wrinkled skin. What makes a shishito exciting is that 1 in 10 peppers will be hot! They are simple to prepare and delicious to eat! While you can use them as you would any other sweet pepper, they are at their best when charred in olive oil in a cast-iron skillet or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add some minced fresh garlic. Cook the peppers whole, turning occasionally, until they begin to blister on all sides. This only takes a few minutes. Sprinkle with salt and maybe a splash of lemon or lime juice and some parmesan cheese, and serve immediately. Eat the whole pepper – except the stem.
  • Cucumbers were not listed as being in the box last week – but there they were! They surprised us with a big & unexpected pick. And here they are again! Returning favourites are the white Silver Slicer, a delicious, crunchy cucumber. They really are great! We also have long green cucumbers – with the beautiful name of Summer Dance – also delicious, but disappointing for us as they get scabby so quick and then look poorly. Lastly we are trying a couple of heirloom varieties. These get rather large and sometimes a bit seedy but like the others they do taste great. If it sounds like I like cucumbers, I sure do. They are one of my favourite vegetables!
  • The remaining vegetables in your box this week are familiar to you – carrots, green beans, tomatoes (various sizes), onions, fresh garlic & zucchini.
  • What isn’t in the box perhaps should also be mentioned. Lettuce was missing last week and is absent again this week and might be for a few more weeks. The extreme heat & humidity we had recently slowed down the lettuce’s germination first and then its growth when it was finally planted. We kept picking earlier plantings longer than we prefer, but now it has caught up to us and there will be this lettuce lull for a while. We are harvesting a small amount from what has recently grown, but not enough for our CSA. It’s a similar story with most of our greens. But they will return …

Some final examples of abundance …

An abundance of straw bales arrived last week – 70 of them, for next year’s weed control.
An abundance of sleep for Flynn & Flynn!!
And an abundance of discovery for the next generation.


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CSA 2019 – Week 10

What’s in the box?

Carrots, green peppers, onions, tomatoes & cherry tomatoes, zucchini, fresh garlic, green beans.

  • Carrots don’t often make an appearance in our CSA shares but enjoy them this week! They are small, tender, sweet, & delicious!
  • Peppers are certainly one of my favourites! We could wait until they turn colour – we’re anticipating red, orange, yellow & purple (and even a few chocolate coloured ones!) – but why not enjoy them now while they are still green? Don’t worry, the peppers are plentiful on the plants so there will be lots of coloured ones too, in a few weeks.
  •  Returning CSA members were excited to see the onions last week. They taste soooo good! (It’s hard to beat an onion & tomato sandwich!)
  • We are picking more large beefsteak tomatoes now – red ones, as well as orange & pink. The cherry tomatoes are also ripening well. Find both sizes of tomatoes in the box this week.
  • Our zucchini plants are truly amazing. After all their struggles with insects earlier, they have come back and are pumping out the fruit. Now the diseases are showing up – mildew especially, which is common in hot & humid weather – but still they produce.
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Our 2nd zucchini planting is kicking in and we harvested a large amount from this small patch today as well. Plus, we have recently seeded a 3rd time. We expect these to begin producing by the middle of September. So there should be zucchini for awhile!

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  • The barn smells deliciously like garlic. That’s because we have racks & racks of fresh garlic drying. The crop is good and we’re still harvesting, so you can expect a garlic bulb in your box each week now.
  • Green beans complete this week’s CSA box.

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I ate my 1st blackberry today and it was amazing! Expect to see blackberries in your box in a couple of weeks!


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CSA 2019 – Week 9

They say it’s good to look at things from another perspective.

So how about this …

A neighbour of ours was up in a helicopter (approx. 1 week ago) checking out their farms – and checked ours out too. Now that’s a view we never get to see! Thanks Tristan!

Our farm is outlined in red. Surrounding us are strawberry fields, then a hazelnut grove, and fruit (mostly peach) orchards. Lake Ontario is just under 2 km north of our farm. The CN railroad tracks border the south side. 

I was pleased to see that our vegetable rows are quite straight! Everything looks very green & lush.

What’s in the box?

Green beans, tomatoes, onions, basil, fresh garlic, zucchini, lettuce, salad turnips.

  • It’s always great to have something new to offer in our CSA share. This week it’s green beans. We picked a very few last week, but now there’s enough for the box. Enjoy the crunch & the snap of fresh beans!
  • After a warm weekend, we got a big pick of tomatoes today! All colours and all sizes – including big, red, round, juicy beefsteak tomatoes. Tomato lovers will be in heaven this week!
  • The onion in your share this week will be the heirloom Ailsa Craig variety that we have been growing for many years now. They are a sweeter onion & very delicious. 
  • This is a good year for basil (so far) – it thrives in the hot & dry weather we’ve been experiencing. Tomorrow’s forecasted rain may change all that, so we picked pails full of this wonderfully aromatic herb today. The barn smells amazing! Treat basil like you would a bouquet of flowers – in a jar with water. DON’T put it in the fridge – the cold temperatures will turn it black.
  • Fresh garlic! Strong, juicy, flavourful and ready to enjoy. If you will use it soon, keep it in the fridge. Or you can dry it, to keep it longer. Place it indoors or out, in a protected place where it can be kept dry, out of the direct sun, and with good air circulation. It usually takes around a month to fully dry. Of course it will be eaten long before then!
  • Zucchini (or patty pan summer squash), lettuce & salad turnips complete the box this week.

Here are 2 recipes featuring this week’s vegetables … 

https://momsdinner.net/lemon-garlic-green-beans/

http://www.exploringhealthyfoods.com/crispy-turmeric-zucchini-fries. (use fresh garlic rather than garlic powder, for better flavour)

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I finished installing the new fence for the young chickens and they are loving being outside!

Sage is loving it too. She spends a lot of time just being with her new friends (and occasionally jumping at the fence – just to see them run!)

Or waiting for her special canine friend Milo and their daily walk together.

 

 


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CSA 2019 – Week 8

You wouldn’t know it from the pictures we post, both here on the blog & on Instagram.

The farm in the pictures usually looks pretty good – obviously we want to show our best side!

But in reality things are looking rather rough. It’s the same every year at this time. And every year I whine about it. And every year I promise myself we’ll do better & keep things under control. And every year we do – for a while!

And then the middle of July rolls around.

We’re still busy planting. But we’re also harvesting … and weeding … and mulching … and pruning & tying tomatoes …  Then it gets hot & humid & dry & then wet … and we fall behind. Out of nowhere the weeds explode and take over. Suddenly the farm is a mess!

So we pick & choose, set our priorities and do what we can. We put our heads down and get going. We sharpen the hoes. We get down on our knees & pull weeds. We even bring out the lawnmower – our tool of choice at this time of the summer. We fight to regain some semblance of order – and we do!

A little dramatic? Perhaps. But after an extremely hot & tiring week, an even hotter weekend, and a violent storm last Friday, we were rather shocked at sight of the farm this morning!

Not that it was all bad news! The summer vegetables also loved the heat and grew & grew …

We made some good progress on the weeding today. Here’s Amy using our finger-weeder. Timing is critical with this tool (it only works on very small weeds, when the vegetables are small too) but properly used it can save a lot of hand weeding.

The new zucchini patch is mulched, and growing well thanks to the 1″ of rain we received last week.

(Almost) Weed free onions – nothing short of amazing for this time of year!

What’s in the box?

Tomatoes, fresh garlic, zucchini & patty pan summer squash, kohlrabi, fennel, lettuce, beets, green onions, fresh herb bunches.

  • The tomato patch has been teasing us with a few ripe tomatoes for a week or more. Now we are finally picking enough fruit for our CSA shares! There’s not an abundance yet, but enough for a good taste!
  • We have begun to harvest garlic. After the mild scapes we’ve been eating the last while, the fresh garlic is strong & pungent! Because it is fresh and not dried, it must be kept refrigerated. Remember to wrap it well or your entire fridge will smell & taste like garlic.
  • To say we have zucchini & patty pan summer squash is a bit of an understatement. They appear to be making up for lost time after their struggles with the cucumber beetle. Enjoy several in your box this week (plus a few more if desired.) We enjoyed stuffed patty pan squash for dinner last week. Here’s the recipe (note that we used quinoa instead of rice and it was delicious!) https://www.food.com/recipe/rice-stuffed-sunburst-patty-pan-summer-squash-382907
  • Kohlrabi is a big disappointment this season. Instead of the big, beautiful, perfectly weird-looking vegetable we usually can grow, they are smaller, misshapen and mostly cracked this year. We have 3 or 4 different plantings coming on now and every one of them is the same – not sure why. There is still good eating in them, just a bit more work to prepare them. Kohlrabi is usually eaten raw – just peeled & sliced. The taste & texture resembles fresh, crunchy broccoli stems, with a bit of radish thrown in. Use on raw vegetable platters and serve with a creamy dip. Grated kohlrabi can be added to slaws. Kohlrabi can also be steamed or boiled but don’t peel until after they are cooked. When the bulbs are tender, peel skin, and season with butter, salt, and pepper, a cheese sauce, or just enjoy plain. They are good for mashing with other vegetables – parsnips, carrots or potatoes. Kohlrabi absorbs the flavour of other ingredients making it ideal to add to soup, stew and stir-fries. The bulbs should be stored, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the fridge. They will hold for a week. Our favourite way to eat kohlrabi (other than raw in slices) is to sautée it in butter & garlic for just a few minutes. Then add just a dash of nutmeg. Delicious!
  • We always struggle to grow nice fennel. For some reason it gives us trouble & we rarely get good results. Except this year! Our fennel is small (maybe a little too small), tender & delicious. Fennel is crisp & crunchy like celery, but with a licorice flavour. Use it fresh in salads or on a vegetable tray. We like it roasted too, which makes the flavour milder. The ferny fronds can be used – as a garnish, in a salad. They pair well with fish & fish dishes. Here is a fennel recipe that we are anxious to try. https://www.spicesinmydna.com/roasted-beet-fennel-salad-mint-toasted-walnuts/
  • Lettuce mix, beets, green onions & fresh herbs complete the CSA box this week.

Not everyone hates the weeds & rampant-growing grasses! Flynn enjoys the cover they provide for his hunting expeditions. Flynn does not enjoy me disturbing his hunting!

 

 


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CSA 2019 – Week 7

Today was a seeding & planting day on the farm.

Actually, every Monday is!

People are often surprised that we’re still seeding & planting – but we will continue to do so, well into September (weather permitting of course).

Every Monday Amy seeds trays of lettuce, spinach, etc … She seeded the first spinach back in early April and lettuce soon after. Then she added bok choy & green onions. Kale & swiss chard followed. Lately she’s added a salad mix, dill, cilantro & basil to the list. Every few weeks she also seeds trays of beets, kohlrabi, fennel … We’ve stopped bok choy for a while – it really doesn’t do well in this heat (nor spinach – but we keep trying since it is so popular with our customers). Green onion seeding also finished a while back. If our timing works out, the green onion harvest should end when the big onions are ready to eat. All these trays of seedlings are started inside our small greenhouse or outside in the yard.

Each week I then transplant vegetable seedlings out into the fields. I use our paperpot transplanter which makes a slow, backbreaking job extremely fast & easy. See https://thiessenfarms.com/2018/06/25/csa-2018-week-5 for a description & pictures of this amazing piece of equipment.

Here’s some of today’s plantings … Because the soil is very hot & dry now, I water them thoroughly at planting to ease their transition to the ground.

A few crops we seed directly into the ground. Sunflowers I seed every week and beans about every 2 weeks.

Here’s our largest sunflowers (remember, the first planting was completely eaten by the birds). Subsequent plantings can be seen in the background.

The latest (3rd) planting still has yellow ribbons blowing to discourage birds from feasting on the seeds.

And today I seeded more, and also the first of the fall radishes (watermelon radishes, daikon …)

The first planting of green beans is blooming – beans coming soon! The next planting is growing nicely.

We are actually hoping for some rain this week. While there is still a lot of moisture in the soil, the top few inches – where we put the seeds, and plant the tiny seedlings – is dry & hot. Some of our recent plantings have struggled & are a bit sparse because of this. Some precipitation would benefit the farm greatly.

What’s in the box?

Zucchini, cabbage or Chinese cabbage, lettuce mix, beets, green onions, garlic scapes.

(maybe kohlrabi & salad turnips)

  • We are finally picking zucchini! After the cucumber beetles decimated so much of the patch, enough came back to produce a (smaller) crop. The bad news – for zucchini traditionalists – is that we have no green zucchini. They were the preferred food for those hungry insects. The golden zucchini made a remarkable come-back, and the patty pans were mostly spared. So yellow it is!!

  • With zucchini, both colour really doesn’t matter. They all taste the same. The round patty pans too – they’re just a different shape. As far as size goes, certainly the smaller ones are more tender. But even the large ones are still tender enough to eat fresh. And if you plan to throw them on the BBQ, cook with them, or bake a zucchini loaf, then the big ones are the way to go.
  • Chinese (or napa) cabbages are also ready – sort of! While I expected to pick an abundance of these tender cabbages, many of them are still not filled out, while many are. So we’ll pick what we can and then also pick some regular cabbage too. Or almost regular! We have some little pointed cabbages that are about big enough to enjoy. These funny-looking but delicious morsels are just enough for a meal – no leftovers here! Both kinds of cabbage are great for salads, coleslaws or quick cooking.

  • Lettuce mix, beets, green onions & garlic scapes are again a part of your box this week.
  • Hoping for more salad turnips & enough mature kohlrabi for the CSA share this week as well – we won’t know until we pick tomorrow. (There’s lots of kohlrabi but they remain small and many of them are cracking.)

A reminder that we can reuse the containers that we pack your vegetables in.

Please return them rather than throwing them away.


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CSA 2019 – Week 6

Vegetables feed the body, while flowers feed the soul.

While I like to quote that saying, it isn’t totally accurate here on our farm anymore.

Now we also grow flowers to feed the body.

Yes, edible flowers! Calendula (pot marigolds) & Centaurea (bachelor’s buttons) mostly.

They are beautiful!

Uses for the flowers include sprinkling the petals on a salad, or decorating cakes & cupcakes with the blooms. And as usual our customers at market teach us how to use our produce. One young lad scatters the flowers atop his mac & cheese dinner – how’s that for elevating a simple dish into something elegant! And last weekend our edible flowers adorned a wedding cake!

They look amazing – in the field, in the basket, and on the table at market. While we don’t sell a lot of them, they do attract a lot of attention & draw people to our table. And equally important, the bees & bugs in the fields love them. The flowers are always teeming with insects!

Earlier on, we also offered elderflowers. These large white blooms are cooked with water, sugar and a bit of lemon, to make a simple syrup. This is added to drinks or used in baking. A market customer told us that back in the old country when she was a child, they would dip the entire bloom into pancake batter, then into hot oil to cook it, then into maple syrup, and then right into their stomachs! Delicious!

The extreme heat last week finished off the elderflowers in a hurry, so they’re done for another year. But there will be lots of elderberries for eating next month.

We will be offering edible flowers in our CSA share this week – something a little different for most of us! How will you use your flowers?

What’s in the box?

Beets, broccoli, lettuce, salad turnips, green onions, garlic scapes, herb bunches, & edible flowers.

  • Along with an assortment of vegetables, enjoy some herbs this week. Choose from cilantro, dill, parsley & mint.

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What else is going on around the farm this week …

The blackberries are almost finished blooming and little berries are already forming. In about a month they will be ripe!

Tomatoes & peppers are coming along nicely too.

The zucchini plants that the insects ate are making a comeback (to the left in the picture) – some of them anyway, but of course the harvest is delayed. We also transplanted a new batch of zucchini plants into the field today.

And the rabbit damage on the beans is hardly noticeable now. We’ve had some success keeping them away from our crops 😉

Sunflowers, and a second planting of beans.

Cover crop on a fallow field growing well.

Other vegetables and weeds growing well too!

A little nest with 4 tiny eggs hidden in the grass, right on the ground. Lucky we didn’t drive over it!