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No, we don’t miss the peaches!

Rarely does a week goes by that I’m not asked the question – the same question. The wording might be different or it’s asked another way, but it is basically the same question …

Do you miss the fruit?

It has been exactly 2 years now since we removed our fruit orchards – cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, nectarines, pears – to focus on growing vegetables. And people continue to ask about it.

(for a bit of background, check these blog posts from when this happened.  https://thiessenfarms.com/2015/11/11/changes,                      https://thiessenfarms.com/2015/12/21/thiessen-farms-our-new-look, https://thiessenfarms.com/2016/03/03/lost-on-the-farm).

I think what’s often meant by the question is – did we make the right decision? After all, ripping out a few thousand fruit trees, some of which had been in the ground for well over 50 years is a big thing! And once it’s done, there is no going back.

These past 2 years have been difficult & scary!

We always considered vegetables to be a supplement to our tree fruit. Now they have become our main enterprise. That means growing the quantity & quality required to make a living. There are no peaches to fall back on! The first year was extremely dry while this past season was too wet. Both of these were challenging conditions for scaling up production. On the marketing side, we immediately lost many of our CSA members who were there for the fruit. Others tried the new “vegetables only” CSA for a year, found they really missed the fruit and moved on. At the farmers’ market, our customers’ reactions ranged from disappointment to anger. Not a market day has passed in these 2 years that they have not reminded us that our fruit is missed. It continues to be a struggle to regain our customers & their loyalty.

But these past 2 years have also been exciting & fun! After a lifetime of growing tree fruit, it’s been a great change to concentrate on vegetables.

  • The miracle of planting a tiny seed in the soil, watching it sprout and grow, and then harvesting a crop in as little as a few weeks – that never gets old for me!
  • I like that every year is a fresh start. We can grow the same vegetables again or try something new. We are not bound by what we grew last year. A few dollars for a pack of seeds and it’s a whole new adventure!
  • If a crop is damaged or lost to insects, disease, weather, even our mistakes … we can replant and try it again. Unlike fruit where there’s only 1 opportunity each year, vegetables offer more chances.
  • Vegetables respond rapidly to their growing environment. Nutrients or the lack of, water (enough, too much or too little), weed pressure, temperature, cultural practises … all have an immediate effect. It’s fascinating to see how we can so quickly influence their growth, and learn to provide optimum conditions for the best vegetables.
  • I enjoy the task of planning and the challenge of timing our seeding & planting to hopefully result in a harvest – the right amount of the right vegetable at the right time… (The fruit trees mostly set their own schedule which we could influence very little).

We are probably working harder physically & mentally now than when we grew fruit. Part of this is because we have fewer workers around to help, & partly because we’re still learning better & more efficient way to do things. But we also work fewer hours, spend more time observing, and take more coffee breaks!

So … do we miss the fruit? Not at all! It was the right decision – a great decision!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fall

Planting garlic. Late October. Warm weather & sunshine. T-shirts. Beautiful leaves. It doesn’t get any better!

Garlic is always the last thing we plant in the year. Once tucked in the ground it sends out roots & gets established, then waits through the cold winter until the warm spring temperatures return, when it sprouts and grows.

 

This is our last week of farmers’ markets. We finish the season on Thursday 26 at North York. We’re excited to be done!

For the end of October we have an amazing amount of vegetables & herbs to pick for our final market – lettuce, spinach, arugula, radishes, winter radishes, carrots, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, sweet & hot peppers, kale, baby kale, parsley, cilantro, chives and pawpaws. Other crops stored in the barn include squash, baby pumpkins & garlic. And it will work out well – there should be enough of all these for the market and then the fields & the barn should be about empty.

We’re also working at cleaning up the farm. Yesterday we pulled all the posts in the tomato patch & mowed down the plants, and disced lightly. We’ll spread a layer of manure or compost yet, seed cover crop if conditions allow, and this field will be ready for winter.

Other parts of the farm that were cleared earlier & seeded to cover crops are showing new green shoots. We’re pushing ourselves to get the fall clean-up and other work done. The temperatures have been so nice lately that we tend to forget next week is November and cold weather could soon be here.

But until then, we will enjoy this beautiful fall!

 


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Haha Pawpaw!

Back behind the barn, past the chicken house, beside the ditch, is our pawpaw orchard – and by orchard I mean 9 small trees.

Pawpaws are a “tropical fruit” native to North America, growing in the Carolinian forests in Kentucky, Ohio and north to Southern Ontario – around Lake Erie & in the Niagara peninsula. Once popular with indigenous people & early settlers they began to disappear as the woodlands were cleared for farming & development. Now they are considered to be somewhat rare.

I planted our pawpaws about 8 or 9 years ago, mostly on a whim. Reading a nursery catalogue, I came upon the description …

This unusual small native pawpaw tree is not only strikingly ornamental with its delicate purple blooms in the spring and its long drooping leaves, but it produces clusters of custard-like oval fruits that ripen in the fall. The trees are insect and disease resistant. The leaves and twigs have anti-oxidant properties as well as insecticidal uses. (www.grimonut.com)

So I immediately ordered 10 seedlings without much thought or planning. When they arrived in spring I had to find a place to plant them. Back behind the barn, past the chicken house … seemed like a good spot.

They struggled to survive as pawpaws are difficult to transplant. And being out of sight (back behind the barn …) they were neglected. But 9 grew and became lovely small trees, about 8-10′ tall now. They have produced a few fruit in the last couple of years – just enough for us to devour & enjoy!

The spring blossoms are indeed beautiful – a dark bronzy/purple colour.

This year’s crop of pawpaws is larger. They are hanging thick on the trees.

Some hang singly, but most are in flat clusters of about 5 fruit. They bruise easily, have an extremely short shelf life, ripen unevenly, vary greatly in size and tend to drop readily. For these reasons they will never be a commercially viable crop.

But the taste – the taste is heavenly! Distinctly tropical like a banana/mango/pineapple with a soft, mushy, custard-like texture. I slice them in half & scoop out the delicious flesh with a spoon. Each fruit has a lot of large, hard seeds.

This year we finally have enough pawpaws to take to market. The first couple of baskets came to North York with us yesterday. People loved them! They were snapped up in a hurry! We will have a very few more for the final Georgetown market tomorrow.

It’s fun to grow an uncommon & unusual fruit like pawpaws. It’s even more fun to eat them!

If anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be back behind the barn, past the chicken house, beside the ditch in our pawpaw orchard – slurping on delicious pawpaws!

 

 

 

 


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CSA 2017 – Final week!

This is it!

The final week of CSA for 2017.

Thank you for giving us the privilege of growing your food this season, and for placing your trust in us & our farming. We appreciate it!

Thank you for all your encouragement, comments & critique!

What’s in the box?

Salad turnips, leeks, squash, carrots, peppers, onions, garlic, baby kale.

  • A new planting of salad turnips is ready – just in time! Remember them from earlier in the season? They are white, small, & round, resembling radishes. Mild in flavour, crisp, and quite tender, they are best eaten raw – simply wash, cut off the tops and enjoy! They can also be stir fried, sautéed, or steamed – both the turnips & the green tops.
  • We grew leeks several years ago – and vowed we would not grow them again! But we did! To end up with thick, long, white leeks requires a lot of work & technique. We didn’t do that! We grew them like onions to see what would happen. The results are acceptable (not amazing) – smaller, white leeks that will make a terrific soup.

  • As we mentioned in last weeks newsletter, the squash crop is poor this year. Many farmers around the province are experiencing the same. The wet weather earlier in the season meant poor pollination and a light crop. There will be another squash in your share this week – a small squash.
  • Your final box of this season will also include carrots, peppers, onions, garlic & baby kale.

_______________________________

While our CSA might be coming to an end, our farmers’ markets continue – Georgetown for 2 more weeks until 14 October, and North York right until the end of the month, October 26.

Much of the farm is looking empty …

and increasingly so, as we mow down the crops that are finished. But the warmer, sunny days have brought out a lot of bees & insects, so I have left a lot of the late-blooming weeds, wildflowers & even vegetables to give them a source of food.

There are still vegetables growing for our markets …

… and weeds too!

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Thank you for being part of our CSA this season.

We hope you enjoyed the taste, variety & surprise of a new box of fresh vegetables each week! 

Thank you for making the commitment to drive to our farm each week to pick up your box, and the commitment to then use the vegetables (including the less familiar & perhaps less liked ones).

See you again next year!


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CSA 2017 – Week 17

It’s week 17 of our CSA – only 1 more week left!

Some years we are almost out of vegetables by now and the boxes reflect this.

But this year we are still picking a lot of stuff! In fact, there are 5 new vegetables in the share this week! We’re pretty excited about that.

What’s in the box?

Carrots, corn, squash, shallots, baby kale, peppers, arugula, lettuce, garlic.

  • Carrots are not something usually found in our CSA box. We have not grown them in years. But we tried them again this season – and they turned out great. And they taste even better!

  • We grow 1 planting of corn each year. This season we got it in quite late and weren’t sure it would mature in time. But it has! Enjoy some fresh corn-on-the-cob in your share this week. I’ll give the same warning I do each year – the corn is not sprayed so don’t be surprised if you find a few worms. In the past, most CSA members have said they prefer to cut out a worm or 2, rather than have insecticide on their corn. Please give us your opinion on this.
  • We began to cut the squash today and pile it up in the field to cure. It felt wrong to be harvesting a fall vegetable in such hot & humid conditions (high 30’s C.). It also felt wrong – or at least disappointing – to have such a poor harvest. We planted 27 varieties but picked only about a dozen kinds, and very few squash in total. Butternut squash is one that turned out ok. It is also one of the more popular kinds. It is a delicious squash with a thick, orange flesh, somewhat sweet and nutty. It is very versatile and can be used for roasting, stews & casseroles, and baking (pies, muffins, bread …).

  • Instead of onions there will be shallots in your box this week. Shallots are similar to an onion but perhaps less pungent & a little sweeter, with a hint of garlic. This makes them excellent to use raw, perhaps in salads or dressings. When cooking with shallots, you will notice a finer, smoother texture well suited to sauces, quiches & custards.
  • Baby kale – small leaves & stems that are especially great raw, in salads.
  • There will be both bell peppers & shepherd peppers available again this week. The bells come in more colours, the shepherds only in red. You will notice that many of our peppers are not completely coloured – there is often some green along with the red, yellow or orange. It seems we are not the only ones who enjoy sweet peppers. Mice (and maybe rabbits too) find them tasty! If we leave the peppers on the plant to completely turn colour, they are very often chewed & eaten. As it is we are losing probably a third of our peppers to critters & spoilage. Both peppers taste great but shepherd peppers are a bit sweeter and have a thicker flesh making them the better choice for roasting.

  • Arugula, lettuce & garlic round out the CSA basket this week.

Last week’s CSA box.

Remember – next week is our last week for CSA!


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CSA 2017 – Week 16

A foggy, fall morning on the farm is beautiful …

What’s in the box?

Spinach, bok choy, lettuce, beans, zucchini, peppers, onions, garlic, (maybe tomatoes).

  • There are 3 kinds of greens in the box this week – spinach, bok choy & lettuce. That’s a lot of green! But they are all ready, & beautiful, & delicious, and we couldn’t decide which one to leave out – so we included them all. Bok choy seems to be a little unfamiliar to some of our CSA members. It is best stir-fried either on it’s own or with other vegetables. Actually, the box this week has all the makings for an amazing stir-fry – bok choy, beans, zucchini, peppers, onions & garlic. Save the lettuce, spinach & tomatoes for a salad.

There are many good stir-fry recipes out there, but our quick, easy, go-to recipe is as follows …

Stir-fry Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • salt & pepper
  • combine all ingredients and pour over stir-fried vegetables. Heat through till sauce thickens.
  • Serve and enjoy!

There are 2 weeks left in our CSA.

 


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CSA 2017 – Week 15

September is …

  • wet mornings.

The dew is often heavy & lingering, which means a slower start to picking – for our sake, but mostly for the vegetables. Picking vegetables wet can lead to disease on the plants (eg. beans get rust), or mold & spoilage issues with the fruit (eg. blackberries).

But the morning dew & the bright sunshine are also beautiful!

  • the end of the summer vegetables … and blackberries.

Tomatoes – almost over.

Many blackberry plants are almost picked clean, while others still have quite a few berries.

  • Lots more vegetables – fall vegetables …

 

like lettuce, spinach, arugula,

cabbage, bok choy, radicchio ( a new one for us!)

carrots

several kinds of cabbages

and peppers.

  • the end of seeding & planting.

This week we will seed our final crops – lettuce, spinach, arugula, and kale and transplant the last of the cabbages & other lettuces.

What’s in the box?

Chinese cabbage, beets, peppers, beans or zucchini, blackberries, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, garlic.

  • Chinese cabbage is different from our regular cabbage. It is tender, mild & sweet. Enjoy it raw in salads, or in stir-fries or steamed. Because it is so tender it cooks quickly & can turn to mush if overdone!
  • Our new patch of beets includes red beets, yellow beets & candy cane – red & white striped – beets. They are all delicious & sweet!
  • When we go through the pepper patch now, we can finally see lots of colour – and lots of peppers. The forecasted warmth this week should bring them on faster. They are both beautiful & delicious!
  • Beans & zucchini – we have both, but not a lot of either. Choose one or the other this week.
  • Enjoy the blackberries this week – perhaps the final week for them!
  • Lettuce, tomatoes, onions & garlic – part of your CSA share again this week.

This is week 15 of our CSA – 3 more weeks to go!