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Spring continued …

The peas are planted, the garlic is growing and the blackberries are budding.
It’s spring, and life on the farm is progressing as it should.

The snow peas were seeded where the occultation tarp had been all winter. We pulled it off last week and the ground underneath was perfect for planting. Any weeds and leftover vegetation from the fall had long since broken down & decomposed under the tarp. We lightly worked the soil and it was ready to plant.

The tarp was moved over to a new area & weighted down. We will leave it for a month or 6 weeks and  then this patch will be ready to plant. Of course we had some strong winds over the weekend and almost lost the tarp. We kept adding more & more weights, but to no avail! Finally I parked the tractor on it, to at least hold it down. Then Monday we pulled it back into place & adjusted the weights again. We’ll see …

Rows of garlic are now visible above the straw. Planted back in October, mulched in December, it is now the first crop out on the farm to show life in spring. And the best part of all – there’s no more work involved until the harvest. That will begin in early June when we will pull some for green garlic. Later that month the scapes will be harvested, and then the rest of the garlic will be pulled sometime in July.

The blackberries are pruned and tied, and looking healthy. Next we will mulch them with straw both to control the weeds and to keep the ground moist through the summer.

We did start some mulching today – rhubarb, currants, and the mint patch. Usually we let the ground warm up before applying straw, but the weeds are already pushing – so why wait!

Seeding continues in the greenhouse, and the first tomatoes will be ready for transplanting into larger pots next week.

Spring means our busy time is just beginning.

We are thankful for our work, our farm, our health and for the beauty of the season …

 

 

 

 

 


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First day of Spring

Today was a good day – the first day of spring!

I also discovered the first flowers – a gift and a celebration of the changing seasons!

Tiny winter aconites were found blooming in the leaves & mulch underneath the redbud tree, right close to the road. I was checking the progress of the tulips & daffodils, and there they were – so small, yet so yellow and bright and beautiful and cheerful.

There are more signs of life in the gardens … tulips & daffodils sprouting,

and rhubarb,

and angelica – the earliest herb to come to life every year.

While these are days of change, uncertainty, and fear in our world, it is comforting to realize that nature with its turning seasons continues as usual, which for me brings comfort & reassurance.

Out on the farm, spring is not so obvious yet. But slowly the drab grey & brown of winter is becoming green.

Under the straw mulch we can find the garlic coming up.

And the ducks have been spotted on the pond.

We’re pruning the blackberries now – the canes appear to have come through the winter well.

In the greenhouse the tomatoes seedlings are growing.

Peppers too!

Long before the coronavirus became a part of our life, I started building a small flower/vegetable stand to put out at the road this summer, to sell any excess sunflowers etc. Constructed mostly from pallets and recycled materials, it turned out okay (if I say so myself).

Now, depending on how things turn out we may or may not be able to go to our farmers’ markets this summer. Perhaps the stand will get more use than we anticipated?

We are grateful for everyone who has signed up for our CSA program. Knowing we have a market for at least a portion of our crop, and already having money in hand to put towards the spring bills gives us security and optimism for the upcoming season. Thank you!

We are still accepting CSA applications and have waived the April 1 price increase.

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As usual, the Flynns remain unaffected by our concerns.

A soft bed in a warm greenhouse on a sunny day – life is good!!

Happy 1st day of Spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Signs of Spring

For us, it’s the first sign of spring,

the greenlight for our growing season,

a good-news story,

… and a real thrill!

The first seeds are up!

Peppers, tomatoes and eggplant were all sown during the last week in February. The first tomatoes & eggplant were up in 4 days while it took only 6 days to see the first pepper shoots.

That’s fast and it’s because of our new germination box.

Until now we’ve always started our seeds in the small greenhouse that’s attached to our workshop. We have a germination bed – sand with heating cables running through it, making a nice, cosy place for the seeds to begin their journey. Over this we have hoops supporting several layers of white row cover for added warmth. And over this is a greenhouse within the greenhouse. For those cold March nights, a small heater keeps the seeds & seedlings comfortable. It’s a little cumbersome, but low tech, low energy use & inexpensive – and it works reasonably well!

This year we built a germination box which provides better conditions for seed sprouting – higher temperatures, but especially more consistent warmth & humidity too.

It’s just a box made of styrofoam sheets. I pushed in nails to hold it together & used tape for additional strength. It’s amazingly stable. The door is held in place by paint cans & elastic bands (don’t knock it, it works!). Heat & humidity are provided by a crockpot filled with water. The planted flats are stacked on a wire shelf which allows the heat from the crockpot to rise throughout the chamber.

A temperature controller maintains the required temperature by turning the crockpot off & on as needed.

Once a day we refill the water in the crockpot. A few times each day we check the trays to see if any seeds are germinating. Then we immediately move those trays into the greenhouse as the seedlings require sunlight to grow.

Overall we are very pleased with our germination box. It was inexpensive & easy to build, and simple to operate. Obviously this is not our original idea. Similar germination boxes are used by many small growers. Even better is using an old fridge or freezer (standing on end) for the structure. It is stronger, cheaper (usually free), and more durable than styrofoam. We just haven’t found one yet.

March is a month filled with seeding – our long-season crops like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers & onions along with some herbs, broccoli, beets … We’re planting every few days as we have room in the germination box. In a few weeks the small greenhouse will be almost full of seedlings and we’ll be moving them over to the large hoophouse (weather permitting). A lot of our time is spent checking the trays, moving them around, watering, keeping track of all the crops (90+ kinds of tomatoes, 62 peppers …)

I guess it’s considered work – but such enjoyable work! March can still be raw, cold & even snowy outdoors. But inside the greenhouse, the balmy temperatures, the smell of the soil & the little plants, the fresh green colours, seeing new growth every day … it all adds up to an awesome work environment!

The Flynns enjoy it all too! On sunny days they sprawl out in the greenhouse soaking up the heat.

When the days are warmer, they lounge outdoors.

Sage, on the other hand, is in bit of a funk now that the snow is gone. She prefers to sleep off her moodiness in the comfort of her home!

Happy Spring!

 

 

 

 


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CSA 2020

Our crop planning for 2020 is complete.

The seeds have arrived.

Here is a summary …

  • winter squash – 16 varieties (down from 28 last season)
  • eggplant – 19 kinds (down from 39 in 2018)
  • lettuce – 22 (compared with 14 last year)
  • hot peppers – 47 (up from 32)
  • tomatoes – 92 varieties (84 in 2019)

In total, we have seeds for 450 varieties of 44 different vegetables. To be honest, not all those seeds will hit the dirt. We might run out of time, or space, or forget about some of them (it happens!). Occasionally common sense will prevail and someone (usually Amy) will question if we really need to grow 12 kinds of zucchini or 17 different bok choys or 11 varieties of bitter melon …

So why do we grow so many different things?

  • Our customers expect it! At market, people often stop by just to see what’s new & different, and our CSA members consistently ask for more variety.
  • Insurance against the weather. Different vegetables thrive in different conditions. Even amongst tomatoes for example, some prefer drier conditions, while others want wetter, or hotter, cooler … Since we can’t predict what the upcoming season will be like, we grow varieties for all conditions knowing at least some will flourish.
  • We grow different crops for the different seasons. Snow peas & broccoli grow best in spring when the temperatures are cooler. But there are new broccolis that can take some summer heat so we might try those too. There are spinach & bok choy varieties developed for the weather conditions of each season so instead of 1 kind, we will grow 3 or 4 to have a season-long harvest. Spring radishes & fall radishes are very different vegetables each suited to their seasons.
  • Diversity is beneficial for the farm ecosystem.
    • Having many different crops makes better use of the soil. Carrots and other root crops grow deep into the soil, drawing their nutrients & moisture from lower than lettuce and other shallow rooted vegetables which gather their energy from closer to the surface.
    • Lettuce & other leafy greens do not require as much sunshine and are happy growing in the shade of taller sun-loving plants – especially in the heat of the summer.
    • Each vegetable will attract different insects – both beneficial & harmful to itself & its neighbours. The cucumber & squash beetles that decimated our 1st planting of zucchini last year were not much of an issue in the winter squash patch because there were tomatoes, sunflowers and fields of other crops separating them. Had we grown only squashes, the insects would have had an unlimited feast and we would have been tempted to resort to pesticides to stop the devastation.
    • The rows of edible flowers we grew attracted so many bees which then pollinated other vegetables growing nearby.
    • These are just a few examples of diversity making the farm more efficient, productive and eco-friendly.
  • We love colour!
  • I have a short attention span & get bored easily. Growing so many various vegetables keeps things interesting.

And here’s what becomes of all those seeds of all those different vegetables …

We are now accepting applications for our 2020 CSA program. Please consider joining us this season. Information here or email us at thefarm@thiessenfarms.com.

The last of our winter squash from 2019 being enjoyed!
Sage waiting & looking forward to a new season!


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Winter Reading …

Our early winter reading list looks something like this …

That’s right – seed catalogues!

Don’t mind me while I geek out, but seed catalogues are an awesome read! The amount of information in a good catalogue is astounding. Not only does it list a vast number of varieties of the different vegetables, but all the details & stats of each, along with growing requirements and recommendations, and often the story & history behind the vegetable (especially heirloom varieties). If all that information isn’t enough to pique our interest there’s always the names (check out the names on the seed packets below) and not least of all, pictures. A good seed catalogue is all about the pictures – big, colourful, seductive pictures of perfect produce to tempt the weak ambitious farmer into purchasing.

We succumbed to a few of these …

Purple peppers seem to be a thing this year!

Wasabi radishes sound like the best of both worlds, right?

And along with these green Shawo radishes, we’ll grow pink and purple ones – coloured on both the outside & inside. These are all radishes for the fall.

Every year we trial several new kinds of tomatoes …

… and hot peppers.

Asian vegetables are always a hit especially at our North York market so we will grow more of them again.

And we’ll keep on trying with some that we’ve had a measure of success with and want to improve on …

11 varieties of bitter melons this year and 3 kinds of hairy gourds.

We have no trouble growing nice radicchio – we just seem to get it in the ground too late. Better crop scheduling this year should fix that.

Edible flowers were a real hit last season, so we’ll expand on them this year.

Now , with most of the seed selection completed and much of the ordering too, we can move on to other winter reading.

I’ve got a few books waiting for me …


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Finishing up

-10C but feeling like -20! Winds from the northwest at more than 30 kph gusting to 50!

A perfect evening to stay inside, curl up with a book or a crossword or even (dare I say it?) a Hallmark Christmas movie.

But instead I found myself layering up – T shirt, turtleneck, hoodie sweatshirt, lined jeans, 2 pairs of socks, my heaviest winter coveralls, hat, thick lined boots and a couple pairs of gloves.

Then off I went to the Malivoire Wine Company (malivoire.com) near Beamsville to help with the icewine harvest. And not just me! There were probably close to 30 people there – both locals and from as far as Toronto – all coming for the experience of picking frozen grapes, in the dark, on a cold, cold evening. (What are the chances these same people would be interested in coming to harvest vegetables on a hot, humid July afternoon – just for the experience!?) Many hands make light work and we finished in a few hours. Hot cocoa and refreshments followed back at the winery. And a good time was had by all!

Just as the icewine harvest cannot happen until the temperature has dropped to -10C, (this winter we picked the grapes on December 18. Last winter they had to wait until mid-January.) so we also need the right temperature & conditions to mulch our fall-planted garlic. We had been waiting for the ground to freeze hard, with no snow on the ground. Covering the frozen soil with straw will keep it frozen which discourages the mice from burrowing into it and making a mess of our garlic patch. These conditions were met a few weeks ago and the garlic got mulched. It’s not a big job – 7 large round bales and a morning’s work completed the task. It probably took longer than necessary due to our own volunteer “help”.

It was good we mulched the garlic when we did. Since then we’ve had both ice & snow.

Mulching garlic was the last of the outside farm work on our to-do list for the fall. While there might still be the odd outdoor job (cutting more firewood, plowing snow …) depending on the weather, for the most part we have moved indoors now – cleaning barns (a never-ending chore), equipment maintenance, bookkeeping, and lots of planning & preparing for 2020.

This gives us more time for other things as well …

… like visiting the neighbours,

… hanging out with friends,

… and preparing for Christmas!

And on those cold evenings we’ll stay inside where it’s warm, curl up with a good book or a crossword … and perhaps sip on a glass of icewine.


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First Snow!

People sing songs about it, write poems about it, take pictures of it ….

That first snowfall of the winter is always special – except when it comes in early November!

It began with a light dusting – a reminder that winter was coming.

Then we had the first big snowfall! Monday November 11 to be exact is when we received close to 30cm – and it stayed.

Up until then, the fall weather was quite nice.

We were working our way through the fall chores – the list was almost complete.

Garlic was planted (with some assistance).

The summer crops were all cleaned up, compost was spread, & the farm was nearly ready for winter.

That last planting of greens was finally big enough to harvest, but just a little too late for the final markets (so we have been enjoying a lot of fresh, fall salads).

And then came the snow! Suddenly the farm went from this …

To this …

And our outdoor fall work came to an abrupt end. We moved into the barn where we began cleaning up from the summer, and winterizing & putting equipment away. I spent time in the office and got caught up (finally) on book work.

I will admit that the snow was beautiful.

This week’s warmer temperatures have melted most of it, and we’re back outside again.

Today was milder and we even saw some sun.

Only Sage is unhappy that the snow has disappeared. She’s a big fan of the white stuff & the cold temperatures!

Don’t worry Sage – there will be plenty more before you know it. Predictions are for a cold & snowy winter!