Keep updated on all that is happening around Thiessen Farms!


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Spring, please!

Impatient. Frustrated. Anxious …

We have perhaps been feeling like this lately.

It has been a cold spring – cold enough to put us behind on our spring planting. The ground has just been too cold & too wet to do much.

We even had snow just 2 weeks ago!

Certainly we are ready – and have been ready for awhile!

These seedlings have been waiting for transplanting into the field for several weeks now. And there are plenty more waiting in the greenhouse. For some of them the wait has been too long and we had to throw them on the compost pile.
But finally this week conditions were right and we were able to get a lot planted. Now it’s raining (but not too much hopefully) which is great for getting them established.

Lettuce, pak choy, cabbage, broccoli, green onions, radishes … are in the ground now. And as soon as these rains are over and the soil has dried we’ll continue our planting with beets, spinach, kohlrabi, arugula …

The snow peas that were seeded early in April are growing slowly but surely.

And the garlic is doing very well.

In the greenhouse the tomato plants are looking great. Will the weather allow us to get them out in the field in a couple of weeks?

We cannot change the weather.

But we can choose to stay calm & focused.

Good growing weather is ahead!

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Around the farm this week …

Coffee break in the barn – wearing winter clothes …

… while spring flowers & dandelions bloom on the farm.

The killdeer are back. This one lets us know she has a nest nearby – but we have not been able to find it.
Unlike this bird which is building it’s nest in a most unlikely spot – the tool caddy just outside our shop door. Guess we won’t be using this shovel for awhile!

Catching sunshine wherever we can!


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April

I’m weary and I hurt all over.

It must be spring!

After the winter – a most enjoyable winter, with little physical work (though plenty of mental exercise) and a good share of relaxation – our bodies take some time adjusting to being active again. We fall into bed tired at an early hour and rise in the morning stiff & sore. (Age could have something to do with it as well?)

But it doesn’t take long to adapt and get back in the swing of things!

Amy spends a lot of time in the greenhouse transplanting – tomatoes, eggplant, peppers …
The blackberries have been mulched.
Preparing the ground to plant snow peas.

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Around the farm this week …

The garlic is up and growing.
The field where we grew vegetables last year has been seeded down to a cover crop of oats & peas.
Burning the brush pile.

Warm spring weather is best enjoyed cruising with the top down …

… or just relaxing in the sunshine!


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Spring?

“Come on spring! Come here. I just want to play and dig in the dirt”

This plaintive comment came from our 3 year old grandson recently, while driving with his dad on a snowy day.

I think he expressed how many of us are feeling. After a long, cold & snowy winter, we are all ready for some warmth – and digging in the dirt!

Fortunately for us, until spring does arrive, we have greenhouses to be in. (Technically they are hoophouses, not greenhouses, as we have no source of heat in them, except for the sun!) No matter the temperatures outside, they are cozy and springtime-warm inside – when the sun is shining.

Isaiah has been busy all winter playing there, having a wonderful time digging!

The Flynns enjoy their naps there.

And now it’s our turn as well. Amy has been seeding – onions, tomatoes, peppers & eggplant – and they are all coming up! It looks great & smells great in the greenhouse and it feels great to be back working with seed & soil.

The calendar shows that it is officially spring now, and it is beginning to feel like it too – both in the greenhouse and outdoors.

Come on spring!

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Around the farm this week …

The last bit of snow on the farm.
The garlic patch – no sign of green shoots yet!
Pruning blackberries – very little winter damage but some mouse damage (no doubt the Flynns spent too much time napping in the greenhouse instead of hunting in the blackberries!).
Best sign of spring yet 🙂


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What’s new?

Potatoes were the first vegetable I ever grew to sell.

It was many years ago that my siblings and I grew a patch of potatoes, doing all of the work ourselves (with some assistance from Dad). We planted, weeded, hilled, harvested & sold potatoes, and then divided up the profits – according to amount of work we each put in.

I remember working diligently during harvest, digging through the soft dirt with hands & feet to find the hidden potatoes, dragging the heavy bushels down the seemingly endless rows, for hours & hours.

My brother remembers me sitting and complaining rather than working.

My sister remembers my brother throwing potatoes at me to “encourage” more work, and her crying & pleading with me to get busy and for him to stop throwing potatoes.

I also remember receiving very little money for my efforts.

We next grew potatoes when I was a teenager, delivering them to the first Harveys fast food restaurant in St. Catharines.

We have not grown potatoes on our farm since.

Every year around this time people ask what new vegetables we will be growing this season.

And we certainly do love trying new things!

Through the years we have tested out all sorts of crops. Some have been a success and we continue to grow them – recent examples are edible flowers, sunflowers, mini broccoli, mini-bell peppers & various new greens & lettuces – while others are dropped after a season or two. We have a long list of crops that haven’t made the cut including artichokes, fava beans, cauliflower, kalettes, gourds, melons …

This year’s new picks are brussels sprouts and parsnips. We need some later crops for our new fall CSA so we will trial a few varieties of each and see how they turn out. To gain – and keep – a regular spot on the list, a vegetable has to both grow well and sell well for us. It needs to fit in to our farm work schedule and our farm acreage. And it has to make us some money! Brussels sprouts have failed before – will they be a success in 2022?

… or maybe we should grow potatoes!

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Around the farm this week …

Flynn & Flynn soaking up some sunshine in the greenhouse.
Someone else enjoying it as well!

We are still accepting applications for our CSA this summer.

Information & application above

or email thefarm@thiessenfarms.com


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CSA 2022

Bok choy & lettuce from USA, peppers & tomatoes from Mexico, grapes & blueberries from Peru, mangoes from Brazil, apricots from Chile, oranges from Spain, grapefruit from Israel, kiwi from New Zealand, and mushrooms, yams & greenhouse tomatoes from Ontario.

I’m reading the weekly grocery flyer and in awe of the variety and origins of produce available. Whether we consider that to be good or bad, it really is amazing! I can eat “fresh” fruit & vegetables from at least 5 different continents – if I choose to!

Mostly we choose not to. (Though there are always lemons in our fridge & sometimes bananas on the counter.)

During our own growing season when there is a plethora of fresh vegetables, we preserve a lot. We freeze, can, and dehydrate. Now in winter, it is both convenient & satisfying to grab a handful of frozen peppers to add to our stir fry, spoon some canned peaches on my breakfast porridge or sprinkle some homemade paprika on our scrambled eggs. We are still enjoying our own onions, garlic, carrots & squash which have all stored well this winter. And we will buy some Ontario-grown vegetables & fruit as well.

But we sure are looking forward to our own fresh produce – tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, lettuce …

We hope you are too!

Which brings us to CSA. We are now accepting applications to our CSA program for 2022. Please consider joining us. You will enjoy fresh, healthy, delicious vegetables, herbs & blackberries grown right here in Jordan Station.

Find all the information on the CSA page above or email us and we’ll send it to you.

Here’s a reminder of what to expect …

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Around the farm this week …

Early morning sunrise today.
There’s too much snow to get out on the farm. We’re mostly catching up on indoor work.


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Winter walking

I go for a walk most days.

An hour of walking is great for the body, mind & spirit.

Depending on the weather – and my mood – my route takes me on various roads in the neighbourhood and sometimes through farms. There is so much to take in …

  • Lots of farms – fruit orchards mostly, several vineyards, a strawberry farm, nut grove, corn/soybean fields and many greenhouses.
  • A farm up the road has a flock of poultry – running loose in their front yard and scratching in the beds around the house. I see chickens, guinea hens and several peacocks (do you know how loud peacocks can be!) Not sure how they survive with coyotes and foxes around.
  • I am watching a new barn being built on the next road, which will house a peach packing line and a cold storage.
  • Vineland Growers Co-op where we purchase our farm supplies is putting up an enormous new facility at a new location – quite close to our farm which will be convenient.
  • Around the corner a neighbour converted an old shed into an amazing bakery (blossombakery.com). Unfortunately it’s too far from the road to smell what’s coming out of the oven when I pass by!
  • But I can smell the homes that burn wood for heat. I love the aroma of woodsmoke.
  • In the middle of a nearby farm is a sleek, black barn. Surrounded by vineyards, vegetable gardens and a few grazing cattle, it happens to be one of the highest rated restaurants in the country,(restaurantpearlmorissette.com) but you would never know by looking at it.
  • Visible from the rear of our farm is the Upper Canada Cheese Company (uppercanadacheese.com) which I often walk past. (there’s a reason I never bring my wallet with me on a walk!)
  • I even walk beside the QEW highway. Hundreds, or likely thousands of vehicles pass by during the 10 minutes or so that I’m on the service road. It’s loud and not at all relaxing – but makes me appreciate the peacefulness of the farm.
  • My favourite path takes me down & up 2 ravines with creeks running through them. I love the sound of the water spilling through the culverts and rushing over rocks.

I love walking (& checking out my neighbourhood) and am fortunate to have the time to do it in winter.

Of course today there was no walking! A massive snow storm made the roads impassable and kept me busy plowing driveways.

But maybe tomorrow or the next day …

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Around the farm this week …

Our resident fox who we are seeing regularly now around the farm – here in Amy’s yard. (Sage is not a fan!)
Sage relaxing indoors after playing hard in the snow.
The Flynns are especially needy this time of year – if it takes jumping on the chicken house roof during chores to get noticed, then so be it!
Floating boats in the ditch.
Husking the popcorn that’s drying in the greenhouse is a favourite activity of this little guy.
He loves to see what colours turn up!


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Farm talk

One of the best things about our CSA is getting to meet a lot of really great people!

We have gotten to know neighbours who we might not otherwise have met, reconnected with cousins and old friends, and made many new friends from all across Niagara.

Some CSA members stay and visit when they pick up their box – especially if they arrive when it is not busy in the barn – and we (ie Lorie) get to know them a bit. This has been especially enjoyable and satisfying during the pandemic when human contact has been more limited.

This year we learned that a CSA member hosts a really good podcast. Each week Mike interviews someone about their work or an interest they have. There’s no limit to the variety of topics discussed.

Mike interviewed me the other week and we talked about the farm and our CSA program. If you are interested, here is the link to our conversation: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/have-you-ever/id1556225814?i=1000544079255

Check out his other episodes too.

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Around the farm this week …

We mulched the garlic recently. With Sage’s “help” we spread a nice, thick blanket of straw over the patch.
After some very windy days, yesterday was calmer so I spread this pile of leaves received from a lawn care guy (and a few neighbours). My hope was that the snow forecast for today would hold them down and make them somewhat wind-resistant. I think it worked! I spread them with the manure spreader, over a field where we will plant tomatoes next summer. A lot of the leaves will break down over the winter and we will incorporate them into the soil come spring. Leaves are a free source of nutrients and organic matter for the soil. The more I can get the better!
Strong winds like we’ve experienced lately always bring down many branches from the 2 silver maples in our backyard. But no damage done!
Flynn & Flynn are happy to enjoy the warmth of the greenhouse on cold December days.
Christmas preparations!


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Late fall

Our first seeds arrived this week.

That’s early!

It is usually later in January when our mail carrier starts delivering boxes & boxes & boxes … of seed. But we needed to get a head start this year – because last season we came up short. All the seed companies were inundated with orders early in 2021 and fell behind with shipping. Most of them shut down for days or weeks on end to try and catch up. Some even ran out of certain seeds. We never did receive some of the seeds we ordered. And we don’t want that to happen again!

So we are already ordering and receiving seeds.

In some ways it is difficult to get excited about next year when we’re still tired from this one. On the other hand, the memory of growing season 2021 is still fresh in our minds which makes it easier to plan for 2022. I have only ordered from 3 different seed companies so far, but we already have 5 new pepper varieties and at least 8 new tomatoes (don’t tell Amy!). Still plenty of chances to go crazy yet!

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Around the farm this week …

Fall brings variable weather conditions. Here’s a few pictures – same spots on different days.

Some kale we’re still enjoying. Behind it is our garlic patch (approx. 5500 cloves) planted back in mid October. We are waiting for a day when the ground is frozen but there is no snow to spread a thick layer of straw over the field. The frozen ground will prevent the mice from burrowing into the soil under the straw, and the straw will protect the ground from freezing and thawing throughout the winter which will keep the garlic safe & secure. It will then stop weeds from growing next spring.

Snow covering our lettuce & spinach bed. When the snow melted the greens still tasted amazing though the quality is diminishing. Hoping to be able to eat salad until Christmas at least.
We are working our way through a lengthy list of fall & winter chores. Recently we rebuilt the end wall of our small greenhouse which had rotted extensively. Weather was nice enough to paint it even and then decorate it for Christmas.
(Why do we have netting stretched around the greenhouse perimeter? Because the Flynns like to climb up the plastic and play on the barn roof. The netting (usually) discourages them.)
(Notice how the trim on the chicken coop matches the sunset!)
Sage and her best friend Milo. They play together every morning.
Sage and her other best friend.


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Fall

It takes a very good reason to get me on an airplane at any time – and especially during COVID.

So here’s a very good reason!

Lorie & I flew to BC the other week to meet our grandson (born in January) for the 1st time, and to see our son & daughter-in-law. Then we moved on to Alberta to visit my brother and sister-in-law.

It was great to spend time with family!

Other highlights of our trip …

It was a spectacular sight flying into Abbotsford – the mountains in the background along with the bright red of blueberry fields in the fall.

The ranching country around Cochrane is beautiful.

Driving through the Rocky mountains around Kananaskis – we even experienced our 1st snow of the season!

Now it’s good to be home where there is less rain than BC, warmer temperatures than Alberta – and no snow yet!

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Around the farm this week …

Our 2 main vegetable fields. On the left, the fall cover crop is thriving. It’s purpose is to cover & protect the soil over the cold months. Most of this vegetation will die over the winter and be incorporated into the ground in spring adding needed organic matter & nutrients to the soil. We will grow a lot of vegetables here in 2022. The field on the right was where our crops grew this past summer. By the time we finished the harvest it was too late to plant a cover crop, so mowed all the vegetables down but did not work the soil – any weeds & vegetables that regrow this fall yet will cover & protect the soil over the winter. I spread manure & compost over the field. Next spring we’ll cultivate & work the ground and grow cover crop all year to give the land a rest from vegetables and to prepare it for the following year.
Our 1st heavy frost of the fall happened this morning.
The lettuce & salad greens early this morning …
… and a few hours later after the sun had burned off the frost. No damage done – most greens can handle frost.
We’ll be eating fresh salad until winter sets in.
Burning the brush pile.


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Final Pick

It feels good. Really good!

Today we picked all the peppers and eggplant for the last time. There wasn’t much. Then I hitched the mower to the tractor and mowed all the plants down.

In a few minutes our large vegetable patch went from this …

… to this!

Usually I find it hard to mow down the crops, but not this year. The plants were basically empty – picked clean. So I had no problem getting rid of them.

Yesterday I picked the popcorn. It was supposed to be ready for the last week of CSA but didn’t quite make it. Now it’s drying in the greenhouse.

Tomorrow we’ll pick greens from our last beds – spinach, lettuce, arugula, salad mix, bok choy – for our final Saturday market.

Our last planting of sunflowers started opening this week too – just in time for Saturday’s market.

Next week any leftovers from market, any lingering squash in the barn, and whatever greens are still in the field will be packed up and sent off to the food bank.

Then we’re done!

And it feels good!

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Around the farm this week …

A wet day at Georgetown market last Saturday. Here’s hoping for better weather this week!

Thank you Georgetown for a great market season!