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To Oliver!

We said good-bye to Oliver this past week.

He was just a farm cat – one of dozens that have called our farm home through the years. But after having him around for more than 10 years (probably 12, though no one really remembers) we grew rather attached to him and he is surely missed.

Oliver had personality to spare, and a rather unique take on his place on the farm.

While all of our cats are pets, they are expected to work – catching mice & other critters, keeping the barn free of varmints. Oliver could indeed hunt with the best of them, but considered that to be part-time work only. Usually he got bored & fell asleep on the job. But he rather enjoyed being the farm greeter and running towards vehicles entering the yard. Our CSA members were familiar with this habit and drove cautiously when arriving to pick up their produce each week. But again, he often got bored & fell asleep – usually in the middle of the driveway, fully confident that cars would circle around him.

Actually, Oliver spent a good part of his life sleeping. He could make himself comfortable anywhere!

Oliver took on a new responsibility this last summer – babysitting Sage. He followed her around, hung out with her when she was tied up, and if Sage got anxious and began to bark, Oliver would rub against her and do his best to comfort & distract her. Once when Sage got herself all tangled up in the barn, we observed Oliver slowly leading Sage in circles to untangle her. They loved each other!

But most of all, Oliver loved to be with people. Wherever we were, he wanted to be – out in the fields, in the barn, in the house (not allowed – but always tried!) and often on our laps …

Oliver was a great cat!

To Oliver!!

 

 

 

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Fall chores

Sometimes we look for excuses not to work – but this is not one of them!

A sudden clutch issue has put our tractor out of commission for a few weeks. Once the needed parts have arrived it can  hopefully be put back together – as good as new! While our mechanic seems confident, it appears rather impossible to me. Guess that’s why I grow vegetables and let others fix the equipment!

There are some jobs on the farm that require this tractor, and they will have to wait or simply not get done this fall.

But there are plenty of other chores to keep us going.

We mulched the garlic patch the other day. We prefer to do this when the ground is frozen, and before we get snow. A nice thick layer of straw protects the garlic from heaving – the freezing & thawing cycles of our winters can push the garlic right out of the ground. Straw will help maintain a more constant temperature. Having the ground frozen helps to discourage the mice from burrowing into the ground under the nice warm straw. The downside is that the garlic will be slow to start growing next spring as the mulch will prevent the cold soil from thawing & warming up quickly. Lastly, the straw will keep the weeds from growing next season, making the garlic patch almost care-free until harvest in July.

I had just starting spreading the straw when the neighbour came by. He was also spreading straw – mulching his strawberry fields – and generously offered to do my garlic. What would have taken me about half a day with the pitchfork, took about 10 minutes with his tractor & bale shredder. Thank you to a helpful neighbour!

This was our tomato field this past season. It’s all cleaned up now, like the rest of the farm. I spread a layer of leaves and grass over it. These will break down over the winter & in the spring we will work them into the soil, then spread another layer of compost and this area will be ready to plant to vegetables again. The grass & leaves come from a lawn care company that dumps them in a pile on our farm throughout the season. I try to turn the pile over a few times during the summer. By fall much of it has decomposed and gets spread over the fields, adding beneficial organic matter & nutrients to our soil. Another pile of compost (to the left in the background of the picture) was made this spring with fresh manure, straw & leaves. It also got turned over several times this summer and is now beautiful compost that will be spread on the fields next spring.

I was on the roofs of the barns yesterday cleaning the eavestroughs, so I snapped this picture – an overview of one of our fields. The light coloured rectangle in the centre is our occultation tarp (see https://thiessenfarms.com/2017/04/12/occultation/ for an explanation). That is still some kale growing to the left of the tarp – the cold weather & frosts have made it even more tasty.

An inglorious end for the last few unsold pumpkins after Hallowe’en.

On the cold fall days the cats move into the warmth of the greenhouse.

This about sums up their level of energy – and sometimes ours too!

 

 


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Finally fall

We had our first real frost of the season on Tuesday morning – and it sure was beautiful!

Surprisingly, none of the remaining crops were damaged. When the sun came out and the temperatures rose, the vegetables were fine.

Not that it matters anymore to us. Last Thursday was our final farmers’ market of the season – so we are all done! Harvesting, packing and selling are finished.

It was time!

This was the temperature as we were driving to market the previous Thursday …

This past Thursday was a little warmer …

But those are both cold temperatures to be setting up our tables and then standing around waiting for customers. We couldn’t even put the greens out on display until mid-morning for fear they would freeze on the table and be damaged (it’s happened before!).

 

But the final markets were good – cold but nice weather, full tables of produce, and while sales were slower, we had enough satisfied & thankful customers. And we are happy to be finished!

Now we can concentrate our energy on cleaning up the farm and getting everything ready for winter. Most of the fields are already empty. The garlic has been planted. Cover crops have been seeded.

 

We are working on removing the stakes, string & posts in the tomato patches. Then we can mow the plants down. There is ground cover to remove, compost to spread, equipment to winterize, barns to clean, bookkeeping to catch up on … and the list goes on …

While there is much to do, there is no pressure to get it accomplished immediately. We keep reasonable hours, stop for coffee and take the time to play with our favourite nephew/grandson!

We should have most chores finished by the time winter arrives. Then we’ll review & evaluate this past year and start to make plans for the next.

It is a good time of year!

Sage is a little sad though – still missing all her CSA friends, especially the little ones!

 

 

 

 

 


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Summer in October

We have had some wonderfully warm weather this week. It feels like summer in October!

The crops responded and put on a massive growth spurt. We continue to harvest greens including lettuce, spinach, arugula, bok choy, Chinese (napa) cabbage, chard & kale.

The fields look great!

The pepper patch looks tired though – but we are picking some beautiful peppers.

This week we harvested the last of the bitter melons, kohlrabi, edamame and probably eggplant too. There remain a few beets, salad turnips, and winter radishes.

Our final planting of the season was only last Friday and included lettuce, arugula & several new kinds of Asian greens. We’ll see if they manage to mature in time for our last market on 25 October?

But despite the temperatures, the calendar shows that it really is fall.

Most of the farm is now empty. The cover crop is coming up nicely. In the background trees are turning colour and looking beautiful.

The wild grapes along the train tracks have ripened and look beautiful too. (Yes, I eat them and yes, they’re sour!)

Squash is a big seller at market these days – and we have plenty … in all sorts of shapes and sizes! Pumpkins too! They make for a colourful table.

And it appears the warm weather has come to an end. Our market at North York today started off quite warm and then got progressively cooler as the day went by. (We still have 2 weeks left here.)

The final Georgetown market this Saturday promises to be downright cold – but we’ll be prepared and dress accordingly.

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With the change of seasons, Sage has had to switch from snacking on her favourite eggplant …

… to squash – which she eats with gusto!

Don’t say that our dog doesn’t get her vegetables!

 

 

 


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CSA 2018 – week 18 – the final week!

This is the final week of our CSA for 2018!

Overall it has been a good & successful season and we are satisfied. The feedback from our CSA members would indicate that most are satisfied as well. Certainly we appreciate the comments we get each week about our produce.

Not having to pick & prep the produce twice a week for pick-up eases our workload considerably.

However our farmers’ markets continue – Georgetown until 13 October and North York until the end of October. And so we continue to seed & plant. Things are growing well.

Crops we transplanted this past week & today …

Vegetables we are harvesting now …

It’s quite unusual to have the tomato plants still so lush & green at this time of year. While there are lots of fruit, the quality has diminished – lots of cracking & splitting, softness … and we will stop picking soon.

What’s in the last box?

Chinese cabbage, Swiss chard or kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, arugula, garlic,

sweet peppers, beans, squash.

  • We were hoping the Chinese cabbage would be ready in time. It just made it! Though still quite small & not filled out totally, it is part of the box this week. It was part of the CSA share back in week 6 too. Then the next plantings didn’t survive the drought. But now we have it again. Chinese cabbage is so tender & mild – eat it fresh in a salad instead of lettuce. Use the large leaves as wraps, make it into coleslaw or even cook it (stir-fry, saute …) While the outer leaves are a lovely green colour, the inside is creamy white and delicious!
  • Swiss chard or kale – choose one or the other. Both can be enjoyed raw or cooked. I have included a simple chard recipe below.
  • Kohlrabi always makes a great snack. Just peel and eat! Of course you can turn it into a slaw or saute it or cook & mash it or spiralize it & turn the kohlrabi into noodles. Certainly it’s a versatile vegetable!
  • Many of our CSA members want lettuce every week. This year we managed to include lettuce 13 times out of 18 weeks. Enjoy your last bag of lettuce mix. Add some arugula to your salad to spice it up. There is also garlic and sweet peppers.
  • This week we move into our last planting of beans – how’s that for good timing?! Beans are another popular crop & we included them 8 times this season.

  • We continue to work away at our winter squash harvest. It’s a lot of heavy lifting – there’s a big crop. Choose several squash this week. Stored properly (room temperature & dry) they will last for weeks and even months.

 

Easy Swiss Chard Recipe

(from https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/swiss_chard/#recipe)

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large bunch of fresh Swiss chard
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of whole coriander seeds (The coriander seeds are optional – but coriander is wonderful with chard!)

METHOD

1 Prep the chard stalks and leaves: Rinse out the Swiss chard leaves thoroughly. Either tear or cut away the thick stalks from the leaves. Cut the stalk pieces into 1-inch or smaller pieces. Chop the leaves into narrow strips. Keep the stalks and leaves separate.

2 Sauté garlic and crushed red pepper flakes: Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan on medium high heat. Add garlic slices, crushed red pepper, and coriander seeds (if using), and cook for about 30 seconds, or until the garlic is fragrant.

3 Add Swiss chard stalks: Add the chopped Swiss chard stalks. Lower the heat to low, cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

4 Add the chopped leaves: Add the chopped chard leaves, toss with the oil and garlic in the pan. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes. Turn the leaves and the stalks over in the pan.

If the chard still needs a bit more cooking (remove a piece and taste it), cover and cook a few more minutes.

Serve immediately.

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Thank you to everyone for a great season! CSA is a great fit for our small, family farm – we not only have the security of knowing that our produce is sold before the season begins, but we also get to meet & know the people who are eating what we grow. Thank you to all our members for being a part of our CSA! Hope to see you in 2019.

Sage has also made some new friends & will miss greeting them each week!

 


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CSA 2018 – week 17

It was a beautiful Monday morning drive around the farm today. The dew was heavy on the plants, the sun was bright, and the colours & textures amazing!

There were some good surprises too!

The long-awaited (at least by us) beets are big enough to begin harvesting, as are the salad turnips.

The Chinese cabbage is almost ready. Maybe by next week – our last CSA pick-up – we can pick some? The other cabbages will not be ready in time.

While CSA is coming to an end, our farmers’ markets continue into October so we’re still planting. We will continue to seed lettuce, arugula, spinach, bok choy & baby kale … for another week or two. This will give us vegetables to harvest until the last market on October 25 (providing we don’t get a heavy frost before then!).

What’s in the box?

Salad turnips, beets, beans, squash, lettuce, sweet peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic.

  • Way back in weeks 3 & 4 we had salad turnips in the CSA box – and now we have them again. They prefer the cooler temperatures of spring & fall rather than the heat of summer, which is why they disappeared for so many weeks. Enjoy them raw as a snack or in a salad. Salad turnips can also be sliced and stir-fried or sautéed. They have the texture & flavour of a radish but are usually much milder.
  • Beets have also not been around for a while. It has been a bad year for beets, at least on our farm. But we finally have some – the usual dark purple (red) beets, yellow beets, and the striped candy cane beets. Regardless of colour, they all taste great!
  • Have you tried the Dragon’s Tongue beans yet? These flat, yellow beans with purple stripes are very tasty – with a more “beany” flavour than the green beans. Both colours will be available this week.
  • We’re picking more varieties of squash now, as they mature & ripen. There will be at least 4 kinds to choose from this week. Right now we have all 4 roasting in the oven so we can give a first-hand report to you on flavour, texture, sweetness etc … Remember that squash stores well. Keep it dry & about at room temperature.
  • Lettuce, sweet peppers, tomatoes (probably only the bigger field tomatoes, not cherries), zucchini & garlic round out the box this week. Still lots of good eating for the middle of September!

Heading out to pick squash on a Monday morning!

 


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CSA 2018 – week 16

The morning rains kept us out of the fields today, so we traded our farming gear for aprons and went to work using some of the leftovers from Saturday market.

Grape tomatoes were slow roasted with olive oil & garlic until they turned absolutely delicious! We’ll eat our fill now and the rest will be tucked into the freezer to be enjoyed during the winter.

An oversize patty pan summer squash became a batch of muffins (recipe below).

The leftover sweet corn from CSA was husked, blanched, cut off the cob and frozen for winter use – enough for 76 + meals. (And the cobs are being enjoyed by the chickens. No waste!)

Tomorrow we’ll scramble to catch up on our picking, and prepare for CSA pick-up. Here’s hoping for sunny weather!

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Saturday morning at market, a regular customer looked at our table and declared that she was finished with all the summer vegetables – the cooler weather had her craving fall flavours! Fortunately, not everyone felt the same way and we had a good market day selling our “summer” products. The CSA box this week continues to offer an abundance of summer vegetables as well as some signs of fall.

There are only 2 weeks left in our CSA after this week. Still to come – weather permitting – are cabbages, beets, more peppers & winter squash …

What’s in the box?

Sweet corn, kale or swiss chard, sweet peppers, winter squash,

summer squash or zucchini, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, garlic.

  • Enjoy a few more ears of sweet corn in your share this week. The flavour is very great – and the quality is good too. While the corn in last Tuesday’s box was perhaps a little young, Friday’s pick was close to the perfect ripeness, and tomorrows pick should be excellent too! Looks like there will be enough good corn for Friday as well.
  • Swiss chard & kale. While kale is more common, chard is not as well-known. The stems come in a rainbow of colours – white, red, pink, yellow & orange. The wrinkled leaves can hold a lot of dirt & grit so they may need several washings. Whereas kale stems are usually removed & not used, chard stems are eaten. But separate the stems from the leaves and cook the stems first, until tender. Then add the leaves as they only take a few minutes. Both kale & chard can be sautéed with onions & garlic in a bit of oil. Perhaps add some tomatoes or even corn to complete the dish.
  • The sweet peppers continue to take their sweet time ripening. That’s why we have more green peppers available right now than red, yellow or orange.
  • The rain kept us out of the winter squash patch today so I can’t say what kind of squash will be in the box this week. But we’ll find something that is ready to pick & be enjoyed.
  • The zucchini & patty pan summer squash have been producing so much these last couple of weeks. Now the plants appear to be losing strength & vigor rapidly. Enjoy them will they last.
  • There are still plenty of beans coming. Beans must be picked when the plants are totally dry, to avoid disease issues. This can be a challenge in fall with the more plentiful rains, and morning dews that sometimes last until afternoon. But as long as they dry in time, we’ll have beans to pick & place in your CSA share.
  • Lettuce, tomatoes & garlic complete the box again this week.

 

Zucchini Lime Muffins  (from http://www.ricardocuisine.com)

I don’t usually favour recipes that include produce we can’t grow here. But I’m a big fan of limes and of Ricardo. This recipe is excellent!!

INGREDIENTS

Muffins

  • 2 cups (260 g) grated zucchini
  • 1 cup (210 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 limes, zest finely grated
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) lime juice
  • 1 3/4 cups (265 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Icing (optional)

  • 2 limes, zest finely grated
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) lime juice
  • 1 cup (130 g) icing sugar

PREPARATION

Muffins

  1. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 12-muffin tin with paper or silicone cups.
  2. Place the zucchini in a glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 3 minutes.
  3. In a food processor, purée the zucchini with the sugar and butter until smooth. Add the eggs, lime zest and juice. Mix for a few seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.
  4. Divide the batter between the muffin cups (see note). Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Icing

  1. In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. Ice the muffins, if desired.

NOTE

For a nice touch, sprinkle the unbaked muffins with grated zucchini. Grate about 3/4 cup (100 g) extra zucchini and divide among the muffins. And don’t forget to add icing for the perfect after-dinner cupcake!
Market on Saturday in downtown Georgetown.
Some of the newer plantings on the farm.
Signs of fall.
Sage getting bored watching us husk corn!