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Finally … sunshine!

We never get stuck on our farm!

With our nice sandy soil & tile drainage under the whole farm, we can usually drive anywhere, even after a heavy rain.

Yet here are Amy & Sage stuck recently. (and no, Sage was not driving).

We have had a lot of rain this spring – an awful lot of rain! A frustrating amount of rain! The official word is that “in the last 30 days we have received more than 200% of our normal precipitation”. Wow!

And so we get stuck. Certain parts of the farm have had to be avoided or at least approached cautiously for much of this spring season.

What this means is that we have been delayed getting onto the ground to prepare it for planting. So seedlings that were growing in the greenhouse could not be planted out in the fields on time  and subsequently grew too big and then don’t transplant & grow well. Crops that should have been seeded directly into the ground also had to wait. The cooler temperatures that accompanied the moisture meant we often kept the greenhouse closed to preserve what heat there was, and now some of our tomato plants have a bit of mold & disease from the lack of air movement and humidity build-up. Once outside in the fresh air they should easily & quickly recover, but they do look a little worse for wear. Some seedlings rotted and were lost.

Our farm is fairly level, but even the slightest changes in elevation were important this spring. When we did sneak out onto the land between rains, the higher ground was where we could plant. Even a few inches of change meant the difference between soil that could be worked & planted, and soil that was still too wet.

The crops that we got into the ground earlier have been growing ever so slowly. And anything planted lately has not moved much at all.

For our customers at the farmers’ markets (tomorrow – May 23 – is our first market of the season!) and our CSA members it means waiting a bit longer for the first fresh vegetables of the season – our CSA program probably won’t begin until early June.

But this week the weather appears to have finally changed. Perhaps the full moon on the weekend has finally ushered in our long-awaited sunshine & warm weather! We can already see the crops beginning to perk up & grow!

Here’s what the farm looks like this week …

This field by the garlic has been difficult to get ready to plant. We would work it up, but the cover crop & weeds would regrow rather than dry up & die. But finally it’s ready!

This cover crop is lush & green from all the rain. We’ve had to mow it down several times. Now it’s dry enough that we can work it in and prepare the soil for planting vegetables here, later in the season.

The blackberries are leafing out.

These guys have certainly enjoyed the wet weather. Up to 6 of them can be seen swimming in the pond daily.

But most of us are happier to feel the sunshine!

 

 

 

 


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Spring blossoms

The apricot trees are in blossom! They are always the first of the fruit trees to bloom, a welcome sign that spring surely is upon us.

We have 2 apricot trees in our backyard, planted by my father around 50 years ago. Living in the shadows of the 2 huge maple trees, these apricot trees grow taller & taller, reaching towards the sunshine. As a result of living in the shade – and also because we don’t prune or spray them – they produce no edible fruit.

I really should cut them down. But the trees are like sculpture – their trunks & branches have so much character. And so they remain.

The cats love the trees. They serve as both their play centre and resting spot.

Elsewhere on the farm, things are growing & advancing (slowly) despite the mostly cool & wet weather.

The garlic has come up beautifully.

Little currants are already forming on our red currant bushes.

We have managed to get some vegetables seeded in the fields. The peas are doing well – enjoying all the moisture & cool days. Under the hoops & insect covering are radishes, salad turnips & pak choy. This netting protects the vegetables from bugs.

These transplants are still small but settling in nicely – spinach, kale, broccoli & edible flowers … Last years kale (seen on the left) has resumed growth and is providing small but delicious leaves for fresh salads.

We finally have some breathing room in the small greenhouse where the seedlings start their life.

That’s because a lot of seedlings have been either transplanted into the fields or moved to the large greenhouse. It is filling up with tomato, pepper, eggplant & herb plants. They are slightly behind in their growth but should catch up quickly with a bit of sun!

The black hoops over the rows are to hold up the row cover – a white, cloth-like fabric which we use to protect the seedlings on colder nights, since this greenhouse is not heated. Just this week we had a hard frost. Everything in the greenhouse was well protected.

Outdoors the plants had quite a frosty coating, though it burned off quickly in the morning sun. However no damage was done.

The blackberries are tied and mulched – one row with wood chips & one row with straw. We’ll compare the growth, production & health of the blackberry canes between the 2 different mulches this season. Also important is to see which mulch does a better job of preventing weeds and holding moisture.

Of course careful comparisons are already happening and opinions are being formed!!

Happy Spring everybody!!

 

 

 

 


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Snow peas etc …

The snow peas are up – barely. But they are up!

They were seeded in the cold ground on March 27 – so that’s about 2 and a half weeks they needed to germinate. Not bad for a cold, slow spring. As soon as the plants are a bit bigger, we’ll seed the next batch. By then the weather will be warmer so they will sprout much quicker. If we seeded them already, they would catch up to the first ones & we would likely be picking both plantings of snow peas at the same time. We don’t want that!

Truth be told, we don’t enjoy picking snow peas at all!  While it is great to get something in the ground early (snow peas are always the first seeds to be planted) and great to watch them grow, they are certainly no fun to pick! The pea pods are green – the exact same green colour as the plants, which makes them extremely difficult to see, and picking slow & tedious.

We plant our peas in wide rows. This way the tall plants support each other and stay fairly vertical, keeping the peas clean. Single rows would flop over and the peas would get dirty. We would also have to plant soooo many rows to harvest the same amount of peas. It would take an awful lot of space and require an awful lot of extra weeding. But they would be slightly easier to pick.

(obviously the above 2 pictures are from previous years!)

Most years we do 3 plantings of snow peas (each planting is 200′) which stretches the harvest season out for a few weeks. This year we debated about planting them at all. None of us would miss the picking – but our CSA members & market customers sure would miss the peas! And so we compromised and decided to plant just once. Enough for our CSA boxes for 1 week or maybe 2, and that’s it.

As it turns out we have enough seeds left for a 2nd planting – a sensible & easy decision to make now. But the real work and the grumbling will start along with the harvest later this spring!

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Other things growing & showing right now …

The rhubarb is showing the most growth …

and the garlic too …

Our garlic is always slow to appear because of the thick layer of straw on top which doesn’t allow the soil to warm up early. This straw will is to keep the weeds from taking over and makes garlic a work-free crop until harvest in July.

But where the straw is a little thin and along the edges of the patch, the weeds are already making an appearance.

After a cold & wet weekend it was a pleasure to see the sun & blue sky this afternoon.

The blackberries in the foreground here have been pruned and are ready for tying. Their buds are swelling and the first green can be seen. The blackberries canes seem to have come through the winter well, looking alive & healthy. We’re pretty excited about that – blackberries are never a sure thing being sensitive to cold winter winds and sub-zero temperatures. But they are an important crop for us.

They are also showing very little rodent damage this spring. Possibly these guys actually did their jobs??

 

 


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Spring

It’s spring now!

Wednesday was officially the 1st day of this new season – a season that we look forward to with anticipation and yearning after the cold, dark days of winter.

Of course spring can be a cruel season. Bright skies & warm temperatures one day are often followed by cloudy days with raw winds, and even snow the next. Our spirits rise and fall with the thermometer and we long for uninterrupted warmth & sunshine.

I find myself crawling through the gardens on my knees, anxious for signs of life. There are few …

The tulips & daffodils are poking through the cold soil.

Red rhubarb stalks are just visible.

Our late fall planting of spinach appears to have made it through the winter and is greening up. Could a fresh spinach salad be in the offing?

The greenhouse received its new skin this week. Thanks to some willing friends & neighbours we pulled the 2 layers of plastic on quickly & easily.

And just in time! The little greenhouse where we start our seeds is filling quickly, and many hundreds & hundreds of little seedlings will need to be moved here soon.

The fields are waiting too – a blank empty canvas ready to be painted with vegetables.

It is already time to seed the snow peas. Old-timers used to say that peas needed to get in the ground in March – that gives us only 1 more week! The soil  under the occultation tarp (see https://thiessenfarms.com/2017/04/12/occultation) should be ready for planting.

And this is what we’re anticipating!

And this …

And this too …

It all starts now in spring.

(Sign up for our CSA and enjoy all these vegetables and more this summer!)

We’re excited and ready!

 

 

 


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Almost Spring!

It is a peaceful time of year on the farm.

The vegetable fields are resting under their blanket of snow.

In the greenhouse the cats are loving the warmth and soaking up any sunshine we might get (which hasn’t been a lot this winter!).

Even Sage is content to sleep away much of her day, indoors.

But the time is coming! Despite the cold and snow, spring is about here.

Our planning for the upcoming season is complete. All the seeds have arrived. Supplies are ordered.

We’re ready to go!

The first vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) have been seeded in the small greenhouse and we anxiously wait for the first green shoots to poke through the soil.

That means we need to get the new plastic on our big greenhouse so it will be ready for all the seedlings. They will be moving here in about a months time. The outer layer of plastic blew off in a big windstorm last Easter. We removed the inner layer in fall and decided to leave the greenhouse uncovered until the spring. This allowed the soil to soak up the rain & snow all winter and be renewed.

The blackberries can be pruned and tied as soon as the snow has melted. Tracks in the snow indicate the rabbits have been checking the canes out – hopefully they have not caused too much damage?

On the marketing side of things, we are looking forward to the farmers’ markets we will be attending again this year.

Our CSA program is ready and applications are arriving daily. We are especially excited to be receiving so much interest from neighbours and people in our area. Information on CSA is available here – https://thiessenfarms.com/csa/.

We have enjoyed our quiet time – but now we’re anticipating an active and busy season ahead.

(Of course some of us aren’t quite ready for action yet!)

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Florida in February :)

We chose a good week to get away!

At home it was ice, snow, rain and more ice …

… while we were enjoying palm trees, sunshine & warmth!

Lorie & I spent a week with my brother and sister-in-law in Florida, just north of Tampa. It had been about 5 years since we were in Florida, and we had never been on the Gulf side.

I was interested in the farming, but there wasn’t much to see. This part of Florida is not a major agricultural area. While we only saw 1 small orange grove, fresh Florida citrus was readily available and we ate plenty!

We did see some massive strawberry fields around Plant City and enjoyed fresh strawberry shortcake at Parksdale Farm Market, a place my parents used to visit 40 years ago when they travelled south. The berries were sweet, juicy & delicious!

Lunch one day was at a roadside BBQ – with a unique menu! Unfortunately the gizzards weren’t available, but the gator bites were amazing!

The house we rented was along a canal that flowed out to the Gulf of Mexico. Much time was spent enjoying the warm temperatures (mid to upper 20’s C each day) on our deck which was built out over the water …

… and watching the sunset from Sam’s Beach Bar.

A person could get used to such a life!

But it is good to be home now, relaxed & refreshed.

CSA sign-up has started and applications are coming in. Next week we begin seeding in the greenhouse.

It’s almost spring!

 

 

 

 


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Eating fresh ???

So that’s what it feels like to receive a CSA basket … sort of!

Except the box we received contained more than just vegetables, the food inside was of (mostly) unknown origin, and we had some choice in the primary contents …

So it really wasn’t like a CSA box at all – but we did open it with the same anticipation & excitement that our CSA members say they experience upon receiving their CSA share.

It started with a coupon that arrived in the mail from a company called Hello Fresh. They were offering a 55% discount on a 1 week meal plan (3 meals). Usually such coupons are discarded but this time Amy suggested we try it.

For research purposes of course!

It was a good week to do it. Lorie was away, taking in some sun on an island in the Caribbean leaving me on my own for food. And Amy welcomed a break from her own meal planning & prep. She chose our 3 meals from a selection of about 7 possibilities for that week.

So on Monday morning when the FedEx driver dropped off the box at our back door we were excited! Inside were all the ingredients for 3 complete meals. The meat portions were on the bottom packed in ice, and the rest of the food was in separate paper bags on top. The recipes for each meal were clear and concise, with pictures to make it real easy. All ingredients are included except for salt & pepper and any necessary cooking oils. Amy prepared 2 of the meals while I cooked 1. Then we shared the food, as each meal serves 2 people.

Research results …

  • As vegetable growers we were especially interested in that part of the meal. We thought vegetable portions were a little small. I added more potatoes from our pantry to my meal, and the sweet potatoes in one of Amy’s dishes were too small to make into fries as the recipe suggested, and certainly not enough for 2 people. Onions came pre-chopped while shallots came whole. Not sure why. The quality of the vegetables was fine – I threw out a couple of green beans that were too sad to eat but the rest were okay.
  • The fresh herbs were very nice quality.
  • The vegetables & herbs had no information as to their origin whereas the meat did. Interestingly, the Hello Fresh website talks about where the meats come from and how the animals are raised, but mentions nothing about the vegetables or fruit.
  • Meat portions were adequate and the quality was very good.
  • There is so much packaging! They stress that it is all recyclable, but there is an awful lot of plastic as well as paper & cardboard that needs to be dealt with.
  • It seemed quite expensive to us. The plan we chose has a regular price of $13.33 per serving or $80 for the 3 meals. We paid about $6/serving – $36 for the whole box, with our coupon.
  • We would rather eat our own food. A lot of the food we eat in winter is prepared in the summer when we freeze vegetables, can fruit, make sauce, pickles and juice, dry herbs, etc with our own (or our neighbours’) produce. Things like squash, cabbage, garlic & onions are stored as long as possible for winter eating. We do buy some vegetables in the winter – but it just felt wrong to eat green beans fresh in January. Some things are best eaten in season only!
  • Having someone else do all the meal planning, grocery shopping, and much of the food preparation saves a lot of time & energy. It’s quite understandable why Hello Fresh and other similar businesses are growing in popularity.

Overall we enjoyed our experience with Hello Fresh! 

It was a fun way to get dinner on the table, the food was good, plus we learned some things that we can apply to our farming operation.