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CSA 2019 – Week 3

Sorry to lead with the cats again, but they so capture the mood of the day!

Flynn here is enjoying a beautiful, sunny, & mild Monday – something we all appreciated very much!

There were 5 of us working on the farm today and we got a lot accomplished …

The tomatoes are all staked now, and we’ve begun to prune & tie them for the first time – a huge job & an important one. Some of the plants already have little tomatoes!

Eggplant & sweet peppers were finally planted last week & the students are mulching them. Spreading all that straw is time well spent as it saves weeding throughout the season. Some we planted on ground cloth – a polypropylene fabric that prevents weed growth but allows air & water through. And because it’s black, the soil is kept warmer – something the peppers will love!

We weeded a lot of vegetables …

… and we transplanted a lot of vegetables into the field.

What’s in the box?

Salad turnips, parsley, collards, lettuce, spinach, green onions.

  • Salad turnips are small, round, white turnips that resemble radishes, but without the bite (usually)! 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.
  • Parsley loves cool weather and we’ve had plenty of that – so we have plenty of parsley too! It’s great in your salads, omelets, or sandwiches (egg salad, tuna salad …).
  • Who knows what collard greens are? Not a common vegetable for most people,  (we have not grown them or eaten them even, for a few years!) they are in the same family as cabbage & broccoli with a taste & texture that is similar to kale. They are always cooked and not eaten raw. Rather than post recipes, here are links to 2 very different recipes that also give much additional, useful information on collards.
  1. https://braziliankitchenabroad.com/brazilian-style-collard-greens/
  2. https://cooktoria.com/vegetarian-collard-greens/
  • Lettuce mix, spinach & green onions round out your CSA share this week.

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We’ve been working around a killdeer nest for several weeks now – hidden in the weeds in the middle of the field.

They don’t build much of a nest. This one contained 3 eggs only.

The eggs finally hatched on the weekend & already the little ones are running around the field.

Killdeer are fun birds to watch, but so incredibly noisy. It’s nice when they arrive in spring – and nice when they leave again!

 

 

 

 

 


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CSA 2019 – Week 2

With the return of the rain this morning, everyone was feeling a little down.

Especially the Flynns! They were downright miserable and refused to get up – even for breakfast!

But the weekend was great – sunny & warm. Everything on the farm is looking lush & green.

So far we have been able to keep the weeds under control, but that carpet of green springing up between the rows is really scary!

The peas are just starting to blossom – we should be enjoying snow peas before the end  of the month.

Last year’s row of kale is in full bloom now. On sunny days the plants are vibrating with all the bees working there. On overcast days like today, the flowers are full of other insects & wild bees.

The tomatoes, tomatillos and first zucchini are all mulched now and we’re starting to stake the tomatoes.

But the frequent rains keep us behind in our seeding & planting. The small greenhouse is bursting with trays of seedlings waiting to be transplanted into the fields.

Sweet peppers, hot peppers & eggplant are waiting for drier soil too – this week for sure!

What’s in the box?

Stir fry mix/salad blend, green garlic, mint bunches, spinach, bok choy, green onions & radishes.

Siamese Dragon Stir Fry Mix Salad Blend

  • The official name of this is “Siamese Dragon stir fry mix salad blend”. It contains a variety of greens – mostly Asian. The seed catalogue doesn’t list them all, but it looks like lettuce, bok choy, tatsoi, komatsuma, kale, mustard …  Some of these are quite spicy & flavourful! It’s a great fresh salad mix when the leaves are smaller. When they get larger, try them stir fried/steamed/sauteed with some green garlic. The greens in the box this week could be used either way.

(picture from Baker Creek Seed catalogue)

 

 

 

  • Green garlic is a fresh garlic plant. At this time of year the bulb has not yet formed below ground, and the green top is still tender enough to eat, like a scallion or green onion. Green garlic is milder than fall garlic bulbs. Use them raw (eg. sliced into salads or mashed with goat cheese for a spread) or cooked (sautéed with scrambled eggs maybe) anywhere you would use garlic. They are also delicious coated with olive oil & tossed whole on the barbecue. Store green garlic in the fridge.
  • We love fresh mint! Delicious & refreshing in fruit salads, drinks etc. Lately we have been making a simple syrup with the mint leaves and adding it to our iced teas. (recipe below)
  • Spinach, bok choy, green onions & radishes. After our long winter, fresh spring greens are so welcome & delicious. Eating them fresh is the easiest, but they are great cooked also. We’ve included 2 simple & quick recipes below.

MINT SIMPLE SYRUP   

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint, rinsed
  • 1 cup water

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Add sugar, mint, and water to a small pot.  Bring to a boil, and then remove from heat.
  • Leave the mint leaves in the syrup as it cools for about 15 minutes.  Strain out the leaves, and bottle the syrup.
  • Store mint simple syrup in a glass jar in the fridge.  Use within a year
(from https://champagne-tastes.com)

SAUTEED GINGER BOK CHOY

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 green garlic stalks or 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, freshly minced
  • 1 bag (approx. 600 gr) bok choy
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Toasted sesame seeds, freshly ground pepper & salt.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Meanwhile cut the bok choy on the bias, or just in half lengthwise. Add in the bok choy and soy sauce and cook stirring for 3 minutes, or until greens are wilted and stalks are crisp-tender.
  3. Serve immediately when warm with toasted sesame seeds, black pepper, and salt.
(adapted from http://eugeniekitchen.com)

GARLIC ROASTED RADISHES

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. radishes, ends trimmed and halved
  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter or ghee (may sub coconut oil or avocado oil)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 green garlic stalks – finely chopped or 2-3 garlic cloves minced,
  • 1/4 tsp. dried parsley, dried chives or dried dill

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425℉.
  2. In a bowl, combine the radishes, melted butter or oil, salt and pepper and toss until radishes are evenly coated.
  3. Spread radishes out singly in a 9 x 13 dish.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing every 10 or so minutes. Add the minced garlic and dried parsley and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until radishes are golden brown and cooked through.
  5. Optional: Serve with a side of ranch dressing for dipping or drizzling on top and garnish with parsley, dill or chives.
(adapted from https://therealfoodrds.com)

 

Please remember to bring your box along for your CSA share this week!


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CSA 2019 – Week 1

“Three Simple Steps for Planting a Chaos Garden”.

This was the title of the article I read online. The basic idea is to mix all your vegetable & flower seeds together, scatter them around your garden “and then sit back and see what happens  … You might find that you end up with far more produce for the effort invested than if you took the time to form perfect beds and plant everything in tidy rows.”

I guess you might.

I guess you might also end up with a weedy mess & very few vegetables!

I found the article funny – but also annoying. While we all like to get great results without much effort, life doesn’t often work that way. Certainly farming does not! (though of course we continually strive to find better & easier ways to grow our crops).

But the chaos part we can identify with. Chaos happens!

Here’s our herb garden …

If it looks like weeds & thistles, that’s because it is! Most of the herbs didn’t survive the winter. (The loss of all our 50+ lavender plants hurts the most.) While we waited to see if they were merely late in springing to life, the weeds took over. Chaos indeed! And it’s right beside the road so everyone passing by can see. This week finally we dug out the few survivors and then sprayed a herbicide on everything else. I guess that makes us guilty of wanting good (and quick) results without much work, but it seemed the best solution (and one we rarely choose). Shortly we’ll mow everything down & plant a cover crop for the summer to smother weeds & improve the soil. By next spring we can plant vegetables here again.

Our other chaotic herb garden. But because it’s hidden behind the lilacs & golden hop trellis, it doesn’t stand out. You might say that this bed was made according to the article – we just planted a bunch of different herbs and let them grow. The angelica and bronze fennel were the bullies and outgrew everything else (except for the weeds again).

Two other examples of chaos on our farm. Along the railroad tracks  …

… and the berm surrounding our pond.

But mostly we keep the chaos in check!

The kale from last year is now blooming – bright yellow & chaotic, but in a good way!

Tomatoes are all planted and we’ve started to mulch them.

Beautiful lettuce for our CSA shares this week.

What’s in the box?

Lettuce mix, bok choy, spinach, arugula, radishes, green onions, rhubarb.

  • The lettuce mix, spinach, bok choy & arugula have all been rinsed once to remove any field dirt. You will probably want to wash them again before eating. Store them in the plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will usually last about a week.
  • The lettuce is a mix of different colours & kinds of lettuce. It is not only beautiful, but delicious too!
  • We always pick our greens the morning of CSA pick-up day (or the day before the farmers’ market) so they are fresh. This means the spinach might be baby spinach, or sometimes bigger leaves – depends on how the weather has been. Tomorrow’s spinach will probably have smaller leaves than Friday’s. It all tastes great though!
  • Bok choy is a great Asian vegetable. It can be added to your salad and eaten raw, but most often is sautéed or stir fried. We like to cook some garlic or onion in a bit of oil (olive or sesame) for a couple of minutes, then add the bok choy and continue cooking until it is wilted & still bright green – around 5 minutes or less. Every year we try different kinds of bok choy – white & green, small & mini, tight heads or looser heads. Some prefer hot weather while others like it cooler. But all of them react to big temperature swings and can bolt & go to flower in a day or two. Needless to say we have a lot in flower already this spring season. The flowers are totally edible, so be sure to use them if some show up in the bag.
  • If you are not familiar with arugula, then you’re in for a surprise. Arugula is quite spicy! It is one of the most popular crops at our farmers’ markets. People absolutely love it! Some eat it in a salad (with strawberries, feta cheese & a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette) while others mix it with lettuce or other greens. It’s also great in sandwiches.
  • Radishes also can have a bit of a bite. Enjoy them in your salad with the lettuce, spinach, arugula …
  • The first onions of the season are green onions, also called bunching onions or scallions. Eat everything – the green leaves & the small, bottom white bulb.
  • There should be enough rhubarb in your box to make a pie. Or almost as good, and way easier & faster, make a rhubarb crisp or crumble. We also enjoy stewed rhubarb. Chop rhubarb and cook in a saucepan with a bit of water until tender. Add sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup) to taste. We sometimes add apples or other fruit to cut the tartness of the rhubarb. Delicious on it’s own or poured over ice cream, pudding or custard.

We’re excited to see everyone this week at the first CSA pick-up of the season!

 

 

 


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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!