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Cherry season – certainly the best of times and the worst of times on the farm.

There’s nothing so beautiful as a cherry tree hanging heavy with ripe, red cherries. And what a luxury to go through the orchard grabbing cherries & eating as many desired. Then to top it all off, they’re not only delicious but healthy too!

But cherry season is also one of the most stressful times of the year. As cherries begin to colour, they are attractive to insects, especially the cherry fruit fly (ie worms) and birds, subject to rot, and extremely susceptible to cracking or splitting from rain. The insects and even the rot can be controlled to a certain extent by pesticides. Birds are more of a challenge. Some farms use bird bangers to try and scare them. Others stretch shiny, reflective ribbons through the trees or hang balloons etc but none of these are totally effective. By far the greatest peril is rain, especially rain followed by bright, hot sunshine. This causes the cherries to swell & burst, or crack.

This past weekend we received a lot of rain again – just over 60 mm. This caused the cherries to crack … and crack ….

They end up looking much like popcorn, and then rot very quickly – not a pretty sight!

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The few cherries that we picked on Friday, before the rain, were almost perfect. The cherries we picked today, after the rain, were almost 100% damaged. It is a big financial loss for us and a big disappointment for our customers.

Some of the later cherries that are not yet as ripe were not damaged as severely. Perhaps we will be able to pick some of them. However there is more rain in the forecast …

Ripening with the cherries are red raspberries. This is probably the fruit with the heaviest crop for us this season – they look amazing! The rain is beneficial for the raspberries as it helps them to grow bigger. But it can also cause them to rot. We are optimistic for a good harvest this season.

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What’s in the box?

Sweet cherries, red beets, snow peas, lettuce mix, broccoli and raspberries (full shares only).

  • Because of the weekend damage to the cherry crop (see explanation above), there will be limited cherries in the CSA boxes and the cherries will be cracked. This means they look bad, but still taste good. But eat them quickly as they will spoil quickly!
  • The red beets are baby beets – small, sweet & delicious!
  • The 2nd planting of snow peas is producing now, so quantities are increasing. Remember that snow peas are just as good (or better) eaten raw, as cooked. We like to eat them in our salads.
  • The lettuce continues to thrive and is part of your CSA box again this week.
  • Most of the broccoli will look slightly different this week. We have almost finished our normal broccoli heads and are now picking baby broccoli or broccoli stems. They taste the same, but don’t produce big heads, but rather small broccoli stems – lots of them. They are supposed to keep producing these for weeks & weeks. It’s our 1st time growing this & we’re excited to see how they turn out. Tell us how you like them & if you taste any difference.

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  • Raspberries are just starting and there is not yet enough for all shares. Tuesday pick-up will only have raspberries in the full share boxes. By next week everyone should get raspberries. Maybe even by Friday? Depends on the weather as usual!

Please remember to return all containers so they can be reused!

A CSA pick-up reminder – If you miss your pick-up, please call us that day & we can make arrangements for you to pick it up the next day. We do not save your produce beyond the next day.

 

Looking ahead … we picked our 1st cherry tomato today. More are coming!

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Here are Flynn & Ryder, the latest additions to our farm.

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CSA 2015 – Week 4

It’s a green, green world on the farm right now … and it’s beautiful!

With ample moisture in the ground from all the rains earlier this month, and now the sunshine & warmer temperatures, everything is growing rapidly. The fruit trees, berry canes, vegetables, grass, and of course the weeds – all are lush & bright & green.

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New peach leaves & branches are a bright, vibrant green, becoming a darker green as they mature.

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With no fruit to ripen (due to the frigid winter),  the blackberries can put all their energy into growing new canes for next year’s crop

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The tomatoes are all mulched & staked & have been tied once.

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Our native shrub & tree nursery – everything’s growing well, including the weeds.

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At the farmers’ markets our stall is also green. Since our markets began about a month ago, we have been selling plants only – herbs & vegetable plants, including tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, kale … but all green. Most people have done their planting now, but thanks to the city wildlife & their appetite for greens, replanting is often necessary & our sales continue.

Last week we offered lettuce & pea shoots – still green but edible & our customers were happy.

Our CSA boxes are extremely green as well – and not everyone is happy about that. While most members express thanks & appreciation for the fresh vegetables, we do hear some mutterings & grumblings. Everyone is hungry for something besides green salad fixings – especially fruit. We are too! The early zucchini is ripening, but that late frost damaged so many plants that there isn’t enough for our CSA members. The first beets were also stunted & slowed and are not quite ready to harvest.

But the sweet cherries & raspberries have come a long way in the last few days. We hope to be picking by next week!

(And yes, that is already bird damage seen on the cherries below.)

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What’s in the (green) box?

Broccoli, snow peas, lettuce mix, Asian greens – stir fry greens, green garlic, mint.

  • Broccoli was an unexpected bonus in last week’s Friday boxes. This week everyone gets broccoli – the heads are not large but oh so delicious!
  • Snow peas are always a sure thing – but this season we have been humbled again. Sown during that dry spell, they germinated slowly & poorly, then had to compete with all the weeds that flourished when the rain finally came. We still have snow peas for your share, but not as many as usual.
  • The lettuce mix continues to grow & grow! Keep eating your salads!
  • The Asian greens are all bok choy or pac choy or … this week. Stir fry them quickly to keep the vibrant green colour & fresh flavour.
  •  Enjoy some green garlic again this week – this may be the last garlic until fall! Remember to store it in the fridge.
  • Hot, humid days call for home-brewed iced tea with fresh mint leaves. Our mint is going wild so we have included a bunch in your share this week.

Thanks for remembering to return all containers & bags for reuse!

 


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CSA 2015 – Week 3

They hang on opposite walls of our workshop, hidden among all sorts of other useful stuff. They are the old & the older, the seldom-used & the     never-used-anymore. I don’t like either, and avoid them if at all possible.

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The weed whacker has the date we purchased it scratched on the plastic housing – 1/96. That makes it quite old! But it still runs when needed and the heavy-duty blade on the bottom takes care of a lot of weeds in a hurry.

I hate the weed whacker. It’s loud, it’s heavy, and it vibrates and shakes. You have to wear ear protection, eye protection, foot protection, & leg protection … And so it has spent most of it’s 19 years hanging on the wall of the workshop.

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The scythe is even older. I remember this same scythe (and it’s partners) from when I was growing up on the farm. I also remember my father patiently teaching me the proper way to use it. Once you catch on to it, it’s actually a very efficient piece of equipment, and can take care of a lot of weeds in a hurry.

It’s safe to say that the scythe has not been used since the weed whacker was purchased back in 1/96, or probably even longer, since we had other weed whackers before this one.

Right now, there are a lot of weeds around the trees in the orchards. We prefer to use mulch – hay or straw – to help keep the weeds at bay. But we can never cover the entire farm, so we also spray with herbicides around the trees to control weeds. Between the rows we mow the grass.

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We are a little behind in both weed control & grass cutting. In our defense, the grass is growing at an alarming rate due to all the rain, and the weeds even more so. So the orchards have a slightly wild look right now! But all will be brought under control in due time.

However, when I came across a few patches of thistles the other day,  that were about to go to seed, I had to take immediate action.

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The obvious solution was to use the weed whacker … or maybe the scythe.

I chose to go old school & pulled the scythe out from it’s hiding spot & sharpened it up. It felt good to be using it! The thistles were taken care of in a hurry – without noise, vibration, & no needed ear & eye protection. Plus I got some exercise.

Perhaps there still is a place for the scythe on a modern farm …

The weeds in the vegetables are controlled with cultivation by tractor, by hand hoeing, and by hand weeding. We use a lot of mulch in the vegetables too.

The tomatoes are getting mulched & staked this week .

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The eggplant & peppers will be next.

 

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There is never a shortage of vegetables waiting to be weeded.

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What’s in the box?

Green garlic, Asian greens, lettuce mix, spinach,

radishes (maybe), rhubarb (Friday only).

  • Green garlic is fresh garlic, picked now, before the bulbs mature underground. Perhaps a little milder than fall garlic, it has amazing flavour and can be used raw or in cooking – wherever you would use garlic cloves. You can eat the entire plant. Because it is fresh & not dried, it must be kept in the fridge.
  • Asian greens can be added to salads or stir-fried. They are juicy & delicious.
  • This week’s lettuce is a mix of various kinds & colours of leaves. It looks & tastes beautiful! As usual we have rinsed it once but you may want to wash it too.
  • The spinach plants have regrown so we are cutting them again & spinach will be in your box this week.
  • There are still  a few radishes  at least enough for Tuesday’s boxes. No promises for Friday.
  • But Friday gets the rhubarb this week -last week it was in the Tuesday shares.

Here are the beautiful Asian greens …

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The snow peas & broccoli are maturing & should appear in your CSA box by next week (or sooner?)

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Here is something to make your mouth water!! The first cherries are making their move & showing some colour!

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CSA 2015 – Week 2

 Just over 2 weeks ago (May 23) we had a late spring frost – and customers (at the farmers’ markets & CSA) are still concerned & asking how the crops were affected.

It appears that the fruit was not damaged. But various vegetables were. The artichokes that were already struggling due to lack of rain were totally wiped out. This was only our 2nd attempt at artichokes – last year’s crop was quite successful – and we are disappointed at this loss. Cauliflower was damaged badly, as was zucchini. We had extra zucchini plants & replanted – they just won’t be ready as soon as we had planned. Other crops were hit less severely such as snow peas & the new blackberry canes.

Here is an update on the fruit. The blossom petals have all dropped off, leaving the fruit visible. It is growing at a rapid pace!

Pears have a heavy crop.

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Most plums have a nice crop.

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The peaches vary. Some trees are quite light, while others have a full crop.

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The early cherries don’t have a lot of fruit, but the crop is better on the later varieties.

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The raspberries are looking very good – the bees were busy in the flowers today after the rain!

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What’s in the box?

Lettuce, spinach, radishes, rhubarb (Tuesday only this week – Friday next week),

Asian greens (Friday only this week – Tuesday next week).

  • We first grew this lettuce last year & everyone loved it! It tastes great & looks incredible. The lettuce has been rinsed once to remove most of the field dirt, but you will want to wash it more thoroughly!
  • We have received many comments on how delicious the spinach was last week. Enjoy it once more this week – there is more spinach growing, but it always tastes best this time of year when the temperatures are still cooler.
  • This is the last of the radishes. Eat them fresh, or try roasting them for a different flavour.
  • Rhubarb – what do we do? We don’t quite have enough rhubarb for our CSA this season, but there is too much to ignore & waste. We have decided to offer it on Tuesday this week & on Friday next week. This will allow it to regrow in between. We’re hoping there will be enough so each share can at least make 1 rhubarb crisp or even a pie.
  • The Asian greens will be a mixture of colours & textures. Add them to fresh salads or use the heavier, thicker ones in stir-fries.

Here’s our favourite fruit crisp recipe. We make it all year-long with rhubarb or whatever fruit is available fresh or frozen. It’s easy, quick & delicious!

Aunt Elvira’s Fruit Crisp

Prepare fruit & put in a pie plate – about 3/4 full

Topping: Mix together –

1/2 cup brown sugar (or to taste)

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter

Spread this topping over the fruit and bake in the microwave for 12 minutes. Enjoy!

 The lettuce that will be in the CSA box this week.

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A few pictures of our first CSA pick-up of the season, last week …

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The newest additions to our farm – 30 chicks & 10 ducklings arrived last week.

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CSA 2015 – Week 1

Fifty millimetres or almost 2″ – that’s how much rain fell on our farm this past weekend.

It was rain that was much-needed & very welcome. (Sorry to those whose outdoor activities were messed up by all that precipitation!)

Things had been getting quite dry.

The vegetables that we seeded were growing ever so slowly – instead of reaching up for the sunshine, they were stretching their roots down in search of moisture. The transplants that we set into the ground were languishing – not only was there little wetness for their roots to soak up, but the strong, hot winds we experienced for much of last week were sucking the moisture out of their leaves & stems. Only the weeds never hesitated but continued to flourish.

That all changed with the rain.

The vegetables have sprung to life & grown noticeably. The transplants – tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, lettuce, onions – look refreshed & rejuvenated. It does not take long to see the results of the rain. And the weeds have never hesitated but continue to flourish.

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The tomato patch.

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Broccoli.

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These rows of spinach & beets were barely seen last week.

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Broccoli & onions … and weeds!

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Nice to see a puddle again. Everything is lush & green.

It’s good that the vegetables are growing because it’s CSA time. The first week of CSA is always exciting! We get to see familiar faces & meet many new people. It’s the start of a great season!

What’s in the box?

Spinach, radishes, pea shoots, plants.

  • The spinach is looking good & tasting good! It has been rinsed to get some of the mud (thanks to the weekend rains) off, but you will want to wash it again. Store it in a plastic bag in your fridge crisper.
  • What will the radishes taste like? The heat last week promised to make them spicy & strong, but maybe the rain & cooler temperatures have cooled them down? They will store well in a bag in the fridge – remove the leaves first. If they lose their crunch after a few days, soaking them in ice water for 20 minutes will restore crispness (it will also make them milder tasting though).
  • Pea shoots – excellent in salads or stir fries. Grow them outside in partial shade or inside near a window. Keep them well watered & use as needed.
  • Choose from a multitude of varieties of tomato plants, if you want to grow some of your own, or a selection of herb plants to grow or just to eat. (But don’t ask for basil – it’s not ready yet!)

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The radishes are hiding under the white netting – to protect them from insects that chew the leaves & burrow into the roots.

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Pea shoots – healthy & delicious.

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Colourful lettuces – probably in your CSA box next week.

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A family of ducks has taken up residence in our pond, and we are enjoying them hugely!

 Looking forward to seeing everyone at CSA pick-up this week!