Keep updated on all that is happening around Thiessen Farms!

Growing seeds

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This is where most of the work is happening on our farm now – in our smaller greenhouse.

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This is where we start our seeds, the ones that need to be started early indoors – tomatoes, sweet & hot peppers, eggplant, onions, most herbs, broccoli …

The seeds are planted in plastic trays and put on the germination bed.

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The germination bed has heating cables running through a layer of sand and surrounded by styrofoam. For seeds to sprout & grow, the temperature of the soil is important – more important than the air temperature. These heating cables warm the sand which warms the trays, and the seeds germinate usually in a few days. Light is not as important at this stage, so the trays are stacked up on each other until the seedlings start to poke through the soil.

Over the germination bed there are wire hoops holding up a layer of row cover which keeps the heat in. This in turn is covered with plastic. It really is a greenhouse within a greenhouse within a greenhouse …

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Once the plants are growing, the air needs to be warmer. Sunny days provide enough heat but when the days are cloudy & colder, and during the night, a small space heater blow warmth onto the growing seedlings.

Once the seedlings are big enough the trays are moved to the next area, a similar set-up but without the heating cables – more greenhouses within the greenhouse …

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Each layer provides a few degrees of  additional protection from the cold. If the nights get really cold, we bring the trays into the barn just to be sure.

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It’s a simple, primitive, low-tech set-up, but it works for us. Because we rely mostly on the sun we have less control over the temperature, and the plants experience a wide variation. Perhaps they grow slower & take longer, but I think they end up sturdier & hardier.

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Now that the greenhouse is being used to grow plants, the big losers are the cats. All winter they enjoyed sunning & sleeping in the warmth.

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Now, the young ones are banished due to a lack of respect for the tender seedlings. Only Oliver is allowed in. He has claimed a spot under the bench where he spends his days … dreaming & being lazy.

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Lost on the farm

It was way back in the early 1950’s when my father set out his first pear orchard. He laid out the rows alongside the drainage ditch that ran through the farm. Where the ditch curved, his measurements were off and the rows narrowed & ended up being too close to each other. Ever since then it has been a challenge to drive equipment between those pear rows – especially the tractor & mower. It is a testimony to the rootedness & strength of those Bartletts that they have withstood being banged, barked, & shook by careless driving (mine) & still flourished.

Now those pears trees are gone – removed with the rest of the orchards, and after 60+ years we can finally drive along the ditch without care.

I’m still trying to get used to the farm without trees. Not only does it look different, but it also feels different.

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Until now, our farm has been defined by the orchards. When we talk about the farm, it’s always in relation to the trees – “the middle cherry orchard”, or “the young pears at the back” … Giving directions was easy as all the rows were numbered. “Go pick peaches, rows 32 & 33”. Even lately when we were growing more vegetables we referred back to the trees – “the tomatoes where the Garnet Beauty were”, “the squash patch right after the row of White Lady peaches” …

Now I don’t know how to describe the farm, or talk about it. In a way I am lost on my own farm.

Some things – like our narrow pear rows – don’t really matter anymore. They are just a bit of nostalgia, one happy memory among many  …

  • Remember that big, low hanging branch in the old Viva cherries, in the 3rd tree from the train tracks – a joy to pick, but a pain (literally) to drive under.
  • No more pie from the cherries off that last remaining sour cherry tree from the long row that stretched the whole length of the farm back when I was a kid.

Others are more important …

  • There’s that bad patch of bindweed that we need to keep on top of. It was in row 10 – Loring peaches. I should plant squash or pumpkins there this season, something that will grow fast & perhaps shade out the bindweed – except I don’t know where it is. Where exactly was row 10?
  • Now that the plums are gone I could fill in that low spot between the first & second rows of the back orchard. If we have a wet spring, we may find it the hard way – by getting stuck.

I guess there are the few rows of trees I left standing, as windbreaks. I can use them as landmarks & for directions – “go to the 3rd row of lettuce, the one after the snow peas that are just before the 2nd windbreak”. Awkward, but it may work. But again, it’s the trees that provide the context. It’s going to take a while to get used to this & work it out.

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Meanwhile, I walk around the farm, trying to get the feel of the land. From anywhere on the farm, I can now see the barns & the yard.

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I can see the next road & the village of Jordan Station.

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I try to picture how the farm will look this summer all planted out in vegetables. It’s exciting to have enough land to grow all the vegetables we want. We are full of ideas & plans.

Spring can’t come soon enough!