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CSA 2020 – Week 9

If it won’t rain we have to make our own!

It’s been a long, loooong time since we have had a good soaking rain on the farm – and the crops are showing it! New transplants especially have an almost impossible chance of getting established and growing well. But we keep trying, and give them a daily watering for the first week or so. Success is limited!

Rainwater is collected from all our barn roofs and stored in several large cisterns. Then we fill our old sprayer and use a hose to water the little seedlings – usually from the tractor seat, though sometimes we have to drag the hose down the rows. It’s the easiest & most efficient way for us to get life-saving moisture to the vegetables. However if a good rain doesn’t come soon, we will have to start watering even the established vegetables like tomatoes & peppers and the blackberries too. That will mean buying water by the truckload (if it’s available) which gets expensive. Plus it is a time consuming task during an already busy season.

Come on rain!!!

What’s in the box?

Mini red romaine lettuce, Spanish onion, beets, tomatoes, fresh garlic, basil.

green beans? salad greens?

extras – kohlrabi, eggplant, zucchini.

  • Another variety of mini romaine lettuce is ready. This one is a very dark red/burgundy colour.
  • We have been waiting for our big Spanish onions to grow larger – but without rain, growth has stopped and the tops are drying off rapidly. So we will pick them! Most years we have onions for several weeks, sometimes even for the rest of the season. However this year the seeds germinated poorly and then more seed was not available during the height of the pandemic. By the time we could get seed, it was too late to plant. So we will have big onions only for a week or two. But we’re still planting green onions and will have them in the box again soon.
  • More beets are ready for harvesting. Beets continue to be one of our most popular vegetables for CSA and at the market. This week we will have orange beets and candy cane (red & white striped), along with the usual dark purple (red) beets.
  • Tomatoes big & tomatoes small, this week we’ll have them all – lots of cherry sized fruit especially, and the first few larger beefsteak tomatoes too.
  • Everyone was excited for the fresh garlic last week. We will be including a bulb in each CSA box for the rest of the season. Garlic lovers can enjoy the strong, fresh flavour now – but the bulbs can also be dried for using later in the year. Keep them at room temperature away from any moisture and they will dry out nicely in a few weeks.
  • Basil is one crop that really, really likes this dry weather. There will be another bunch in your share this week – either lemon (which was a big hit!!) or regular Genovese basil (also delicious!).
  • Green beans are starting – but there will probably not be enough for everyone this week. We seed beans every week – 8 times so far, and will continue to seed them for another 3 or 4 weeks. So there will be lots of beans coming. Same with other salad greens. These continue to struggle through the heat but there should be some ready (later) this week.
  • Extras this week include kohlrabi, eggplant & zucchini. Some members have had enough of them (kohlrabi) or have lots in their own gardens (zucchini) or don’t really enjoy them (eggplant) but we will have them available for those who would like them.

** Please remember to return your vegetable containers & boxes so we can re-use them!

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We enjoy tomato salads these days. Here are our 2 favourite recipes.

1. Quick Tomato Salad

Chop some tomatoes – any size, shape, colour, quantity … Add a handfull of dill … For the dressing combine equal parts sugar & vinegar (or less sugar depending on taste). Salt & pepper to taste.

2. Tomato Salad

For the dressing combine –

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1½ tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon each salt & pepper

Salad

1 clove fresh garlic

2 cups chopped tomatoes

2 cups chopped cucumbers

½ cup each chopped green & red pepper

¼ cup chopped (red) onion

1 can chickpeas (drained)

Combine and add to the dressing. Marinate for 2 hours.

Then add ½ cup chopped parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

½ cup feta cheese.

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Around the farm this week …

The blackberries are beginning to show some colour! Usually their season starts during the 2nd week of August. They sure could use a few inches of rain to help them get some size and energize the canes.

It’s Japanese beetle season – they show up in July, do their damage and disappear sometime in August. Here they are on the edamame (soybeans). Sunflowers are another favourite of theirs.

 

Most of the greens have to be covered now. The insects are hungry & thirsty and are even eating the kale  and other crops that normally are pest-free!

A new sweet pepper we are trying – candy cane!

Hot peppers and a new planting of cucumbers in the greenhouse. They both need weeding but it’s too hot to work in there these days  😦

Can you spot Sage hiding in the squash?

Everyone likes ice coffee on a hot day!

Georgetown market

 

 


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CSA 2020 – Week 8

A bright green field against a background of dark green trees under a perfect blue sky with white fluffy clouds. Not a bad place to spend some time this afternoon!

This field is not growing any vegetables in 2020. We are fortunate to have enough acreage available that we can take fields out of production and grow cover crops for a year, both to give them a rest, and to improve the soil. I seeded this field back in May to a mixture of oats, peas, several kinds of clover, buckwheat and hairy vetch. The plants grow and bloom and then I mow them down before they go to seed. This afternoon was the 3rd or 4th time I’ve done this. And I’ll keep doing it until fall. Then I might till the plants into the soil, spread manure or compost and reseed another cover crop for the winter. Or if this one is still growing well, I might leave it until next spring. Then I’ll work the ground and we’ll grow vegetables here again.

We grew a mixture of cover crops because they each provide some benefit. Some are good at smothering weeds. Others provide nitrogen to the soil, or have deep roots that bring nutrients closer to the surface for our vegetables. All add organic matter which will decompose and improve the texture of the soil. On our farm we can see the improvements the cover crops have made, especially how our soil can hold moisture and keep our vegetables growing better even during this dry spell.

When I mow the cover crop down I usually leave a section unmowed, letting these plants flower to provide food & shelter for insects. As I mowed today there were all sorts of insects, moths, dragonflies … flying around. A flock of barn swallows followed the tractor, swooping & diving, catching insects to eat. A hawk soared overhead and then landed next to me – looking for mice. It is amazing how much life there can be in such a small area.

Not a bad place at all to spend some time this afternoon!

A few sunflowers self-seeded from last summer’s crop.

What’s in the box?

It’s mystery box week!

Fresh garlic, tomatoes, basil, zucchini, plus …?

  • We picked all our garlic last week – and it looks great! Lots & lots of beautiful bulbs! Fresh garlic has wonderful strong, pungent garlic flavour – much stronger than the garlic scapes you have been receiving in your box. Because it has just been pulled and is not dry, it should be kept at room temperature, and in a place with good air circulation. You can leave it there and it will slowly cure & dry. Or enjoy it right away in your cooking, but know that once the bulb is broken open it should be used within a few days. Enjoy!
  • The tomatoes are ripening faster & faster now and we are picking more & more. It is still mostly the smaller tomatoes that are ready, but the big beefsteaks are not far behind!
  • What goes with tomatoes? Basil. Great in a simple tomato salad. Or use your basil in bruschetta, a frittata or of course pesto. (lots of recipes & suggestions at http://www.cookwithwhatyouhave.com) *Treat basil like you would a bouquet of flowers – in a jar with water. DON’T put it in the fridge – the cold temperatures will turn it black.
  • plus … The remainder of the CSA box this week is a bit of a mystery. Mostly due to the weather we will have a bit of this and a bit of that. So the CSA boxes will contain different vegetables on each pick-up day …
  • There will be zucchini.
  • There should be some salad greens – probably lettuce, or baby kale, arugula or a greens mix. While we lost several new plantings during the heat the other week, some greens managed to grow & even regrow after cutting and are now ready for harvest – or will be later in the week.
  • We are finishing up with the 2nd planting of kohlrabi and just grabbing a few that are big enough from the 3rd.
  • Cucumbers are a failure for us so far this season. The 1st planting which we are picking now, suffered a lot of insect damage which affected both quality & quantity of the harvest. We are picking some nice ones now – but not many! The 2nd planting all died in the heatwave. A 3rd planting is doing great, growing in the greenhouse, but still a long ways from harvest. We have even seeded a 4th time now. Cucumbers are one of my favourite vegetables so we are not giving up!
  • The heat has also been hard on the broccoli (a cool weather crop). We are picking a smaller quantity.
  • And eggplant is just starting to come into season. Any of these vegetables might appear in your share this week.

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Around the farm this week …

Is it groundhogs or rabbits that have been tasting the sunflowers? Fortunately they are just nibbling at a few plants next to the train tracks and leaving the rest alone – so I’ll leave them alone!

Pink sunrise this morning.

A beautiful sunrise the other Saturday on our way to market in Georgetown.

Our market setup this week.

Wild skies resulted in only a few raindrops – but no damaging storms either!

Sage enjoys cooling off at Lake Ontario …

… or chilling on the deck.

But Flynn can relax anywhere.


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CSA 2020 – Week 7

Out in our yard sits a trailer full of vegetable seedlings ready to be transplanted into the field this week.

Another trailer of plants sits in the loading dock of the barn, under the roof where it is protected from the hot sun (and the forecasted storms of this past weekend). Most of them are ready to be planted now!

And in the little greenhouse, tucked under the tables, hidden somewhat from the sun & heat are another dozen trays, that have just germinated.

It’s a bit of a backlog right now – 75 trays, each holding 265 little seedlings. That’s close to 20,000 plants looking for a home out on the farm. That’s a bit more than usual!

The reason they have collected is because of the heat last week. We tried transplanting early in the week, but the ground was so dry & dusty and so hot to the touch that the plants couldn’t survive – even with daily watering. (Of course the weeds flourished still!)

So we had to stop and wait for cooler temperatures and/or rain. Thursday night a half inch fell and I planted again on Friday. Another half inch Friday night was very beneficial – see how much better this planting looks.

So with that bit of moisture in the soil & slightly cooler temperatures forecast for this week, we hope to get most of these seedlings into the ground in the next few days.

Today was spent preparing the fields – and it was quite some work! Because it has been so dry, when we have finished harvesting a crop of late, we simply mow it down rather than working it under. This is to conserve moisture. Soil that is covered with plants retains more moisture. Cultivating or rototilling the soil and leaving it bare, dries it out much faster.

But now that we are replanting our fields, we need to have clean, bare soil to transplant into. Today that meant bringing out the tractor & disc which is very harsh on the soil & all the microscopic life that it contains. Then we had to remove weeds & vegetation by hand even, but our crew did an amazing job.

What looked like this in the morning …

… looks ready to plant now.

Overall, the extreme heat & lack of precipitation we’ve been experiencing, will affect the quantity & quality of the vegetables in your CSA share this week, and for the next several weeks.

What’s in the box?

Tomatoes, basil, zucchini, kohlrabi, beets, green onions, salad greens??

extras – garlic scapes.

  • It’s tomato time! We picked the first few for our weekend market , and now there’s enough cherry tomatoes for everyone – just a taste, a tease … a promise of what is to come. Enjoy the first of our sun-sweetened tomatoes of the season.
  • What goes with tomatoes? Basil! Top your tomatoes with some fresh leaves, add them to your salad, sprinkle them over your pizza, or make a batch of pesto. Your box will have a bunch of basil – either the common Genovese or lemon basil. Both are excellent!
  • Zucchini is one crop that thrives in the heat and pumps out the fruit. (Last week I posted a picture of wilting plants. Some appear to have recovered while some still look unhealthy. Fingers crossed they keep on producing – at least until the next planting is ready to harvest.)
  • How did you enjoy the kohlrabi last week? It’s often an unknown vegetable for our new CSA members – and often becomes a favourite. It’s a great snack – simply peel and eat!
  • Beets & green onions are vegetables we keep planting all summer. A lot of those trays of seedlings on the trailer pictured above are beets & green onions. Enjoy both in your box again this week. Hopefully that inch of rain will be enough to get them growing again!
  • Our salad greens are the most affected by the weather. The lettuce gets stronger flavoured and even bitter, spinach, bok choy & arugula go to seed rather than grow lush & large, and baby kale  gets tougher. ( for example … only a few CSA boxes contained a small bag of spinach last Friday. Where we would normally expect to harvest 150 bags, we picked about a dozen.) But we will do our best to find some tasty greens for the box this week.
  • This is probably the last week for garlic scapes. Grab a bunch if you would like some.

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Around the farm this week …

Peppers & eggplant enjoying the sun!

Tomatoes too!

Milkweed in bloom.

Our next planting of zucchini & cucumbers. 100% of the cucumber plants died, but almost half the zucchini survived and are now growing well – good thing we planted more than usual!

Sage deciding on her next adventure …

 

 

 


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CSA 2020 – Week 6

Monday started out as “one of those days!”

The weather forecast promised more hot, humid temperatures with no relief and no rain in the foreseeable future.

Then our early morning drive around the farm to check things out revealed a lot of bad news …

… weeds that seem to have sprung up overnight,

… struggling & dying plants,

… and lots of insect damage.

Hot dry weather is hard on humans, animals and plants. But it encourages insects which are always more plentiful in these conditions.

I allowed myself a time of wallowing, before continuing with the day.

And it wasn’t all bad news …

The winter squash is being attacked by squash/cucumber beetles – but only certain varieties (we’re growing about 20 kinds this year) and they should be big enough to withstand the pressure. And notice the water droplets around the edges of the leaves – morning dew that refreshes the plants. It’s not a lot but is very beneficial.

I’ve never seen Chinese cabbage go to seed but it is this year. There won’t be enough left to supply our CSA, but we’ll take any good ones to market. Hopefully the next plantings will do better. Summer cabbage is always risky. Fall crops are a surer bet.

We transplanted a second planting of zucchini & cucumbers last week. They continue to struggle to get established in this heat despite my watering them. Many have died but the rest seem to be improving.

In the morning they look great and then each afternoon they wilt. This is a plants way of coping with heat & drought – preserving themselves by conserving moisture.

Beefsteak tomatoes are in abundance on the plants, though still some weeks away from ripening. We did pick a small basket of cherry tomatoes today, which are always the earliest to mature.

 

Monday ended up okay! A slight breeze kept the temperatures bearable. Work included weeding, pruning & tying tomatoes, seeding (Chinese broccoli, beets, green onions, bok choy, kohlrabi, cucumbers), transplanting (lettuce, stir-fry mix, arugula) and harvesting (tomatoes, zucchini, kohlrabi). And lots of watering too!

What’s in the box?

Mini romaine lettuce, kohlrabi, kale, zucchini, beets,

green onions, garlic scapes, salad greens.

  • “Pomegranate crunch”. How could we not grow a lettuce with a name like that! And it turned out great – a crunchy mini-romaine lettuce with dark red outer leaves surrounding a red/green heart and just big enough for 1 beautiful salad. We’re tempted to let them grow a little bigger – but in this heat they might bolt & go to seed.
  • Kohlrabi is a strange-looking vegetable – sort of like a cross between a little cabbage and a turnip. It is usually considered a root vegetable, though the edible round globe grows above ground. Kohlrabi is usually eaten raw – just peeled & sliced. The taste & texture resembles fresh, crunchy broccoli stems, with a bit of radish thrown in. Use on raw vegetable platters and serve with a creamy dip. Grated kohlrabi can be added to slaws. We like to spiralize our kohlrabi and use it instead of pasta. Kohlrabi can also be steamed or boiled but don’t peel until after they are cooked. When the bulbs are tender, peel skin, and season with butter, salt, and pepper, a cheese sauce, or just enjoy plain. They are good for mashing with other vegetables – parsnips, carrots or potatoes. Kohlrabi absorbs the flavour of other ingredients making it ideal to add to soup, stew and stir-fries. The bulbs should be stored, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the fridge. They will hold for a week. Our favourite way to eat kohlrabi (other than raw in slices) is to sautée it in butter & garlic for just a few minutes. Then add just a dash of nutmeg. Delicious!
  • We have included a bunch of kale in your box, either plain or curly. We enjoy kale in our salads, but it is good cooked too. Kale tastes great with olive oil and garlic, onions or leeks. Combine it with sweet vegetables like corn or carrots. Unless the kale leaves are very small & tender, remove the tougher stems before using. Store kale in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper for 3-4 days. But be aware – the longer it is stored, the stronger the flavour becomes. Need a recipe suggestion? http://www.cookwithwhatyouhave.com (subscription included with your CSA membership) has 38 kale recipes to choose from plus lots of useful information!
  • Zucchini (green or yellow) and yellow patty pan summer squash – those are the options this week. They come in various sizes too. Choose a smaller, tender one if you prefer to eat it in your salad. Larger ones are great sauteed or on the BBQ.  And if zucchini bread or muffins are on the menu, opt for the biggest one.
  •  The beets would really benefit from some rainfall. As it is, they are smaller – but oh so delicious! Along with the common dark beets we also have orange beets & candy cane beets, which are red & white striped. They can all be used the same & taste similar as well.
  • Green onions, garlic scapes & salad greens finish up the box this week. Salad greens could include lettuce mix, arugula, or bok choy depending on what is ready and of good quality on your pick-up day.

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Around the farm this week …

One foggy morning resulted in some beautiful photos.

For 1 brief moment we seemed to have all the weeds under control!