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Springing to life

It feels great to be outside working again!

Okay, maybe not when it’s raining … or snowing … or blowing … or cold …

We’ve experienced all of these this week. But we have also had some beautiful weather recently, and it is good to be outside, getting some work done.

We had 5 dump truck loads of manure delivered in March. Usually it is delivered in the fall so we can spread it on the fields before winter and then leave it to decompose. Once the weather warms up in spring, we work it in and plant our vegetables in the re-energized soil. Manure is very beneficial, adding organic matter, feeding the microbial life in the soil and providing nutrients for the crops.

Receiving our manure in spring means it was too late to spread it on most of the farm. To ensure food safety, there should be 120 days between the time manure is spread and when vegetables are harvested. I was able to spread some in a field we won’t be planting until early fall.

But most of the manure I mixed with straw and leaves (that I stockpiled from last fall) then ran through the spreader to mix it and put it in a long windrow. By this fall it will be beautiful compost which I will then spread over the fields.

The fresh, hot manure really steams on a cold morning.

While the weather was nice, we pruned the raspberries. We used to spend a lot of time gathering all the canes we cut out and removing them from the raspberry patch – both to keep it looking clean, and to eliminate any diseases. Then we learned that some of our native bees nest in these hollow canes, so now we are far less fussy about cleaning them all up. We rely on the bees to pollinate our crops.

The first of the snow peas have been planted! Will they germinate in these cold temperatures? No! But the seeds will patiently wait for some warmth and then sprout. We seed them early – mostly for our own well-being. Planting the first seeds into the cold, spring soil boosts our spirits, & gives us confidence that spring is sure to come – sooner rather than later we hope.

Certainly the snow today was not a confidence booster!

It does feel spring-like in our greenhouse. Seeds are being planted and seeds are sprouting daily.

Here’s hoping for warm weather soon, so we can plant them out in the fields!

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Sage update.

Sage now weighs in at a healthy 31 lbs – and growing!

She has decided she likes riding on the golf carts – even if it means waiting …

She plays outside until she’s exhausted and then sleeps in the barn while we work.

 

 

 

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What’s new?

What looks like a prehistoric cucumber or something … has seeds inside that turn a shocking bright red colour … and tastes really, really bitter?

Bitter melons!

I’m often asked, “What new vegetables are you growing this season?” People know we like trying different things and are always growing something new.

Last year it was bitter melons. Rather uncommon & perhaps even unknown to many Canadians, bitter melons are a popular vegetable in many cultures. At the North York Farmers’ Market where the majority of our customers have an Asian background they sold very well. And our customers willingly taught us when to pick them, how to prepare & eat them, and about the many health benefits of bitter melons. Turns out they are especially good for the heart & regulating blood sugar for diabetics.

We found it difficult to germinate the seeds, but then the plants grew well & produced a lot of fruit for many weeks. This year we’ll be growing them again.  We’re trying 10 different varieties (3 last year) to see what grows & produces the best, and what our customers prefer. Look for our bitter melons in August.

What else is new this year?

  • Radicchio isn’t something our family usually eats. But it is a beautiful, leafy vegetable resembling lettuce & cabbage in looks & usage, with a slightly bitter flavour. We grew some last year for the 1st time but got them in the ground too late to mature. We’ll start our seeds sooner this season.

Here’s what radicchio should look like (pictures from West Coast Seeds catalogue).

  • We haven’t grown parsnips for many years (don’t really remember why) but we’ve been buying & eating them this winter. They are so delicious that we have to grow them again!
  • Similarly popcorn returns to the list.
  • Fennel – another favourite of mine – has been unsuccessful for us recently. Maybe this is the year?
  • We’re trying to grow more Asian vegetables to meet the demand. Edamame, Chinese cabbage, pak choy, & winter radishes have been grown on our farm for a few years but we’re always trialing new varieties – looking for ones that grow reliably in our conditions, produce well, and taste great! We will add some other Asian greens to the list as well – tatsoi, choy sum, komatsuna, yokatta-na
  • And we are continually trying new varieties of crops we already grow. The list for 2018 includes 35 varieties of hot peppers, 38 different winter squash, 39 kinds of eggplant and 60+ varieties of tomatoes. This includes the tried & true, the old favourites and some new ones too.

That should be enough to keep things interesting!

*Here’s the disclaimer … It’s easy to get carried away in the winter and dream & make all these plans. No doubt not everything will get seeded or planted. Not everything that gets planted will grow well & produce a crop. We make no promises! But we will certainly try! And we’ll have fun doing it!

Look for these vegetables and more at our farmers’ markets or in your CSA shares this summer.

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Sage update.

While Sage continues her quest to make new friends, Kahleese will have none of it.

Enjoying the last bit of snow.

 


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CSA 2018

We have been accepting applications for our CSA 2018 for a few weeks now. Response has been good!

For those wondering …

Here are some examples of half share boxes from last year …

CSA pick-up day in our barn …

And some pictures of the farm & the crops …

CSA applications & more information is available on this site, or email us at thefarm@thiessenfarms.com.


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Winter reading

I’m not ready to let winter go.

Certainly the sunshine & warmer temperatures of the last few days have felt amazing …

And the forecast of a potentially large snowfall later this week is rather unwelcome. I am so over snow plowing, piling on the clothes just to go outside to do chores, and constantly stoking the wood stove in the shop to keep the temperatures above freezing …

But winter is my time to read. Stretching out on the recliner with a cup of coffee, the cat on my lap, and a good book – a great way to spend a cold winter’s day!

Among the top books from my winter reading was The Third Plate – field notes on the future of food” by Dan Barber. This optimistic book looks at where our food system should be going and is going, from a chef’s perspective. Another good one is In Search of the Perfect Loaf – a home baker’s odyssey” by Samuel Fromartz. The author goes on a worldwide quest to learn about baking the best bread. Along with a lot of books, I enjoy reading magazines, and internet articles. Not surprisingly, many are about farming.

Now with spring approaching, the time for relaxing & reading is coming to an end. It’s time to take what I learned from my reading and apply it to our own farming practises. That’s exciting & challenging! We have lots of plans, lots of new ideas, and lots of optimism for this upcoming season!

I’m ready for spring … but a bit more winter weather would be okay too – I’ve still got a few more books to read!

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Sage update.

Sage desperately wants to make friends with the Flynns. They’re warming up to her – slightly. Then she bounds after them …

Sage loves running on the bales …

… and digging in the pile of wood chips.

We are confident she will be a great dog – eventually!

 

 

 

 

 


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Meet Sage …

Introducing Sage, the newest member of the team here at Thiessen Farms.

Sage came to the farm a couple of weeks ago and quickly stole our hearts! Technically she belongs to Amy which means Amy has all work & expense & time & trouble … of training her and ensuring that she grows up to become a useful member of the farm.

The rest of us get to simply enjoy her!

Sage’s mother is a Bernese Mountain dog and the father is unknown. Her paws indicate that she will likely be a good size dog. Sage appears to be quite intelligent and has easily learned basic commands. But being a puppy, she also obeys selectively and at her whim. She is loads of fun!

Good pictures are limited as Sage does not prefer to stay still.

She is excited to make friends with the cats. Oliver has reluctantly accepted her & mostly ignores her, but the 2 Flynns want nothing to do with her.

Sage loves the security of her porch. Here she sits and watches the farmyard and all that’s happening.

Sage looks forward to meeting everyone when our CSA program begins later in spring!

 


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Winter eating

An extremely robust squash plant enveloped our compost pile last summer. When the fall frosts killed it, the fruit was revealed …

It resembles a pink banana squash (a variety we have not grown in several years), but who knows! The squash had several smaller siblings which we took to market where they sold quickly. This monster was too big – takes up too much room in the truck, plus a little awkward for someone to lug home on the subway!

So it has been sitting in the barn since fall, waiting …

There are now 2 small, dark spots appearing on the side & the stem end is getting soft. Before it spoils it will have to be eaten – either by us or the chickens. Most likely it will be both us and the chickens. Seems there should be plenty for all! It will be interesting to see what it’s like inside & what it tastes like.

We still have other “fresh” vegetables left in the barn that we are eating. There’s a few assorted squash – mostly butternut, some onions, garlic, a handful of wilted carrots & several large, winter kohlrabi (the same as the kohlrabi we had in the summer, just way, way larger). And tucked into our fridge is a bag with 2 Chinese cabbages.

The onions & garlic are always useful & a welcome part of our meals, but the rest … let’s just admit that we lose our excitement for these roots by the new year. Fortunately we put a lot of vegetables into the freezer last summer including peppers (sweet, hot, & roasted), roasted tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, kale, corn, edamame, squash, and some herbs. We also dried some herbs & hot peppers, made some jam & jarred a whole lot of tomato sauce & salsa. We definitely will not go hungry!

But that doesn’t stop the craving for fresh-from-the-field vegetables. This season’s seeds are arriving in the mail daily. As I unpack the boxes and check the packages I dream of juicy, warm cherry tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, crisp lettuces and even eggplant. They suggest not grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Similarly, it’s not helpful to choose your crops & shop for seeds when you’re desiring fresh food! The result is more seeds, of more varieties, of more vegetables, than we had planned to grow!

It felt good to spend a few hours outside on the farm this week. We finally got the garlic patches mulched with a thick blanket of straw. We prefer to do this when the ground is frozen but without much snow. The straw will then keep the soil frozen throughout the freeze/thaw cycles of our winter and prevent the garlic cloves from heaving & being pushed out of the ground. When spring finally comes and the garlic sprouts & grows, the straw will prevent the weeds from growing too, and competing with the garlic.

We like to stay warm & cozy in the winter – and so does the garlic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The beginning of winter.

And now it is winter! Cold temperatures, biting winds, snow covering the ground …

At least that was the weather last week.

Now we’re back to milder temperatures, melting snow, and slush – normal winter weather for Niagara!

I love it!

After a seemingly endless and mostly pleasant fall, it’s nice to settle into winter. The first snow signaled the end to our outdoor work.

Now we can move inside  …

  • to the office – to catch up on our bookkeeping. This is also the time to review our notes & evaluations of the crops etc that we made all summer and to begin planning for next season. (The seed catalogues have arrived).
  • to the shop – to clean, tidy & organize and begin winter maintenance & building projects.
  • and to the comfy chair to relax, read & perchance to nap even.

 

Seems like everyone has moved inside for the winter!