Sunny, warm and spring-like one day, followed by grey, cold, snowy weather the next.
The first flowers bloom, heralding spring, only to be silenced by the snow.
After a long, gloomy winter (the darkest in 73 years so we’re told) we are more than ready for spring. Apparently we will have to be patient – spring will be taking it’s time to arrive.
Fortunately spring has sprung in our greenhouse. The first seeds are up – peppers, tomatoes and onions. And artichokes! We are enjoying watching them grow!
For the first time ever we tapped our 2 silver maple trees in the backyard and collected sap. Boiling it down is a long process, but resulted in some very tasty maple syrup. The first batch was quite pale & thin but later ones were thicker with a lovely, rich colour.
Around the farm this week …
The remnants of the last snow are finally disappearing – but it is snowing again today!
The garlic patch. This is where we will see the first green growth of spring out on the farm – but not yet.
The Flynns and Sage and Rosemary are also anxious for spring!
We are still accepting applications for our CSA program.
Friday pick-up is full, but there is availability on Tuesday & Thursday at the farm, and picking up at the Georgetown Farmers’ Market.
*** New this year will be a fruit option. We are partnering with our friends at Pineview Orchards to bring fresh, in-season fruit. It will be 5-6 weeks depending on the season and may include yellow and blue plums, peaches, nectarines and pears. Pineview is a neighbouring family farm located just 1 road over from us – we can see their new, red barn from our fields. They had their own CSA for several years but have decided to focus on farmers’ markets and their fruit stand, along with wholesaling their produce. We know that the addition of fruit will be welcomed by our members. Pineview will also be supplying some of our winter squash.
And now for some lesser-known-facts & history about our CSA program …
This is our 14th year with a CSA program. We began back in 2010 with 10 members – 3 of them are still with us! Other members have been with us for many years.
CSA enabled us to gradually decrease our farmers’ markets from 4 each week to only 1.
Our biggest year was 2015 with 150 shares. That fall we made the big decision to remove all our fruit orchards and only grow vegetables. This didn’t go over well and we lost over half our CSA members in 2016.
COVID was a boon to our CSA as our numbers increased by around 70% from 2019 to 2020.
Most of our CSA members live in St. Catharines and Lincoln.
Our closest CSA member lives right next door – 2 others are close enough to walk to the farm to pick up their shares.
Our furthest members drive from downtown Hamilton – approximately 45 minutes to reach the farm. Other live as far as Stoney Creek, Grimsby, & Niagara Falls.
We offered delivery for several years. We stopped because it took to much time, and we never developed a relationship with these members since we never saw them. They rarely stayed with us for more than 1 season.
We sometimes barter CSA shares. In the past we have traded for working on the farm, meat, wine, shoes, osteopathy treatments …
Last year we ran our 1st Fall CSA program for 5 weeks. It was very well received and we plan to continue it in 2023.
CSA has been a good fit for our farm.
Thank you for supporting us these past 13 years!
We invite you to join us in 2023.
Around the farm this week …
The garlic patch is finally mulched. The ground should be frozen with no snow – but that hasn’t happened all winter! We finally picked a coldish day when the ground was almost frozen. Mulching on soft, unfrozen soil encourages mice to settle in where its nice & warm. But some of the garlic was heaving – being pushed out of the ground by the freezing/thawing temperatures so it had to get done. The garlic will grow through the straw in spring, but most weeds will not.
On sunny days (a rare occurrence here!) the greenhouse is a favourite hang out spot for the cats …
Apparently, when you purchase that much seed, from that many places, all at once, it is flagged as suspicious activity and your card is shut down. Who knew!
Buying seeds signals the official start of the new farming year for us. It means we are finished with the last season and are now looking ahead to the next. That this coincides with the new calendar year just adds to the significance.
Choosing seeds is an important job.
Our entire farm is based on seeds – and the crops those seeds turn into (except for the blackberries – our only perennial crop). So it is imperative that we choose well – quality seeds from dependable seed companies, the right vegetables for our markets, the best varieties for our growing conditions, and the tastiest ones to satisfy our customers.
For 2023 we purchased seed from 10 different companies (plus we save some of our own seed). We will be growing well over 400 varieties of 40 different vegetables, plus about a dozen herbs and more than 25 flowers – mostly edible flowers and sunflowers.
Why do we grow so many different things?
Our customers expect it! At market, people often stop by just to see what’s new & different, and our CSA members want variety.
Insurance against the weather. Different vegetables thrive in different conditions. Even amongst tomatoes which are warm weather vegetables, we know that some prefer drier conditions, while others like wetter, or hotter, or cooler … Since we can’t predict what the upcoming year will be like, we grow varieties for many weather conditions knowing that at least some will flourish.
We grow different crops for the different seasons. Radishes, salad turnips & broccoli grow best in spring when the temperatures are cooler. There are different spinach varieties developed for each season so instead of 1 kind, we will grow 3 or 4 to have a longer harvest. The same with bok choy. Zucchini is a hot weather crop while winter squash matures in the cooler conditions of fall.
Diversity is beneficial for the farm ecosystem.
Having many different crops makes better use of the soil. Carrots and other root crops grow deep into the soil, drawing their nutrients & moisture from lower than lettuce and other shallow rooted vegetables which gather their energy from closer to the surface.
Each vegetable will attract different insects – both beneficial & harmful. Mixing up the plantings and separating similar vegetables can confuse the bugs and lessen the chances of harmful infestations.
The rows of edible flowers we grow attract bees & other insects which then pollinate other vegetables growing nearby.
We love colour!
I have a short attention span & get bored easily. Growing so many different vegetables keeps things interesting.
Each year we try to grow something new. This year’s choice is cauliflower. And we might attempt Brussels sprouts again (last season we were not particularly successful with them – but we learned what to do better for this season).
We always try out new varieties of vegetables that we are already growing – if they offer something beneficial for us. Perhaps a heat-loving broccoli, or a better tasting bean … But tomatoes are our weakness! They are one of our most important crops and there are soooo many kinds we haven’t tried – but simply must! Dancing With Smurfs is a temptation – if only because of the name – but it is too similar to other kinds we grow so we choose to forgo that one! But other new tomatoes that we are trying include Evil Olive, Queen Of TheNight, Pink Champagne and even Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Red (who names these!).
A quick chat with the nice folks at VISA and our credit card was back up & running.The seed buying frenzy continued…
Most of the seeds have arrived now, and are waiting for spring – it won’t be long!
Happy New Year!
Around the farm …
We are still picking spinach. It’s getting more difficult to find some nice leaves – but they sure taste good!
These are questions we get asked all the time in fall. They are asked by farmers & non-farmers alike, by friends & neighbours, relatives, acquaintances, customers & CSA members, even by strangers.
I sometimes wonder what people consider to be a “good season” ?
To us a good year means we grew and sold some good crops – healthy, delicious & beautiful. We did that!
We had good employees. Dependable, capable, cheerful workers on the farm & at market are essential to the smooth running of the farm.
The weather co-operated – mostly.
Sales at our farmers’ market were up again. And spending Saturday mornings at the Georgetown market and seeing all our friends – vendors & customers – is always a highlight of the week.
Our CSA program was a success. We had the numbers needed to make the program worthwhile, and our members were great! They showed up week after week to grab their box and were appreciative & kind, and generous with their conversation. Our new fall CSA worked well too.
We all managed to stay healthy and injury/accident free all summer – no small feat during this time of COVID and as our bodies age. Farming can be challenging & strenuous – both physically & mentally.
We were able to spend a lot of very enjoyable time with our grandsons on the farm. They love it here, playing and learning.
So yes, overall it was a good year.
Thank you for asking!
Around the farm this month …
We are still picking greens for our own use – amazing how much cold they can tolerate.
Our kids from BC were finally able to visit, and these cousins got to meet each other for the 1st time!
This is the final week for our fall CSA program. By all accounts it has been a success. The weather co-operated and we have been able to keep the boxes full of delicious vegetables – and even pawpaws! Our members have appreciated the extra weeks of fresh produce.
After some light frosts throughout October, we finally had our first heavy freeze last week. While it finished off the remaining sunflowers, the salad greens & beets came through it undamaged. There will be plenty in the boxes this week.
Once we have picked our vegetables for CSA this week, whatever is left in the fields will be picked and sent off to the food bank.
We have covered one bed with hoops and row cover. Under it is a mix of salad greens for us to eat as long as the weather allows. The cover should extend the season for awhile – we’ll see how long.
One of the last major jobs on the farm in fall is also one of the most important – spreading manure & compost. The smaller pile is guinea pig manure – that’s right, guinea pig manure! We have neighbours who breed & show guinea pigs and bring us manure every week when they clean the cages. It adds up over the season and we have quite a big pile of beautiful manure mixed with wood shavings. The larger pile is 40 tons of mushroom compost that we had delivered the other day. We mix the 2 piles together and spread it over the farm. This, together with the cover crops that we grow, feeds the soil and all the living things in it. The result is healthy, vibrant soil that grows our beautiful, tasty and healthy vegetables.
What’s in the box?
Cabbage/Chinese cabbage, squash, garlic, beets, salad greens, green onions.
The final week of CSA includes some storage vegetables – cabbages, squash, garlic & beets and also some vegetables to eat fresh – salad greens (probably our salad mix and spinach or bok choy …) and green onions.
Around the farm this week …
Autumn mornings are beautiful on the farm – whether frost or fog or sunshine … and the colours …
For sure we are still getting work done – but it takes us longer each day to decide which jobs to tackle and how much we need to accomplish.
There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, we are tired & weary from a long season – both physically tired and also mentally. And secondly, the schedule we followed all summer – the one that was basically the same all season long, the one we didn’t really have to think about because it was so similar week after week – is done. Seeding, planting, weeding, (almost all of the) harvesting, marketing & selling … is complete. Now we are into the clean up & put-the-farm-to-bed-for-the-winter time of year. Fortunately we have a list of fall chores that we can work from – crossing a few off the list each day gives us a feeling of accomplishment.
Today we planted garlic, the last crop to be planted this year. We put in 7 rows, each 250′ long. That’s approximately 4500-5000 cloves. Should be enough!
The other day I burned the brush pile.
We have also dug up the dahlias, cleaned in the barn and the workshop, painted the back barn door, cut down the plants in the water garden, winterized some of the equipment and put it away, emptied the outdoor water tank and removed the pump, filled the indoor water tank …
And the list is getting smaller – just like our ambition!
What’s in the box?
Chinese cabbage, fennel, radishes, salad greens, green onions, garlic, pawpaws.
Extras – squash
We did it! We finally got some nice Chinese cabbage – it has taken all season and more than a few tries but it sure is beautiful. Crisp, tender, and mild, Chinese (or napa) cabbage is delicious eaten fresh in a salad instead of lettuce. Or use the large leaves as wraps, make it into coleslaw, kimchi or stir-fry it. While the outer leaves are a lovely green colour, the inside is often creamy white. (If you want to save it for later, it will keep for a month or more wrapped in plastic in your fridge.)
This last harvest of fennel is also the nicest of the season. Enjoy it fresh in a salad or slaw or try the soup recipe below. A longtime customer from Georgetown market shared a tub of this soup with us along with the recipe. It is super delicious!
There are still a few pawpaws on the trees – so we decided to add them to the CSA share this week. Pawpaws are a “tropical fruit” native to North America, growing in the Carolinian forests in Kentucky, Ohio and north to Southern Ontario – around Lake Erie & in the Niagara peninsula. Once popular with indigenous people & early settlers they began to disappear as the woodlands were cleared for farming & development. Now they are considered to be somewhat rare. The taste – the taste is heavenly! Distinctly tropical like a banana/mango/pineapple with a soft, mushy, custard-like texture. I slice them in half & scoop out the delicious flesh with a spoon. (Each fruit has a lot of large, hard seeds to eat around.) Let it get very soft before you eat it. It may turn brown & bruised but that’s ok. That’s when it will have the sweetest flavour.
Radishes, salad greens, green onions & garlic complete the box this week – our 2nd last week of the season.
Our Georgetown Farmers’ Market ended this past Saturday.
And what an ending it was!
Rain, wind, cold, sun … we had it all.
But after a summer of almost perfect weather every Saturday we felt we shouldn’t complain – though of course we did anyway.
Despite the weather, sales were good and it ended up being a very successful day. Georgetown residents always support their market in a big way.
Thank you Georgetown for a great season!
What’s in the box?
Red cabbage, radishes, beets, pea shoots, salad greens, green onions, sweet pepper, garlic.
Extras – winter squash
Red cabbage is a favourite vegetable of mine – especially the way my mother prepared it. I have included a similar recipe below.
Radishes are usually considered a spring crop, but they thrive in the cooler weather of fall as well. Enjoy a bunch of “spring radishes” in your box this week.
Continuing with red vegetables, we are still harvesting beets.
Pea shoots are a delicious green that taste like … peas! Snip them off as needed and add them to your salads, sandwiches, wraps and even stir fries. If you cut them about half way down and keep them well watered, they will regrow and you can keep on harvesting them.
Salad greens, green onions, sweet peppers, and garlic complete the box.
Winter squash is available for those who want it.
Sauteed Red Cabbage
1 small onion thinly sliced
1/2 medium head red cabbage – shredded
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
salt & pepper
Saute onions in olive oil over medium heat for several minutes.
Add cabbage and continue to saute for another 5 minutes.
Add vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper.
Lower heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Week 1 of our new fall CSA was a big success. Since it was Thanksgiving weekend we filled the boxes with plenty of fresh, delicious vegetables – and even fresh sage for stuffing the turkey!
Week 2 includes several vegetables that have not been in the box this year. And there are still good things to come. Fingers crossed that we continue to have some nice weather so the vegetables keep growing!
Anyone who has been a part of our CSA before knows that carrots are not often found in the box. They are just not our thing! Carrot seeds are slow to germinate and require several things that we are not able to provide in the field – consistent moisture & weed-free soil. But we can provide them in the greenhouse, so we started our carrots there and transplanted them into the field. This works much better – except that carrots don’t like to be transplanted. They grow well but turn out misshapen and wonky. So in your box this week are carrots – in all sorts of shapes & sizes. They taste great! But don’t frustrate yourself and try to peel them. It’s not worth the effort. And also not necessary. Simply wash them and enjoy – both the way they look and especially their taste!
Swiss chard is in the box this week, for the 1st time this year. Colourful, nutritious and delicious, chard can be used in many ways. Check cookwithwhatyouhave.com for a good description of chard and 47 recipes that use it!
As usual the salad greens could be spinach, arugula, kale or bok choy. Most of the greens are doing well and thriving in these cooler temperatures. Add some green onions and a sweet pepper to your salad as well.
Winter squash & garlic complete the box. Both of these vegetables store well – keep them dry and at room temperature or slightly cooler.
Around the farm this week …
It’s pawpaw season! We have been taking them to market for the past 2 Saturdays. It’s a good crop and there are still plenty to ripen. Never heard of pawpaws? Read our blog post from several years ago for a good description & pictures.
(And lately in the news too – big weather events have been making headlines.)
At the farmers’ market, we greet each other by asking about the weather. All summer the question was, “Did you get any rain this week?” Lately the question has changed to, “Any frost yet?”
Already 2 Saturdays ago there was frost for some farmers resulting in crop losses. Here in Niagara frost often holds off until early October and a hard freeze comes even later.
With our Fall CSA beginning this week and running until early November, we have been hoping for no early frosts and a month of pleasant weather. There are still a lot of vegetables growing in the field that we would like to harvest. We are counting on these vegetables to fill our CSA boxes!
But this morning we awoke to frost – a frost that was neither forecast nor expected. It was a fairly heavy frost, enough to do some damage. Fortunatelymost of our crops will recover – this time.
Welcome to our fall CSA.
It’s all about the weather.
Frost is both damaging and beautiful!
What’s in the box?
Cabbage, green beans, sweet peppers, fall radishes, salad greens, green onions, squash.
Our fall cabbages are still small – it was very dry when we planted them and they got off to a slow start. But they taste great! We have green cabbage this week with red yet to come.
The green bean plants were damaged by the frost, but we were able to pick off the beans. Same with the sweet peppers – we picked what we could and there should be enough for a few weeks.
Fall radishes, most salad greens & green onions were not hurt by this frost and are included in your share.
The final week of CSA brings mixed emotions – as usual.
Certainly we are happy & excited to be finished – the picking, washing, & packing of the vegetables, along with setting up for CSA pick-up and the actual pick-up itself. Together with the growing – seeding, planting, weeding, watering … it has been a busy time.
Of course Lorie enjoys seeing and visiting with all our CSA members and will miss this part of it very much.
But while the summer CSA program winds up this week, our new fall CSA begins next week. So there is really no rest – yet. We had a good response to this new venture (it is now full & no more applications are being accepted), and are looking forward to it.
Plus, we still have 3 more weeks at the Georgetown Farmers’ Market to grow & prep for.
Thank you to all our CSA members!
Thank you for your confidence in us to grow safe, healthy & delicious food for you & your family, for your dedication to coming to the farm each week to pick up your box, and for your willingness to eat whatever you found in the box. CSA is a big commitment for the members as well as the farmers.
What’s in the box?
Winter squash, sweet peppers, edamame, salad greens, garlic, green onions
Choose from several varieties of winter squash again this week. We will have them labelled along with a brief description to help you make your choice.
Today was a good day. When I picked sweet peppers I was putting more in the basket than I was throwing away – that’s a first for this season! There are even some coloured peppers (Thursday & Friday pick-up last week saw a few of these already).
The last CSA box of the season includes the last of the edamame. That worked out well!
The salad greens are enjoying this cooler weather. Lettuce is still in short supply, but there could be spinach, bok choy, arugula, or mixed salad … in the box.
Garlic has been part of the box for 11 weeks now. Keep it dry and at room temperature or slightly cooler and it should last well into the winter. If at some point you feel it is getting soft and are worried it might spoil, then freeze it. Break the bulbs apart, peel the cloves and put them in a glass jar in the freezer. Then whenever you need garlic for a recipe grab as many cloves as you need. We suggest using a glass jar because the strong garlic odor can seep out of a plastic jar or bag into the other food in your freezer.
Green onions complete this final CSA box .
Extras– eggplant, tomatoes, hot peppers …
Around the farm this week …
At this time of year the farm includes both nice, clean, new beds of vegetables (above) and tired & weedy vegetables (below).