Keep updated on all that is happening around Thiessen Farms!


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April …

It has been 6 weeks since my last posting. Though I have made several attempts at writing, I was stymied each time and never completed a post.

And now I don’t know where to start – it’s April and things are changing so rapidly on the farm that pictures even from a few days ago already seem out of date.

Even yesterday’s pictures …

Our 2 old apricot trees in the backyard are in full bloom.
The same trees this morning. The blossoms are still there – under all that snow!

Or our garlic patch …

Garlic is one of the first crops to make an appearance in spring, so it gets a lot of attention from us. The snow has barely melted when we’re already trying to spy the first spears poking through the straw.

Late March was when we first saw green.
The 1st week in April.
Earlier this week.
And this morning! Snow on the 21st of April – not unheard of, but certainly not welcomed either! The garlic should be just fine under here.

Lots of growth is happening around the farm now …

The spinach that we were enjoying well into January has resumed it’s growth, providing us with delicious, fresh greens. Certainly there are benefits to having a mild winter!
Broccoli is planted. The early leaf broccoli (or baby broccoli) is under the row covers where it’s a bit warmer – to encourage faster growth. Snow peas are also up – weeds too!
The blackberries are pruned, tied and mulched with straw. They are just starting to leaf out now.
The small greenhouse where we start our seeds is always full – even though Amy spends much of her days transplanting and moving plants into the large greenhouse.
Seedlings hardening off (getting used to outdoor weather) on the trailer and ready to be planted – including spinach, pak choy, parsley and cabbages. We decided to wait until the temperatures warm up again before planting in the field. That was a good decision considering all the snow we received overnight.

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Around the farm recently – before today’s snow changed everything!

Preparing the ground for planting. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini …. will go in this field.
Sage has been feeling sorry for herself now that winter was over. (But today she is soooo happy for all the snow!)
Aunt Amy always has a willing & enthusiastic helper – whatever she is doing.


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Spring beginnings

There is a pile of plastic bins stacked up against the desk in our workshop.

These bins contain all of our hopes, our goals, our plans for 2021.

These bins contain all of our seeds!

There are seeds for more than 500 varieties of 41 different vegetables along with 30+  flowers and a few handfuls of herbs. (I explain in a previous post why we grow so many different things. See https://thiessenfarms.com/2020/02/17/csa-2020/)

There are too many seeds to count – but from these seeds we expect to grow enough plants to fill more than 4 acres of our farm, plus a few thousand extra plants to sell & donate.

All these plants should (potentially) produce enough vegetables, herbs & flowers to stuff 150 CSA boxes every week this summer, feed a lot of hungry customers at our farmers’ market and fill an occasional restaurant order.

No pressure – on us or the seeds!

Of course seeds just want to grow. Our job as farmers is to provide them with the right conditions for growing – especially warmth & moisture. We seed in trays which are placed into this germination chamber. It’s just a styrofoam box that is heated with a slow cooker that is plugged into a temperature controller which turns it on & off as required to maintain the proper temperature. The slow cooker is filled with water which provides not only the heat but also humidity. It works great!

Once the seeds have sprouted they are moved to a small greenhouse attached to the shop where they can grow & flourish. Our first peppers, tomatoes, eggplant & onions are up!

From now until the middle of September (approx. 29 weeks) we will be seeding something every few days.

And we never lose our wonder at the miracle of a tiny seed sprouting, growing and yielding an abundant harvest.

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Another new beginning this spring – Thiessen Farms has a new owner!

Amy has purchased the farm from her parents. She is now the 3rd generation to farm this land. Of course Ron & Lorie are not going anywhere (yet). It’s basically business as usual here, but we are all quite excited about this! Please wish Amy well when you see her.

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Around the farm …

The cover crops have mostly died down through the winter and this patch will be ready for planting later in spring.

This will be one of our main growing fields this season. In 2020 it rested from vegetable crops and grew a cover crop all year. Then we spread manure, leaves & compost in fall. We will lightly work it and grow vegetables here this summer.

We will begin pruning blackberries anytime now.

We have enjoyed some lovely sunshine recently.

This fox wandered through our backyard last week.

The Flynns are so done with winter & cold weather! They are getting a little testy with each other at times.

But after some time apart …

They hang out together again.

Sage on the other hand is mourning the end of winter & her beloved snow & cold.

We are still accepting applications for our CSA this summer.

Please sign up soon!


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CSA 2021

It happens every year around this time.

Maybe it starts with a bright, sunny day after a week of gloomy Ontario winter weather … or a box of seeds arriving in the mail … or a craving for a juicy, sun-ripened, fresh tomato …

And suddenly I’m ready for the new season!

I want to feel the soil in my fingers … push some seeds into the ground … inhale the warm, humid air of the greenhouse … see the bright, vibrant green of the emerging seedlings …

In my mind I see the farm looking like this again.

With a harvest like this.

I confess I am always relieved when I feel this way in mid-winter. It means that I’m still loving what I do and not ready yet for a change – like retirement (sorry Lorie).

Perhaps it takes a little longer than it used to for my energy & enthusiasm to return after the busy season, and perhaps I put off completing the list of winter chores until it’s almost spring, and perhaps I really, really enjoy staying in bed until the sun comes up, but here we are in early February and my excitement is back!

Our seeds are ordered, the farm plan is (mostly) mapped out, the planting schedule is being finalized and the greenhouse will be cleaned & readied this week.

CSA 2021 is a go and the response has been amazing. Applications are arriving in our mailbox and our inbox daily. It is both exciting & humbling that people want our produce and are willing to pay upfront & commit to 18 weeks of vegetable boxes.

Let the season begin!

Around the farm this week …

The compost piles doing their thing under the snow.

The Flynns seem to spend an awful lot of time relaxing & sleeping – always in a sheltered, sunny spot.

Sage had an encounter with a coyote this week. Turns out it wasn’t quite the friend she hoped it would be – so now she’s sulking inside.

We are now accepting applications for our CSA program for summer 2021.

Details above, or email thefarm@thiessenfarms.com for information.


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January harvest

We’ve been eating a lot of salads lately.

The lettuce & spinach are freshly picked … from our farm … harvested from the field … not the greenhouse.

And it’s January!

This bed of lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula & bok choy was the last to be set out in 2020 – transplanted around the middle of September. The greens weren’t yet big enough to harvest for our last farmers’ market in October and I almost mowed them down with the rest of the farm. But I spared them, thinking we might get a salad or two if the fall weather was mild enough to allow them to grow. Indeed the fall was mild and the lettuce & spinach especially flourished. (The kale never amounted to much and the arugula & bok choy succumbed to the frost earlier.)

Now, the spinach is still sweet & delicious. The lettuce leaves are slightly tough, but both make amazing salads!

This morning was frosty, but hopefully the greens recover again and continue to feed us. Harvesting in January – thanks to a mild winter!

We are also eating vegetables that we harvested in fall and stored.

Chinese cabbage (so good in coleslaw or stir-fry), and garlic, onions & winter squash. We will miss them when they are gone!

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Around the farm …

Everyone’s enjoying the quieter pace of our off-season!


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The last fall chore

The garlic patch got mulched last week.

We tucked it to bed for the winter under a thick covering of straw. We chose a morning when the ground was frozen but there was no snow. The straw will keep the ground frozen which will prevent the garlic cloves from being pushed out of the ground during the freezing/thawing cycles we experience during our winters. Rodents may burrow into the straw, but not into the frozen soil underneath.

When spring rolls around in a few months, the straw will keep the weeds from growing and make our garlic an almost-work-free crop until harvest.

Of course we had some help spreading the straw …

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Around the farm …

We have had some varied and colourful sunsets recently.

The 1st snowfalls are always the most beautiful.

 


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December

My Dad always reminded me to finish up the outdoor farm work by the end of November because freeze-up happened in early December. With our changing weather patterns this is often not the case anymore, but I still hear his words and try to heed his advice.

Good thing, because this is what we woke up to on December 1!

We have gone from this …

… to this, in a very short time.

From green grass and the last coloured leaves …

… to peaceful whites & greys.

(Of course a day later it’s melting rapidly.)

And our fall chores? I crossed the last item off the list just a couple of days ago.

Now we turn the page and begin to work our way through the list of winter chores. The best part about this list is that there is no immediate hurry – none of these jobs have to be completed today … or tomorrow … or …. ? After 8 months of sticking to the plan, keeping up the pace and getting things done, our winter schedule is a luxury and a privilege we thoroughly enjoy! (I don’t even check the weather forecast every day!

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Around the farm this week – and these past few weeks …

Everyone enjoyed the beautiful fall weather we experienced for much of November.

We had a bit of drainage work done – Sage took advantage of the dirt piles!

Our 6 remaining hens have started laying eggs and are working out their schedule for nest time.

We made a few changes around the barn, removing the bollards from the front …

… and the grasses from the side.

On the colder days, we play in the greenhouse.

Welcome December!

 

 


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Fall

I slept in on Saturday!

For the first time since early June I didn’t have to rise at 4am to load the van and head off to market. It felt great!

Our farmers’ market at Georgetown finished on the 17th – and what a finale it was! The weather was good, lots of people came out and sales were great. (and one customer even baked me a birthday cake!)

After an uncertain start to the season and learning the new COVID-19 rules & protocol, we actually had a very good 20 weeks. The people of Georgetown are amazing – they were happy the market was running and supported it with enthusiasm, adapted quickly to the new rules – and purchased a lot of vegetables! Our sales were up considerably from 2019.

Thank you to all our customers, the market staff, organizers & volunteers for a great season!

And now we are full-time on the farm, finishing up the fall work and putting the farm to bed for the winter.

The first thing we did last week was harvest any remaining vegetables including beets, green onions, spinach, lettuce & peppers. We washed and packaged them and sent everything off to Project Share, a local food bank in Niagara Falls. Then I mowed down the entire farm, finished spreading manure over it all, lightly worked it in – and that’s it. Harvest 2020 is complete and the fields are ready for next season!

The rains we longed for all summer finally came last week as well, preventing us from planting garlic. But this week looks drier and we plan to get about 5500 cloves of garlic in the ground any day now.

It is a beautiful time of year and we are enjoying a more relaxed pace. Of course there is a lengthy list of fall chores that we are working our way through. But each day brings us closer to completing that list – and a time of relaxation.

In fact some of us are already practising for that winter rest …

Around the farm this week …

Cover crop growing well.

Our little pawpaw patch. The crop was light this year but we had a few to bring to market.

Even the blackberry canes show some nice colour.

Ready for play!

 


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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Monday was a beautiful day.

Warm, calm, sunny & dry, it was the perfect day for  …  spreading manure!

Manure is an important part of our farm fertility program. Manure provides nutrients for the soil which in turn feeds the vegetables we grow. It also adds humus or organic matter which improves the texture of the soil and increases its ability to retain moisture (which is very important during dry seasons like this past summer). It can be difficult to source, but we were fortunate to find a new supplier this fall and received 6 large truckloads last week – about 180 tons!

The other parts of our fertility program include straw mulch, wood chips, compost & cover cropping. Mulch prevents weeds from growing, keeps moisture in the soil and adds nutrients & organic matter as it decomposes. Wood chips can do the same thing. We make compost by mixing manure together with our vegetable waste, straw and any leaves, grass clippings etc. that a local lawn care company drops off at our farm.

Cover crops are crops grown specifically for improving the soil. We use mixtures including buckwheat, sudan grass, oats, peas, radishes, hairy vetch, and several clovers. They are grown and then mowed down & worked into the soil. Some provide nutrients, others prevent weeds from growing, or add organic matter or …

Here is our squash patch from this year. After harvesting the squash we mowed everything down, lightly tilled the soil & seeded a cover crop mixture. It is just germinating now. Hopefully we get enough nice weather yet that it will grow larger and cover the soil for the winter. In spring we’ll work it down and plant other vegetables here.

The final component of our fertility program is a liquid fertilizer that we use when we transplant our vegetables. It gives them a quick boost and helps them get a good start, before their roots have grown enough to receive nutrition from the soil.

Growing great vegetables requires healthy soil. We spend a lot of time, effort & money on improving our soil. But the result -healthy & nutrient dense, flavourful & beautiful vegetables is worth it!

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Around the farm this week …

Still vegetables growing in the field – lettuces, spinach, arugula, beets …

… eggplant & peppers.

 

We even had a new crop for market this week – radicchio! 4 varieties of this beautiful and bitter green.

We seeded sunflowers every Monday all spring & summer for a consistent weekly supply. But the plants and the weather don’t always co-operate and it doesn’t always work out. Last week we took 16 pails of sunflower bunches to market and left a lot behind that we couldn’t fit into the van.

This week we had but 1 pail of sunflowers to sell!

For our final market this coming Saturday we hope to have a good supply again ???

The fall colours around the farm are spectacular this year!

 

Fall means relaxation for some of us …

… or playing with friends,

… or enjoying wheelbarrow rides!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 


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CSA 2020 – Week 18 – final week!

This is it! The final week of CSA for 2020!

As usual, it has been an interesting season. Not enough rain, too much heat & humidity, the coronavirus … all worked together to make it a challenging year for growing & marketing. Yet at the same time, these same conditions also helped with our growing & marketing. 

We are grateful for the 120+ families that have trusted us to feed them for 18 weeks. Thank you for giving us the privilege of growing your food. Thank you for all your encouragement, comments & critique. Thank you for making the commitment to drive to our farm each week to pick up your box, and the commitment to then use the vegetables (including the less familiar & perhaps less liked ones).

You helped make it a great season for us!

What’s in the box?

Carrots, beans, squash, sweet peppers, green onions, salad greens.

  • We’re pretty thrilled that our later seedings of carrots germinated (with lots of watering), grew (with lots of weeding), and matured in time for our final week of CSA. We last had carrots in the box back in week 11 and I whined (a little) then about the troubles we have growing them. But all is good now that we have some decent carrots, and by next season we’ll be ready to grow lots of amazing carrots – for sure!

  • This will be the 8th time that beans are in the CSA box in 2020. They are always one of our most popular vegetables. While we seeded beans 13 times – usually every Monday – germination was poor during the height of the heat & drought so we grew & harvested less than anticipated. Most of this week’s beans are the yellow-with-purple-stripes Dragon’s Tongue (or mother-in-laws tongue) beans. They are beautiful to look at and taste great! There are some green beans as well. The beans you receive depends on what is ready for your pick-up day.

  • We hope you have enjoyed the opportunity to try some different kinds of winter squash these last few weeks. Again we will have some of the same varieties available as well as several new ones. They will all be labeled and have a brief description. Remember that squash can be stored for weeks – even months – if kept dry & at room temperature or slightly cooler. For most squash the flavour will improve after a few weeks.
  • Sweet peppers, green onions and salad greens (either lettuce, spinach, salad mix or arugula) complete your final CSA share for 2020.

 * Please recycle your CSA box (or drop it off at the farm if you’re passing by).

* Details for CSA 2021 will be emailed to you in late January.

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Around the farm this week …

Yes I love sumac – especially in the fall!

Our pepper display at market.

 

… and squash.

 

Thank you for being part of our CSA this season. We appreciate your support of our family farm. 

Hope to see you all again next season!