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To Oliver!

We said good-bye to Oliver this past week.

He was just a farm cat – one of dozens that have called our farm home through the years. But after having him around for more than 10 years (probably 12, though no one really remembers) we grew rather attached to him and he is surely missed.

Oliver had personality to spare, and a rather unique take on his place on the farm.

While all of our cats are pets, they are expected to work – catching mice & other critters, keeping the barn free of varmints. Oliver could indeed hunt with the best of them, but considered that to be part-time work only. Usually he got bored & fell asleep on the job. But he rather enjoyed being the farm greeter and running towards vehicles entering the yard. Our CSA members were familiar with this habit and drove cautiously when arriving to pick up their produce each week. But again, he often got bored & fell asleep – usually in the middle of the driveway, fully confident that cars would circle around him.

Actually, Oliver spent a good part of his life sleeping. He could make himself comfortable anywhere!

Oliver took on a new responsibility this last summer – babysitting Sage. He followed her around, hung out with her when she was tied up, and if Sage got anxious and began to bark, Oliver would rub against her and do his best to comfort & distract her. Once when Sage got herself all tangled up in the barn, we observed Oliver slowly leading Sage in circles to untangle her. They loved each other!

But most of all, Oliver loved to be with people. Wherever we were, he wanted to be – out in the fields, in the barn, in the house (not allowed – but always tried!) and often on our laps …

Oliver was a great cat!

To Oliver!!

 

 

 

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Fall chores

Sometimes we look for excuses not to work – but this is not one of them!

A sudden clutch issue has put our tractor out of commission for a few weeks. Once the needed parts have arrived it can  hopefully be put back together – as good as new! While our mechanic seems confident, it appears rather impossible to me. Guess that’s why I grow vegetables and let others fix the equipment!

There are some jobs on the farm that require this tractor, and they will have to wait or simply not get done this fall.

But there are plenty of other chores to keep us going.

We mulched the garlic patch the other day. We prefer to do this when the ground is frozen, and before we get snow. A nice thick layer of straw protects the garlic from heaving – the freezing & thawing cycles of our winters can push the garlic right out of the ground. Straw will help maintain a more constant temperature. Having the ground frozen helps to discourage the mice from burrowing into the ground under the nice warm straw. The downside is that the garlic will be slow to start growing next spring as the mulch will prevent the cold soil from thawing & warming up quickly. Lastly, the straw will keep the weeds from growing next season, making the garlic patch almost care-free until harvest in July.

I had just starting spreading the straw when the neighbour came by. He was also spreading straw – mulching his strawberry fields – and generously offered to do my garlic. What would have taken me about half a day with the pitchfork, took about 10 minutes with his tractor & bale shredder. Thank you to a helpful neighbour!

This was our tomato field this past season. It’s all cleaned up now, like the rest of the farm. I spread a layer of leaves and grass over it. These will break down over the winter & in the spring we will work them into the soil, then spread another layer of compost and this area will be ready to plant to vegetables again. The grass & leaves come from a lawn care company that dumps them in a pile on our farm throughout the season. I try to turn the pile over a few times during the summer. By fall much of it has decomposed and gets spread over the fields, adding beneficial organic matter & nutrients to our soil. Another pile of compost (to the left in the background of the picture) was made this spring with fresh manure, straw & leaves. It also got turned over several times this summer and is now beautiful compost that will be spread on the fields next spring.

I was on the roofs of the barns yesterday cleaning the eavestroughs, so I snapped this picture – an overview of one of our fields. The light coloured rectangle in the centre is our occultation tarp (see https://thiessenfarms.com/2017/04/12/occultation/ for an explanation). That is still some kale growing to the left of the tarp – the cold weather & frosts have made it even more tasty.

An inglorious end for the last few unsold pumpkins after Hallowe’en.

On the cold fall days the cats move into the warmth of the greenhouse.

This about sums up their level of energy – and sometimes ours too!

 

 


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Finally fall

We had our first real frost of the season on Tuesday morning – and it sure was beautiful!

Surprisingly, none of the remaining crops were damaged. When the sun came out and the temperatures rose, the vegetables were fine.

Not that it matters anymore to us. Last Thursday was our final farmers’ market of the season – so we are all done! Harvesting, packing and selling are finished.

It was time!

This was the temperature as we were driving to market the previous Thursday …

This past Thursday was a little warmer …

But those are both cold temperatures to be setting up our tables and then standing around waiting for customers. We couldn’t even put the greens out on display until mid-morning for fear they would freeze on the table and be damaged (it’s happened before!).

 

But the final markets were good – cold but nice weather, full tables of produce, and while sales were slower, we had enough satisfied & thankful customers. And we are happy to be finished!

Now we can concentrate our energy on cleaning up the farm and getting everything ready for winter. Most of the fields are already empty. The garlic has been planted. Cover crops have been seeded.

 

We are working on removing the stakes, string & posts in the tomato patches. Then we can mow the plants down. There is ground cover to remove, compost to spread, equipment to winterize, barns to clean, bookkeeping to catch up on … and the list goes on …

While there is much to do, there is no pressure to get it accomplished immediately. We keep reasonable hours, stop for coffee and take the time to play with our favourite nephew/grandson!

We should have most chores finished by the time winter arrives. Then we’ll review & evaluate this past year and start to make plans for the next.

It is a good time of year!

Sage is a little sad though – still missing all her CSA friends, especially the little ones!

 

 

 

 

 


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Summer in October

We have had some wonderfully warm weather this week. It feels like summer in October!

The crops responded and put on a massive growth spurt. We continue to harvest greens including lettuce, spinach, arugula, bok choy, Chinese (napa) cabbage, chard & kale.

The fields look great!

The pepper patch looks tired though – but we are picking some beautiful peppers.

This week we harvested the last of the bitter melons, kohlrabi, edamame and probably eggplant too. There remain a few beets, salad turnips, and winter radishes.

Our final planting of the season was only last Friday and included lettuce, arugula & several new kinds of Asian greens. We’ll see if they manage to mature in time for our last market on 25 October?

But despite the temperatures, the calendar shows that it really is fall.

Most of the farm is now empty. The cover crop is coming up nicely. In the background trees are turning colour and looking beautiful.

The wild grapes along the train tracks have ripened and look beautiful too. (Yes, I eat them and yes, they’re sour!)

Squash is a big seller at market these days – and we have plenty … in all sorts of shapes and sizes! Pumpkins too! They make for a colourful table.

And it appears the warm weather has come to an end. Our market at North York today started off quite warm and then got progressively cooler as the day went by. (We still have 2 weeks left here.)

The final Georgetown market this Saturday promises to be downright cold – but we’ll be prepared and dress accordingly.

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With the change of seasons, Sage has had to switch from snacking on her favourite eggplant …

… to squash – which she eats with gusto!

Don’t say that our dog doesn’t get her vegetables!

 

 

 


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The beauty of May

Everything seems to be moving fast on the farm these days … including us!

Seeding, transplanting, planting, weeding, cultivating, mulching, preparing ground for crops, and many other jobs are keeping us on the go. There’s no shortage of things to do this time of year!

The crops are moving fast too. I took pictures around the farm last week for an update, but didn’t get the chance to post them. By the weekend the vegetables had grown so much I needed new pictures. Again I did not post them. Now it is Wednesday – new pictures again …

Onions, broccoli & kale.

Two plantings of snow peas – but the second has about caught up with the first.

Spinach, onions, broccoli, beets, lettuce …

The white row covering is insect netting which blocks the bugs. The aim is worm-free radishes & salad turnips, and pak choy leaves without holes.

The garlic is all up now.

There’s a competition between the rhubarb & the weeds to see which one can grow the fastest!

The winter was hard on our blackberries – a lot of canes died from the cold temperatures & winds or were damaged by mice & rabbits. Now that the leaves are showing we can see that a lot more canes are not alive. There will be blackberries – but not the big amount we had last year.

Both greenhouses are still full of plants – even though we have moved many outside on trailers.

Our large hoophouse suffered damage in that strong windstorm we experienced a few weeks ago. Like most hoophouses (or greenhouses), our is covered with a double layer of plastic. A small fan constantly blows air between the 2 layers, inflating them slightly to provide extra insulation. The outer plastic sheet on ours was ripped off leaving only 1 layer. The endwalls were also torn allowing cold air to enter the house. Fortunately no plants were damaged – just covered in dust & dirt – and it happened in late spring, not in the cold of winter. On chilly nights, we spread the white cover over the plants which is like a blanket to help keep them warm. Once the greenhouse is empty in a few weeks we will remove all the plastic, let the soil soak up the rains all summer, and install new plastic in fall. Growers who use their greenhouses year round replace the plastic every 4 or 5 years. Our plastic is at least 8 years old making it more brittle which is why it ripped in the wind. It owes us nothing!

It is a pleasure to be on the farm this beautiful time of year!

But I stand corrected – not everything on the farm is moving fast … or even moving!

 

 

 

 


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Spring growth

April showers bring … April flowers!

And snow peas! They are finally up!

The garlic rows can be seen poking through the straw.

The rhubarb seems to be almost doubling in size daily (rhubarb pie soon?).

Various herbs are growing …

In the greenhouse trays of seedlings are waiting to be planted outside – onions, spinach, broccoli, bok choy … Maybe next week?

We spend a lot of time in the greenhouse these days, transplanting. The seedlings are growing well, but are still behind where they should be for the end of April.

Everyone likes to hang out in the greenhouse, especially on the cool mornings.

Plants are not the only things growing on the farm these days. Sage also continues to grow … and grow …

She plays hard and sleeps hard. She has her freedom at times, but is often on the leash as she remains a flight risk. Sage loves the chase, whether it be cars, tractors, trains, cats, Canada geese …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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.