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CSA 2020 – Week 4

 

 

What’s in the box?

Snow peas, garlic scapes, broccoli/Chinese broccoli, stir-fry greens mix, bok choy,

baby kale, salad turnips, lettuce mix, arugula.

  • Snow peas are a delicious snack – just pop the whole pod in your mouth & enjoy! That’s the beauty of snow peas – no shelling, no cooking (unless you want to), just eating! We only made 1 planting of snow peas this year so they will appear in your box only this 1 time.
  • First it was green garlic. Now there are garlic scapes. Scapes grow out of the top of the garlic plant and curl around in a loose coil. If we left them they would eventually flower and go to seed. But we prefer that the plant uses its energy to form large garlic bulbs underground instead, so we remove the scapes. Fortunately they can be eaten and are delicious! Use them wherever garlic bulbs are used – raw or cooked. Their flavour is a bit milder. They are also great on the BBQ. Coat the whole garlic scape with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill for a few minutes on each side until well charred & tender.  Garlic scape pesto is a favourite and we have included a recipe below. Here’s a link to an interesting article, “10 things to do with garlic scapes, the best veg you’re not cooking yet”.  https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/garlic-scapes
  • There will be broccoli in your CSA share this week – either the broccoli we are all familiar with, or  Chinese broccoli which is less common. While both broccolis have a similar taste, they look different. Broccoli has thick, crisp stalks with a large head of green florets. Chinese broccoli has thinner stems, large flat leaves and tiny florets. It is best after a quick steam, saute or stir-fry. We have some of both ready for harvest, but probably not enough of either. Mother Nature doesn’t seem to care that we would really prefer 140 same-size heads of broccoli, or 140 even bunches of Chinese broccoli for our CSA boxes this week. Once we start picking tomorrow we’ll see what we get & divide things out accordingly! Either way, your broccoli will be fresh & delicious!
  • This is our stir-fry mix!

    This beautiful greens mix includes red & green mustard, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, tatsoi … which give it a variety of colours, textures and flavours. We call it stir-fry mix because that’s probably the best way to enjoy it. Our go-to stir-fry sauce recipe can be found below.
  • Add your bok choy, salad turnips and broccoli to the stir-fry for a really delicious dish!
  • Salad greens this week include lettuce mix, baby kale, arugula. The extreme heat of late has not been kind to the spinach – it quickly becomes oversized and tough and goes to seed. So there will be none this week. But there will be more coming (weather permitting!). Lettuce can also become bitter due to the heat – but so far it’s still tasting good.

 

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1-2 tbsp lemon juice (or lime)

1/4 pound roughly chopped garlic scapes

1/2 cup olive oil

salt to taste

Directions:

Puree scapes, olive oil, & lemon juice in a blender or food processor until nearly smooth. Gently stir in cheese. Taste & adjust juice & salt to taste.

Serve as a spread on bread or crackers, a dip for vegetables, or on pasta or pizza.

Store in refrigerator for 2 -3 days. Pesto can be frozen for longer storage.

Easy Stir-fry Sauce

1 TB cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 tsp brown sugar
1TB lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 TB soy sauce
Mix all ingredients together and add to your vegetables when they are ready.
(I will usually add some fresh grated ginger, a touch of maple syrup and double the soy sauce.)
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Around the farm this week …
Because it’s hot & dry, we have to water the new vegetables when we transplant them.
Even then, some dry up while others flourish.
Edible flowers from last year self-seeded.
Coming soon …
Elderberries in flower.
Still some tomato plants to sell!
A beautiful sunrise on the way to market Saturday.
Too many of these guys hopping around the farm!
A small trial patch of sweet peas.
Flynn sleuthing in the neighbour’s mustard field.
Picking salad turnips!


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CSA 2020 – Week 3

An old pallet hangs on the side of our shop, holding a selection of hand tools – the ones we use most often.

Garden rakes, pitchforks, shovel and hoes – lots of hoes! There are at least 6 in total. Some are newer, while 2 of them are older than me & were used by my parents many, many years ago. And they are still being used today!

If you grow vegetables you need a hoe. There are always weeds growing (usually faster than the vegetables) that need to be removed. A hoe is an efficient & quick way to weed.

A lot of hoeing happens on our farm!

Even more efficient & quicker than a hoe is our double wheel hoe with finger weeders. It rolls down the rows, right over the small vegetable plants, the yellow “fingers” removing tiny little weeds before they grow up & become a big problem.

And sometimes we have to weed with our own fingers. It’s a lot of work & expensive, but sometimes the weeds get away from us & hand weeding is the only way to go.

It’s a good feeling when the fields are relatively weed-free (or at least the weeds are under control) and it makes for easier & faster harvesting as well.

The tomatoes are not only mulched & stakes, but the first pruning (suckering) & tying is complete. They are growing rapidly now & will require pruning & tying almost weekly.

The first planting of zucchini & cucumbers are also mulched …

… eggplant & peppers too.

What’s in the box?

Pea shoots, bok choy, green onions or green garlic,

salad turnips, lettuce mix, spinach, arugula.

  • The box of pea shoots in your share this week is meant to be eaten – not planted!  Place the box outside in partial shade or inside near a window. Keep them well watered & let them reach about 10-12 cm. Then use as desired – cut what you need and add them to your salad or sandwiches … If you cut them about half way down, leaving a stem & some leaves, they will grow back and you can harvest them again. (Cutting them all the way down at soil level gives a larger harvest – but only once.)

  • Bok choy is one of my favourite green vegetables. It can be added to your salads, but most often is sautéed or stir fried. We like to cook some garlic or onion in a bit of oil (olive or sesame) for a couple of minutes, then add the bok choy and continue cooking until it is wilted & still bright green – around 5 minutes or less. Season with salt & pepper to taste. We usually grow several kinds of bok choy – white & green, small & mini, tight heads or looser heads. Some prefer hot weather while others like it cooler. This ensures we always get a harvest.

Check out the bok choy recipes on http://www.cookwithwhatyouhave.com including: https://www.cookwithwhatyouhave.com/csa/simplest-bok-choy-stir-fry/, https://www.cookwithwhatyouhave.com/csa/sauteed-radishes-andor-turnips-with-bok-choy-and-garlic-scapes/ (As a member of our CSA you have access to this website with 900+ recipes, templates, storage and preserving tips, pantry stocking suggestions and vegetable prep videos, organized by vegetable and created using CSA Produce. Log in using the access key you received in a recent email.)

  • The first green onions are about big enough to harvest. Choose either a bunch of green onions or green garlic for your share this week.
  • There should be radishes in your box again this week – but there isn’t! Radishes are a cool weather crop and while we had some cool weather last week, we also had some hot days resulting in overgrown & hollow radishes. Good thing for salad turnips though! They are more heat tolerant than radishes with a similar taste & texture.
  • Enjoy fresh spring salads with our lettuce mix, spinach & arugula.

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Around the farm this week …

The blackberries are starting to blossom.

A killdeer nest with 4 eggs right beside our vegetables.

Mother killdeer with her “broken wing” trying to lure me away from the nest.

Flynn in the fields trying to lure us toward him, hoping for a belly rub.

Blue flag iris blooming in our water garden.

Sooo happy we get to see this little guy more often again on the farm!

 

 

 

 


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CSA 2020 – Week 2

Our roadside stand. The surprise of the season!

We were not really expecting much from this little farmstand. Past experience with a trailer of squash in fall or surplus sunflowers in summer, led us to believe that selling a few dollars worth of plants a day was all that could be expected. But instead we have sold an amazing amount over the last couple of weeks. Who knew!

Without our Toronto farmers’ market we have a surplus of vegetable plants to sell this year. So we filled the stand, and the trailer, clearly labeled everything & added a “self-serve” sign. Apparently gardening is a big thing this year but plants can be difficult to source – so we have benefited from this demand.

This past week was the big start to our selling season. Until now (other than keeping the farmstand stocked), we have had our heads down, working in the greenhouse & fields – seeding, transplanting, watering, weeding … and watching stuff grow. Then last week our CSA began – 3 pick-up days this year to accommodate all of our members safely & to coordinate with the harvest schedule. We finished the week with our 1st farmers’ market of the year on Saturday at Georgetown.

It was a busy week! It was a good week!

We enjoyed seeing all our returning CSA friends and meeting our many new members – though we couldn’t socialize and visit as much as usual.

And market was a different experience as well. One way walking on the street, a limit of 2 customers at our stall at one time, vendors spread out, speaking through facemasks (even more difficult was hearing & understanding people speak through masks while distancing) … But it was good to see familiar faces there as well. Several of our North York market customers even showed up to purchase our plants! Despite the rules & restrictions, sales were brisk and we had a successful 1st market day. Plus we have an online store for our Georgetown customers where they can purchase our products in advance and then pick them up on Saturday at a location separate from the market to avoid the crowds. These online sales are welcome (but a lot of extra work to prepare & package)!

What’s in the box?

Lettuce mix, radishes, salad turnips, baby kale, spinach & arugula.

It’s a salad sort of box this week, with a good mix of flavours, textures, colours, shapes … As usual all our vegetables have been washed once. You may want to wash them again. Store in a bag in the fridge where they will keep well for at least a week.

  • Our lettuce mix is a beautiful & delicious blend of different kinds of red & green lettuces.
  • You may find round, red radishes in your share this week or perhaps the long red & white French breakfast radishes. We have both kinds ready to harvest.
  • Salad turnips are small, round, white turnips that resemble radishes, but without the bite (usually)! Mild in flavour, crisp, and quite tender, they are best eaten raw – simply wash, cut off the tops and enjoy! They can also be stir fried, sautéed, or steamed – both the turnips & the green tops.
  • Our baby kale is tender and best when added to your salad. (Later in the season we’ll have large kale for cooking.)
  • We received many positive comments on the spinach & arugula in last week’s box. Enjoy them again this week.

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A few pictures from around the farm today …

Our lettuce mix.

Eggplant & peppers in the ground finally.

New vegetable plantings.

One of my favourite spots on the farm.

One of Sage’s favourite spots on the farm.

 

 

 


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CSA 2020 – Week 1

Our own spinach – fresh, green, juicy – together with the first strawberries of the season – huge, red & sooo sweet … That salad was the star of our dinner!

Our own arugula – tender & spicy – a bunch of local asparagus, a handful of our mint, drizzled with a light dressing …  Outstanding! (recipe link below)

The first fresh produce of the season is always an amazing treat!

While we are privileged to have an almost limitless selection of (domestic & imported) produce available to us year round, there is no denying that fresh, locally grown, in-season produce is the best! By July we might be taking it for granted, but not right now.

It is the 1st week of our CSA program for 2020 and we’re excited – excited and a little scared.

Our numbers are up by more than 2/3. We’d like to say that it is because we grow the best vegetables around. And indeed some of the increase is from members telling their friends & family about their good experience being part of our CSA. But most of the increase is no doubt due to the crazy times we’re living in now. People are concerned about their food. They want to know where it comes from, how it is grown, who has handled it. They have questions about food safety & dependability of supply. Farms & CSAs seem to be the preferable option to grocery stores. We are grateful for the confidence & trust our members have in us – and we’re working hard to keep it.

The weather seems to be settling down. After the prolonged cool spring, we have already experienced some extreme heat, then some very welcome & much needed rain followed by a cold weekend. Now this coming week looks quite good. Everything is growing very fast now (including our nemesis – weeds!) and we’re racing to seed & plant and take advantage of the sunshine.

Tomatoes, zucchini & cucumbers were planted last week.

Now we are mulching & putting in the posts to stake them. Mulching with straw after a good rain is ideal as the straw will prevent the soil from drying out & keep it moist for the tomatoes. It also prevents weeds from growing.

A lot of the tomato plants already have blossoms.

What’s in the box?

Spinach, arugula, green garlic, mint bunches & rhubarb.

  • This is shaping up to be a great year for spinach on our farm. We’ve made 5 or 6 plantings already and every one of them is thriving. (usually we have more success with lettuce than spinach, but this season it’s the opposite and our lettuce is spotty & slow).
  • Arugula is delicious – a bit spicy & nutty. Use it in salads, on pizza … Both the arugula & spinach (and all the greens that you will receive this season) have been rinsed once to remove any field soil. You may want to wash them again. Store them in a bag in the fridge. They usually last at least a week.
  • Green garlic is a fresh garlic plant. At this time of year the bulb has not yet formed below ground, and the green top is still tender enough to eat, like a scallion or green onion. Green garlic is milder than fall garlic bulbs. Use them raw (eg. sliced into salads or mashed with goat cheese for a spread) or cooked (sautéed with scrambled eggs maybe) anywhere you would use garlic. They are also delicious coated with olive oil & tossed whole on the barbecue. Store green garlic in the fridge.
  • We love fresh mint! Delicious & refreshing in fruit salads, drinks etc. We often make a simple syrup with the mint leaves and add it to our iced tea. (recipe below)
  • Rhubarb is a perennial crop which means it grows every year. It’s not a lot of work but yields an abundant crop. Because we have more CSA members this year, there will be less rhubarb in your share. There will not be enough to make a pie, but almost as good and way easier & faster – make a rhubarb crisp or crumble. We also enjoy stewed rhubarb. Chop rhubarb and cook in a saucepan with a bit of water until tender. Add sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup) to taste. We sometimes add apples or other fruit to cut the tartness of the rhubarb. Delicious on it’s own or poured over ice cream, pudding or custard.

MINT SIMPLE SYRUP   

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint, rinsed
  • 1 cup water

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Add sugar, mint, and water to a small pot.  Bring to a boil, and then remove from heat.
  • Leave the mint leaves in the syrup as it cools for about 15 minutes.  Strain out the leaves, and bottle the syrup.
  • Store mint simple syrup in a glass jar in the fridge.  Use within a year.

    (from https://champagne-tastes.com)

Remember to check out the recipes on http://www.cookwithwhatyouhave.com. This is a great website with loads of recipes & vegetable information – including that great asparagus, arugula & mint salad we recently enjoyed.  (https://www.cookwithwhatyouhave.com/csa/raw-asparagus-salad-with-arugula-and-mint)

As a member of our CSA you have access to 900+ recipes, templates, storage and preserving tips, pantry stocking suggestions and vegetable prep videos, organized by vegetable and created using CSA Produce. Log in using the access key you received in a recent email.

Our pawpaw trees were in bloom this past week – the most unusual but beautiful blossoms on the farm!


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May weather

It’s tempting to yearn for the good-old-days (ie pre-coronavirus), when our biggest challenge was the weather.

And then came last week – and our biggest challenge was the weather!

For close to a week there was a frost warning each night. And sure enough there was frost almost every morning … and some snow flurries, and temperatures cold enough that I wore my coveralls – my lined winter coveralls – a few times. There was even ice in the chickens’ water pail a couple of those mornings. Several days I woke up before dawn to hear wind machines roaring in the vineyards in the distance, stirring up the air to prevent damage to the tender grape buds. The blooms on our neighbours’ strawberries froze – acres of potential berries destroyed. Fruit growers in our area lost a significant portion of their sweet cherry, apricot and nectarine crops.

We were fortunate to suffer little damage. While there was no worry for the plants in the greenhouse, we covered everything with row cover anyway, for added insurance. Out in the field we knew most of the vegetables could handle temperatures around the freezing mark. We chose to cover the broccoli since it would take the longest to replace if we were to lose it. Spinach, lettuce, radishes … are all quick crops to grow and these we plant weekly, so we took our chances. In the end we only lost several rows of parsley and some lettuce both of which had been recently transplanted and were not well established yet. Everything else came through those frosty nights looking rather unhappy – but alive. They have mostly bounced back now!

By this past weekend we were enjoying seasonable temperatures and rain, and everything is looking brighter & greener already!

Broccoli still under the row covers – it’s been enjoying the extra warmth. Under the hoops & white insect cover the radishes, salad turnips & arugula are protected from insects.

All the trees are quickly getting their leaves & turning green.

The blackberry canes are leafing out and growing well.

Herbs & weeds happily growing together, and golden hops beginning their climb up the sides of the pergola.

Around the yard we continue to enjoy the beauty & colours of spring …

And I finally finished & hung my winter project – a barn quilt that I painted.

The sunshine & warmer temperatures in the forecast for this week will be very welcome and enjoyed by all. As it looks now, our CSA program should begin sometime in early June. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone again & meeting all our new CSA members!


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Changes 2020

My favourite tulips opened this week … and they are beautiful!

Tulipa tarda is a species tulip dating all the way back to the 16th century. We have them planted  around our deck so we can admire them while enjoying our morning coffee outdoors on warm spring days (not many of those yet). They faithfully appear each spring, with the clumps spreading more each year.

Along the barn their taller, brighter & showier relatives are also blooming …

… while the daffodils – just finishing now – put on a brilliant show again this spring.

With this pandemic requiring us to stay at home, we’re especially enjoying our spring flowers this year.

The pandemic has also required us to make some changes to our marketing plan for 2020 – major changes!

We were planning to run our CSA program again (expecting a modest increase in membership) as well as attending the same 2 farmers’ markets – downtown Georgetown & North York at Mel Lastman Square.

However our CSA membership has increased by well over 50%, far more than we anticipated. Our Georgetown market is still scheduled to begin on Saturday June 6. We intend to be there with our masks, face shields, gloves etc – whatever is recommended or required at that time. A number of our Georgetown customers have joined CSA this season and will pick up their weekly boxes at the market. The North York market remains much more uncertain with possibly a late June opening.

After a lot of thinking, discussion & deliberation, we have decided that we will not be returning for our 27th year to North York. It was a difficult decision. We have so many loyal customers who visit every week, and we have made a lot of friends there through the years. It is hard to leave. But it is close to impossible to grow our crops not knowing if/when we’ll be able to market them there. We looked into the possibility of delivering our vegetables to Toronto but couldn’t make it work in a way that would satisfy both our customers and us.

So rather than limiting our CSA numbers, we are continuing to accept applications. It feels right to be growing more food for our local area. There is a lot of anxiety about food now and worries about access, availability, where it comes from & quality. We are grateful for the trust that so many have put in us to provide food for their families. We will honour that trust by doing our best to grow the best!

And things are growing! Despite the weather being on the cool side lately, we can see things coming along on the farm.

The plants in the greenhouse are finally putting on some healthy growth and should be ready for planting out on the farm within a few weeks. We will have vegetable & herb plants for sale at our roadside stand  by the May long weekend.

The garlic loves the cooler temperatures.

The snow peas are lush & green.

Yesterday we transplanted green onions, beets, spinach, lettuce, parsley into the field and seeded more radishes. These joined the broccoli, salad turnips, radishes, green onions, kale & spinach that were planted back in April. Later this week we’ll put out the first cabbages, onions & carrots.

The blackberries are growing rapidly now too.

Another change that this season has brought is the amount of time we need to spend in the office. While it is never a farmer’s preference to do office work, it has become increasingly necessary. Much time has been spent on figuring out our new marketing plans, answering emails & inquiries about CSA, keeping up with the rapidly changing rules & requirements pertaining to the COVID-19 situation especially as it applies to having employees on the farm, and how we can sell our vegetables, how CSA pick up will work this year, doing our farm purchasing online as well as banking & other business etc.

But it does make our outdoor work on the farm far more pleasurable!

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More of the spring beauty we’re enjoying!

And our enthusiastic helpers!

 

 


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Keeping on farming

This is a tomato seedling – a “Stakebreaker” tomato to be exact (and yes, I grew it mostly for the name), a new variety for us, but an heirloom tomato (so it’s been around a long time), red in colour, medium sized, with a delicious, sweet flavour complemented by an acid tartness (description courtesy of the seed seller).

Started around 6 weeks ago, back in early March, it is one of approximately 7000 tomato plants we have seeded. Stakebreaker is one of 85 varieties we ended up growing for 2020.

We will plant close to 1200 (and maybe more) of these tomato plants on our farm next month. They should provide enough fruit for our CSA members, our farmers’ market customers, our new roadside stand, and ourselves. The remaining plants will be sold so others can grow their own, and enjoy the experience of picking & eating a sun-ripened, juicy, fresh-from-the-garden tomato.

We weren’t going to seed so many tomatoes. Most years we overdo it – growing more than we can plant,  sell, and even give away to local community gardens & food banks. In the end a lot get tossed onto the compost pile. But this year we’re anticipating a lot more people will want to plant gardens. Certainly the seed companies are being inundated with orders for seeds. Vegetable plants should be in high demand as well. So we seeded a few more …

Of course we don’t really know what to expect this season.

  • Our CSA has seen a surge in applicants. Membership is up more than 35% right now, and we continue to get emails & calls each day from interested people. We are still accepting new members.
  • Farmers’ markets are now considered an essential service in Ontario. But it is still uncertain if, when and how they will operate. Our Georgetown market seems likely to be running in some form, but we’re still awaiting word on North York. And will our customers come out to the markets anyway?
  • We have been asked by customers & others to deliver vegetable boxes into Toronto and are considering this as well, though our preference is to stay closer to home.

Whatever the upcoming months will bring, we know everyone has to eat! We remain committed to growing the most nutritious, healthy and best tasting vegetables possible. We are doing our best to keep ourselves healthy & well. And we will do all we can to provide our customers with their food in a safe way.

So we keep on farming!

We are well into spring. The sun shines stronger (sometimes), the ground is warming, and crops are growing.

Amy & Sage are spending most of their days now in the greenhouse, transplanting tomatoes from their seeding trays into pots.

The big greenhouse is starting to fill up. Along with the tomatoes, we are transplanting peppers & eggplant.

The small greenhouse where we seed everything is overflowing …

And the trailer is loaded with trays of kale, spinach, green onions, broccoli & sweet peas which we expect to plant out in the field this week – if the weather cooperates!

Out on the farm the snow peas are up – pictured here with a bit of snow, which fell earlier this week.

And the garlic is growing well …

… as is the rhubarb.

We are preparing the fields for crops.

Our old apricot trees in the backyard are in blossom – a sure sign of spring. Unfortunately it has been cold, windy or wet these last few days so the bees have not been out pollinating. But tomorrow promises to be sunny and the trees should be abuzz with bees!

The willow tree by the pond is showing green – always the first tree to turn.

As usual Sage and the Flynns remind us to chill – leading by example!

We received this timely & encouraging message on our sidewalk the other day, from some young, talented artists in the neighbourhood.

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Spring continued …

The peas are planted, the garlic is growing and the blackberries are budding.
It’s spring, and life on the farm is progressing as it should.

The snow peas were seeded where the occultation tarp had been all winter. We pulled it off last week and the ground underneath was perfect for planting. Any weeds and leftover vegetation from the fall had long since broken down & decomposed under the tarp. We lightly worked the soil and it was ready to plant.

The tarp was moved over to a new area & weighted down. We will leave it for a month or 6 weeks and  then this patch will be ready to plant. Of course we had some strong winds over the weekend and almost lost the tarp. We kept adding more & more weights, but to no avail! Finally I parked the tractor on it, to at least hold it down. Then Monday we pulled it back into place & adjusted the weights again. We’ll see …

Rows of garlic are now visible above the straw. Planted back in October, mulched in December, it is now the first crop out on the farm to show life in spring. And the best part of all – there’s no more work involved until the harvest. That will begin in early June when we will pull some for green garlic. Later that month the scapes will be harvested, and then the rest of the garlic will be pulled sometime in July.

The blackberries are pruned and tied, and looking healthy. Next we will mulch them with straw both to control the weeds and to keep the ground moist through the summer.

We did start some mulching today – rhubarb, currants, and the mint patch. Usually we let the ground warm up before applying straw, but the weeds are already pushing – so why wait!

Seeding continues in the greenhouse, and the first tomatoes will be ready for transplanting into larger pots next week.

Spring means our busy time is just beginning.

We are thankful for our work, our farm, our health and for the beauty of the season …

 

 

 

 

 


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First day of Spring

Today was a good day – the first day of spring!

I also discovered the first flowers – a gift and a celebration of the changing seasons!

Tiny winter aconites were found blooming in the leaves & mulch underneath the redbud tree, right close to the road. I was checking the progress of the tulips & daffodils, and there they were – so small, yet so yellow and bright and beautiful and cheerful.

There are more signs of life in the gardens … tulips & daffodils sprouting,

and rhubarb,

and angelica – the earliest herb to come to life every year.

While these are days of change, uncertainty, and fear in our world, it is comforting to realize that nature with its turning seasons continues as usual, which for me brings comfort & reassurance.

Out on the farm, spring is not so obvious yet. But slowly the drab grey & brown of winter is becoming green.

Under the straw mulch we can find the garlic coming up.

And the ducks have been spotted on the pond.

We’re pruning the blackberries now – the canes appear to have come through the winter well.

In the greenhouse the tomatoes seedlings are growing.

Peppers too!

Long before the coronavirus became a part of our life, I started building a small flower/vegetable stand to put out at the road this summer, to sell any excess sunflowers etc. Constructed mostly from pallets and recycled materials, it turned out okay (if I say so myself).

Now, depending on how things turn out we may or may not be able to go to our farmers’ markets this summer. Perhaps the stand will get more use than we anticipated?

We are grateful for everyone who has signed up for our CSA program. Knowing we have a market for at least a portion of our crop, and already having money in hand to put towards the spring bills gives us security and optimism for the upcoming season. Thank you!

We are still accepting CSA applications and have waived the April 1 price increase.

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As usual, the Flynns remain unaffected by our concerns.

A soft bed in a warm greenhouse on a sunny day – life is good!!

Happy 1st day of Spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Signs of Spring

For us, it’s the first sign of spring,

the greenlight for our growing season,

a good-news story,

… and a real thrill!

The first seeds are up!

Peppers, tomatoes and eggplant were all sown during the last week in February. The first tomatoes & eggplant were up in 4 days while it took only 6 days to see the first pepper shoots.

That’s fast and it’s because of our new germination box.

Until now we’ve always started our seeds in the small greenhouse that’s attached to our workshop. We have a germination bed – sand with heating cables running through it, making a nice, cosy place for the seeds to begin their journey. Over this we have hoops supporting several layers of white row cover for added warmth. And over this is a greenhouse within the greenhouse. For those cold March nights, a small heater keeps the seeds & seedlings comfortable. It’s a little cumbersome, but low tech, low energy use & inexpensive – and it works reasonably well!

This year we built a germination box which provides better conditions for seed sprouting – higher temperatures, but especially more consistent warmth & humidity too.

It’s just a box made of styrofoam sheets. I pushed in nails to hold it together & used tape for additional strength. It’s amazingly stable. The door is held in place by paint cans & elastic bands (don’t knock it, it works!). Heat & humidity are provided by a crockpot filled with water. The planted flats are stacked on a wire shelf which allows the heat from the crockpot to rise throughout the chamber.

A temperature controller maintains the required temperature by turning the crockpot off & on as needed.

Once a day we refill the water in the crockpot. A few times each day we check the trays to see if any seeds are germinating. Then we immediately move those trays into the greenhouse as the seedlings require sunlight to grow.

Overall we are very pleased with our germination box. It was inexpensive & easy to build, and simple to operate. Obviously this is not our original idea. Similar germination boxes are used by many small growers. Even better is using an old fridge or freezer (standing on end) for the structure. It is stronger, cheaper (usually free), and more durable than styrofoam. We just haven’t found one yet.

March is a month filled with seeding – our long-season crops like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers & onions along with some herbs, broccoli, beets … We’re planting every few days as we have room in the germination box. In a few weeks the small greenhouse will be almost full of seedlings and we’ll be moving them over to the large hoophouse (weather permitting). A lot of our time is spent checking the trays, moving them around, watering, keeping track of all the crops (90+ kinds of tomatoes, 62 peppers …)

I guess it’s considered work – but such enjoyable work! March can still be raw, cold & even snowy outdoors. But inside the greenhouse, the balmy temperatures, the smell of the soil & the little plants, the fresh green colours, seeing new growth every day … it all adds up to an awesome work environment!

The Flynns enjoy it all too! On sunny days they sprawl out in the greenhouse soaking up the heat.

When the days are warmer, they lounge outdoors.

Sage, on the other hand, is in bit of a funk now that the snow is gone. She prefers to sleep off her moodiness in the comfort of her home!

Happy Spring!