Archive for May, 2012

May 27, 2012

The high tunnel is complete and planted with peppers, ground cherries, cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini with melons to come

Brassicas are growing nicely though flea beetle is making an appearance

Tomatoes are planted in the coldframe with rows of carrots down the centre

Strawberries are flowering!

Garlic is looking great and potatoes, favas and peas are just starting to come up

May 17, 2012

Yummy farm lunch food: greens from NS, our own tomato sauce and goat cheese on top

Young goats enjoying their climbing toy

Sarah drilling holes for high tunnel hoops

Will and Sarah putting together the high tunnel

Tomato plants ready to go in the ground

Broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips and spinach covered with row cover

The girls hanging out – great variety of goat colours this year

Awkward home for a muskrat

The Hummingbirds Have Arrived!

May 17, 2012

Spring is truly here! The hummingbirds are starting to arrive from their Southern winter home and I saw the first barn swallows today. We have lots of robins this year plus starlings and blue jays and more red-winged blackbirds than I’ve ever seen. A Northern harrier has made a home somewhere nearby – I see him hunting in our fields quite often – and a sharp-shinned hawk makes an occasional appearance in the woods when I walk with Cory. I saw a lovely male pheasant walk right by our back deck a few nights ago, looking for a lady friend I’m sure, and we’ve been seeing many foxes, or else the same fox, over and over again! Actually I think we do have a resident fox because someone bedded down in the garlic bed last night, pulling straw off the plants to make a nice little cosy nest! I saw another fox on my way to my French class last week, up ahead as I drove through Ste-Marie. I stopped at the place I’d seen it cross the road to and there it was with two young kits. It was unafraid of me and I watched the family play awhile from inside my car, a great way to spend a few minutes pre-class. One final wildlife siting: a muskrat decided to make a home in the underside of our truck! I was afraid it was a female looking for a nest so we moved the truck to another area on the farm, hoping to discourage this. She seems to have disappeared and has hopefully found a better nesting site.

We have been having a much nicer spring than last year with a good balance of wet and dry weather and some nice warm sunny days. The black flies are usually out in full force by this time but we’ve seen hardly any so far and no mosquitoes. Could this be a bug-free year? We can only hope! We have lots of crop in the ground: cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, onions, shallots, leeks, peas, spinach, turnips, carrots, beets and potatoes. The potatoes were pre-sprouted in the cooler, cut up and spread out on shelves with a heater to keep it above 55 degrees F and the light left on about 12 hours a day. The sprouts weren’t as vigorous as the previous two years and it may have been the potato varieties, or it may have been the lower wattage light than in the past. The potatoes were sprouted in the tiny house under natural light before but we wanted to have the house empty so we could clean and organize it in plenty of time for Sarah’s arrival. We had a great day of potato planting and managed to get 200 lbs of potatoes in the ground with the help of Mom and Dad (plus Will, Sarah and I of course). It was a long, hard day but well worth the effort. The only potatoes not planted were the Pink Fir Apple Fingerlings (can’t wait to try those out!) and Will got them in the ground today.

Sarah is our apprentice for the season and after two weeks on the job, we feel we really lucked out! Sarah seems to be enjoying her farm experience, too, so I think this has turned out to be a really good fit. We have a written curriculum of farm activities and she is interested in doing a bit of everything, which suits us fine. It makes for a different way of organizing one’s time on the farm when you bring instruction into the different activities. It is great to talk about how and why things are done because it makes me think more critically about what I’m doing and why. Sarah asks good questions, too, which helps a person to see things in a different light. She also brings lots of youthful energy and enthusiasm which we can always use – not that we’re old fuddy duddies or anything but we do get used to things on the farm and sometimes don’t see how delightful it all really is. It’s wonderful having the help, too, especially since we have 37.5% more CSA shares than last year and are growing much larger quantities of everything. We were right down to the wire with almost everything last year and this year it would be nice to have a larger quantity of produce to choose from to fill the bags.

Our transplants have been doing really well with the superior soil mix and everything we’ve planted so far has really taken off. We bought a big roll of frost protecting row cover and have been covering everything with hopes of getting a bit of an earlier start this year. The bunching onions and carrots in the coldframe are doing well and we should be putting tomatoes in the ground this week. Will is working on the high tunnel, with some help from my Dad and Sarah, and it should be completed soon. I need to make the planting plan so we’ll know exactly how many pepper, cucumber and other plants we’ll need for this area. I’ve had some requests for plants but dare not sell anything until we know what we need. We still haven’t managed to get the goat barn cleaned out but should get to that this week, too, and then can start spreading manure on our cover crop land. I bought 120 kg of field peas (got them half price from a farmer who decided not to plant peas) and we have organic oat seed for cover cropping this year. We need to improve our over-wintering cover crops to cut down on the number of perennial weeds we seem to be dealing with in the spring. One of our strategies to achieve this involves purchasing a cereal seeder. Since we seed our cover crop in blocks, it makes sense to use a seeder that will cover 5-7 feet with one pass. As well, drilling seeds into the ground will make for a better germination rate than scattering them on the soil surface. Our biggest problem in the past has been poor germination of winter cover crop and this allows the weeds to take over. We are keeping an eye on Kijiji to try and find an old, small seeder that will do the job. There are a few out there but they seem to get snatched up pretty quick. Our farming friends from Alberta tell us they are giving them away out there since many people are doing no-till seeding and using fancy new air seeders. Well, if we have any friends driving out this way from the West coast, perhaps we can get them to pick up a grain drill, tie it to their roof and bring it to NB!

We finally sent in some soil samples for testing and got the results back last week. We were very pleased to see the difference in nutrient and organic matter levels as well as pH since we started building our soil. Potassium is way up, mainly due to the spreading of goat manure and hay, and phosphorous, too, probably because of the two years of buckwheat cover cropping. Many trace minerals have increased as well though boron is still very low. Calcium is up, due to using lobster meal, and magnesium due to the dolomite. Our pH is in the 6-6.2 range now, up from 5.8 so we should start seeing some better overall growth of plants. We will continue with this fertility plan, supplementing with compost and crab meal but basing most of the soil fertility on goat manure/hay plus cover crops. Our goat manure doesn’t seem like it will ever cover all our cover cropped area so we will need to make sure it gets to every area at least once every four years.

We bought a bunch of rhubarb roots this spring and planted 200′ of Canada Red rhubarb. We will start picking it next year and it will be a great addition to the CSA boxes plus the farmer’s market table. The strawberries are growing nicely – we just finished cleaning up the old dead leaves from last year and I can see blossoms already starting to form on the earliest variety. The raspberries are also looking great and they were also pruned, weeded, composted and covered in sawdust last week. We will be very busy picking berries this year, I’m sure!

We have an Open Farm Day planned for June 16 and will offer farm tours, snacks and one of our CSA customers will be playing music for us and our guests. I think it will be a great day and can only hope we get good weather. Sarah will stay on the farm to help out and some of our local CSA friends will be on hand as well. What else are we up to these days? Well, we have been doing lots of wild crafting on the farm, thanks to Sarah’s interest and enthusiasm. Dandelion roots are drying in the hayloft (for eventual tea) and blossoms are fermenting for dandelion wine. We ate dandelion flowers in a stir-fry last week and they were fabulous – a bit bitter but the fried onion sweetens them up. Yesterday it was cattail shoots and stinging nettle cooked up with some of our spinach – yum! I had started stinging nettle from seed two years ago and this year, divided up the patch and planted it around the farm. It seems to be doing really well everywhere I planted it and I’m sure we will soon have lots of nettle for early spring greens. I planted some staghorn sumac around the pond, too. Sumac is the best tree for feeding birds in the winter, plus we can also make a nice drink out of the berries. I’ve been offered some witch hazel and white ash seed for propagating so hope to get those going soon and I just discovered that we have quite a bit of bearded hazelnut (a native tree) on our farm. They are young trees so just starting to make nuts, much to the delight of squirrels and I’m sure it will be a challenge to harvest any for our uses!