Archive for July, 2012

Summer in Full Swing

July 5, 2012

Roger the buck and his companion, Yeti, enjoy a romp in the field

Will working with his bees

We have bees!

In the coldframe: carrots really do love tomatoes!

Some beautifully planted cover crop: oats and peas

Cory demonstrates some crops in the field

It’s a rainy Thursday and the perfect day to write a blog entry. We managed to get almost all of the last of the season’s transplants in the ground yesterday before the rain started: broccoli, savoy cabbage, radicchio and fennel. There are still some parsley and chard that could go in the ground and we planted the basil in the coldframe this morning. Green onions were growing in the small bed along one side of the coldframe and we cleared all of them out earlier in the week. The basil plants were bursting out of their trays and I’m sure, very happy to be in the ground now. We’ll have to check the companion planting book and see if basil loves onions!

All of the winter brassicas (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts) have been planted and many of them have been eaten by cutworms. We’ve always had a bit of cutworm damage in the past but nothing like what we are seeing this year. We are not quite sure if this is just a cycle and we’ll be back to normal damage levels next year, or whether we should make some big changes in our system to avoid this problem in the future. One thing we may consider for next year is to plant a bit earlier than usual It would be a good idea to plant the brussels sprouts earlier anyway because we would get higher yields of sprouts during our CSA season and before the cold weather hits. We had planned to plant earlier than we did but it’s a hard time of the year with tomato, cucumber, zucchini, squash, melon and pepper seedlings all vying for space in the start area. However it may be worth having another try at it if it helps us avoid cutworms, too. The brussels sprouts seem to have gotten the worst damage of all but cabbage, cauli and broccoli also suffered. Fortunately we planted way more seedlings than we need for the CSA so it just means less to sell at the farmer’s market and other venues.

We have been picking strawberries for the last few weeks and the first variety (Wendy) is pretty much finished for the season. They were delicious berries and I like them more than Orleans, the ones that are coming on now. Unfortunately the slugs are also enjoying our berries and we are probably putting about half of our harvest in pint baskets, with the rest getting trimmed and put in the freezer or tossed out altogether. It’s good that our first strawberry planting wasn’t too large since we are learning a big lesson on how to grow strawberries this year! Next year I plan on putting in more plants, spacing the beds out better (rather than side-by-side), putting plant rows closer to the bed centre to avoid berries in the pathways, and to remove the straw mulch completely, rather than leave it in pathways (it does help control weeds but also provides a cosy home for slugs). Fortunately these frozen reject berries will not go to waste as we farmers will enjoy their sweet deliciousness all winter long!

The CSA is in its second week and going really well. We started one week later than planned and about two weeks earlier than last year. It was nice to start when things were truly ready rather than push the start and have the kale, chard, lettuces, etc. just a little on the small side. We actually picked broccoli and cabbage this week and put it in some of the baskets and will do potatoes in another two weeks. Next week we’ll get a few carrots from the coldframe (planted between rows of tomatoes) and maybe a few zucchinis from the high tunnel. We feel really good about what we’re giving people and discovering that growing more crop means having more to choose from at harvest so everything looks better. We have two extra drop-offs in the Moncton area so Will added shelves in our truck to take all the bags. I think the size of our truck may limit our ability to expand the CSA, at least to Moncton pickups because it’s pretty full now!

Coin Bio/Organic Corner has started selling at the farmer’s market and things are going well. We are not in our final space yet as we’re still sharing with Patsy and her beautiful flowers, but should be there in the next few weeks. It was good to start earlier than last year and to have enough variety (with two farms supplying) to make it worth setting up. There are a couple of other organic veggie people there this year so we’ll see how we do with the competition. Broadfork Farm has an especially nice setup and sells really good looking produce so will definitely find lots of loyal followers at the market.

Will was very excited to have his first two bee colonies arrive on the farm last week. You’ve seen the photos so have an idea what they look like. Each stack of hives contains a colony and by the time winter hits, there should be three hives for each colony. We won’t be taking any honey this year since the developing colonies will need it to stay healthy through the winter, but next year we may get enough for me to sweeten my tea. They have a very nice location in the goat pasture – fenced to stay separate from the goats – near the trees for shelter and not far from the pond for water. There are so many flowering plants on the farm they will be kept busy gathering pollen and nectar all season long: clover, cucurbits, goldenrod, linden, apples, honeysuckle, roses, black locust, elderberries, raspberries, strawberries – lucky bees and lucky us!

Will has managed to do a great job of planting cover crops with the new seeder. We have oats and peas in one area and oats and clover where the broilers will eventually go. Sarah has ordered 50 chicks which will arrive in mid July and she’ll raise them in the mobile pen. We have a nice block of veggie land that will feed the birds in their mobile pen and their manure will be in the soil for next year’s veggies. The new pasture for the goats has also been planted and is coming along nicely. I don’t know whether the goats will be able to get on it this year or not. It still looks a bit sparse and I think we need the perennial grasses to really take hold before loosing the goats with their pointy little toes on it. They could really use some good graze, though, since the hay the eat now is not very nutritious and there’s not too much else to eat in their remaining pasture.

The goats are still giving lots of milk (poor hay aside) and the kids are looking really good. I sold the triplets (actually traded one for Roger the buck) and have a yearling left to sell. I didn’t intend to keep many kids this year but the three Boer cross doelings are such nice looking goats, I couldn’t resist! I’m milking four now and getting just under 2 gallons/day (three are still feeding kids) and making lots of cheese. My Cheese Team is still actively cheese-making and they are just back from a two week cheese experience in Quebec volunteering on a dairy farm. Yes, even after 2 weeks of 4:00 a.m. starts and sore arms from turning 100 lb wheels of Alpine cheeses, they are still keen to come here and make cheese! I guess that’s true dedication to the cause.

Will and I took our anniversary day off again this year (thanks to Sarah holding down the fort!) and spent the day at Kouchibuguac National Park. We brought our bikes and cycled the trails all day, took a break at the seaside, ate a picnic lunch and got sunburned! It was a perfect day and just before busy season so entry fees were half price and human traffic was light. We biked about 30 kms of trails through woods and fields and along the shore. We saw a deer and a young black bear on the trail (left the trail and rode on the road for a bit just in case Momma Bear was around the corner!) and a fox at the snack bar. I think we got married at the perfect time of the year: summer but not busy summer and just before CSA deliveries start!

Our Open Farm Day went really well. It was the Saturday before our first farmer’s market and turned into a really fine day. It was sunny but not too hot and we were well prepared with food (thanks to Diane, Kathy, Sarah and my Mom), music (thanks to CSA members Pierre and J.F.) and lots of farm tours. We had over 100 people at our place and it went so well we are thinking of other on-farm events we could host. We invited all our CSA members plus McKees Mills neighbours and other farmer friends. We’ve just signed up to host tours for NB’s Open Farm Day in September. This won’t be quite as complicated as our own event – no snacks or music – but will be a great opportunity to show people a working organic veggie farm. We do love to show off our beautiful farm!