Archive for September, 2012

Fall News

September 28, 2012

Another quiet Sunday has come and gone and I think I can take some time to share a bit of farm happenings from these past few weeks. We are winding down for the season now, though still have 7 CSA weeks to go. There’s lots of produce in the field and lots in storage and the next few weeks will be spent bringing in more produce in preparation for the killing frosts ahead. It has been a very warm summer and the fall is meant to be mild as well. Apple growers are concerned about the warm nights we’ve been having as they prevent their apples from developing a good red colour. This doesn’t affect flavour, yield or nutrient value but the deep red colour is what people look for in their McIntosh and Cortland apples and can affect sales. They are harvesting now but harvesting selectively, choosing apples with the best colour and leaving the rest on the trees for a while longer. This is more expensive to the farmer than harvesting everything at once but with fruit prices rising (due to apple crop failures in Ontario), they should be able to handle it.

We still have some tomatoes and peppers in the coldframe and high tunnel and I harvested zucchini today. The cucurbits are dying of powdery mildew and every bit of fruit we get from them I consider to be the last. Imagine my delight to find anything worth picking under those mouldy leaves! We’ve sent out some Sweet Dumpling squash already and still have spaghetti squash, Red Kuri (my favourite!) and those massive Cinderella pumpkins in the field. We have started picking cabbages (savoy and storage) and cauliflower and are still picking broccoli side shoots. I think we will take the tops off the Brussels sprouts soon though I’d like to put them to use. Perhaps we’ll do up a fall salad mix of chopped savoy cabbage, radicchio, kale and Brussels sprouts tops next week – yum! We need to spend some time harvesting beets and carrots for storage in the cooler because they are getting too large in the field. We have some good weather ahead this week so will take advantage of it and do a bit of this, as well as bringing in some squash.

The farmer’s market is still going well. I had market day yesterday and it was a mild, rainy day and surprisingly busy. Our biggest sellers were carrots (always), garlic and tomatoes though tomatillos went surprisingly well. It’s great having Ginette’s herbs, too, as a table full of lovely, fragrant bunches of summer savoury, basil, thyme, parsley and sage is very attractive to people. The restaurant CSA seems to be going well and they are asking about buying some storage vegetables for the winter once the CSA is finished. I need to do some calculations though reckon we should have some extra beets, carrots, onions, potatoes and garlic available.

The goats are well and looking good though not showing any real signs of heat yet. It’s always hard when you have a young buck to kick start the girls’ interest in the boy. He just doesn’t seem to know enough to pee on his face and without that great goat cologne, the girls don’t show a lot of interest. Most of the does still have their kids with them, too, and this may delay them coming into heat. We’re getting to the time I really want to start breeding them because I’d like to have kids born during the month of March (it’s starting to warm, snow is starting to melt but it’s still far enough away from busy season that the goats will get enough attention) so I may need to do something to set things in motion. I’m a little concerned about Roger the Buck’s height as well, he’s not a tall boy and I hope he’s able to do the job on our taller girls! We may need to build him a little set of steps.

Sarah and her friends, Julie and Jill, with Will’s and my help, managed to put 25 chickens in the freezer last weekend. We had a great setup, thanks to our chicken killing two years ago, and things went really well. The only minor problem was with the cones initially: the end was too small for the chickens’ heads to fit through and we had a Monty Python-esque moment of trying to stuff birds into the cone while reaching fingers through the hole and saying “where’s the head, I can’t find the head!”. Will cut the holes bigger and the cones worked perfectly from then on. Sarah has Jill and Julie lined up for next Sunday to finish the batch of birds off and then we can retire the pen for another year. It will be nice to have a bunch of plump chickens in the freezer though it is getting quite full in there. I guess I’ll have to use up some berries and make a few batches of jam to make space for chicken.

I started a batch of elderberry wine today and am quite excited about it. Of course I have a whole year to stay excited as this wine is supposed to be aged at least that long in bottles. It took me two years of saving up elderberries to get enough for a 5 gallon batch (why go to all that work for anything less than 5 gallons?) so I really hope this works out. My first job was to fill the primary bucket with the frozen berries and then pour on some hot water to start thawing them. I added 5 crushed Campden tablets which immediately turned the beautiful wine-red colour to a thin, dirty brown. I wasn’t expecting this so ran to the computer and started googling things like “campden tablets change wine’s colour”. I discovered that this happens to some people and not others – hmm – but no good advice was to be had. Campden tablets are a source of sulphites which kills off any wild yeasts that may have come with the berries and could pollute the wine, even turning it to vinegar. I now leave the “must” for a day then strain out the pulp, add more water, sugar and then yeast to start fermentation. As I write the brilliant, dark elderberry colour is coming back so the Campden change was only temporary.

Last weekend was very busy (I think I’m still recovering!) as it consisted of chicken-killing day on Saturday and then the NB Open Farm Day on Sunday. We weren’t quite sure what to expect of Open Farm Day so we said we’d be available for tours from 10:00 till 4:00, recruited Mom, Peter and Bert to help out (plus Sarah came out after teaching her morning yoga class) and then waited. Well, at two minutes to 10 the first two vehicles pulled in and there was a steady flow of visitors from then until 4:00. Our parking spaces were filled so people parked along the road and walked up the driveway. Will and I (and later Sarah, too) gave back-to-back tours all day long before collapsing in a heap at the end of it all. Mom, Peter and Bert helped by greeting people, alerting us of new groups, taking waiting groups to visit the goats and, when not busy at this, tidying up our farm! We were very pleased at the interest in local farms by all sorts of people. A lot of our CSA members made the trek out to see the farm and also lots of others who just thought they’d spend a sunny (but cold!) Sunday visiting farms. Many of the visitors were families with young kids and they loved playing with Cory, who of course can chase balls all day long. Many a family left with strains of “I want a dog!” emanating from their vehicles. The goats were quite charming, too, and enjoyed the market-returned beans we had for kids to feed to them. They get over their shyness very quickly when food is on offer! There were a few people we weren’t impressed by (the hobby farmer with their theories of how things should be done telling us our chickens were GMO because they weren’t heritage breeds) but that’s to be expected and just one of the things you deal with when you open your farm (and your life!) to the public. All in all it was a great day, though, and we’ll definitely do it again next year.

Some sad news from the farm: Will’s bees died. He was following some advice that we now realize was either very poor or else did not translate well to our farm environment. He was told to put a new hive on top of the hive the bees were in so the bees could populate it. However it turned out that all this space was too much for the bees and they weren’t able to generate enough heat to stay warm enough to forage and reproduce. As a bee only lives 6 weeks, once the reproduction rate declines too far the hive population goes down quickly and so follows the spiral towards total hive collapse. It is very disappointing but we are getting some help from a beekeeping neighbour (as well as some encouragement because he lost all his hives one year, too!) and I think Will will have another go at it next year. Farming is like that: a mix of successes and failures and all you can do is learn from them and keep on farming. I’ll leave you with those deep words of wisdom!

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NB Open Farm Day

September 17, 2012

Alyson sharing information about the coldframe and tomatoes to a group of interested visitors. We opened the farm from 10:00 till 4:00 and had well over 100 people stop in and look around. Cory entertained the kids chasing balls and the goats were their usual charming selves!

Peter sets up the info table and helps out as a “meeter and greeter”

Bert and Cathy, also “meeters and greeters” unwilling to do nothing while waiting for more people to arrive, wash and dry all our harvest bins!

Chicken Killing Day on the Farm

September 17, 2012

Sarah, ready to lead the show

The setup while it’s still clean

Sarah introduces Jill to the joys of gutting chickens

Julie, happy to be plucking chickens

Sarah weighing her chickens, most are between 6 – 7 lbs

Whew! The end result

Late Summer on the Farm

September 17, 2012

Fall veg: brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, beets, parsnips – yum!

The mobile chicken pen mows a path through the oat and clover cover crop: extra fertilizer for next year!

Onions in the field, though they’re actually under cover for curing now

Lovely tomatoes in the coldframe

Something captures the goats’ attention

Tiny garlic rounds, the product of planting last years’ bulbiils, will produce bulbs next year