Archive for May, 2013

Early Farming Season

May 26, 2013

It is hard to believe that just three weeks ago our fields were still covered in snow. Now, here we are almost midway through May and we have our orchard fenced and planted and set with an irrigation system. We also have 900 new strawberry plants in the ground. We were very smart and built the beds for them last fall, knowing that we couldn’t guarantee an early spring start. We had to pull up one side of the black plastic and re-lay it to get it tight but that only took two people about an hour and also enabled us to check out the irrigation line to make sure it hadn’t been chewed up over the winter. We managed to get all our potatoes planted last week, too, thanks to the help of my parents and our friends, Stephan and Suzanne. Carla came out almost every day last week for a half day to help transplant and between her efforts, Tara (another volunteer), Gemael and me, we got all the brassicas, chard, lettuce, celeriac, onions and most of the leeks in the ground. The weekend has given us some rain and a chance to re-organize after last week’s all-out field work extravaganza. We cleaned out the empty seedling trays, started some more seeds, weeded and thinned in the coldframe and did a bit of weeding in the newly planted beds. Unfortunately this year’s late spring has resulted in us transplanting into beds that are recently cultivated and full of clumps of last year’s clover, weeds and cover crop. This will cost us a bit of extra weeding as well as some fertility as the decaying straw will use up some of the nitrogen in the soil. However it is the best we can do with the conditions we were given!

The rhubarb is looking amazing and we will definitely have some for our first market day on May 25. Alva Farm will go to market that Saturday, our earliest market start date ever. They have planted lots of greens in their coldframe and with our rhubarb, plus a few of our own early coldframe greens and some tomato plants, Coin Bio should be well represented. Broadfork farm, another small organic veggie farm from near Amherst, has already started at the Dieppe market so we should try and not be too far behind! It’s good to have so many small organic farms around, it keeps us on our toes and we are always learning from one another.

If you recall reading about yearling goats getting caught in electric wire a few weeks ago during that short interval between the snow disappearing and the electric fence getting hooked up, well the story continues. Jade, the adventurous goat in question, has since developed cellulitis, a deep tissue infection due to the trauma of the wire wrapped around her leg. She has been on penicillin for almost two weeks now and I’ve been cold hosing her leg twice daily to bring down pain and swelling. She was also on Banamine, a painkiller, for a few days as the infection can be quite painful. I have to stop the antibiotics after two weeks so Tuesday is her last day on them. I really hope we have managed to beat the infection and we will only find out a few days after the last injection, after the drugs have left her system. She is a very nice goat and promises to be a good milker and mother. Her leg isn’t looking too badly now: no swelling just lots of crusty stuff. I’m hoping the crusty stuff just falls off now to reveal healthy tissue below. We will see….

Gemael, our apprentice for the season, has been with us for three weeks and seems to be working out really well. Her partner, Kevin, is finishing up his university year and then will be working in Moncton and staying here on the farm in exchange for some farm work. They are both interested in farming and this will be a good experience for them both: a chance to live and work on a farm for a full season. We are working with ACORN’s Grow a Farmer program this year. Last year, with Sarah, we had our own curriculum to follow to make sure we covered all the learning opportunities our farm had to offer. ACORN’s GAF curriculum is even more in depth and detailed and I am really enjoying using it. It is the culmination of the efforts of many experienced farmers so you can imagine how comprehensive it is. Will and I also contributed towards it as Will was on the steering committee that formed the GAF program last year. GAF offers apprentices learning outside of the farm as well, in the form of webinars and field days. It is an exciting program and though there are only 7 participants taking advantage of it this year, we are sure it will grow in popularity in years to come.

Well, here I am a week later and there are new updates: Jade’s leg did not get any better so I got the vet in and he gave me a treatment to follow that worked beautifully: soak the leg in warm water and epsom salt, then pick off all the crusty bits, follow with an antiseptic wash, pat dry and then apply zinc oxide cream. Anyone who has goats can just imagine how much fun that can be with a 100 lb healthy yearling! It took two people: one holding her and the other doing the fun stuff and after about 5 days, the leg looked great. Actually it still looks a little funny because much of the hair is gone but the skin is whole and healthy and she is walking on it with no pain. Another goat adventure and another lesson learned!

Our first market day has come and gone and what a cold, wet, stormy day it was. Fortunately Alain and Eva managed to get a table indoors though not in a prime location. They did well, though and managed to sell lots of their spinach and tomato plants and our rhubarb. We will be setting up indoors for the next four markets, which is nice for two reasons: the weather can still be quite cool at this time of the year and it is a 7 hour market and also because it will enable us to connect with people we don’t usually get to see when we are set up outdoors on the far side of the market. We’ll be able to tell them where to find us when we move outside and hopefully have more customers for this season.

We got the two high tunnels up last week, once again with lots of help from Stephan, Carla, Gemael and my parents. We are indeed blessed with great friends and family! We have planted all our tomatoes and peppers (about 200 of each) and just need to put in the cucumbers. We won’t be trellising the cucumbers this year, just starting them in the high tunnel and letting them sprawl out the side. We were a little short on pepper plants: I had potted up all I thought I’d need but then one variety went all yellow and funny on me. It was quite strange because all the peppers were planted in the same sized pots in the same mix and all stayed together on one heated table. The variety called Lipstick (Johnny’s Seeds) was the one that went awry and I ended up tossing pretty much the whole planting (about 50 plants). I’ve looked it up since and can’t quite figure out what went wrong. It won’t be a variety I’ll grow again and I would love to hear if anyone else has had that experience with it.

Some more exciting stuff happening in the ‘hood: a Community Shared Fisheries project is starting here in Southeast NB. There is already one in NS called Off the Hook which shares haddock, hake and cod with their members and they seem to be doing quite well. The one they are starting here in NB will start this year with just lobster with plans to expand to other shellfish and fin fish in years to come. We plan to share a share with my parents this first year: 10 lbs of lobster a week for six weeks. Yes, you heard right: 10 LBS of LOBSTER!!! – yum!They will arrive live so we will have to learn how to cook them and we will also have to freeze some of it for our winter enjoyment. A small group of us are also planning to buy some fish shares with Off the Hook and hoping to pick up just over the border in Amherst, NS until the NB group gets going. So many exciting things happening!

Finally, I managed to bottle my elderberry wine yesterday. It was a cold, wet, stormy day suitable for hiding indoors, reading and drinking tea. Well, the time had truly come to bottle that wine. It had sat in carboys for 8 months and, though it was much sweeter than I’d planned, it was either bottle it or toss it. It is actually very tasty, just not the dry red wine I’d aimed for. I think it should be consumed as an aperitif or digestif, perhaps over ice with a squeeze of lemon. We’ll figure out something to do with it! I have a homemade wine making mentor now, Ruth-anne is a long time CSA member who makes amazing fruit and berry wines. This year I am planning a rhubarb wine. Rhubarb makes great wine and I’ve had some that tastes just like a dry white grape wine. I plan to take some time today to chop up yesterday’s market returns to put in the freezer until wine-making time rolls around. It may not be till October but it will keep till then!