Archive for August, 2013

Seasonal update

August 25, 2013
Will's bees are doing well

Will’s bees are doing well

Cherry tomatoes and peppers drinking in the sunshine

Cherry tomatoes and peppers drinking in the sunshine

A look at the fields about 3 weeks ago

A look at the fields about 3 weeks ago

It looks like we'll have amazing onions again this year

It looks like we’ll have amazing onions again this year

Our tomatoes are doing beautifully and we are hoping for a mild fall so they all get harvested before the frost

Our tomatoes are doing beautifully and we are hoping for a mild fall so they all get harvested before the frost


Post from July 14

August 11, 2013

It is a very warm 31.8 degrees Celsius out there today and I am in a relatively cool (by at least 5 degrees) kitchen making cheese. It seemed like a good day for this sort of activity and with the fridge filling up with milk every 3 days, necessary, too. Yes, the goats are milking very well. We have the boy kids in a separate area and all but one girl kid sold so I milk 4 goats twice daily and one once giving us about 3 gallons of milk/day! Today I’m making Lancashire, an fairly easy cheese that doesn’t have to age too terribly long and has always turned out really well. It never looks great from the outside – mainly because the curds don’t knit very well together so it looks rough and lumpy and without wax on the outside, covered in mould. Once you get past the less than savoury exterior, though, it is always smooth and even and tasty inside. I also have three gouda cheeses in the aging fridge, lots of feta in buckets and an accumulation of chevre in the freezer. This milk supply is truly testing my endurance and creativity as a cheese-maker!

We have been super busy with the veggie part of the farm this past month. It seems like we still haven’t managed to get caught up after a cold, wet spring and are still scrambling to get transplants into the ground and stay on top of weeds and pests. We are very lucky to have lots of help this year and we certainly are making good use of it! We have people working in exchange for veggies and other farm produce and Gemael (our apprentice)’s partner, Kevin, in exchange for room and board. Will and I are working 16 hour days 7 days/week to try and stay on top of everything. We are growing about 20% more land than last year, plus the orchard, and it was an amazing year for strawberries (we got to harvest from 1500 plants) so I guess we can’t blame the late spring for all our challenges!

Potato beetles seemed to have started earlier this year than last and we are having a hard time staying on top of them. We haven’t harvested any potatoes yet, except a few plants to measure yield, and we are wondering how much longer we can afford to spend squishing larvae to save the plants. Next year we plan to plant half this many potatoes, hopefully getting a higher yield/plant with less work. We will be planting sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) this fall to give us an alternative to potatoes for next year’s CSA. As far as I know they don’t have any big pests or diseases so they just may be an all-round better starch-source for all of us.

We did a really good job of controlling early cucumber beetles by covering all our cucurbits with either netting or floating row cover. The squash, cucumbers and zucchini look great (we removed the cover a few weeks ago to allow for pollination) though the beetles seem to be focusing their ire on the melons. We are still trying to get out first thing in the morning to squish the little buggers before they get too active. I wonder if we are unintentionally selecting for a strong race of early-rising cucumber beetles? Flea beetle were a real problem this year, too, long after they are usually finished their first flush. We ended up covering the infested beds of brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli while they were infested. It seemed crazy but we didn’t know what else to do and the plants were really suffering. Well, it seems to have worked and the plants flourished under the row cover. A secondary benefit was that the cabbage butterfly missed out on laying its eggs on these plants so there is one less Bt spray to do. We removed all the covers this morning and now have a big weeding job ahead. It’s okay, though, we aren’t too badly behind in that department.

The tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the high tunnels are doing well though I’ve removed two tomato plants with what looks like blight. I really hope we don’t see any more of that because it is quite a devastating disease. It is strange to get blight under a cover because it usually occurs in plants that stay wet for a period of time. The fungus must have settled in during the wet, cold weather we had in June and is just starting to show up now. We have a lot of tomato plants in the ground so can afford to lose a few, but we’d rather we didn’t lose too many! One of our pepper varieties, Carmen, is covered in large, green peppers. We are growing this variety to try and get red peppers – a bit of a feat in our short growing season. Given the stage of development now, though, I’d say we should pick a few nice red peppers this year.

We once again have bees on the farm and this time, they seem to be doing really well. Will got a colony from a better source and it is strong enough that he was able to split it and make two. The queen should be ready to start laying eggs by now so hopefully it will have enough time to build up babies and honey for the long winter ahead. The first colony is putting so much honey away, Will added another box on top. It looks like they are feasting on the clover we planted last year in the goat pasture, but I am seeing bees all over the farm now: in the valerian flowers, cucurbits, linden tree, rose bushes and in other wild flowers. It is great having bees on the farm and we may even eat a bit of honey from our own bees! Will has two great bee mentors living nearby and is getting lots of advice and help and is, himself, gaining in knowledge, experience and confidence. The hives are in the orchard now and this seems a good place for them.

The new orchard is doing well though it seems like some of the trees aren’t doing a lot of growing. I’m hoping they are putting their energies into growing roots and we’ll see more leaves and branches next year. Some of the trees and grape vines appear dead and we contacted The Green Barn Nursery in hopes of getting some replacements. Most, however, are doing really well though it is quite the challenge keeping the grass under control in that area. I think next year we should get some weeder geese. The literature says you only need 4 geese/acre to control grass and the young geese are best at this. We could get goslings and raise them to go outside when the grass starts growing or buy more mature geese at that time and then plan to have goose for Thanksgiving, Christmas and a few other dinners throughout the year. It sounds much better than fueling a smelly old lawn tractor!

We have a few new chicks around the place. A broody hen was put to use sitting on eggs and she managed to hatch 8 new babies. Three are all black and the rest yellow or yellow with black spots (the rooster is a Black Astrolorp). We are keeping them in the barn with mama hen for now and they’ll go outside once they get their feathers and a bit more size to them. We’ll be doing in our layers this fall to fill the freezer and will keep this lot over winter along with the rooster and the one Austrolorp hen. By spring we’ll know which are boys and which are girls and they’ll either be starting to lay or else going into the freezer. We’re not raising any meat kings this year so our chicken will be the stewing kind. I actually much prefer this sort of chicken – they are tastier and somehow more real than the rapidly growing Cornish cross meat birds.