Archive for October, 2014

Fall Pics

October 13, 2014
Sarah's birthday back in August. I couldn't resist a picture of the cake: a Pavlova with some local berries and flower garnish

Sarah’s birthday back in August. I couldn’t resist a picture of the cake: a Pavlova with some local berries and flower garnish

Sarah's partner, Derek, has been harvesting wild mushrooms for our eating pleasure: chanterelles and black trumpet and something we though might be pine mushrooms but have since discarded!

Sarah’s partner, Derek, has been harvesting wild mushrooms for our eating pleasure: chanterelles and black trumpet and something we though might be pine mushrooms but have since discarded!

Coin Bio's market stall in September

Coin Bio’s market stall in September

Beautiful fresh ginger from our farm

Beautiful fresh ginger from our farm

Sweet potatoes in their curing chamber

Sweet potatoes in their curing chamber

This year's breeding buck: one of our own boys

This year’s breeding buck: one of our own boys

Our Fall

October 13, 2014

Back again and what a couple of months it’s been! It’s Thanksgiving Monday today as well as my dad’s 80th birthday. We are meeting my parents for dinner at their house tonight, Will’s second big turkey dinner and my third! I have absolutely no problem whatsoever eating many consecutive large turkey-based meals at this time of the year. We must celebrate the season’s bounty and what better way than with lots and lots of good, wholesome food? Last night’s dinner was at a neighbour’s place and consisted of all his own produce: turkey from his yard and veg from the garden. He is a bee-keeper as well and has been Will’s mentor for a few years now. His son is also working at our farm a couple of hours/week as part of a high school co-op program. Grade 12 students get credits for doing practical work in their area of interest – a great program and something they didn’t have when I was at school. Max is a keen farmer-wannabe who takes on any task with skill and a good attitude and asks lots of questions. He holds the record for being the faster learner goat-milker ever: milking out a whole goat on his third try!

The end of our season is within sight and there are only 4 weeks of CSA and market left. We still have lots of goodies in the field though I am starting to tighten up what we send to market as I do inventories and plan for the last 4 weeks of CSA. Sarah has done a fabulous job in her section, as well, and we just may need to purchase a few of her veggies! She has been sending stuff to market, filling in produce gaps, for a few weeks now and last Saturday set an all-time broccoli sales record of over 50 lbs! Her broccoli was indeed the finest I’ve ever seen come off this farm and I think I’ll need to get some pointers from her. She has lots of storage veg so if she wants, she’ll be able to continue selling at the Coin Bio/Organic Corner stall for a little longer. We get to move inside the market next Saturday and the timing is great: cooler temperatures keep the customers indoors, too, and our diminishing supply of veg will look more impressive in the smaller space. The market season isn’t over yet but we’ve already surpassed our sales goal for 2014 and we have actually more than quadrupled our sales since the first year we started, 4 years ago. I feel like we’ve done a really good job as farmers but I also think we got lucky with the timing of our arrival in NB, encountering a population with solid support for local food plus a growing interest in organics. It’s quite amazing that in a city as small as Greater Moncton (pop. just under 140,000), with two markets, 4 medium-large organic veggie producers can do REALLY well at one farmer’s market. Yay Southeastern NB!

The big news of this fall, though, has been Will’s accident. Just over two weeks ago Will fell through the hayloft door into the goat pen below. He knocked himself unconscious, broke almost every rib on his left side, his collarbone and cracked a few vertebrae. We were all nearby, involved in harvesting or loading hay on the elevator, and were able to get help immediately. I rode in the ambulance and left the crew to finish the day’s work (including goat chores) and Will ended up staying 4 days in hospital. They x-rayed his ribs every day to monitor their healing and made sure his lungs were working okay before sending him home, armed with heavy-duty pain meds. He stayed with my parents for the first week back, mainly because he needed more care than I could give. He was up and about fairly quickly, though, and has been doing farm stuff for the past week. He does mainly computer jobs but has also been working on some construction and a few other gentle jobs. Though there’s never a good time for a farm accident, the timing of this one wasn’t bad at all. Happening towards the end of the season meant that our crew was well trained and organized and available for the extra hours we needed to make up for Will’s absence. We also are lucky to have a wonderful community of friends and family who all kicked in to help out during those first few weeks. We had a work party one day to help finish up the pumphouse, our big project of the season, as well as lots of hands to help with field work. Friends brought us food, cleaned our house from top to bottom (VERY low on the priority list for me!) and gave lots of moral support. Will received lots of visitors and lots of chocolate while in the hospital and is still getting cards from CSA members. Teri and Jon came out from NS and spent three days working on the farm. Jon is a carpenter so we were able to give him projects to do and just let him go to it. Teri took on harvesting duties and helped me with some food processing, too. At one point we were asked if we had insurance for this sort of event and we don’t. If we had, what good would money have been? I guess we could have paid off our CSA members for the veggies we didn’t send and let it all rot in the fields. Instead, we had people come to help us and enable us to continue our business, harvesting the veggies and distributing to the community. To me, this is the best sort of insurance to have and the cost of it is the pure pleasure of interacting with all these great people on a regular basis.

Some of our new crops this year included sunchokes, sweet potatoes, ginger and eggplant. We will definitely grow eggplant again though it will be inside a screened coldframe. The potato bugs were too much to manage and I think it will be easy to screen them out. The sunchokes are super easy to grow but not big sellers at the market. Hopefully we’ll be slowly building up interest and will sell more in years to come. I’ll keep some of the sunchokes in the ground for an early spring harvest and plant a much smaller area of them for next year. The sweet potatoes were a real hit. We grew Georgia Jet, the shortest season variety out there but one that is quite prone to cracking. They did indeed crack but we still managed to harvest enough good ones to send out to members, plus quite a lot to go to market, too. We were the only ones with organic sweet potatoes and they sold like hotcakes. The trick with them is to keep them from getting too cold as they develop chilling injury and are rendered inedible. We harvested on warm days and stored them in a heated semi-cooler. I am also trying to cure some in the coldframe we use for propagation: they are on heated tables under a plastic cover with a pan of water for moisture. They seem to be doing well though the temperature has been fluctuating more than I’d like. I would like to grow the same number of plants next year but try a different variety: Covington. It is also short season though not as short as Georgia Jet, and is meant to be a better commercial variety. Given that the sweet potatoes went in late and it wasn’t a particularly warm summer, I think we can handle Covington’s slightly longer season demands.

Finally, the ginger. We did indeed grow some ginger: our 5 lbs of seed yielded 7 lbs of fresh ginger. The harvest was stunningly beautiful and very tasty but there wasn’t enough to share with CSA members. I had a lot of fun with it, though, and have made pickled ginger, powdered dry ginger and candied ginger to date. There is also lots in the freezer, probably a multi-year supply! The thing about ginger is that your parent stock is not lost in the growing process, for example like potatoes. So once the ginger is harvested, the ginger that was planted to yield the harvest is still edible. I started with 5 lbs and ended up, after trimming, with something like 10 lbs. Lots of ginger! I don’t think I’ll grow it next year but will probably do so in another year or two in the future. It is a fun crop and needed next to no care at all once it was planted in the ground. I would be inclined to start sprouting it in mid April, rather than mid March as the early sprouts got too big and fell off once planted outside. I would also plant the rhizomes into individual pots rather than an open tray, to avoid disturbance of the roots when transplanting. Other than that, everything else seemed to work just fine.

It is goat breeding season now and the buck is out there, wooing the ladies. Ruby is retired now and will get to be an unencumbered boss for as long as she can. We’ll be milking only 4 goats next year, which will be a bit easier than this year’s goat milk challenge. The girls are on once/day milking and I’m really enjoying the slower cheese-making pace. Of course we’ll really miss the milk when they’re dry but we have friends with cows to keep us in high quality milk for the winter.

My other big news is that I have a trip planned for this winter: I bought a ticket to Hawaii for a three week stay in December! I haven’t been anywhere interesting for quite a while and when an old high school friend told me she was going to Hawaii for a few weeks, I got a little flicker of inspiration. I checked the internet and found an incredible seat deal that was way too good to pass up. So after clearing it with Will, I leaped into action and am booked to travel on Dec. 4. I’ve joined WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) Hawaii and am looking through farm profiles to try and find a place that will take me for two weeks. I would love to work on a farm that grows something we don’t: coffee, macadamia nuts, tropical fruit – yum! I am excited to meet some farmers and learn a bit about life in rural Hawaii and growing food in the tropics. I am also excited about three weeks of warm weather (I love winter here but it is awfully long!) and spending a bit of time with my friend, Anne, in Honolulu. There’s lots to do before I leave, though, but once the CSA is done I can focus on trip preparations. The timing is also exciting for me as I get to spend my 50th birthday in Hawaii. It is a bit of a milestone birthday and it will be fun to have it all to myself in a different place. I will take lots of pictures and do a big blog posting once I get back which hopefully won’t cause too much jealousy!