This is probably my final blog post on this website. We are launching a new website for 2016! It will give us better functionality for both our customers and for us with our online store and other aspects of the site. We also hope it will give a better experience on smart phones and portable devices.
There will be new features and a different layout. One of these is a greatly expanded and improved recipe section.
Unfortunately your customer account will not transfer over to the new site so you will need to resubmit your address and log in information. This old site will stay up for some time to come with a link to it from our new website.
Our Tomatoes have just really started to ripen up in larger numbers and the crop is looking good. The ripening is slower than last year, but the plants look better and the crop is heavier. We have had lots of requests for processing tomatoes which we have been unable to fill, but looks like we will have extra coming up. We'll let you know when we have extra tomatoes available.
Our melons are now starting to be ready for harvest This is the latest they've been for the last four years but they are delicious and a real treat all the same. We are hoping there will be enough for boxes this week. The cantaloupe and the honeydew melons are the first ones with yellow watermelon next followed by the red watermelon. Now a little warm weather would really help us all enjoy the melons...
As we look toward the fall and winter, we are going to try to do a better job with our salad mix and spinach. Spinach in particular is very hardy, but it can be difficult to grow so we have decided to grow it mostly as transplants. It is more expensive to grow this way, but also much more reliable. The photo to the left shows the transplants growing in the greenhouse.
We have had a very difficult season in some of our more poorly drained fields high up on the farm due to the exceptionally wet summer we have had. As a result, we have looked for other fields nearby that are better drained. Gratefully there is land not far from here that has not been used for many years and the owners are pleased we can put the land to use without putting chemicals on it. This land should help us grow better vegetables and free up some of the land on our farm for hay and pasture for the cows.
We do not have enough of our own hay for our animals this winter. We think this is due to the wet weather and the fact that our hay fields are still recovering from past use in a conventional agriculture system. It takes time for the soil biology to recover and the organic matter to develop again to where a field is not dependent on chemical fertilizers to produce a crop.
Because our animals are certified organic, we cannot just buy hay from anywhere around and finding certified organic hay has been very difficult. In the end we were faced with a problem. On the one hand if we use local hay we lose organic status on our cattle meaning it will be about two years before we can have organic animals again. On the other hand, buying organic hay will cost us about $45 per round bale including trucking cost. We ended up going with the $45 hay in order to keep our organic status, but it is putting quite a pinch in our budget - an expense we did not need this year. The good news is that we have been able to find local fields that we can utilize for hay next year if we again find ourselves short.
We are having our yearly organic inspection tomorrow. This is a very rigorous cross-examination to make sure we are growing all our crops and livestock according to the Canadian Organic Standards. I'd better get a good rest tonight so I'm bright and ready to go tomorrow....
Has been a busy week and a wet one too. I've never had such an appreciation for soil quality and soil types as I have this year. We have all types here on the farm and the well drained soils with good structure have grown good crops even with all the rain. The heavier clay soils have done poorly. We are grateful for the fact that we have several acres of nice well drained soil.
The picture above is the view from our bedroom window - our sweet corn patch for the year. There are three different maturity dates of corn planted here so we hope to have corn for three weeks starting the end of this week or early next week. Every plant was hand seeded in the greenhouse, handled again at transplanting, carefully cultivated for weeds, and then fenced to keep the raccoons out. We can expect to get one ear of corn per plant on about 80% of the plants, Sweet corn is probably our most popular crop but also our least profitable. Most organic growers don't even bother to grow it because it is too difficult and doesn't pay well. Conventional growers use fungicides on the seed at seeding, weed killers to control weeds, and then lots of insecticide to keep the worms out. If people only understood what went into good organic corn, they'd gladly pay $1.50 per ear but the reality is that most people just think in terms of the cost per dozen...
I mentioned last week that the deer were getting into our sweet potatoes. Well the good news is that after a spray of very bad smelling fish (Elton did the spraying with a minimum of complaining :-) and a fence put up on Friday, I cannot find any more deer damage. I'm hopeful that they will find food elsewhere until our crops are out of the ground in September.
I pulled a couple sweet potato plants to see how they are coming and as you can see the roots are forming! This crop is one of my favourites.
Fennel is looking great too. It likes a lot of water and fertility so I think we'll have a good crop. We find that it does well on the biodegradeable mulch you see pictured here. By the end of the season the mulch breaks down and becomes part of the soil so we don't have to pull it up and take it to the landfill.
We separated a hive of bees last week to make another hive. Bees are key to pollination on the farm so it is very rewarding to find them all over in the flowers doing their job.
Here is the view from the fence this morning. The cows have a large sparsely wooded section to feed from. Our cows are quite spoiled and don't like it so much, but there is a lot of good food there where they help to keep the brambles down and build the land.
I took this final picture up on the hill with Maggie in the foreground to show the water pouring off everywhere. Looking forward to a few sunny days.
When we opened our roadside stand last year, we quickly learned that we could not be called "Strawberry Hill Farm" and not have strawberries... People just expected us to have them. I went to a local grower and picked about 100 quarts on Saturday morning a year ago and these were sold at our stand and went in our first boxes.
When we saw ours were not doing well this year we planned to do this again but the crop here in NB is slower this year. Our boxes were going to be a bit small this week without them so after some agonizing over what to do, I called good friends of ours who own Tap Root Farms in Nova Scotia and do a box program too. Josh was able to find a local grower who had berries ready and someone else with a truck headed to Toronto. The long and short of it is that we now have strawberries for the boxes and for the stand! They are not organic but they are fresh having arrived here the day after picking.
We plan to start picking locally on Wednesday for the Thursday boxes and for late week sales at the stand as well as for the O'Toole's Grafton market on Saturday.
Organic strawberries are difficult to grow - some say impossible in our area. We made the decision that we would grow everything on the farm organicly so the challenge is on! The strawberries we planted last year failed but we have learned a lot and are trying again this year trying several different methods of production. In the mean time we try to find berries that are as spray free as we can to keep up with the expectations of our customers.
Boxes start this week. There is a great line up of greens in the first boxes. This is the first year we've grown Rapini or Broccoli Raab. This variety is leafy and tastes great.
It has been a busy couple of weeks on the farm. The water has been a real challenge to the point that this year will go down in the history books as being the slowest year in history for getting potatoes in the ground in Carleton County. Some fields may never get planted. Although we grow many crops, we are still faced with fields so wet we have not been able to get a tractor on them since early April. Our last seeding of sweet corn has not gone in the ground and if we can't seed it by the end of the week, we'll have to skip it because there won't be time for it to ripen.
On the brighter side, all our calves have been born and the cows are doing really well again. The calves are really cute and fun to watch. This year we have 4 grey heifers and one dark brown steer.
A little over a week ago we picked up 5 piglets that we contracted with a farmer to raise specially for us using our organic grain. Here they are loving their slops! They've gotten a little sunburned in the pasture but love the cool shade under the old hay wagon. Who would have thought that pigs will get a tan!
The wet weather has made weeding a challenge but we managed to get some weeding done last week and hope to do more later this week if it dries up. Elton (on weeder) and the son of a box customer (Jacob on the tractor) are weeding the strawberries we planted a couple weeks ago.