I had the privilege of going to St. John's last week and being a guest speaker at their organic opportunities conference. Transportation is a huge factor for them where almost everything comes across the ferry. The low Canadian dollar is another factor that is raising the price of our food. In both Newfoundland and New Brunswick, we import over 80% of our food but it does not have to be this way. Local and organic is in a position to be able to help supply the need and increase our food security all the way around. It was inspiring to see the optimism and energy with so many possibilities even in the North.
We harvested the last of our winter kale this week. We have never harvested kale this late before and while it does show a few signs of the cold, the quality is still good and we think you will find it delicious.
I'm often asked (by non-farmers) what we do this time of the year. Not only are we still shipping lots of vegetables, it is also the time of year when you try to get to everything that you have not been able to do the rest of the year. For us, in addition to shipping, this includes updating our website, setting prices for 2016, ordering seeds, maintenance and repair, finishing up our 2015 accounting, T4s for last year's employees, planning for 2016, and much more. This is not to mention that everything just takes longer in the cold.
Last night the cows managed to pull apart a water line in the barn and a section froze solid. Today I have to thaw lines and replace the frozen section. Our new hen chicks arrived last week for our summer flock. We start a new batch each winter at this time so that they start laying in June just in time for our first summer box delivery. Keeping them warm in January is a challenge, but they are in a loft in our hen pen which makes it possible to keep them warm enough. The body heat from the hens keeps the room from getting too cold then heat lights in the loft give the chicks the 34 degrees C they need as chicks.
We are planning for our 2016 season and I hope to give more details in the next update. It is our intention to try not to raise 2016 prices by much. By signing up and paying for your veggies ahead, you will be able to lock in at a good price and not have to worry about how the exchange rate will affect the price of your food.
I'm working on a significant website upgrade to allow better integration with phones and handheld devices, content that is easier to navigate, and a better online store experience. It will also be set up better on the accounting side and in the back end to reduce time for us and provide better and more accurate information. It is our plan to have this up and ready by mid-February so everyone use the new website when signing up for our spring and summer boxes. As you can see, we there is still lots to do in winter!
This is the first week of winter boxes! We have a lot of nice veggies in storage and they are storing well. We look forward to a great set of boxes this winter.
Last week was a welcome break after 20 weeks of doing boxes every week, but it was also a busy week. We recovered our greenhouse, harvested the rest of our carrots, leeks, parsnips, and cabbage, and got the chickens set back in the barn for the winter. It is hard to believe that we already had to recover the greenhouse! Where has the time gone? It was not long ago we were putting it up for the first time in anticipation of our first season on the farm.
Here is the greenhouse all covered for winter. We were able to do a better job this time and I hope it will mean lower heat costs this winter.
Another thing on the job list was to put the strawberries to bed for the winter. I also planted some strawberries into peat filled bags to start experiments with early spring berries. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could have juicy ripe Strawberries in April? The plants have done well this fall and we are excited to see how they perform next spring. If they continue as expected, we should have lots of berries!
We have come to the last week of our summer/fall season. There are still a few crops that need to be harvested but over all we are in the best position we have been so far since owning the farm. It looks like almost everything will be harvested by the end of next week except greenhouse crops and kale and possibly some Brussels sprouts.
Our Jamaican hands will be heading home in a little over a week. They have a difficult time with the cold but unlike us, they can head home and enjoy a warm winter down south! Don't you think we need to give them a little taste of winter so they know how fortunate they are all winter? They are hoping to witness some real snow before they leave. We on the other hand are not quite so keen on it....
On the topic of snow though, this time last year we were buried in about a foot of snow. A little rainy weather is certainly much better than snow when it comes to harvesting crops!
We would like to extend a big Thank you to all this year's summer/fall box customers! We have filled more weekly boxes than ever and have had lots of support with so many great comments. All of this has been possible because there are so many of you who want to eat well and support local farms and who are willing to cook. We understand that it takes real commitment to keep up with cooking the weekly flow of vegetables. I hope this has paid off for you and your families and been worth the effort. We certainly appreciate every single customer who has made this season possible and also those who are making the commitment through the winter.
Our winter program is now about 85% sold and starts in just over two weeks. If anyone would still like to get in on winter boxes, I'd suggest you sign up soon before we sell out. In spite of increasing our program we sold out of summer boxes before the start of the season and it looks like it may happen with our winter boxes too.
We are thankful for the good harvest this fall, the weather to harvest it, strong help to bring it in, and a very nice place to store it. Onions, Sweet Potatoes, Squash, and potatoes are in storage now with lots more crops still to come. Today we harvested some really nice leeks as you can see in this picture. We also harvested some of our best ever Fennel bulbs.
Here we are harvesting potatoes. Our harvesting methods are old fashioned (the digger is over 50 years old) but it provides jobs for people who really appreciate the work. We might get a medium sized harvester some day, but it is not worth a large modern unit for the small amount we grow.
I seeded the winter's salad mix on Saturday inside our greenhouse. After the tomato crop is finished, we seed salad mix and transplant spinach so that our box customers can enjoy fresh greens all winter long. There is a lot to learn with winter growing. In some ways it is like learning to farm all over again. How much is heat is enough while still being cost effective? When is the best time to end the tomatoes so we can still have a winter crop of greens? How much water does it take and how cold can we let it get without crop injury? Is it better to heat when it is mild out or when it is cold and sunny? If it is warm in the day and cold at night, do the plants still grow well? We have learned a lot over the past 4 winters but there is still so much to learn.
The strawberries are growing well in the mild fall weather. Weeding and mulching will help to ensure a good crop next spring. Making Organic Strawberries pay has continued to be one of our biggest challenges, but this crop is our best looking yet and we are experimenting with several different things so we can learn as much as possible toward next year.
I don't usually post personal pictures on the blog, but many of you have expressed concern over how much we work. While it doesn't happen very often, we were able to get away last weekend. Nollie looked after the animal for us so we could take Bruce and spend a couple days at the Bay of Fundy! As much as we like farming, we appreciate the chance to get away from the 24/7 demands once in a while.
We finished harvesting the squash last week and moved right into the sweet potato harvest. This is by far the nicest and the largest crop of sweet potatoes we have ever grown. I was worried that the dry weather had slowed them down but the warm days in September clearly had a very good effect. From test plants I dug it looks like the roots more than doubled in size during the first 3 weeks of the month!
We have harvested about 12,000 pounds with still another 1/4 to 1/3 of the patch to go.
More chicken went to the processor today and much of it has been cut up so we can offer the various parts along with the whole birds. We are having more birds cut up this year so hope to keep up with the demand for cut up chicken a little better.
The pigs continue to do well and enjoy their veggies too. When we have zucchini or summer squash that gets too big or broccoli that gets a bit yellow, the pigs are the perfect solution. They love to eat them and it means less grain so helps to reduce the cost to feed them. We have given a couple school tours this week with one more to go and the pigs certainly have been the highlight!