The time has come for sweet corn! The warm weather has meant that the sweet corn has done well this year. Unfortunately so have the worms... We are checking all the ears ahead of putting them into the boxes so that hopefully you will not find any in the corn. Organic treatments for the corn ear worm are very limited. We have tried a new approach on next week's batch of corn and hope it will be better.
The ears coming this first week are larger than they might at first appear and have lots of delicious sweet kernels. We expect to have the bi-color corn for next week's boxes.
I have to go Truro, NS tomorrow to meet Minister Jerry Ritz, the federal agriculture minister and say a few words on behalf of the organic farmers, producers, processors, and retailers in Canada. I'm leaving box packing in good hands with Nollie, but it does take considerable effort to be gone even just one day in the busy summer season.
I took this photo to show how effective flame weeding can be if we get the timing right. There is a row of newly germinated carrots across the center of this picture. These are our snack carrots for winter. A few days after seeding and the night before the carrots came up, I ran a torch flame over the row to burn the weeds. As you can see, the carrots came up the next day and there are no weeds in the row. The weeds to the top and bottom of the picture are far enough away from the carrot seedlings that we can easily cultivate them out with a wheel hoe. There is a lot about organic farming that requires knowledge and skill and we pay for it dearly on our hands and knees if we get it wrong....
As I'm sure many of you know, Monarch butterflies are very special. They overwinter in Mexico and then over several generations work their way up the continent until fall when about four generations later they return to the place of their ancestors in the Mexican forest. Unfortunately their numbers have declined rapidly in the last few years to where they have almost been wiped out. It is believed that this is largely due to the loss of their primary food which is the milkweed. This plant is a considered weed in most fields and is routinely killed with pesticides. We do not use pesticides to kill weeds and when we are hand weeding, if we find evidence of the butterfly or it's larva, we make sure to leave them plenty for them to eat.
When we weeded our sweet potatoes we looked for the young caterpillars and did find a couple. Later I was excited to see this butterfly which certainly looks like a monarch to me but I've sent the picture off to see if someone can confirm it. Perhaps the numbers of Monarchs will bounce back if we all do our part.
Our melons have done very well this year and are early so we can send them in the boxes already. We have three types that will be coming in boxes this week. For the most part Cantaloupe will be going in the full boxes because it is the larger melon.
The half boxes will get one of either of two kinds of melons. The one pictured here to the right is an Asian melon called Sun Jewel. It tastes a bit like a pear and has a similar consistency. The flesh is firm so we suggest you peel it and then cut it up into cubes prior to eating.
The other melon that is ready is a honey dew type with crisp orange flesh. It is deliciously sweet and we also recommend you cut it into cubes prior to eating. It is a bit too crisp to spoon out like a cantaloupe.
Our blueberries are still young so we are sourcing spray free blueberries from two local farms so that you can enjoy some. This will probably be the only week we send blueberries in the boxes. We have a few raspberries left which we hope to sell at our stand and from the bus.
We plan to have sweet corn at our stand this week and in boxes next week if all goes well.
Last week I mentioned that we have had trouble finding good help but I also wanted to say that we have found a few who are doing very well - we just need more like them. We appreciate their hard work and willingness to work in the hot sun. We have tractor cultivation equipment, but some jobs are still faster and done better with hand tools such as this wheel hoe.
Here is a picture of last night's supper. Kirsten always amazes me at what she can create with vegetables. The main dish was pork chops with Swiss Chard over rice. The side is broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. She's been asked if she ever thought of making a cook book. If she ever has time I'm sure it would be a good one!
Our weekly boxes are full now with a great selection of veggies. Surveys conducted in the past have shown that our customers wanted more broccoli, cauliflower, and peas. So far we have been able to send more of these three items then we ever have before. Hopefully all our customer are enjoying these.
Feel free to pass the word around that there are a few more box openings if you know of anyone else interested in getting a weekly box.
It looks like broccoli will last for another couple of weeks then there will be a break from it until the fall. Cauliflower should last a little longer before it takes a break till fall.
The sweet corn is about a week from being ready to pick and the melons are about a week away as well. Both crops have done well so we are looking forward to enjoying them and sharing them with all our customers.
Early carrots have not been so great because we had issues with lots of weeds. We are able to send some this week but we probably won't be able to send them every week as we have in the past.
Looking farther out, the squash is doing really well and so is the fall/winter cabbage. Here is a photo from last week looking out over the squash patch. We used to use transplants for squash but more recently we have changed to seeding directly in the ground and this is working well for us. The wind destroyed our protective cover, but the crop was large enough by then that it has done just fine.
Squash, melons, cucumbers, and other similar crops rely entirely on bees for pollination. We watch the bees closely to make sure pollination is happening as it should. Here is a bumble bee coming out of a beautiful squash flower.
Here are a few pictures taken from meals we have had over the past few days.
We had kabobs at Bruce's birthday party Saturday night. We could use a little practice getting everything cooked just right, but it was fun and looks really nice.
Kirsten put this veggie platter together for the party too. The white wedges on the left are the purple skinned kohlrabi which we plan to send in this week's boxes.
Kirsten made this delicious stir fry with peas, tomatoes, summer squash, and cabbage and served it on rice along with our smoked ham.
We are seeing some amazing summer growth. We the best cabbage we have ever had and lots of it too. We also have some very interesting new varieties of fall and winter cabbage including savoy cabbage and a variety from Romania called Varsa Rosie.
We have a huge number of summer squash, Zucchini and cucumbers plus lots of broccoli and cauliflower. The plants are back on their feet after Arthur and they are trying to make up for lost time!
We also have a great bean crop and are just finishing up picking the peas. We tried shell peas for the first time this year and have borrowed a pea sheller. We are hoping to send shelled peas in your boxes this week and would love to hear what you think of them.
We now have a good supply of whole chicken. Many of the birds are smaller this time but we are raising some to a larger size for later in the season for those who like the large family size birds.
Our biggest challenge this year has been finding good reliable help. Our foreman for the last 5 years was unable to return due to health issues. We had lots of applications but few Canadians seem ready to work all day in the hot summer sun nor do Canadians have a general knowledge of growing and harvesting vegetables. Every year we turn down offers from Jamaicans and Filipinos who want to work for us so that we can support the local people but we are having second thoughts for the future. We have started to offer piece work for some crops which works better for us but the picker has to be pretty good to make much money at it.
There has been a lot of negative press about the foreign worker program in Canada, but I'm beginning to see why so many farmers rely on the system.
We have new arrivals on the farm - 23 baby pigs! They really love their new home and are doing great. Of all our animals pigs seem to have the most personality. We provided organic grain to another farmer and committed to take two litters worth of piglets. Last year we committed to one sow's litter and ended up with 5 pigs. This year we ended up with 23 from two sows!
Our broiler chickens are going to be processed this week so we should have chicken available again this weekend and next week for Add Ons for those picking up from the bus. We are raising a lot more chickens this year so we hope to be able to have a supply year round.
In vegetable news, our melons are coming along really well. We hope to have our first melons ready during the first week of August if this hot weather keeps up. This field was quite well sheltered from the stormy winds so the crop was not set back much. Pollination is not as good as I'd like, so I've asked my brother to move one of the bee hives there. Bees are critical to getting good pollination for melons, squash, and cucumbers.
The silks on our early sweet corn came out over the weekend which puts us about 18-21 days from harvest. Again, if the warm weather keeps up we could have sweet corn as early as August 1 - probably the earliest sweet corn we've ever had. Crop looks really good too! Now we just have to keep the worms out, the birds away, and the raccoons out so that we can enjoy it. Sweet corn is probably our #1 item in the boxes but it is also #1 on the menu for quite a few other critters....
We have an abundance of Chinese cabbage so I asked Kirsten to make it for supper tonight so that we can share a recipe. You can use it raw to make salads if you wish. Just go to allrecipes.com and search for Chinese Cabbage and you will find some very interesting recipes.
Here is the cooked recipe Kirsten made for supper which was really tasty. We finished the pot down to the last!
1/2 head Chinese (nappa) cabbage, sliced across leaves
4 small Tomatoes
1/2 - 3/4 lb Smoked Polish sausage (Strawberry Hill Farm)
1 tsp Greek seasoning or similar
1/2 tsp Seasoned salt
Splash Balsamic or red wine vinegar
Pour a little oil in the bottom of a pot. Add Chinese cabbage, cover pot and heat on medium until cabbage starts to soften. Add remaining ingredients and continue cooking until cabbage is tender and meat is heated through.
Serve alone or over rice or pasta.
We had a request from a customer who was looking for zucchini blossoms to fry with anchovies. We love to hear how our customers are enjoying the produce and if there is something unusual you'd like to try, we will do our best to help you out. It was my first time selling Zucchini blossoms so it was fun to see how they turned out.