This week is the last delivery week for 2014. Our next boxes will be coming January 8 & 9. We are learning more each year about growing winter greens in the greenhouse and coldframes. Spinach is looking great - I just wish we had more of it. This year's spinach was started as transplants and is growing on clear plastic mulch to help hold heat in the soil and get the most from every bit of heat and light in the winter.
Salad mix is doing well too. We have a wood stove in the greenhouse which we run when the outside temperature is mild. It costs much less to keep the greenhouse at 10 when it is 0 out then it would cost to keep it at 10 when it is -25. When it is really cold outside, we cover the plants in the greenhouse with insulating blankets and just heat enough to keep the greenhouse above -15 Celsius. This way we can have hardy winter greens all season for a reasonable cost.
The last of our pigs have gone to the butcher except for 2. The pigs did really well for us again this year and Kirsten's sausage recipes have proven to be popular. We now have 3 stores in Fredericton, and one in Moncton carrying our sausage in addition to our stand which is open Friday afternoons each week.
We have saved 2 guilts (young female pigs) and are planning to try letting them each have a litter of pigs next spring. One of my earliest experiences with animals giving birth was when a huge pig that my uncle had gave birth to a litter of piglets. This was not a very pleasant experience so I've been quite reserved about trying it here. It is difficult for us to find organic piglets though, so I've talked with quite a few people and think it may be possible to have piglets born in a more natural way here on the farm and am hoping we will have more pleasant memories...
My intention was to have the guilts live in the barn with the cows but this is proving a little more difficult then I expected because the cows are scared of the pigs! Once I let the pigs out, the cows go to the far end of the pasture and won't come into the barn. Even after the pigs were back in their pen, some of the cows - especially this year's black calves - were very timid about coming back in.
I'm letting the pigs out for a couple hours a day and they seem to be getting along better. I'm hoping they will be able to live together peacefully within a week or two.
We've been on quite a weather roller coaster for the last month. We have pretty much finished harvest except a little more kale if the weather warms and snow melts again. We are now harvesting salad mix from one of the tunnels making the mix for this week of particularly good quality.
We are still finishing up for winter but overall things are coming well and we look forward to being able to slow down just a little over the holiday period.
Our bus is fuller than ever as it leaves the farm doing deliveries. It also seems that as the weather cools down, people are ready to eat more meat - we have lots of pasture raised organic pork, chicken, and beef so this is great to see. These sales will help to support our family and pay the bills over the winter months.
I planted extra carrots this summer then rented a carrot harvester to do our carrot harvest this fall but the rain and snow made it so we could not harvest with the machine. Kirsten's parents, my parents, and our whole crew pitched in to help harvest the carrots by hand - many from under the snow. It was a cold muddy job but we did get all we needed for orders. There are still some left in the ground that we were unable to harvest but I guess this is one of the risks of farming....
I had to speak at the ACORN organic conference so spent the last three days in Halifax. It was a great time to meat other farmers and friends and learn new things to try next year. Kirsten and the crew kindly kept working and got lots done while I was away. This included covering the strawberries with white cover as you can see above. This cover is supposed to work better than the typical straw cover.
We have winter greens in a couple of greenhouses this year and hope to be able to supply something green in your boxes all winter long. It looks like we have a great selection of items for the winter boxes to give good variety and value.
Our winter season starts this week. We have simplified our winter program a bit this year and hope it will be a bit more manageable. We work very hard in the summer so would like to be able to have a little break over the winter and perhaps even take a trip with the kids over the holidays.
We are doing the regular winter veggie boxes plus add on meats for the bus customers in Fredericton. The rest of our meats we will be selling wholesale to as many of the stores hosting pick up locations as possible. For those not picking up at our bus, ask the pick up location for our meats. Our farm stand will also be open every Friday from noon to 6:00 and will be stocked with veggies, eggs and meats.
This weekend and then today were some of our most challenging days as farmers. I'm going to tell a little story in pictures and then show you what our crew had to go through to get product harvested for boxes this week....
Sunday morning started out a beautiful day however....
All that snow stuck to the fence wires and pulled the fence down. I woke up to the dog barking and the cows at the barn eating chicken grain! They were about a km out in their field...
I got them back up to their field with significant effort but they were not impressed. We took them hay and that settled them down. The highlight was that Bruce loved the snow and loved throwing snow balls.
I had to leave early for snow plowing this morning and again the cows showed up at the barn but this time determined to stay so much so that Kirsten headed for the shot gun. Her better judgment prevailed (well we hope it was better judgment) and they were all still alive when I got home. I'm not sure they realize the gravity of the situation nor what a close shave they had with premature hamburger....
I had to plow a path into the Brussels sprouts. The truck still got stuck and needed to be pulled out but at least the crew did get everything harvested that we need.
Now I have to say that this is a pretty dedicated crew to be willing to go through this so that we can get the boxes to everyone on time.
We also had to dig carrots out from under a foot of snow as well as the kale.
This will be a nice box in spite of everything but I'm sure glad to be moving to the winter box soon.
We normally wait until the first or second week of November to harvest our carrots. This makes them exceptionally tasty and sweet all winter long. On Saturday I picked up a mechanical carrot harvester rented from another farmer but I don't know if we will be able to use it. There are thousands of pounds of carrots to harvest - too many to do by hand.
Here is Shirley helping Kirsten harvest the Kale. I really hope the snow goes quickly and we get a little more nice weather. We are not ready for this snow to stick around.
Kirsten's father was out hunting this morning and he said in all his hunting years (close to 70) he has never seen this much snow during hunting season.
Even the pigs are barely venturing out of their house. I guess they have an excuse as this is the first snow they have ever seen, but I think everything is caught a bit off guard.
If anyone is still planning to sign up for the winter program and has not done so, please remember to do it soon.
Our neighbours have gotten to the point where they are unable to farm as they used to so have given us a couple of fields to use. One of these is adjacent to our stand. We have had a remarkably warm fall which started out dry and is now very wet! The field contains rock free river bank soil but there was almost no rotation and it was farmed conventionally for many years much like our farm was before we bought it. Last night I took soil samples from our field and from the one next door to see what three years of organic farming with the soil biology in mind has done for the soil.
The soil on the right is from our broccoli and cauliflower patch and the soil on the left is from next door. There is clearly a visible difference in soil structure as well as a marked difference in smell. The soil on the right has a nice earthy smell where the soil on the left has almost no smell at all.
As organic farmers, we rely on the soil biology to make the nutrients available to the plants. Better soil biology also means better organic matter, better water drainage, and better capillary action to bring the water back up in dry weather. Better soil structure allows us to work the soil sooner and the plants are happier because air can get around their roots even when it is wet. Because of past chemical use, we cannot harvest organic crops from the new fields for a couple years. We look forward to the challenge of building these soils up during this time. The picture above shows what can happen in just three years and we look forward to doing it again.
Our first pork has come back from the butcher. Kirsten has put together some delicious sausage recipes which we are in the process of certifying organic. She added a new recipe this time for Sweet Italian sausage. These are available through online orders for those picking up from our bus and can also be purchased from Sequoia in Moncton.
We planted a late planting of spinach and salad turnip along with our fall salad mix. We have sent fewer salad turnips this year than in the past couple years, but this is the best time of year for them. They are good sliced and eaten raw or you can cook them in stir fries or boil them as a cooked vegetable. The tops can also be cooked as a green if you are adventurous! If this is your first time seeing them, be sure to give at least the white part a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.