Carrot Agony

There are things I like to grow and things I definitely do NOT like to grow, carrots being one of the latter. I know, I know, what’s not to like about the carrot, archetypal vegetable if ever there were one, maker (and breaker) of farmer reputations, not to mention the importance of carotene and vitamin E for your eyesight. But carrot-growing is an epic battle on all fronts, be it germination, irrigation, weeds or Brix (sugar) levels. To sum it up: a single carrot needs optimal conditions to germinate, copious quantities of water to grow and to keep the earth surrounding it soft, and near-monastic attention during the first few weeks of its existence to ensure its survival. The carrot’s nemesis is the lowly weed, which somehow always seems to get a head start in every carrot bed I have ever sown. Despite the introduction of flame-weeding in recent years, weeds continue to reign supreme. The one and only remedy remains to drop on our hands and knees in order to complete by hand that which Prometheus has failed to do in full. To top it all off, sometimes the most coddled of carrot crops falls short of expectations, sweetness-wise. Please do not blame your farmer: notwithstanding all his best efforts, it is a well-known fact that the sweetest carrots are grown in fall and winter, when Brix levels increase in inverse proportion to ambient temperatures.

All that said, we hope you enjoy the first carrots of the season in this week’s basket.

Dog days of…July

The dog days of August have arrived in … July. Heavy, hot and phagocytic (sic), the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time – it is difficult to walk, let alone work, the fields when everything and everyone is weighed down by such an oppressive, heat-filled shroud. But the fields have no patience for our human weakness, daily harvests cannot wait. And so we wake at dawn, with slow hands and sluggish feet, to harvest greens that will not withstand the full blast of a mid-day sun : lettuces, Swiss chard, escarole. As these are quickly placed in safe-keeping in the blissfully cool cold storage of our warehouse, the sense of urgency dissipates for other vegetables remaining to be harvested today: spring onions, broccoli and zucchini. As the expression goes, too much of a good thing…Indeed, excessive heat can take a toll on all our plants, but flowers are particularly susceptible, as they can suffer irreparable harm at more than 34 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, there is not much one can do – other than resign oneself to accepting the rule of nature which will ultimately determine what survives and what does not.

Please note that this week marks the start of deliveries at Atwater Market for all members registered to pick up their baskets at our farmstand. We look forward to seeing you all pick up your baskets at your respective drop-off locations. Do not forget your bags and your smile.

Sundays at the Farm

Sunday is my favourite day of the week, rain or shine. It’s a slower day, made for catching up on everything back-burnered during our busy weeks and for spending quality time with our plants, giving them the attention they lack while we are focused on basket prep and delivery. Better still are rainy Sundays, when nary a soul can be found in the fields. The whole crew is at rest, in anticipation of the coming week of intensive fieldwork, while I roam the fields on the lookout for suspicious insects or wilted leaves. Today I focused my attention on our handsome eggplant plants – and the equally handsome potato beetle, already laying siege. Sunday is the day when, alone in the fields and in harmony with all living things, I strengthen my resolve to face the next challenge and draft mental notes to myself, never-ending farm to-do lists. Yup, the more I think about it, the more I really like Sundays.

We think you will like this week’s basket: strawberries are back, along with more kohlrabi, lettuce, garlic scapes and kale. Timidly making their seasonal debut will be our broccoli, spring onions and frisée, with some possible variations by drop-off location. In the fine herbs category, we’ll be serving up coriander. Don’t forget that we recycle the strawberry red pint boxes – meanwhile, we look forward to seeing you all again.

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring

As I write these lines, a late rain is beating down on the farmhouse tin roof, another one of the scattered downpours that interrupted our harvesting all day long today. Harvesting lettuce or radishes under stormy skies is not much fun, but when the time comes to harvest, there’s no turning back. That said, we can’t complain too much, as we’ve had sunshine for the past several days, an ideal combo of warmth and water which has allowed most things to ripen, particularly our beets and kohlrabi which had been treading water for a while. Our garlic has also begun to yield its scapes – flowerbuds and their stems – which will grace this week’s baskets.

Given the copious portions of greens which nature offers up at the start of every season, we thought it opportune to remind you of a few conservation principles. As soon as you get your greens home, be sure to dunk them in cold water, spin or towel them off well, then refrigerate. Storing them as dry as possible is key. A salad spinner for salad greens is a must, a towel will suffice for the rest – and a hermetically sealed container is always your best bet to ensure freshness and longevity.

This week’s basket has more crunch: another serving of radishes, beets, kohlrabi and garlic scapes, for starters, followed by Swiss chard, a coloured bouquet of lettuce and more spinach on the leafy greens front. We have yet to make the call on strawberries – the jury is out as to whether or not they will be ready to be included in your baskets. We shall see. We look forward to seeing you all again.

Ready, set, go!

We’re off to the races at last! Mid-June marks the start of our weekly missives detailing basket contents and providing tidbits from the farm as well as additional information you may find useful. We have sowed, planted, hoed, weeded, watered and prayed – it is now time to harvest. In this week’s basket we were hoping for strawberries, but we’ll have to wait another week given the cooler weather which has delayed their ripening. You will, however, be graced with greens, all of which love days at 25 degrees or less and nights below 10. A quick list follows : lettuce, kale, spinach, japanese turnips, tatsoi, chives (complete with their edible flowers), radishes, potatoes from our potato supplier, Samson et fils, and, a 2018 novelty, green or spring garlic – harvested young and tender.

Arlington Garden CSA basket pros already know the routine, but for new farm members, please take note that we expect you to bring your own bags to carry your vegetables home. Two to three bags should be more than sufficient for both small and large baskets. Recall that we will be delivering breads ordered from Capitaine Levain. They will be visiting our different drop-off locations over the first few weeks with extra breads for sale so those of you who have yet to place your bread orders get to know their (delicious) organic sourdough breads. We will also come bearing farm fresh eggs ($6 a dozen). While they are not certified organic, our hens are fed organic feed and roam our orchard for a balanced diet. For extra breads and eggs, we accept cash payments only.

That said, Claire and I are eager to see you all again, for another season colourful and flavourful season – and to pick up all our conversations where we left them off last summer.

Spring Rains

I write these lines wondering how spring will unfold – to date, the recent rainy weather, with more to come according to the latest forecasts, does not augur particularly well. Aligned in quasi-Roman infantry formation, tens of seedling trays are already set out on our outdoor hardening table, restlessly awaiting orders to deploy to the fields and take root. The list is long : onions and leeks, several crucifers, but also beets, lettuce, spinach and sugar snap and snow peas. Meanwhile, in the greenhouse, our more delicate seedlings are patiently biding their time – tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, as well as root celery and several varieties of flowers that we are testing this year and plan to offer at Atwater Market. That said, I shouldn’t complain too loudly, as April rains are to be expected and are necessary. They warm the frigid soil, they replenish groundwater and irrigation ponds, and, combined with a bit of warm weather, contribute to the gradual greening of our fields.  But too much rain can be as damaging as too little, and we’re praying for a few rays of sun to dry things up a bit.


With only 7 weeks to go before deliveries begin, we’re at 2/3 of our basket capacity for the season. If you have not yet signed up for your 2018 basket, I invite you to do so sooner rather than later to help us better plan the season. The link is here, do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. Recall that we also deliver the sourdough breads of Capitaine Levain – to sign up for their bread basket click here – and in a week I will be picking up our new hens to ensure they have a few weeks to familiarize themselves with their new free-range digs before they go about their business of laying eggs…


Waiting

Winter has given way to spring with an icy gasp, blanketing the fields with a late snow cover and taunting us with one last blast of blustery cold weather. In the face of this affront, we have decided to remain zen, cooling our jets as we postpone the start of our first seedlings by a few days. Heating a greenhouse when the thermometer is stuck at -10⁰ is something of an exercise in futility. Fortunately, though, the forecast is calling for warm weather shortly, warmer than usual for this time of year even, which will allow us to start sowing soon : leeks and onions first, followed by root celery or celeriac, peppers, fine herbs and a few flowers. Starting up the seedling greenhouse is a high point of the season – built with a wooden frame, in hindsight we find wisdom in our contrarian whim, as we discover the benefits of using a material that absorbs excess greenhouse humidity. High point and very special moment, as we realize yet again that it is in this single contained space that almost everything we grow in our fields begins, a spring prelude to the symphony of the summer growing season.


Many of you have already signed up for your 2018 basket, but I invite those of you who have not yet done so to sign up sooner rather than later, to help us better plan the season. Basket deliveries will run from June 13 to October 25 for our regular programme (20 weeks) and to November 22 for our extended programme (24 weeks), while the farmstand season at Atwater Market will begin July 6 and end October 28 (17 weeks) – a programme that can be extended by picking an alternative pick-up location pre- and/or post-market season. Some of you have written to let us know that you are looking for someone to share a basket. Please let us know if you find yourself in such a situation : we’ll be happy to provide basket matchmaking services. And if you like sourdough bread, don’t forget that you may also sign up for bread baskets from Capitaine Levain, the local organic bakery in our small town of Stanbridge East. We look forward to seeing you all again soon.

2018 Season Launch

We have updated our website and are finalizing our field production, crop rotation and green manure plans – the season’s seed packs are sitting on our desk, waiting.

AND SO IT IS THAT WE ARE HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE THE START OF OUR 2018 CSA BASKET SEASON!

In a previous note, we mentioned that we were growing weary of this winter, its yo-yoing temperatures and its crazy precipitations (as I write this, our fields are green). So we’re putting a cross on winter and decreeing that spring has arrived at Arlington Gardens: we are ready to go.

The 2018 season is looking to be exciting. Deliveries will begin June 13-14 and end October 24-25 for the 20-week Regular Season (Wednesdays & Thursdays); those wishing to go longer – i.e. to November 21-22 – can sign up for our 24-week Extended Season (one more week than last year). The 17-week Atwater Farmstand Season will start July 6, 7 or 8, depending on the market day selected (Friday, Saturday or Sunday), ending as the market closes for the season, October 26, 27 or 28. The Atwater Farmstand Season can be extended by selecting an alternate delivery location pre- and post-Farmstand Season: instructions to that effect are provided if/when you sign up for our Atwater location.

On the vegetable front and to ensure we do not run out of Italian tomatoes at the peak of the season (you may recall the wet, rainy summer we experienced in 2017), we have invested in new hoophouses. All our solanaceas will be grown under these mobile greenhouses, installed in the spring and dismantled in the fall.

We continue to explore new vegetable varieties, ranging from ongoing trials in the fascinating world of Asian greens or, better still, in that of the tomato, a prototypical summer crop if ever there was one. We’re hoping for a ‘normal’ spring, in order to ensure strawberries in your early baskets and blueberries later in the season. This year we’ll be bumping up our watermelon production in order to give you more in August and early September.

For the third year in a row, we will be delivering the sourdough organic breads of Capitaine Levain along with our produce baskets. We do not manage their sign-ups, but we invite you to visit their website and/or to sign up for their organic bread basket.

WE ARE PLEASED TO BE TAKING UP OUR FARM ‘YOKE’ FOR ANOTHER SEASON AND HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL THIS SUMMER AT THE DROP-OFF LOCATION OF YOUR CHOICE


TO SIGN UP FOR A 2018 BASKET, VISIT OUR SIGN-UP PAGE

IF YOU WERE A MEMBER IN 2016 OR 2017,
YOU MUST LOG IN TO YOUR myORGANICFARM ACCOUNT
BEFORE SELECTING YOUR DROP-OFF LOCATION

Instructions are provided on the sign-up page,
and we’re just an e-mail or a phone call away if you need help

Once you’ve placed your order,
if you do not receive an email confirmation shortly thereafter
be sure to check your junk email as the security settings on your email
may not recognize a system-generated email from Les Jardins d’Arlington

Winter yo-yo

For now, anyway, winter is back. After a month of yo-yoing hot and cold, the first half of February has seemed almost normal, with a cold snap followed by abundant snowfall – much to the delight of our kids who were finding winter particularly dull this year. The snow was so abundant, in fact, that we had to clear out the sides of our main greenhouse, snowed under by huge drifts which were proving incredibly resistant to the rays of the winter sun.

February is paperwork month, a time for website photo album selections and seed order receiving.  There’s no escaping these tasks – updating the website apps and plugins, organizing our sundry farm files as well as checking the status of our all our seed orders – received and back-ordered – to ensure that those we really need by mid-March, when we fire up the seedling greenhouse, are on hand. February is also the month when we order any new equipment we’ve been eyeing; this year we’ve set our sights on a transplanter that will help us plant straighter rows (so we can then weed straighter rows) – it will be a huge boon for field ops…

Winter interlude

After a two-month hiatus, which provided a most welcome break from almost everything vegetable, as the new year begins this organic farmer is yearning to get back at it, in a strange fit of passion and obsession. Indeed, as the greenhouse is not scheduled to fire up until mid-March, despite maddeningly fluctuating temperatures one could simply sit back and relax a bit more, awaiting signs of a true spring thaw. But winter is no longer what it used to be, and our fields go from white to green and back to white again in a scant few days, much to the chagrin of our perennials, who find such mixed signals particularly taxing.

And so it is that yours truly has felt moved to venture out to tour the farm’s pastures, if only to let its inhabitants – i.e. all of those who leave their prints in the snow – know that we are watching and waiting to reclaim the land which we share with them, our off-season being their on-season, and vice versa. Deer in search of open fields and buds to nibble, hares fleeing rapacious predators and rafters (sic) of  wild turkeys – all find solace and freedom on the farm during winter. We give them free rein, but they and we all know that nothing lasts forever, and that come March, we will have to put a stop to all this wild-and-woolly behaviour.

Meanwhile, we wish all of you a great start to 2018 and the best of health. Stay tuned : in just a few weeks we will provide further details re the launch of the 2018 season.