Week One

Just as we were beginning to despair, the sun finally appeared, and some heat, too. As we toured the fields today, Sunday, we felt Mother Nature bursting at the seams, impatient to make up for lost time. Like us, she is all too aware that summer is short in our northern climes and that a successful season means taking advantage of every minute of every hour of sunshine that the weather will allow. We’ve already had a few unwelcome visitors – potato beetles in our eggplants, cucumber beetles in our winter squash. Isn’t it early, you may ask – indeed it is, but climate change oblige, past is no longer prologue. They have arrived, and we’ll have to make do. Beetles notwithstanding, the season is finally launched, and we’re glad.

Stormy Weather

Things had been pretty zen until this week at Arlington Gardens – the weather having conspired against us, the rain and the cold having kept us chomping at our bit. Zen doesn’t mean not busy, it just means not insanely busy, with seeding in the greenouse continuing apace, and transplanting too – herbs, root celery, tomatoes, eggplant, even. These are the moments I prefer, of quiet solitude and intense concentration. Transplanting means giving the seedling more space to grow, then watching it spread its wings, so to speak, and fly. While the exercise seems fraught, to worry is to understimate plants – they are far more resilient than they seem. Yanking it from its cocoon, moving it from the known to the unknown – ie creating a bit of stress – triggers the plant’s instinct of survival and then some. In just a few days, they are thriving again…

Our registrations have been ticking along – we’re at approximately two thirds of our target for the 2019 season. Only 5 weeks to go before deliveries begin, so hurry up and register if you haven’t already. 21 organic produce baskets starting June 12 and ending November 3rd, along with the organic sourdough breads of Capitaine Levain, flexibility to accommodate your vacation schedules and most of all, good cheer at all our drop-off locations! See you soon.

April’s promise

We’re living under grey skies, and there is still a definitive chill in the air, just as Environment Canada had predicted. Nothing to presage the start of a new season. But it’s all appearances, and appearances can be deceiving. Signs of life are everywhere, starting with the hordes of blackbirds which descend on the farm daily, raucously chirping and calling out to each other as they settle and rise in unison. The blue jays are also back in force, we’re expecting the cardinals any day now. The fields have begun to thaw slowly, changing to muddy boot-sucking flats where it is best not to tread for the time being. Meanwhile, it’s full speed ahead in our seedling greenhouse, where we are starting to plant our tomatoes and eggplants, sunshine plants par excellence. Things are going so fast, in fact, that we may run out of greenhouse space by the end of April at this rate. Rumour has it there may be a greenhouse addition in the offing…

If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to sign up for the 2019 season which starts in less than 8 weeks. 21 organic CSA baskets, delivered June 12th to November 3rd – fresh veggies, berries, melons and watermelons, generous exchange baskets, and a standing invitation to come visit us from time to time at Atwater Market from July through October. The sourdough breads of Capitaine Levain are also available once again – if you’re interested in signing up for a bread basket, click here. Last but not least, don’t forget to circle September 2nd on your calendars – as it is when we will mark the 10th year of our existence as an organic farm. Planned festivities will include a méchoui at the farm, one huge potluck to test your culinary talents – and a farm visit. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Firing Up

We’ve fired up our seedling greenhouse, just as the maple sugaring season is ramping up. For some farmers who do both at this time of year – and we know a few – the seasonal rush is even greater, as doing both keeps them working nearly round the clock. We don’t do both, but even so, just starting our onions and leeks this week has kept us busy. Swept out the greenhouse – check; verified our heating systems – check; defrosted the water pipes – check. We’re off to the races, the season is already looking good – intense, but good. Among other things, we’ll be readying ourselves for a seedling sale at the farm, the weekend of May 18-19. We’ll provide a list of available plants in short order.

Meanwhile, registration for CSA baskets is in full swing – you can sign up here if you haven’t done so already. Our 21-basket season will run from June 12 to November 3. This year, we want to focus on the diversity of content in the baskets and in our exchange basket – which will be larger and more varied than in the past – to ensure a larger selection of vegetables throughout the season. Another focal point this season will be the use of plastic in our baskets, which we hope to reduce to a minimum or eliminate, even. More on our zero waste efforts to come. Registration for the sourdough organic breads of Capitaine Levain has also begun, you’ll find their Arlington Gardens sign-up links here (paniers surprises and paniers au choix) as well as on our own bread basket sign-up tab.

We hope to see you back in droves at our drop-off locations. It’s been a long winter, spring is almost here – we’re sooooooo looking forward to summer and to seeing you all again.

Dead and Dying Bugs

We cannot change things unless we name them, understand them, confront them. Nonetheless, the news is disheartening, to say the least : unless we radically alter course, by the end of the century, there won’t be any insects left to pollinate any thing. For greater clarity, we’re talking about 40% of insects that will not survive current agricultural practices and the havoc they wreak. This conclusion stems from a recent study published by the scientific magazine Biological Conservation. Hardest hit will be lepidopters (butterflies, et al.), hymenopters (bees, bumblebees, et al.) et coleopters (ladybugs, etc.), not to mention the parallel universe of imperiled marine insects. According to the research, urbanisation, the loss of natural habitats (including swamps and wetlands) and widespread pesticide use are the main culprits of insect demise and disappearance. What can we do, you ask? More soon…

See The Guardian and Le Devoir for details.

Weather Forecast: Very Cold and Very Snowy

January started as expected, with everyone wondering what winter would bring. Well, winter has replied – first with bone-chilling temperatures and now, since yesterday, with a full-on blustery winter storm. Amongst shades of white and glimpses of shimmering greens, greys and browns, the windswept countryside is transformed. This morning our housebound youth was hoping for a ped day, to hit the slopes and assess the height/depth of the snow drifts. But the school authorities have decided otherwise : classes are on.

On the farm front, Arlington Garden is preparing for the 2019 season launch. No real rush yet, although we do have to finalize our seed orders – we’re running a bit late this year – and we’ll be tinkering on our website and related digital properties over the next few weeks. Who would have thought, some 10 years ago, that internet and social media would become such essential elements of a small business strategy? We’ve come a long way since printed sign-up forms and cheques in the mail…all swept away by a tsunami, leaving us caught in the swirling eddies of continuous updates…We’ll be back soon to fill you in on our plans for the season, and remind you that 2019 marks our 10th anniversary at Arlington Gardens…

November cold snap

I am still in denial – but the forecast is calling for -12 degrees Celsius during the night between Wednesday and Thursday, here at the farm – an unseasonally cold and way-below-average mid-November forecast. This week’s basket deliveries will seem more like a Christmas bazaar than a CSA basket pick-up…In anticipation of such extraordinary lows, we’ve already harvested this week’s leeks and today we’ll be harvesting all the lettuce and other leafy greens in our unheated greenhouse that are unlikely to survive a deep freeze. Everything else, i.e. our remaining winter squash and root vegetables, is already in cold storage at a steady, and much warmer, 4 degrees Celsius. Indeed, the packing of our last November baskets will be done in our largest cold room – where 4 degrees seems balmy in comparison to the -1 reading in the rest of the warehouse (note to self for next year’s to do list : insulation work)…This week’s update includes news of the departure of our two last Mexican employees, Crescencio and Gregorio, who are already reunited with their families under warmer skies. The last few weeks were a challenge for all – rainy, cold, with late harvests and last plantings under difficult conditions. But such travails will quickly be forgotten in the Mexican sunshine…

End-of-Season Parade

While we can’t shake the rotten weather, we’re moving right along, harvesting root vegetables and leafy greens from our greenhouse to fill your basket. It’s a bit frustrating, all the same, to realize that Mother Nature is refusing to give us a break. In hindsight, Sunday’s sunny weather was just a teaser, as this morning’s rain, and its consequences – water-logged roads, muddy boots and numbed body parts – attest. The forecast is for more of the same for another week. So we might as well forget about the El Niño effect previously mentioned – clearly borne of some wild and woolly imaginings…

That said, I toured our woods this weekend, if for no other reason than to let any trespassing hunters know that the owner was afoot, and would not tolerate any uninvited hunterly activities. The excursion was a success, as nary a soul was seen, which was exactly as I hoped it would be. The woods revealed their sad beauty, hidden all summer by the insolent greenery, but revealed at last as one walks through them, dripping wet in the autumn chill. Winter is fast approaching, and with it, the prospect of many more woodland wanderings.

When Some Finish, While Others Continue

Cooler weather but relatively sunny skies mark the end of the regular CSA basket season at Arlington Gardens. Twenty full weeks, sometimes wet but mostly hot and dry, the likes of which we hadn’t seen in several years. We’ll do a seasonal post-mortem in a month or two, once winter will have settled in, as we contemplate snow-filled fields – but already, in terms of lessons learned, we know we’ll have to be prepared for just about anything next year, given this year’s prolonged dry spell following on the previous year’s monsoon-like weather. Growing vegetables in these here parts has become part gamble, part obstacle course, definitely not for the faint of heart. That said, it’s a challenge we continue to take up, and we are already thinking of improvements for next year.

We extend a hearfelt thanks to those of you who will be ending your baskets this week. We wish you a great winter and hope to see you again next year, ready to share in our agricultural adventure. For those of you continuing with us for the extended season which starts next week and ends November 22, you will continue to receive our weekly missive, reminding you to pick up your baskets and informing you of their contents. We look forward to seeing you all again.

Fall Colours

Early Monday morning routine calls for a farmer’s tour of the fields, although said tour takes less time, nowadays. As the wet grass drenches my boots, I know already that some pressing farm work will not get done. Three days without rain are not enough to dry out several recently harvested plots. I’m chomping at the proverbial bit, but will have to wait for better weather, a wait that can be trying as fall progresses. Yet hope springs eternal, particularly with Environment Canada forecasting a warming El Niño effect scheduled to start soon. All in all, today’s walk is a good one, with sightings of vegetables still growing in the fields and in our unheated greenhouse against a backdrop of reds and golds in the woods that surround the farm. Needless to say, our contemplation of fall’s colours is always too brief, but glimpses of the brilliant hues make the day seem a bit less grey.