Of Squash Harvests

We harvested the last of the winter squash today. Beautiful butternuts, harvested at dusk, are stacked high in our otherwise now empty seedling greenhouse. ‘Twas never thus, we who thought the squash harvest had to be a single epic battle, leaving us always feeling overwhelmed and heavily outnumbered, not unlike Alexander’s troops as they stood their ground against the Persian army of Darius the Great. This year, we opted for a divide and conquer strategy – knocking off the spaghetti squash first, followed by the delicata, and finally, the regal butternut – the prototypical winter squash that everyone knows and loves. The squash harvest is a high point of our growing season, a signal that summer is about to end, an invitation to rethink menus, to pull out fall recipes and to accept the inevitable.

Bountiful harvests

Our garlic was harvested in late July and is slowly drying in our red barn, while our Italian tomatoes are quickly turning red in the fields. In other words, now is the time to place your orders for garlic and/or tomatoes, all of you who like to stock up for the long winter months ahead. This year, we invite you to once again place your orders via our website by clicking here – they will be delivered to you, while quantities last, at our CSA drop-off locations and/or our market stands at Atwater and Jean-Talon markets in coming weeks as soon as they are ready. We will advise you of the expected delivery date ahead of time, payment will be primarily cash on delivery although at our market stand you will also be able to pay via interac (using your debit card).

Garlic: easy to keep until late Spring or even longer, provided you follow a few key rules to ensure optimal storage conditions – namely, keep the garlic in its original wrapping (a paper bag), store it in a kitchen cupboard – in the dark and avoiding fluctuations in temperature. A cool cupboard is recommended over either your fridge or a dank garage.

Italian tomatoes: we produce two varieties of Italian paste tomatoes, the San Marzano and the Roma. Both are ideal for canning or sauce-making, i.e. fleshy and not excessively juicy. As we harvest them at or near maturity, it is important that you plan to process them in the two to three days following delivery.

 

Corn Battles

Our corn is beautiful, tassled and growing fast…and yet, we worry about our corn nemesis, the raccoon – corn thief par excellence, this farmer’s Public Enemy No. 1, and most likely the bane of every market gardener’s existence. Following the havoc wrought on our 2018 crop by this pest – i.e., the total destruction of nearly 20 000 cobs by invading hordes in the space of a few weeks despite frenzied attempts to somehow stem the onslaught – we have decided to bring in the heavy artillery this year. No more solar-powered trip wires, whose zap was no more than a tickle. Instead, we are opting for bona fide 110-volt fencing this year. The shock will not be deadly, but it should be a significantly more powerful deterrent than our well-intentioned, but completely ineffective, ecological line of defence. And if they manage to get past THAT, it will simply be proof positive that raccoons really are the smartest animals to walk the face of the earth!
While our first zucchinis and cucumbers provided a foretaste of summer, this week’s offering of tomatoes and eggplant should convince you that summer has indeed arrived. Tomatoes and eggplant are my two favourite vegetables/fruits, the possibilities they open up are endless, and we will be serving them to you until the plants yield no more. Unlike the zukes and cukes, which we succession plant, our solanaceas offer a continuous harvest from the same plant which just keeps on giving, week after week, until the first frost.

King Kale

The farm has abruptly tipped into summer, without warning or fanfare. Overnight, it seems, we’ve gone from rainy days and chilly nights to balmy weather with hints of the dog days of summer to come. Our solanaceae have suddenly regained vigor and strength, and our cool-weather-loving brassicas are even looking like they may bolt. For your market gardeners, all these signs are encouraging indicators of a morale-boosting return to normalcy in the fields. And yet we are ambivalent : these same signs herald the beginning of our annual, always epic, battle of the weeds – in which we will be engaged until Fall frosts bring the skirmishes to a definitive close. And so it is that last week ended in a flurry of hoe blades, as we took advantage of the warm sunny weather before rain scheduled to fall again later this week.

This week’s basket is an ode to kale. We produce four varieties of kale, and would like to have you sample two or three of them, depending on your respective basket sizes. While kale-based smoothies are still trendy, we find kale a welcome addition to braised or stewed dishes and a great ingredient in hearty mixed salads. We’ll be serving up other brassicas, too, as we continue to await the imminent arrival of strawberries. We look forward to seeing you all again.

Cool weather

Yo-yoing weather forecasts, mad transplanting dashes between scattered rain showers and an all-around schizophrenic spring – that about sums up the world we’ve been living in for the past several weeks. Things are progressing nonetheless, and as I write these lines, having taken advantage of the rare sunny moments and selected the least humid of our vegetable beds, we’ve managed to stay abreast of our planting schedule so far – with everything needing to be planted actually planted. That includes our first brassicas, a whole lot of leafy greens, our early solanaceas as well as our early cucurbits (i.e. cukes and zukes). The days are still cool, the nights coooler still – our veggies are feeling the chill and their growth is sluggish. There is still a long list of veggies waiting to be (trans)planted to the fields, but we’ll need some help from Mother Nature before we can say mission accomplished. All the while, we’ve been having flashbacks to 2017, a season that started out just as wet, albeit a bit warmer, if memory serves me.

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.

2019 Season Launch

Drum roll #1 : the 2019 CSA basket season at Arlington Gardens has begun! Drum roll #2 : we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary this year! Indeed, it was a little over 10 years ago that we moved to Stanbridge East to sow a few seeds and offer up the fruits of our labour. We will also be celebrating 10 years of your generous support, a solidarity that moves us and helps sustain us in our mission, transcending both the mundane and the complex challenges of our daily farm existence. So be sure to mark your calendars : planning is already underway for a celebratory farm event in September, on Labour Day Monday.

The launch of the 2019 season means you can sign up for your CSA basket here & now. This year, we are back to a regular CSA programme of 21 weeks for all, beginning Wednesday, June 13 and ending Sunday, November 2. Mother Nature’s unpredictable end-of-season climatic variations were making November deliveries increasingly hasardous as most of our drop-off locations are outdoors. Delivery days, times and locations are otherwise unchanged. We are happy to announce the return of sourdough breads from Capitaine Levain, our farm-fresh eggs and, if all goes as planned, honey from our very own beehives. Last but certainly not least, following on a zero-waste drive we started last year, we will be calling on all of you to help us get rid of the last of the plastic bags which we were still using in our weekly deliveries and at the market. Stay tuned – we’ll get back to you with details on that front in due course.


From now on, we will keep you apprised of our seasonal farm prep via regular emails invite you to follow us on facebook and instagram. We hope to see you back in droves, and look forward to sharing the earth’s bounty and the summer’s warmth with you all.

Pesticide Detox

Amidst the clamours of the Cassandras who assail us daily, one occasionally happens upon a piece of news, an analysis or a commentary which gives hope and warms the heart. I stumbled upon one such piece of information in The Guardian mid-month: an article that confirms what I already knew – namely, that Mother Nature really does do things well.  Indeed, it just so happens that the human body can rid itself of almost all the harmful pesticides found in conventionally-grown fruit and vegetables simply by switching to a diet composed of organic produce and foodstuffs in…get this…fewer than just ten days! IMHO, the article makes an open-shut case for first, an increased share of shelf-space for organics and second, greater citizen choice.

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.

Thumbs Up For New Food Guide

Last week’s release of Health Canada’s new Food Guide should provide a welcome boost to the fruit and vegetable sector, in terms of both local production and imports. Although some say the guide hasn’t gone far enough in its recommendations, the new and improved version is undeniably a boon for the sector, given the number of Canadians, at both a personal and institutional level, who rely on it for their everyday food choices, including those whose New Year resolutions include getting (or staying) healthy…

Three things we really like about the new guide : first and foremost, the emphasis placed on fresh vegetables; second, the importance accorded to the daily consumption of pulses (so sorry, Lise Ravary)  and cereals; and third, the lesser relative importance of meat and dairy products in our daily diet.

Apparently Health Canada decided to exclude the dairy industry from its review process to avoid being unduly influenced…an interesting concept considering the former’s recent decision to re-authorise the use of glyphosate for aother 15 years based on ‘studies’ financed by another industry. Go figure. Policy contradictions aside, the new guide is a great step towards healthier eating. What we’re hoping for next : better food labeling rules…