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…
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.
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
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…
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.
It’s been cold at the farm these last few days. So cold, in fact, that we’ve been huddling in the cold room (4⁰C) to bag your veggies and pack your baskets! It’s the inconvenient truth on an old farm : the buildings are gracious and cool during the summer, but come winter, everyone and everything is all too happy to call it quits. Realistically, at these temperatures, we can’t ask too much of the hangers on in our unheated greenhouse. We’ve harvested the last of the spinach – which will be the only leafy green in your basket this week – and have regretfully given up on the last of the turnips in our fields…they might have stood a chance had we planted them a bit earlier. And so it is that most of the vegetables in your baskets this week will be of the root variety. Said baskets will be the last of our extended season.
We wish all of you a great winter, happy holidays, and hope to see you again next year. Meanwhile, though, we look forward to one last encounter at all of our drop-off locations this week. Cheers.
Having closed out our farmstand at Atwater and said good-bye to half our members as the regular season drew to a close at the end of October, suddenly our farm workload has lightened considerably. So much so that we even found a moment to attend our first winter concert at Place des Arts, a nostalgic tribute to an Algeria that is no longer. Meanwhile, back in Stanbridge East, winter Nor’easters have begun to blow, sweeping everything clean. We’ve had our second hard frost, yet another reminder that leafy greens will not last forever in the field, despite their remarkable hardiness. We’re taking heed, and will be harvesting our mustard greens Monday, before the -4 degrees Celsius they’re forecasting in Montérégie. Be that as it may, the rest of our leafy greens are in the greenhouse, and should last a while longer.
The country calm is not yet complete, as deer hunting season has begun. From dawn to dusk, the occasional shot rings out, although the exercise seems a bit pointless, as deer populations are dwindling. But the same instinct that drives Canadian geese south as soon as the weather turns seems to move hunters out into the November chill. They’re a strange breed, hunters. Modern Don Quijotes tilting after wildlife instead of windmills in their fluorescent jackets and camouflage vests, they find satisfaction shivering in the cold, waiting for that chance encounter with a young buck. One gets used to it, but fortunately, the season lasts a mere two weeks.
Your second extended season basket is VEGETABLE, writ large : carrots, fennel, beets, Pak Choy, etc., but leafy greens, too – kale, Fun Jen mustard, arugula and spinach.
This will be our first time delivering baskets in November, so we’ll all find out what it’s like together. Will we be harvesting beets in the snow? Will we have to wait until mid-day to harvest greens so they warm up a bit first? Only time (and temperature) will tell – but we do hope the weather will be relatively clement. We look forward to seeing you all again – please remember that night falls quickly in November…
This week, we harvested the vegetables for our last regular season basket in t-shirts and with sweaty brows…a real novelty for us, accustomed as we have become over the years to shivering in the dark late-October-early-morning-chill as we dunk freshly harvested fall greens in ice-cold water. That said, we were hurrying to harvest the week’s greens before heavy rains forecast for Tuesday. We also rushed to plant next year’s garlic – a task readily accomplished under sunny skies in light, fluffy soil, contrasting sharply with garlic plantings of years past (picture frozen hands, stormy weather, muddy fields). And we even managed to harrow the remaining open fields in preparation for the sowing of our last green manure, autumn rye – the only cereal capable of withstanding winter temperatures.
We finally got our night below zero. After a few close calls and disappointments, the weather finally came within the range of average temperatures for this time of year, even if it only lasted a night. Minus 2 degrees celsius is enough to separate the wheat from the chaff, the annual from the perennial, the galinsoga from the bok choy…which warms the heart of this otherwise chilled vegetable farmer. Minus two is also when wheat and peas do a hand-off to rye, altering the green manure patchwork of the farm. Rye, you see, loves the cold, draws its winter sustenance from it, and will be the first to emerge from it in the spring. Like garlic, an allium which also winters over in the fields, rye builds in strength during November, then is quietly laid low by the first snows, only to emerge triumphant under the first rays of spring. We shan’t jump the gun, though, as there will be many long cold months between now and then…
Although we’ve yet to feel the autumn chill, we’ve still felt the winds change as the rain fell this weekend – intermittently, but heavy nonetheless – before yesterday’s downpour, that is. This week’s harvesting has been done with our boots on and with water on our backs. It’s not like we have a choice : the weekly window is short, whether for harvesting or basket prep. The good news is that the recent rain will be beneficial for all the green manure we’ve sown these past few weeks, which was getting to look (and no doubt feel) pretty dry. A good soaking will boost the plants, and combined with more warm weather to come, their biomass should increase significantly. It’s all good, but we’re itching for some cold weather now – as cold air, near zero in fact, increases the sugar content of certain fall crops, like beets, for one, and carrots, for another. Meanwhile, it’s curtain call for our solanaceas. Literally. The tunnels which have sheltered our tomatoes and eggplants will be dismantled this week and stored away in the warehouse, packed away until next spring. Meanwhile, fall cleaning is under way and the fields will gradually be swept clean, so to speak, of their seasonal clutter of agricultural tools and implements, much to this farmer’s satisfaction…
I’d like to say we’ve crossed the Rubicon and that the cold nights we’ve been experiencing mean the end is nigh for all the undesirable flora populating the alleyways between, and in, our vegetable beds … but unfortunately, such is not the case. The temperatures have not yet dipped low enough to rid us of these uninvited guests once and for all – and so they continue to hang on, teasing us still. It’s looking more and more like the weeds’ demise will have to by the wheels of my disk harrow rather than due to natural, i.e. frost-related, causes. In our solanacea tunnels, morale is good, as the protective plastic tarps do their job. The plants are looking pretty tired, but by some miracle of nature, communication between stalk and fruit continues uninterrupted. And so a few summer stalwarts will continue to grace your baskets in addition to the increasing rations of root vegetables that one expects at this juncture, with a winter squash – whether delicata or pumpkin, we shall see – thrown in for good measure…
We’ve had sunset after sunset these days, and they’re all magnificent. Last week we pulled all stops, irrigation-wise – so summer’s last hurrah has so far been manageable. The only challenge has been in managing our irrigation schedule to ensure we don’t run our pond dry. Another week without rain will bring water levels perilously low…but summer cannot last forever. We live in Quebec, after all, do we not? As we await the rain that will inevitably come, our fall field cleaning is already under way. We will be collecting the plastic mulch from our early solanacea beds and the metal rods which we use to stake our tomaotes, then we will use the disk harrow to plow the plants under and sow the season’s last green manure before fall rains make it impossible to enter the fields with heavy farm equipment. The last big harvests are upon us : rutabaga and root celery on Monday, with carrots, beets and other, lesser-known root vegetables like black, daikon and melon radishes to follow. Daily, I get a little thrill as I check on our fall greens, all of which have been transplanted to the fields over the past several weeks. These include lettuces as well as other leafy things – watercress, mizuna, komatsuna, claytonia – I’m eager to introduce them to you.
Sunny skies in September is a 2017 farmer’s almanac prediction come true. After months of complaining about the wet weather, the dog days of summer are upon us : hot and dry for the past couple of weeks, with not a hint of rain on the horizon. We have hauled out our irrigation system for the young plants that will round out the season’s end and had to re-familiarize ourselves with the workings of its pipes and valves. It’s good news for our late-season plants, but the weather has already wreaked its havoc on others that have suffered much from the season’s hitherto unclement conditions, namely our tomatoes. Bent over in their tunnels, stressed and exhausted, they are in full demise, awaiting a merciful end to what has been a truly brutish tomato existence.
This week’s basket is a marriage of two seasons, summer and fall, in almost perfect equilibrium. The full shift to fall will happen in a week or two when you will see more of the root vegetables we are about to harvest, such as swedes (rutabagas) and root-celery (celeriac). Others will follow in due course, but one can never hasten Mother Nature – and some root vegetables need a hard frost to give them the flavour one expects of them (more on these later, as the first fall frost nears).
These days, we have been experiencing a radical change in diet at the farm. Since the arrival of Sarah, a new employee with us for the month of September, we have been subjected to the rigours of veganism – and have to admit that we’re enjoying the experience. Like the proverbial cobbler’s children, we have no shoes : we are organic farmers with no time to cook our own vegetables during the high season. Supplications to our children are of little to no avail, so we often choose the easy, yet delicious way out, resorting (almost daily) to our all-time summer favourite – the tomato, onion and feta salad – supplemented from time to time with salad fixings salvaged from the veggie leftovers that feed our rapacious hens. Sarah has taken charge of the kitchen, realising that for a change of menu and more sustenance, she would have to step in. With some restaurant experience and a keen interest in vegan cuisine, she has allowed us to rediscover our own vegetables, cooked to perfection, boldly seasoned with spices we rarely use. The adventure will last a few more weeks, but we are already dreading the departure of our culinary Samaritan, who will be traveling to more exotic and distant places from October onwards. Thank you, Sarah.
We’re into our last « big » harvest of the season these days, gathering up winter squash. While harvesting continues into October, nothing of this magnitude will follow. The fact is, you can’t escape winter squash on a farm; they take all the field space allocated to them, and then some. Whether of the creeping or bushing variety, it matters not – they fan out and fill the field, forming a luxuriant carpet after only a few weeks of growth. This year, inspired by another organic farmer, we experimented with a new growing technique, planting our squash seedlings in a field of felled rye, the idea being to use a natural weed barrier instead of the plastic mulch we use (too) often in our ongoing battle with weeds. Sown right, rye can indeed act as an effective weed barrier, subsequently doubling as compost for the field which will be harrowed under after the harvest. We have yet to draw a formal conclusion for all of our winter squash, but if the spaghetti squash in your baskets this week is an early indication of a trend, it’s looking pretty good. We’ll see how our other squash fare as they grace your baskets in coming weeks before we make a final call for future seasons.
A new employee, Sarah, has joined us for the month of September. An amazing vegan cook, she dreamed up a delicious spaghetti squash recipe over the long weekend. It goes something like this : cut the squash in two, lengthwise and empty out the seeds before placing the two halves face down in a baking dish. While the squash bakes 45 minutes at 400⁰F, prepare a dressing of olive oil, seasoned with cinnamon, cumin, cloves, coriander seeds, salt and pepper – all to taste. When it is done, scoop the out the interior into a serving bowl and mix in the spiced sauce. It’s an interesting change from the tomato sauce default. We look forward to seeing you all again.
The brisk morning air, despite the sunny warmth of late August days that inevitably dispels it, reminds us that Fall is just around the corner. Everything has lost its luster, except perhaps the goldenrod, the final stop for our honeybees as they build their winter reserves. Harvests mark the season and the passage of time. From garlic in July, we’ve moved to conservation onions in August – red, yellow, white – piled high in bins where they will continue to dry. Later this week we’ll begin harvesting the winter squash we’ve purposely ignored until now : spaghetti, delicata, buttercup, butternut, musk de Provence, pumpkin – all will now exit the field and begin to cure, a hardening that is critical to their post-field performance, in your kitchen and in your plate. The squash will be harvested in rapid succession, contributing to a momentary traffic jam in the warehouse, spilling over into spare barn spaces – but only for a very short time before they end up in your baskets.
In this week’s basket we include one of my favourite onions, Red Tropeana Lunga, served up as a fresh (i.e. not cured) onion. At this point in the season, its leaves have to be trimmed. But it is a great Italian variety that packs a punch when eaten raw and is delicious candied in a confit d’oignon. Last but not least, we’ve finally exited our lettuce lull – indeed, be prepared to see at least two (maybe three) heads this week.
We look forward to seeing you all again.
Time for a purely informational, some might say, crassly commercial, post – but one essential to surviving the rigours of a still-distant but inescapable winter. We have planted garlic; harvested, cleaned and weighed it – the time has now come to sell it. So, if you’re a garlic aficionado with a love for fresh, juicy and odorous bulbs destined to be kept through the long winter months, this note is for you. Starting today, we’ll be taking garlic orders online. We will confirm receipt of your order with a view to fulfilling it by the second or third week of September. Payment is cash on delivery. This year, we will be offering the same two varieties as previously – Music and Ukrainian – the first is usually a bit larger, albeit with fewer cloves. The real difference between the two lies in the slightly stronger flavour of the Ukrainian garlic – a subtle but nonetheless noticeable difference appreciated by diehard garlic connoisseurs. Prices remain unchanged since last year at 10 dollars a pound (5 to 6 bulbs) or 22 dollars a kilo (10 to 11 bulbs). Your orders will be payable cash (or cheque) on delivery.
In the same vein, we also offer paste tomatoes for canning and other preservation purposes. This year, we’re pushing our Amish Paste variety, followed closely by the classic San Marzano. The Amish paste is a larger North American heirloom variety of paste tomato. It is easy to process because of its large size and quite tasty. The San Marzano is the classic Italian paste tomato, with its unique, almost-but-not-quite-pear-like shape – well-known by tomato-sauce-makers everywhere. We offer both in half-bushel, 20-lb boxes – at 20 dollars per box, while quantities last.
End of commercial.
As usual, there will be vegetables in your baskets, plus cantaloupe or watermelon, perhaps some corn (provided the racoons leave enough standing), and many other things. We look forward to seeing you all again.
Mid-season already. Time has flown, and the stars too. Yesterday we had two farm stay visitors de passage, in search of sunsets and shooting stars. We were happy to oblige – the sunset was beautiful, and although we told them we couldn’t promise the shooting stars, between the two of them they saw six. In our household, excitement builds yearly in early August at the thought of spending at least one evening, at the height of Perseid season, watching stars flit across the sky – then wanes just as quickly due to either cloudy skies or closing eyes…This year it was the latter. Meanwhile, our flower gardens and fields are at an apogee – filled with flowers, vegetables and…weeds. Cornu copia, the Romans would say. A fleeting sense of total abundance that every farmer knows will not last, as August nights become cooler, a subtle signalling of the wheel that turns. Be that as it may, we try to enjoy nature’s bounty while it lasts, and howsoever chaotic it may seem at times.
This week’s novelty in your baskets: melon or watermelon. Funny fruits – in fact more vegetables than fruits, large cucurbits, really – but it’s nicer to think of them as fruit. And here’s hoping that the last few days of sun will have had the same effect on the melons as it did on the blueberries and the corn, ripening them to sugary sweetness. Meanwhile, garlic cleaning is ongoing, a time-consuming activity which record quantities of garlic this year make even more intense than in years past. Also, our Italian tomatoes are finally beginning to blush – when they are ready, we will let you know when & how to place your orders for your winter provisions of both. We look forward to seeing you all again.
Already early August, the season’s tipping point at the farm. We have started to free up portions of field, those that have already yielded their spring and early summer bounty – the first leafy greens, the brassicas and other …. A few of them, stripped of their vegetables for a few weeks only, have already run wild, overgrown with weeds, much to this farmer’s chagrin, who has been just too plain busy to remedy the situation. The time has come to harrow it all, prepping for the green manure that will replenish the soil – most probably a mix of oats and field (aka broad or fava) beans. It is also a tipping point for the plants themselves, who seize the cool nights and shorter days of August are their cue to grow at a slower pace, curbing the frenzied pace of the first part of summer, like a horse shifting from a mad gallop to an ambling trot. The farmer cannot yet slow his pace, though, which continues unchanged as he continues to do battle with the weeds and to sow seeds and transplant seedlings for the fall harvests to come. The only respite, albeit a welcome one, comes in the form of magnificent sunsets, gifts from an anotherwise all too wet summer.
The tomato has finally deigned to grace us with its presence. Like Pizarro, we have yet to see El Dorado, but we now know it’s within reach. We’re also planning to drop a few peppers and/or eggplants into your baskets, making for another great summer trio…Meanwhile, the corn cycle continues : following on last week’s delicate Sugar Pearl ones, this week you will witness the arrival of our Honey Select cobs. Last but not least, we want it to be known that we have recruited the absolute best (in our humble opinion) blueberry pickers the region has to offer, all friends of our daughter Yamina. Not yet quite fourteen, they pick like seasoned pros. You will be sampling their berries this week. See you all soon.
As you may surmise from the tardiness of this weekly missive, we had a full weekend and the week is off to a riotous start. Indeed, we spent all of Saturday and Sunday harvesting our 2017 garlic crop, a vintage, if I may be so bold, the likes of which we have not seen in quite some time. The bulbs are beautiful to behold, with little to no trace of disease…and they were surprisingly easy to uproot. Why so this year compared to others? Who knows. It may be the combination of a mild winter, abundant precipitations and just enough sun at exactly the right time. As in past years, we have grown two varieties for you : Music, aka the iconic ail du Québec – plump, pleasantly garlicky and easy to cook; and our Ukrainian garlic, a smaller varietal with a bit more bite. We’ll introduce you to both in coming weeks. As before, we will let you know in due course, probably by mid-August, how and when to place your orders for your winter garlic supplies.
Our eggplants are coming in, and are pepper plants are finally yielding too. We’re undecided re corn this week, we’ll see what happens over the next couple of days. And as for our tomatoes, well…they’re still playing hard to get, just barely blushing. So far, 2017 has definitely NOT been the year of the tomato. But that may change…as plants laden with fruit finally respond to the sun’s advances. Meanwhile, we look forward to seeing you all again.
They came, they harvested, they left. The ‘curranteers’, we call them. For a second year running, numbering near twenty this time, they parked their compact urban cars in the farm entrance and stood ready to pick, all smiles and clutching their berry containers. With Hélène acting as a reluctant chief to a motley crew of volunteers, they suddenly morphed into harvest centurions, circling our black currant plants in siege-like fashion. Sitting, kneeling or prone, they diligently picked the ripe fruit. 75 magnificent plans, plying under the weight of berries we would never have gotten around to harvesting, were it not for the steadfast efforts of the curranteers. Black currant picking requires time and patience, both of which are in short supply at the farm at this time – and so we welcome these volunteer pickers as a seasonal godsend. The end result seems fair: one third we keep, another third the ‘curranteers’ keep, and the balance goes to a charitable organisation called Les Fruits Défendus, an urban fruit harvesting collective hosted by Santropol Roulant. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll be able to make it an annual tradition…
Meanwhile, the season’s farm work continues unabated. We’re still planting – to ensure a bountiful crop of fall vegetables – as harvesting intensifies: blueberries, our first carrots, more cucumbers and summer squash. We’ve finally had some meaningful sun, which has dried up field puddles and made our tomatoes ripen. This week’s basket will be a full-on summer one, at last.
Incredible, but true – two days without rain! I wanted to do a little non-rain dance…instead, I harrowed. I tilled a full field of green manure, prepping for my fall brassicas. Perhaps you know my obsession with green manure – cereals and legumes that I grow for no other purpose than field fertilisation. Last night, I laid low a mixture of oats and peas which I buried, leaving it to be further worked on by the denizens of the earth. It is astonishing to witness the speed with which worms and other bacterial hordes transform a patch of freshly destroyed vegetation. In hot and sunny weather, composting only takes a few days, so a field can be worked again within a week. There really is method to the madness: at Arlington Gardens we’ve placed a bet that intense green manure management will be central to the fertilisation of our fields and that we will do without importing anything from outside the farm, be it compost or animal manure. It’s a bit risky, but the pay-off has been great so far, as demonstrated this year’s brassicas, our corn and our nightshades (solanaceas). I got religion, so to speak…I now sow a trinity of buckwheat, oats and peas and let Mother Nature do the rest.
Last night, we had to shift gears, moving into prevention mode. As I was inspecting our corn patch, to check on the plants’ progress and assess the silent presence of the nefarious corn borer, I noted some damaged stalks scattered throughout the patch, lying on the ground, felled at the base, unfinished cobs still intact. Clear signs that a skunk has been inspecting the corn, too – taking stock of the all-you-can-eat buffet to come. On the long list of farm pests, the skunk ranks lower than some, even though the havoc it wreaks can be appreciable over time. The skunk is a funny animal, with an ambling and erratic gait, and very poor vision, to boot. In truth, however, the pest I lose most sleep over and against which I will go to great lengths to defend my cobs is the racoon, master of woods and fields, imho. Far more intelligent than his stinky cousin, the raccoon doesn’t waste precious time in an immature cornfield. He bides his time until everything is ripe, then invites all his friends to a private corn husking party. So I have just decreed that this week will be Corn-Thieving Raccoon Prevention Week. While we’re at it, we’ll make it Blueberry-Stealing Bird Prevention Week. So, as you will have understood, protective electric corn fencing will be going up while blueberry netting will be coming down.
NB: This masked corn thief was transported some 10 kilometers from the farm to a large wooded area where he was released
Back to our veggies : yet another week of bountiful greens, with a hint of summer vegetables to come. In addition to the now-abundantly yielding summer squash, you’ll also find beans and cucumbers in your baskets. I bid you to be patient : our tomatoes are coming along nicely, the same goes for our eggplants, and the pepper flowers are blooming. A full week of sun should make all the difference and would allow us to begin to load your basket with genuine summer fare. Keep your fingers crossed.
Lamenting the fact that it rained again this week would serve no purpose, so I won’t add anything stating the obvious. Instead, let me tell you about our decision to (finally) install protective netting in our blueberry patch. Some of you may recall plaintive emails of seasons past recounting forced sharing of our blueberry crop with the farm’s many feathered friends. More foes than friends, in fact, given the obscenely usurious tax of approximately 40% they collect on our blueberry production year in, year out. So once again, we have determined that enough is enough. Armed with resolve, a sledgehammer and the farm’s bank account, we are steadily building our defense, aligning netting support poles throughout our blueberry patch, 50-plant/75-meter row by 50-plant/75-meter row. The work is not so much difficult as it is tedious – measuring the distance from the previous pole, clambering up the stepladder, hammering in the metal pole, and starting over again, a thousand times, under the wry gaze of the farm’s robins, scavengers on stand-by. Word has it our blueberries are tasty…at least, that’s what the birds have told us over the years. This summer, we’re aiming to prolong our blueberry season…
We’d like to think summer and full-on solanacea season have arrived, but such is not the case. Our zucchini plants are already fully laden, the cukes are on their way – but tomato time, the ultimate proof that Quebec does indeed have a summer, has not yet come. Cabbage is our veggie of the week. This week’s is a summer varietal, light and crisp, to be eaten raw, preferably in a slaw with a nice dressing. There will be other goodies in your basket, including strawberries, which should be eaten quickly before they mildew in your fridge. We look forward to seeing you all.
They say two things are certain in life: death and taxes. I would add a third: weeding. In organic farming, there is no escaping it. The formula is almost mathematical: rain plus warm weather, made worse by the technical unfeasibility of wheeling mechanical (i.e. tractor-pulled) weeding equipment into a soggy field – and there you have it: weeds here, there and everywhere. The situation worsens with every passing day, bringing the anxiety level of the ‘master weeder’ (yours truly) to a fever pitch. Finally, enough is enough, and an entire field team has no choice but to get down on all fours and wrestle with the hairy galinsoga, shepherd’s purse, crabgrass and false chamomile. Heavily armed, on padded knees, the team of five moves forward: two in front, three bringing up the rear, earth warriors all, their progress slow but unrelenting as they show the weeds no mercy. We were at it all weekend, amidst scattered showers and a thunderstorm, with bright sunny breaks punctuating the battle. Early summer weeding usually begins in the carrot patch (the most tedious weeding ever), followed by row upon row of celery root, beans, fennel and lettuce. While the job is far from finished, at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Fortunately, the sunny breaks were just enough for the broccoli florets to form and for the fennel to swell. We’ll also be harvesting our first beets of the season, delicate and delectable, from leaf to root. The balance of your basket contents will be not unlike those of last week: lettuce and other leafy greens, strawberries, garlic scapes and kohlrabi (the latter, despite having been sown in finite quantities, seemingly multiplying asymptotically towards infinity in the field). That said, we look forward to seeing you all again…
Will you allow me to wax lyrical on lettuce? Lettuce so rarely merits more than a passing thought, but this week’s selection makes it worthwhile to pause and consider it. In truth, it’s pretty easy to overlook lettuce. Farming-wise, I mean, if not otherwise. Forget it in a corner of the field, fail to water it in time or enough, and it will quickly bolt and turn bitter. Fortunately though, the season has been anything but dry so far. We’ve had abundant rain, with just enough sunny days to give delicate lettuce leaves more rather than less substance. The long and short of it is that our early lettuces are flourishing, and the two varieties in your basket this week (‘Red Oak Leaf’ and ‘Emerald Oak’) will prove my point. While we’re at it, a few words on the proper storage of lettuce (and other leafy greens – spinach, Swiss chard, etc.) are in order: the less water on the leaves, the better, as the longer they may be stored in your refrigerator. So for this week’s lettuce: as soon as you can, cut the leaves at their base, give them a nice cold water bath, spin them and store them in an airtight container. They should keep for at least a week.
That said, this second week of the season is also scape, strawberry and Swiss chard week. Our just harvested scapes are at their freshest now. Eaten raw or cooked, garlic scapes are a delicate teaser, hinting at the full-grown garlic that will follow in late July. With a couple of days to go before deliveries, the jury is still out on the readiness of our snap peas and broccoli. We’ll let Mother Nature make the call.
The heatspell of the past two day has, as if by magic, erased all memories of the ridiculous weather we had been having up to now. We’ve turned the corner into full-on summer, and there will likely be no looking back until October, when we will have had our fill of languid summer temperatures. Meanwhile, in just two days, we have been consumed by waterworks: drip tubing to unwind, hoses to be laid, seedlings to rescue and greenhouse waterings twice daily versus the usual one. It is on a dry note, therefore, that we announce the true start of CSA basket deliveries for the 2017 season – a season that has kept us on our toes so far and that seems intent on testing our farming mettle. We’ll keep you posted on Mother Nature’s antics as the season progresses.
In this week’s basket, a battle between leafy and all other greens, the leafy ones clearly have the upper hand (see list). It’s always the case in early June, a situation made even more apparent by the absence of strawberries: the cool weather of the past few weeks having slowed their ripening so much that it will likely be another couple of weeks before they enter the fray. That said, the brassicas have enjoyed the cooler weather – and will be making a strong showing at your delivery locations. Pay particular attention to the bok choy and tatsoi – by mid-week we’ll have posted new recipes on the site – and don’t overlook the spinach, basil and kohlrabi. We’ll also be serving up new potatoes from organic potato farmers Samson & Fils, for a little extra oomph.