Variable Weather

Go-with-the-flow is the watchword
which best captures the farmer’s stoic acceptance that it is Mother Nature who decides how one’s days are spent. This week is a case in point, as we compulsively await every Environment Canada weather update to plan our day, our week and our day of rest.

The upcoming week is looking to be depressed & depressing – with showers, overcast skies and only occasional sunny breaks to make up for the overall greyness. A far cry from this farmer’s ideal of three sun-filled days for every day of rain. In this less-than-ideal world, where things are as they are and not as we wish, we respond as we can, more often than not with surprise or consternation, or both.

I exaggerate somewhat, though, since even when Mother Nature throws a curve ball, she often makes up for it with moments of quiet happiness, a break in the clouds, a ray of sun and a patch of blue sky, breezes that eventually sweep the sky clean – serial epiphanies…

The greenery continues in your baskets,
but we’ll try not to bury you in leaves. There will be some, of course, but they will be mostly different from last week’s: kale or Swiss chard, escarole, colourful lettucespinachbasilkohlrabipotatoes from our friends at Ferme Samson & fils, beets or turnips and more.

We look forward to seeing you all again.

We’re off!

This entry marks the launch of our 2023 CSA basket deliveries!
We’ve been busy over the last month, and what a month it has been! Four real frosts, some pretty chilly weather AND our first heat wave of the season…We did what we had to do, but it demanded an extraordinary expenditure of energy installing protective netting, then removing protective netting on warmer days so our plants could breathe, then re-installing protective netting in response to the latest frost warning issued by the high priests of the Ever-Changing Weather Temple, Environment Canada. Overall, our plants survived the successive frosts, although some of them are underperforming relative to their average growth curve (but should be able to make up for lost time), and others will continue to run behind schedule until a slightly delayed harvest date.

And don’t get me going on last week’s heat wave: welcome relief from the cold at first, it nevertheless complicated matters as we had to ration water (managing the water levels of our irrigation ponds which have to continue to provide water for an entire season of vegetable growing) to ensure everything got enough water until the next rain.

Your baskets will be overflowing with greenery these first weeks, leafy greens of all sorts with a few root vegetables thrown in for good measure. You may have to adjust your cooking just a bit to make sure you put such beautiful seasonal leafy vegetables to good use. In this week’s basket you’ll find arugula, beetspak choi, coriander, lettucespinach, (sunflower) sprouts and japanese turnips.

I remind our new farm members not to forget to bring bags to cart your produce home;
the baskets we use for our deliveries head back to the farm to be used for the next delivery. 

To the procrastinors amongst you who have yet to register : 
It is not too late to sign up – we still have room for you at all our locations!

Going Full Tilt

One month since our last newsletter and the pace is really picking up. Seedling production is going full tilt, so much so that our seedling greenhouse extension is bursting at the seams. One of our big cold greenhouses is already full (with spinach, lettuce, beets and coriander…), the other two will be filled this week. Nothing surprising here, given that the main justification for their construction was to preserve us from Mother Nature’s weather whims, which can be terribly unpredictable at this time of year.

While we briefly caught a glimpse of summer two weeks ago, it was something of an accident, as colder temperatures and rain have returned with a vengeance. Indeed, the beginning of May is looking to be both cold and wet. One man’s curse is another man’s blessing, though, as the cooler weather gave us more time to prune our black currant and our blueberry bushes which are now just about to break bud.

Only 6 weeks to go before deliveries begin at our three neighbourhood drop-off locations
We look forward to seeing you all again this summer.

Greenhouse Rituals

The opening of our seedling greenhouse is something of a ritual,
a familiar routine that one cannot circumvent, a to-do list that one repeats year after year, albeit always with some apprehension: will the furnace fire up as it should – or not? Will there water flow – or not? Fortunately, the furnace started; but sure enough, a couple of hours of to-ing and fro-ing between the well, the pump and the greenhouse were required to fill the water pipes so the season’s work could begin in earnest.

After 14 years, one would think that the ritual would be a given,
a choreography executed with mindless effort, with sowing coming to me as naturally as breathing. But no, winter erases all reflexes and much know-how, and the first pinches of leek seeds are clumsily sown in not-so-straight lines in their trays. The disorientation is only momentary, though. As muscle memory returns, the lines become straighter, the sowing becomes more precise and the trays are filled with increasing speed and efficiency.

Now I can say the growing season has truly begun in earnest…
We look forward to seeing you all again this summer.

Another Year, Another Season

Although another winter chill is in the offing this weekend, it is high time for us to shift gears, to imagine for a moment that Spring is upon us, and to launch the 14th growing season at Arlington Gardens with great fanfare. We have already received most of our seeds (a source of endless delight), completed our field and crop rotation plans (an origami-like challenge of epic proportions) and are now awaiting a thaw or two to begin tinkering with some of our farming machinery and equipment. We find ourselves in a pleasurable and contagious state, one that leads us to want  to invite you to share in our excitement by registering for the 2023 season asap.

CSA basket deliveries will begin on Wednesday June 7 and, depending on your drop-off location, will end on Sunday, November 5. As always, you will have the choice between a smaller basket ($31 per week for 1 to 2 adults) and a larger ‘family’ one ($42 for 3 or more people); and at our market stands, you will also be able to choose between a pre-packed CSA basket and our pre-paid ‘Loyalty’ card – which allows you to buy what you want, when you want it (any unused balances simply carry over the the next season). As you may already know, we are quite flexible with respect to members’ vacation schedules, provided you commit to making up for missed baskets before and/or after your holidays (or find someone to stand in for you in your absence).

We have had a milder winter this year, which means we are hopeful that we will be able to offer several weeks of organic blueberries this year. This stands in marked contrast to last year, when plummeting temperatures in January 2022 nipped almost all our blueberries in the proverbial bud, so to speak. I will spare you the long list of all the vegetables that will fill your baskets and that you will find on our farm stands over the course of the season, but I will mention our ongoing fascination with the wonderful world of Asian greens. I will also strive to perfect our production of parsnips and root celery, two delicious fall vegetables that have proved challenging in recent years. Suffice it to say that our mouths are already watering at the thought of so much freshness to come – cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, leeks, zucchini and so much more.

We remind you that we will, once again, be delivering the organic breads of our friends at Capitaine Levain at neighbourhood drop-off locations in the city* and at the farm. To register for their breads, please note the links we provide on our sign-up page and use them to register directly with them. We find their (organic, sourdough) breads truly exceptional, which is why we have continued to deliver them to you over the years.

*NB: Unfortunately, breads are not available for delivery at our market farm stands*

We hope to see you return in droves, and look forward to seeing you all again this summer.

Race to the finish line

How does the season end at Arlington Gardens?
Invariably in a race to the finish line…As I write these lines, though, the sun is shining, the breeze is refreshing and the light is exquisite. Although it rained hard last night, marching orders are to harvest any and every thing edible – the last root vegetables, leafy greens of all types. There is definitely enough produce to fill your baskets, but we have yet to decide who will get what.

I am often asked what we do with all our leftover produce at the end of the season,
to which I respond that there isn’t usually that much left, except for our onions, which, ever since we introduced them to drip irrigation a few years ago, are (super) abundant, a real multiplication-of-the-breads scenario…

So close to the season’s end, it’s still too early to perform a satisfactory post-mortem,
but it’s never too late for a heartfelt thank-you for your continued presence at your respective drop-off locations, a weekly pretext to exchange with you on vegetables and other topics. CSA baskets may not be the best illustration of freedom of choice – a trendy topic these days it seems – but they remain a great means for connecting farmers with their farm members. Indeed, that is reason enough for us to continue to offer you our baskets, always striving to ensure we deliver an interesting diversity of high quality produce. That said, it is high time for us to call it a day and take a (well deserved, we think) break, all with a view of coming back refreshed and ready to take the farming plunge for yet another season. We will likely not be sending out a customer survey this winter, but we remain open to feedback, comments and questions from all of you in a bid to continue to improve our offering.

In closing, we wish you a great winter and
hope to see you return in droves next spring.

End-of-Season Vibe

There is a palpable end-of-season vibe at the farm
which is manifest in our collective nostalgia for a summer that has truly ended, leaving way to an autumn that is now firmly ensconced. We smell it in the air we breathe in as we traipse through our empty fields and walk along the few remaining scattered vegetable beds, and as we work in the warehouse which no longer benefits from an accumulation of mid-day warmth.

There is also a definitive end-of-season look on the faces of our last farm employees
who are counting the time remaining until they can call it a day and head off to (much) warmer climes. We too await the end of this 2022 season – eager as always to perform our seasonal post-mortem and revisit our successes and our missteps – all with a view to beginning anew when the swallows return in the Spring.

And as many of you may surmise, we are also eager to break with the intense pace of farm work,
to breathe deeply and enjoy some of the things that elude us throughout the season – namely some socializing, nestling into an armchair with a good book and a bit of travel – in sum, activities we hold dear but that are wholly incompatible with life on a farm during peak season.

Back to baskets:
they will be heavy again,
filled with cabbage, winter squashcarrots or kohlrabi,
leeks, potatoes, leafy greens, shallots and more.
We hope you had a Happy Halloween and look forward to seeing you all again.

When the end is nigh

It’s (kind of) like the (Stanley) Cup, to this farmer at least:
the season’s almost over – only two to three weeks left to harvest our last vegetables, clean the warehouse and bid 2022 farewell. At this point, what has not grown will not grow, beds with no ground cover will remain uncovered and we will focus what energy we have left on tasks that are nigh impossible to perform at the peak of the summer but that can be done in an almost leisurely fashion now.

I speak not of the dismantling of our tunnels this week, or the general tidying of netting scattered here and there in the fields.
Rather, I am thinking of the cement platform that has to be poured for our warehouse extension, a project we’ve been planning for a while. Not to mention another dismantling, that of our old Hayloft Adventures farm stay project – one we had worked on with much effort and passion back in the day, but that was back-burnered when we decided to enter the Atwater, then Jean-Talon, markets.

This week’s baskets will witness the return of the pumpkinHalloween oblige.
To be decorated, then eaten.
Given the continued variability in our end-of-season greens, they will differ from one location to another – enumerating them at this juncture would be premature. I hope you won’t hold it against us. Onions, potatoes, winter radishes and/or Jerusalem artichokes will mostly complete the list, but so will other Fall vegetables.
We look forward to seeing you all again.

Tomatoes in October

Had someone told me that I would be able to serve up tomatoes in the third week of October, I would have smirked, guffawed, or perhaps both,
in a manifestation of total disbelief.
In truth, no tomato plant can go unprotected this long in the fields, particularly if it has been subjected to three hard frosts and many a cold night. So how is it that you will have tomatoes in your baskets again this week? You can chalk it up to our use of tunnels, certainly, as well as, perhaps, to the introduction of a new variety of paste tomatoes called Granadero – a rustic Spanish cultivar that seems to resist the cold like no other.

Unless they are grown in heated greenhouses, it is nearly impossible
to grow field tomatoes unprotected.
In our case, we use high tunnels, which protect the plants from inclement weather and mildew. Indeed, even though the season was more humid than seasons past, our tunnels kept our tomato plants dry, which has allowed us to extend the tomato harvest until now, which is amazing.

That said, the same rainy weather also affected our onions, a crop which does not appreciate excess humidity any more than tomatoes do.
As a result, you may find the occasional onion in your basket which has been touched by blue mold; it will be up to you to determine if a simple excision of the affected portion will suffice, or if the entire onion will have to be tossed into your compost bin. These are the vagaries of organic agriculture. Were I a conventional grower, I would have the option of spreading synthetic fungicides on my onion crop to mitigate the adverse effects of humidity – but I prefer to err on the side of non-interventionism, confident that the overall losses will remain manageable and that we will have good onions in sufficient quantities to make up for the few not-so-good ones you may encounter.

In your basket this week
you will find some delicata squash as well as a second – yet-to-be-determined – variety of winter squashpotatoescarrots or beets, a new variety of onions, some leafy greens and, depending on your drop-off location, winter radishes or garlic, and more.
We look forward to seeing you again.

Potluck!

We could not have asked for a more magnificent day for our 2022 Potluck.
A good numer of you came for a farm visit cum harvest celebration, sharing a medley of salads, side dishes, main courses and desserts, all tantalizing and delicious. That said, the jury is still out on whether mid-October is the best time to host such an event, the weather being so variable at this time of the season, but we were incredibly lucky: clear skies, radiant sunshine and almost balmy temperatures prevailed despite the underlying fall crispness.

It is always dificult to speak with everyone
during this type of event,
continuously torn as we are between ironing out details as things unfold and attempting meaningful, but perpetually unfinished, conversation with our guests. Thankfully, there is email — to thank all of you who braved traffic on the 10, in both directions, and who ambled through the fields with us, listened to our presentations and, most importantly, enjoyed the harvest in manifold edible forms, departing with a full stomach and considerable inspiration for your own kitchens.

In this week’s basket, you’ll witness the return of carrots or beets, and of several seasonal root vegetables.
An approximate list of your basket contents is as follows: beets or carrots, cabbage or chinese cabbagegarlic, leeks, onions, parsnips or winter radishes, rutabaga and two varieties of winter squash. We are experiencing  delays in our leafy greens – lettuce and asian greens, primarily – as the colder temperatures which have prevailed over the past three weeks have slowed their growth. We haven’t lost hope yet, but we will definitely have to wait at least a week or two before they are large enough to be included in your baskets.

We look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Frozen

They were calling for a hard frost,
and the forecast did not disappoint.
While Thursday’s frost was light, just barely below zero, the frost that hit in the night between Sunday and Monday was bona fide hoarfrost, the feathery frost that forms on clear, cold nights, leaving plants covered with weird and wonderful crystalline spikes. Our nightshades were hit pretty hard, it goes without saying; but so were the weeds, a definitive and strangely satisfying end-of-season decimation of the enemy. Would that I could be half as efficient in my weed battles at the height of the season…Sigh.

Be that as it may, this frost has separated
the wheat from the chaff, so to speak,

Mother Nature having decided that the time has come to put an end to summer and give our winter vegetable the nippiness they need to be at their best. As you all must know by now, there is nothing better than two or three frosts to sweeten our Fall vegetables and make them even tastier.

In sum, all is good and as it should be
as the end of the season draws nigh.

Speaking of which, it is time for those of you who have not yet done so to make up your last holiday baskets. There is not much time left, particularly for those amongst you who have two or three missed baskets still to make up. It is better to spread these out over alternating weeks if you can, as opposed to doubling up two or more consecutive weeks.

This week’s basket should satisfy those of you bent on cooking up
a Thanksgiving feast:
Brussels sprouts, fine herbs, garlic, leeks, onions, potatoeswinter squashtomatoes and some leafy greens.
We look forward to seeing you again.

Frost Alert

To be taken with a grain of salt, always, but the latest forecast is calling for
a first frost in our area this week
– a mere -1ºC, not yet cold enough to slay the weeds in our fields, but nonetheless deadly enough to fell our current crop of nightshades (solanaceas). Decades of local statistics show an average first frost date of September 18 (indeed, were it not for global warming, one could venture that this year’s frost is slightly behind schedule)…Be that as it may, this vegetable farmer is relieved – better an end hastened by Mother Nature in the natural order of things than via an ignominous mowing down of crops whose generosity has been without bounds for a full season.

It is not only our nightshades which will be laid low – our cucurbits will also suffer a hasty demise.
All except our winter squash, as these have all been harvested and are curing in our warehouse. Their already barren plants will be hit hard, though, and will have to be quickly turned into vegetable compost by our old bushhog. You know the rest of the routine : harrowing, s-tining, green manure sowing for a winter cover crop and see you in the spring.

This week’s baskets are squarely fall-like, albeit with a lingering taste of summer still, as we dole out tomatoes for one more week.
The winter squash of the week will be butternut, a classic in soups or roasted in your oven. You will also see potatoes from our friends at Samson & fils again, along with our onions. The following vegetables will round out your basket : carrots, leafy greens, leeks, rutabagas, fine herbs and more.

We look forward to seeing you all again.

Wonky Forecasts

It has been a while since we’ve had forecasts calling for
so much grey and rainy weather.
Although Meteomedia – the most pathologically optimistic weather service I have ever come across – was recently forecasting a warm and sun-filled fall, this week has sent us careening into fall colours and dank, chilly temperatures.

These rains are far removed from the welcome balmy showers of summer.
Instead, they elicit frustration, as three days of rain mean a week’s delay in field chores, no machinery being able to enter (or exit) fields in such a soggy, muddy state. We accept what Mother Nature deals us, though, because even as the rain is a short-term pain, it will fill our ponds and replenish our subterranean water supplies. In the meantime, we’ll be harvesting in sub-optimal conditions, wiping off our muddy boots repeatedly as we wait for the sun to break through the thick cloud cover.

This morning we completed the harvest of our butternut squash as well as that of a few other specialty squashes.
Our tomato plants are still yielding up their bounty, for which we are thankful, but they too are nearing the end of their useful lives. The coming chill will seal their fate in due course. Notwithstanding, a new generation of vegetables is looming on the horizon, leafy greens for the most part, flavourful specialty brassicas with a bite.

Meanwhile, you will find the following vegetables, among others,
in your basket this week:
basil
beets or root celery, cabbage or pak choi, leeks, pumpkin,
pepperstomatoes and more…
We look forward to seeing you all again at your respective drop-off locations.

Fresh & Organic

A market customer asked me yesterday if market farmers eat better
than most during the long winter months.
Unfortunately, I had to admit that we too despair in winter, particularly when our supplies run out and even we have to trudge off to the grocery store for our weekly provisions. I exaggerate, but only a bit.

Most glaringly absent from our local Métro produce section during winter are the fresh greens.
Other chains fare no better, with tired lettuces, kales and microgreens cultivated hydroponically, or imported from distant climes. Not to mention the battered and bruised zucchini, eggplant that has turned brown before it is cut open on your kitchen counter, or tomatoes that, despite considerable advances in seed engineering, remain stubbornly tasteless. In sum, you will have understood that I find my winter treks to the grocery store anything but enjoyable.

So what is one to do?
Vacuum-freeze some things (tomatoes, zucchini, leeks, etc.); preserve, cook or marinate others (ratatouille, tomato sauce and pickles and more). The internet is an infinite source of conservation methods and madness, whatever works for you is better than no conservation at all. Conservation suggestions also abound in our friend Mariève Savaria’s excellent La Saison des légumes, copies of which will once again be available at our drop-off locations and at the market as we head into Fall.

Meanwhile, your baskets are still chock-full of
vegetable goodness:
winter squashes
, the first potatoes of the season, carrots (never too much of a good thing), cabbage, leeks (which we have in abundance), peppers and last but not least, more tomatoes. Proof positive that Fall has arrived, though : there will be no more summer squash in your baskets, we hope you have eaten your fill. Ditto for eggplant, yields are decreasing as the days shorten.
We look forward to seeing you all again.

Falling into Fall

There’s nothing better than a cool, grey Monday to slip into Fall.
We seized the opportunity to harvest half of our winter squash and to fill several bins with onions of all kinds. It was high time to bring in the onions, which had spent the past week curing in the fields, under a bit of rain, but mostly under lots of sun.

The story of our winter squash is different:
rarely have we harvested them this late in the season – and that’s without taking into account about half of them which are not yet ripe enough to be harvested…It’s been a funny season, in fact, with some vegetables arriving much earlier than usual (e.g. our corn) and others, much later (e.g. our winter squash). So far, our spaghetti squash, butternut squash and pumpkins have all been harvested and are curing gently in our warehouse. Meanwhile, the rest (acorn squash, delicata, buttercup, etc.) will continue to ripen in the squash patch for possibly another week.

You’ll find one of my favourite squashes in your baskets – the spaghetti squash.
I like to cook it in its simplest expression, roasted at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes. Sans sauce, just basted with a bit of olive oil and a touch of salt. Other than that, your basket is still filled with summer flavours – tomatoes and other solanaceas abound – along with leeks, onions and greens.

On that note, we look forward to seeing you all again
at your respective drop-off locations.

Travelling Farmers

When one says ‘market farmer,’ one immediately thinks of soil, tractors and vegetable-growing know-how –
but one forgets that market farmers are travelling farmers, and yours truly certainly travels quite a bit. Yearly, as we take to Quebec’s magnificently (!) surfaced roads again in June, we re-acquaint ourselves with every bump, crack, swell and twist, and develop a very special, almost anthropomorphic, appreciation of the distinct characteristics of the roads thus travelled, one that changes with our every mood.

Take the Décarie Highway which I travel weekly on my way to TMR:
I find it funny to think that – and I am convinced someone at the Ministère des transports was delusional at the time – its speed limit was set at 70 km/h. There is rarely a single vehicle on that road  travelling below 20 or 30 km/h above the stated limit…or if there is one, it is usually because its driver is texting on his/her cellphone…

There are many other roads travelled,
such as the extension of the 35, a short-cut of sorts to the 202, fast but incredibly boring, or Grande Ligne, a little less boring but charmless all the same, an eponymous  and relentless straight line that would do better with a curve or two to relieve its monotony. My favourite is Rang Kempt, lined with big, beautiful, dairy farms, old ones mostly, but with tastefully modernized operations nonetheless. With Highway 10 and its traffic behind me, I breathe a sigh of relief every time I take this road– its attractive landscapes a welcome introduction to the region we call home.

This week’s basket is similar to last week’s, with turnips.
The link to order tomatoes and garlic will be sent tomorrow (keep your eyes peeled) and we’ll be expecting your orders from there on in. While garlic deliveries will be fulfilled later (from mid-September onwards), tomatoes will be delivered weekly starting this week until we run out.

We look forward to seeing you all again.

Mid-Season

Week 12 of 23, almost mid-season already,
so I must seize this opportunity to mention a couple of things that will soon be upon us.

First, our potluck dinner.
It will be on October 10, Thanksgiving Monday. The concept is simple : you will be asked to confirm your participation by email; to bring a dish of your liking & making (main dish, side dish or dessert – we’ll ask you to let us know which type of dish you’ll be bringing) sufficient to feed 6 to 8 people; and to come ready to spend a few hours with us which will include a tour of our fields and installations and the opportunity to exchange with a nice bunch of interesting people. If the weather is nice, we’ll be outside; if it’s raining, we’ll welcome you in our big red barn.

Next on the list are two traditional
late-August happenings:
Italian (paste) tomato orders for canning and sauces, and garlic orders for your winter reserves. Our plum tomatoes are beginning to ripen and our garlic is drying slowly in the barn. The tomatoes will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis as they ripen, for as long as quantities last; your garlic orders will be delivered subsequently, towards the end of September.
A potluck-and-tomato&garlic-order e-mail will follow shortly with all the details.

This week’s basket provides a first hint of fall – leeks!
Not yet the fatter end-of-season ones, but another lighter, equally delicious, variety. We’ve also just done our first large harvest of tomatillos for all the salsa verde fans out there, for which you will find infinite variations on the internet (including, for starters, on our website). Your basket will also include carrotseggplantpepperssummer squashtomatoes and more.

We look forward to seeing you all again at your respective drop-off locations.

Zucchini addendum:
Why so many zucchini week in week out, you may ask? The answer is purely agrological : zucchini must be harvested daily. Otherwise, they drain all the energy that should be going towards new flowers and baby zucchini and wreak havoc in the equilibrium that needs to be maintained for the plant’s continued growth. As a result, we can either offer you the bounty of the harvest, or throw them into the compost heap. We prefer the first option which we believe is to your advantage (grocery-store-bought-zucchini are pretty awful in comparison, frankly).  For your information, even the community kitchens we work with weekly can’t handle all our extra zucchini…

Cool Nights

Have you noticed them lately?
The first cool nights of August,

an infallible sign that summer has reached its point of inflection, an impossible-to-ignore indication that – despite the many beautiful days still to come – we are slowly but surely entering into autumn. For all the plants in our fields, the cool nights are an open invitation to hurry up and complete their life cycle, to ripen their fruits and to reproduce in order to ensure their progeny can return next season… We too have begun to shift gears towards the cleaning of fields and the sowing of green manures. The window for a good run of oats and peas through early November versus a disappointing one is quickly closing, we have perhaps two weeks left before it is too late. All of which explains a renewed sense of urgency and a re-ordering of our to-do lists, all to ensure we take the time to nourish our soils, weather willing.

Meanwhile, your baskets remain steadfastly summery, laden with the last ears of corn of the season.
Our Glacier heirloom saladette tomatoes continue to offer their bounty while we await the arrival of our larger heirloom varieties by late August, early September. Our summer squash are still going strong, but cucumber production has slowed, offering a brief hiatus while we wait for the next succession. Our garlic is curing slowly and our Italian paste tomatoes will be turning red soon. Indeed, you will receive another missive shortly providing details re how to place your conservation garlic and paste tomato orders. Last but not least, please remember to mark your calendars for our 2022 Farm Potluck on Thanksgiving Monday.

The contents of this week’s basket will be
along the following lines:

corneggplantkalelettucesummer squash, onions, pepperstomatoes and more. Do not forget that while you may always click through to the suggestion for each vegetable above, you may also consult our general recipe page here.

We look forward to seeing you all again.

Rainy Days

In vegetable farming, rain days or days after are so many opportunities
to catch up on all the to-do items left undone, precisely unless favourable or unfavourable weather leaves us no other option than actually getting them done. Today has been a case in point – i.e. a rainy night followed by an equally rainy day filled with overcast skies and scattered showers.

Indeed, you may ask, what does one do on the farm when the fields are sodden,
too muddy to traverse except for the most pressing of harvests (such as cucumbers and summer squash)? Following a quick review of our never-ending to-do list, it is decided that while some members of the field crew will focus on cleaning some of our freshly harvested garlic, others will spend some time re-arranging our cold storage (which is always in need of re-arranging it seems) and a third group will dedicate its efforts to repairing and/or building vegetable bins which will come in handy as our winter squash harvests get under way in a few weeks. But these special projects will necessarily be short-lived, as our weekly harvest schedule will soon be our priority no. 1, leading us to postpone them again until the next rainy spell. And so it goes, as we ebb and flow with the weather, always eager to find time to gain time.

Vegetable-wise, yours is a true summer basket this week –
and should you wish to switch things up a bit, please feel free to consult our general recipe page and/or to click through directly to our suggestions for the contents of this week’s basket, namely: carrotscorncucumberseggplantkalelettuce, melons (cantaloupe or watermelon), summer squash and more.
We look forward to seeing you all again.

2022 Farm Potluck
We hemmed and hawed quite a bit before finally opting for Thanksgiving over Labour Day, and we are pleased to hereby launch our formal invitation to a farm potluck on Monday, October 10th, from 11 am onwards. The formula is simple, just come with a dish made to be shared…and we will organize a farm tour, followed by a pick-nick and, weather permitting, we will even suggest a few places to visit nearby.
We’ll send more details in coming weeks.

Gaaarrlic!

There was a time when news of our garlic harvest was broadcast with a drumroll
and elicited applause.

A sign of the times, perhaps, this year’s harvest – while still important – was sandwiched between pressing field work and more pressing still seedling transplanting.

Not to worry, though: our garlic was indeed harvested over the weekend and is already drying in our old barn.
That said, it received only a fraction of the attention it has elicited in years past. Notwithstanding, it has not suffered from our lack of interest, quite the contrary. It is a grand crû, its big fat bulbs surprisingly free of traces of predatory insects, leaving your farmer feeling almost smug…It will spend the next few weeks curing, tightening into a firm mass, waiting to find its way onto your plates and into your pantries.

This year’s garlic harvest was upstaged by an unexpected development, namely, our earliest corn arriving before our earliest tomatoes —
a first at the farm, yet another freaky manifestation of climate change. Despite a pretty-much-according-to-plan growth trajectory, our tomatoes took their sweet time turning red, and so it is that it is only this week that they will finally grace your baskets.

Meanwhile, August is upon us and there is no denying it is full-on summer. You’ll see it in the contents of your basket.
A quick note re our corn : the varieties we grow are delicate and should not be boiled for more than two or three minutes, max. In fact, to the more daring amongst you, we suggest you sample it raw…it is truly delicious uncooked.
We look forward to seeing you all again.

Summer Here, Summer There

“What is the difference between a québécois summer and an Algerian one?” you may ask.
These days, nothing really, except perhaps a few degrees and a humidex measurement. Your vegetable farmer has gone AWOL for a short spell, just long enough for a quick visit to the Numidian country from which he hails to take care of some administrative matters and to visit family members.

It had been a very long time since I last visited my home country in July.
Weather-wise, spring visits are ideal, early winter visits are do-able…but July! It felt like the heat had been waiting for me: it pounced, as soon as I exited the plane. Almost as if to remind me that nothing would/could be done with haste on this trip. It was going to be a slow burn.

That said, this interlude has convinced me that,
while on the one hand, one can indeed commit
a crime and blame the heavens,
as demonstrated by Mersault in Camus’s L’Étranger; on the other, there is nothing more flavourful and delectable than in-season fruits – which, these days in Algerian markets, include sweet and perfumed peaches, impossible-to-grow-in-Quebec Canary melons and torpedo-sized watermelons, a variety likewise impossible-to-grow-in-Quebec given their heft. In another note, I’ll wax lyrical re the merits of eating local and in-season. In the meantime, I am getting my fill of the summer smells and flavours of my childhood in a brief detour down memory lane.

MEANWHILE, TO INTERESTED PARTIES…
Les Marchés publics de Montréal, in collaboration with le Magazine Caribou, recently published on their website an article on the farm written by the journalist Sophie Allard. We were pleasantly surprised by, and even a bit proud of, what she wrote about us — to read more, click here.


Of Poetry and Pauses

There is little that remains to be said that hasn’t been said already with respect to the seasons –particularly insofar as summer is concerned, which this year is looking to be hot, moist and stifling, and filled with torrential storms to boot. The lore is that there are only two seasons in Quebec, summer and its opposite, winter – the other two being so short-lived as to serve little to no purpose, really, other than as brief interludes between two main acts. Poets have made the seasons their bread and butter – and so it is that I like to quote (the French poet) Verlaine, who said of summer …Fi de l’été morose, toujours la même chose, J’ai chaud, t’as chaud, dormons!…A great poet whose awareness of the farmer’s summer frenzy was clearly lacking…

It is not only of poetry that I wish to write, but also of one of the great masterpieces of classical music composed by that musical genius, Haydn, simply and eponymously christened The Seasons. Should you have two and a half hours to spare, please do so without further ado and pay particular attention to farmer’s recitative, nicely complemented by the chorus. Provided you aren’t too tired of YouTube, there is a very nice version under the baton of Nicolas Harnoncourt which is (almost) ad-free…some other time, I will write more about another work of art focused on the seasons, an eponymous ballet, this time, by Glazunov. Music from a different epoch but demonstrating a similar interest in the inevitability of one season giving way to the next (and the next, and the next).

In closing, thank you for the forbearance of our Wednesday-Thursday basket members last week and your having accepted the interruption in deliveries which allowed our vegetables to grow just a bit bigger and us to gather our wits. In fact, Claire and I are seriously considering the possibility of instituting a summer breather next year – as we transition from an abundance of spring greenery to the cornucopia of summer. More anon, eventually.

Meanwhile, we look forward to seeing you all again at your respective drop-off locations.

Busy July

This week’s newsletter went out on Tuesday instead of Monday.
A slight, but non-trivial, delay that can be explained by both a heavy first weekend at the markets and a forecast of imminent (and abundant) rainfall. 

First, we were reacquainted with the markets and our farm stands this weekend.
The weather was beautiful, and the crowds surprisingly relaxed, a mix of market regulars – who jokingly refer to our farm stands as their dépanneur – and passers-by, who casually take it all in: the sights, sounds and smells of the market. They mix and mingle in the market alleyways, some hellbent on their market mission armed with their shopping list, others just passing by, moving to the quiet rhythm of their very own bossa nova beat.

Second, a forecast of rain this afternoon has turned this week’s farm chore list upside down.
And so it is that we spent yesterday planting vegetable successions and weeding carrots and onions, activities otherwise impossible when it rains. By this morning we were back to business as usual, harvesting fast, and lots, before the downpour. Agriculture is all about adaptation and resilience, or so they say…

This week’s basket is still reminiscent of spring, even as it hints at the intensity of summer still to come.
Zucchini lovers on your marks, our early tomatoes will soon be ready, and our peppers and eggplants are coming along nicely, too. Slowly but surely: they all know the summer will be long…

We look forward to seeing you all again.

Summertime!

Following a few false starts, summer has finally arrived –
its presence was timid at first, but has become brash and unapologetic over the past weekend. It was about time : solanaceas and cucurbits are not philosolic for philosolia’s sake. Indeed there exists a long list of vegetables that need a double dose of heat – tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and all the members of the squash family, summer and winter alike – to spark their growth and their flowering.

But such sudden bursts of heat are a double-edged sword –
forcing your vegetable farmer into a state of heightened alert, suddenly preoccupied by the performance of his irrigation systems, obsessed with insect pest scouting and concerned about ensuring his employees are well protected against the heat. Be that as it may, the heat conjures up visions of succulent tomatoes and sweet watermelons…well worth a heat stroke or two.

Many of you have been been amazed by the size of some of our vegetables, generally, and of our lettuces, in particular.
To put it plainly, you are witnessing the return on last year’s investment in cold greenhouses. Not only has it allowed us to start the season a week earlier, but optimal growing conditions in a controlled environment are such that all these vegetables have had to do is grow. Abundant water, no gale force winds, few insects to stress them – a Miltonian paradise, indeed…

…but a paradise lost this week,
as almost all the veggies in this week’s basket will have been field-grown, i.e. subject to the vagaries of the climate and the curiosity of the local fauna. To wit, our lettuces will probably be smaller, but no less tasty.

That said, we look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Groundwork

This week is a seasonal tipping point where we have to work twice as hard
to ensure completion of the most important structuring activities before our market farm stands open July 1st. While the term structuring may sound a bit pretentious, they really are fundamental to the long-term success of our seasonal production. These include completing the setting-up of our tunnels, finishing blueberry plant/field prep so we can install our bird nets, weeding the Jerusalem artichokes to ensure a bountiful end-of-October harvest and  installing protective netting over our Brussels sprouts to protect them from the ravages of the diminutive, but mighty, flea beetle and Swede midge. The list goes on, but the purpose of this weekly note is not to bore you with our never-ending to-do list.

Mother Nature is benevolent these days and seems to be promising us a sun-filled week.
That is a good thing, considering early summers past which were downright unpleasant, filled with muddy boots, slippery alleys and sodden rain gear. All it takes is a ray of sun, and past soggy season starts are forgotten as we focus on what lies ahead.

This week’s basket resembles last week’s, give or take two or three variations on the veggie theme, i.e. more greens and root vegetables while we wait for the nightshades (solanaceas) and the cucurbits (summer squash and cucumbers) to ramp up. They will do so eventually…In the interim, I take the health of your intestinal tract to heart – and assure you that there is nothing better than greens and roughage to keep your pipes in working order.

We look forward to seeing you all again shortly.

The Why of Rye

From the long list of tasks performed over the past week,
I would like to highlight the mowing of two fields of rye.
Rye is my go-to last-recourse cover crop, i.e. what I use when nothing else can/will do. The toughest of the tough, rye keeps on growing when all other green manures stop. That’s why I sow it late in the season, when an empty field needs sowing, to ensure either a protective cover crop before winter hits or an early spring cover when all other flora is still in winter dormancy.

By mid-June, however, rye is nearly six feet tall, magnificent in its ram-rod straightness, its full ears ready to burst.
The challenge is to decide when to lay it low so it can break down properly. Mowed too soon, it grows back; mowed too late, it becomes so ligneous that it is a tremendous struggle to turn it under. Indeed, as with most things, timing is everything…

This week’s basket is pretty evenly split between leafy greens and early root or fruit vegetables.
We’re aiming to start harvesting our strawberries in the hopes of being able to offer some to all of you this week. I’ve sampled a few: they are fragrant, but not as sweet as I had hoped. I don’t want to blame Mother Nature, but… a cool, wet month of May certainly didn’t help. Be that as it may, strawberries, even slightly acidulous ones, are always a pleasure to eat.

We look forward to seeing you all again at your respective drop-off locations.

Stormy Weather

Another week, another mega storm.
We may sow vegetables, but it seemed like we were reaping the wrath of the gods on Tuesday. No major losses, but when we heard the metallic sound of hail on the tin roof of our warehouse, it immediately brought to mind a similar storm at the end of May, the one that laid low our first bean, squash and cucumbers. History will not repeat itself this time, as the hail was much smaller and the plants much bigger.

Be that as it may, there is cleaning to be done,
scattered netting to be redeployed, tunnels to be dried out, tutors to be installed to shore up flattened corn stalks, and a general rescheduling of what had been planned earlier in the week.

We look forward to seeing you all again.

Alea jacta est

The weather forecast is looking a bit iffy, but no matter, alea jacta est 
in other words, come what may, our CSA basket deliveries begin this week on June 8-9 and 10, the first of 22 weeks for our neighbourhood drop-off locations and at the farm. Deliveries at our market farm stands will run 19 weeks beginning July 1st, 2nd and 3rd. We’ve been waiting for this for 3 months. It was a cool spring, and June cooled our jets even more. But Environment Canada meteorologists are adamant : the summer will be hot and stormy.
We shall see.

Our new greenhouses have served their stated accelerator purpose well, too well even,
as we’ve had to harvest vegetables like spinach and pak choi that were hard pressed not to go to seed. We’ll be adjusting our greenhouse sowing dates for seasons to come for sure.

As is customary at the season start, your basket will be quite leafy.
That said, for the first time ever, we managed to store last year’s end-of-season onion bounty in one of our warehouse cold rooms and to my surprise, the result is more than satisfactory. You will, however, have to keep them in your fridge, as they will be quick to sprout at room temperature.

We’ll bring your bread orders, as well as copies of our favourite CSA cookbook for sale ($35) –
La Saison des légumes, published at the start of the pandemic by our organic farmer friend and vegan caterer Mariève Savaria – for those of you who missed it in 2020-21, or who are new to the farm. It’s a great intro to just about everything we grow at the farm, and then some.

Last but not least, we are sorry to announce that
we will not be offering farm fresh eggs this year.
Washing room and warehouse renovations that are currently under way are taking longer than anticipated. We’ve taken down the old henhouse to make room for the expansion, and according to our contractor, he will not be able to complete the project until well into the Fall. We are pleased that our new washroom is almost complete, but insofar as the warehouse expansion and the henhouse rebuild are concerned, we’ll have no option but to be patient – a virtue, they say.