Week One

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

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.

Stormy Weather

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

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

April’s promise

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

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

Firing Up

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

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

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

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…

Weather Forecast: Very Cold and Very Snowy

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

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

November cold snap

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

End-of-Season Parade

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

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

When Some Finish, While Others Continue

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

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

Fall Colours

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

Thank You

On this Thanksgiving Monday, while I could thank Mother Nature for her gifts and generosity, I would rather mention those without whom our family enterprise would flounder, our four seasonal employees, Mexicans all, who form the backbone of this farm. That’s not to say that we don’t have other employees. At the season’s peak, we number roughly 10 hard-working humans in the fields, doing our organic farming thing – i.e., planting, harvesting, weeding, irrigating and ultimately, packing your baskets. But if I draw your attention to our seasonal workers – Jhenrri, Crescencio, Carmelino and Gregorio – it’s because they are my closest collaborators in the fields, a reality that has earned them a status that differs from that of the others who join us mid-season, for two or maybe three months, often as coop agronomy students or simply as summer job-seekers. In contrast, our Mexican workers arrive in early spring and depart in late fall, like the migratory birds who follow a similar flight path between the Canadian Great North and warmer climes along the Eastern American seaboard and even further south. I raise my hat to all four of them, to their kindness, their courage and their hard work. Tomorrow morning, at dawn, the first to depart will be returning to his family after a six-month absence. Indeed, I cannot thank them enough.

Beautiful Butternut

Fall has arrived suddenly at the farm, like an unexpected guest. In just the past few days, we’ve had to switch from shorts to pants and from comfortable shoes to heavy boots. Don’t mistake me, the grass is still green, thanks to abundant morning dews and nocturnal rains, but our fields are no longer as luxuriant as they once were, the cooler temperatures having affected each and all of their inhabitants, without exception. Well, almost all : there are some leafy greens who relish the cold, which draws out the sweetness hidden within. We’ll be serving them up in succession over coming weeks. The cooler temperatures also signal that it’s time to move seriously into field clean-up mode, patch by patch, sowing green manure as we go. Next week will see us begin to dismantle our low tunnels, yet another Herculean farm task.

In your baskets, then, roots and leafy greens, the freshly harvested rutabaga, or swede, and the shapely butternut, the squash lover’s ultimate favourite, particularly well-know in North America, and super-sweet to boot.

Of Squished Squash…

I know I’ve been talking about if for a while now, but it was only this past weekend that we truly finished harvesting our winter squash, under the blazing sun. To be more precise, more than a week ago we had cut the squash off their vines and left them in the field to cure a bit, waiting for the right moment to actually bring them in from the field, into the empty bins waiting to receive them in the cool shade of the barn. But with the infinite (or so it seems) list of things to do on the farm, we woke up Friday morning with a sudden sense of urgency, realizing that while it’s okay to let a butternut cure for a few days, it’s not okay to let it roast in 35-degree heat. And so we rallied the troops, and some 10 tractor-loads later, the stress level abated…Although I must admit that as I contemplated the once luxuriant squash patch, I realized how messy a crop winter squash can be…a battlefield, I thought, observing the weeds competing with the trailing vines, rotten squash here and there having succumbed to some disease or another, squished squash (sic) having fallen under the wheels of our Farmall. A veritable carnage, I tell you, albeit quickly forgotten as the next chore beckoned, and a distant memory once we sow the green manure and make amends…

Meanwhile, your basket is a Fall one, with Kuri squash, carrots and arugula – my favourite leafy green, which will soon dethrone the tomato in my vegetable kingdom.

Harbingers of Fall

Even as the forecast is calling for yet another summery weekend, this week’s basket reminds us that fall is looming. Beyond last Saturday’s first frost, it is the general state of our solanaceas and cucurbits that is the true harbinger of fall — plants that have given so much during the peak season have started to falter, readying themselves for an imminent shutdown. In any event, we’ve completed our harvest of winter squash, and I am pleased to report that Mother Nature has been most generous. Butternut squash, acorn squash, delicata squash, buttercup squash, sweet dumplings and sundry pumpkins will all grace your basket in due course over the coming weeks. For the Brussels sprouts aficionados amongst you, know that we have just clipped the tops of the plants to redirect their energies downwards again, towards the budding sprouts. Another bountiful harvest in the making. We’ve held off on the celeriac for now, fragrant but still too small. A bit of rain and another week should see them come to maturity. All that said, summer still lingers, and with it tomatoes and cucumbers…although our squash and eggplants are bowing out. There is still time to order your Italian paste tomatoes – and next week will see us start to fulfill your conservation garlic orders.

Paradise Lost

As I write these lines, the much anticipated winter squash harvest, heralded last week, has yet to be done. A build-up in farm chores, each more pressing than the next over the past few days, has been such that we have decided to harvest them one at a time, starting with this week’s special, our spaghetti squash. The others will follow in due course…and truth be told, there’s no particular rush, yet. This week’s basket bridges from summer into fall, with potatoes and onions on the fall side, and other items reminders that summer is still with us. Some of you will be relieved to hear of a notable decrease in the productivity of our summer squash and our eggplant. Say what you will, you cannot complain of a lack of them…but all good things come to an end, and the cooler nights of the past week have finally slowed our solanaceas down, not to mention the presence of the tarnished plant bug (TPB), who is particularly fond of delicate mauve and yellow eggplant flowers. While these vegetables have not yet come to an end, they will be served up less frequently until their inevitable demise. The question of the timing of the inevitable demise of our tomatoes has likewise begun to haunt us – as the slightest inflection in a hitherto bountiful yield causes existential angst, a fear of what will no longer be, our very own Paradise Lost…So like the ant of La Fontaine’s fable, we will gather them up fresh in copious quantities now, knowing that we will have to make due with their by-products when winter winds come.

 

How to spend a day or two…

High season at the farm continues, unabated. A sticky heat, with a humidex reading through the roof, makes these late August days bear an uncanny resemblance to the dog days* of July. Before writing these lines, I tour the fields to take in the sounds and smells of the late afternoon and surprise, surprise – there are signs of an early, and bountiful, winter squash harvest. Just a few days ago, our squash plants seemed to be full of vim and vigour, bright green and ready to weather the month of September. All it took was a rainshower or two to make them collectively decide that the time had come to call it a day and let their farmer reap the fruits of his labour. I will keep you posted, but plans are in the making for a weekend of squash picking, an enjoyable task, believe it or not – a symphony for the senses, a mix of colours and textures, shapes and sizes. In short, a pleasant way to spend a day, or two, in the fields.

In this week’s basket, we give you a glimpse of the fall that is yet to come with our first real harvest of summer leeks, with their white stems turning to green, light and delicious. And to make amends for our blueberry shortcomings, we offer up a third serving of watermelons, sans seeds, courtesy of our friend Gabriel Samson et Fils, our trusted supplier of the best organic potatoes in Quebec. I do not grow the seedless variety myself, given a nostalgic preference for the old-fashioned one with seeds, no doubt nourished by memories of seed-spitting competitions with my brothers, and the effort made to crunch nary a seed as we wolfed down slice after seed-filled slice of our favourite fruit…back in the day when life’s simple pleasures made us happy.

*To the Greeks and Romans, near the time when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, i.e. in late July

Top of the Season

We’ve reached the peak of the season, a time when we begin to anticipate the ebb which will inevitably follow the flow — and quite frankly, this year’s succession of hot, steamy days is bordering on the obscene. This week will be yet another dry one, with little to no precipitation in sight. That said, we won’t exaggerate — already the cooler nights of August are bringing wisps of fog at sundown, and heavy dew at dawn. These contrasts are creating confusion in our plant kingdom as some crops don’t know whether they are coming or going. Indeed, by farmer’s almanach standards, we could well be a mere four weeks away from the first frosts of autumn. But we anticipate too much, we should let nature follow its course, however erratic said course may seem at times. And we’ll cheat a bit, harvesting our onions even as they stand ramrod straight — usually, they begin to topple over as the days shorten — and we’ll soon do the same with our winter squash, despite their showing no signs of slowing down, seemingly blissfully unaware of their imminent demise.

This week’s basket will be bountiful, we hope you appreciate its festive nature. We look forward to seeing you all again.

Swingin’ Summer

Summer continues in full swing for this, our 10th week, and basket, of the season. It’s been in full swing for a while, now – 2018 will definitely be a season to remember – with alternating bouts of drought, gang-buster growth, goings-to-seed and weeds galore – the latter the only true constant in a crazy summer to date. But as I like to say, I’d take 10 seasons like this year’s in exchange for a single rainy one anytime. And the season is nowhere near finished, what with hot nights and days still pushing the high 20s and occasionally still topping 30. That said, here is a small sign of the fall-that-is yet-to-come: today I started sowing some of the root vegetables for your late-season baskets – turnips and radishes of all types, and in the main greenhouse we’ve started sowing our Asian greens – mustards, rapinis and the like. Fall vegetables don’t like the summer heat, so we’ll pray for a reasonable autumn. Meanwhile, we closed out the day harvesting good old-fashioned (i.e. with seeds) watermelons…

Several of you noted the bitterness of our yellow cucumbers, for which we are truly sorry. The explanation is simple: they are a variety that definitely does NOT do well in drier conditions. We mistakenly thought it was only the skin that would suffer, but some of them were bitter to the core. A few rainy days have made all the difference for our latest crop, but we will have learned our lesson: next year, we will be sure to irrigate them well (in summers past, none of our cucurbits ever required extra water). We look forward to seeing you all.

PS: no lettuces this week, they’ve all gone to seed…

 

Good Neighbours & Good Tomatoes

The week began under the auspices of rural solidarity, i.e. when the only people you can rely upon are your neighbours, farmers for the most part, who are more than willing to lend a helping hand if/when the situation requires one. Our particular predicament arose as some of us were intent on revving up our largest tractor for a series of pressing field chores while others were focused on basket prep in the warehouse. The motor started but nothing else was working, especially the hydraulic arms without which a tractor is, for all intents and purposes, useless. All it took was a single, rather frantic, call for a good Samaritan to materialize, dropping everything to tend to our tractor woes, spending an entire morning changing engine and hydraulic oils to get the beast working again. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that André, Jimmy, Claude, François, Jean-Paul and others I may be forgetting here have gotten me out of one bind or another, always with a smile and a sense of humour. They are all quite remarkable, and they know how grateful I am – but their kindness bears mentioning from time to time.

And so it goes: this week’s basket is another summer one. We are on the verge of a tomato tsunami. For one last week, you will have to make do with our Glacier saladettes in your baskets, as they are the first to ripen, but from next week onwards, we’ll be overrun – as our paste tomatoes continue to ripen, and our Cherokees turn a darker hue of purple, daily. We look forward to seeing you all again.

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

Following a week marked by the harsh reality of farming – for those of you who thought plagues, drought and pestilence were only biblical – there is great solace to be found in this week’s bountiful harvests, namely a bumper crop of garlic which we have been harvesting over the past 10 days, and a haul of carrots which we completed this morning. The weather dial is still set at VERY HOT – under a beating sun that leaves everyone feeling parched. The summer of 2018 will go down in history as one to remember. Fortunately, a 15-foot deep surface well dug two years ago on a bit of a whim to water a small surrounding area is coming in very handy indeed. A not-so-justifiable investment at the time, in hindsight it seems to have been something short of a stroke of genius. It is worth noting that if a vegetable farmer’s day were nothing but planting and harvesting, life on an organic farm would be easy; but July and most of August are taken up by weeding, a demanding activity by any measure, and one that, we admit, we occasionally fail to duly accomplish, not through any ill-will per se, but rather through lack of time, energy, or both.

The time is fast approaching for us to take orders for canning tomatoes and conservation garlic. Returning members are familiar with the routine, but for those of you new to the farm, we hereby inform you that if you are interested in purchasing larger quantities of paste tomatoes for freezing or canning, or garlic that will keep all winter, we will be offering both online shortly. Meanwhile, check out the contents of this week’s basket here – and we look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Mother Nature — A Harsh Mistress

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no denying it : we are unlikely to have blueberries this year, barring an unforeseen miracle. The last month of drought-like conditions has decimated our berries as they ripened – then dried – on the plants, falling to the ground before they could be harvested. In the ten years we’ve had the farm, we’ve witnessed dry spells before, but this one couldn’t have come at a worse time for our blueberries. Our only consolation is that our black currants have done well, so we hope to be able to offer you a jar of our home-made black currant jam in coming weeks.

As bad news never travels alone, I must also inform you of the fact that our first three weeks of sweet corn, a seasonal highlight, have been destroyed by a roving pack of raccoons who, over the past 10 days, have managed to avoid all our traps, including an electric fence that usually stops most of them in their tracks. Every year, we lose a few rows of corn, but this year’s tribute is more akin to a Sicilian pizzo than a charitable donation. We’re at a bit of a loss as to how to deal with the critters/varmints – they’re frightfully cunning, and remarkably resistant to all our entrapment efforts.

Disappointing news, I must admit, for which we are truly sorry – but one must remain zen in the face of such setbacks, as Mother Nature has no patience for winers. She puts us to the test time and again, daring us to rise to the challenge as best we can. All is not lost at the farm – far from it : we’re halfway through a bumper garlic harvest, and our tomatoes will finally grace your baskets. And for those of you wondering about our irrigation woes, last weekend we managed to hook everything up to a new artesian well on the west side of the farm, and – miracle of miracles – we’ll have more than enough water for the rest of the season. Alleluia. We look forward to seeing you all again.

Irrigation Crossroads

We’re at a crossroads at the farm. The prolonged dry spell this month has just about run our main irrigation pond dry, and as it will only fill up again with fall rains and winter snows, we’re having to think long and hard about our irrigation options for the balance of the season. That said, there aren’t that many. Option one has us digging a new pond in an adjacent field and using a combination of pumps and pipes to channel the water to the different plots; option two has us filling tubs with water from our wells, to be pulled by tractor or cart by pick-up truck to the individual beds which we then water by hand. A daunting project, either way. Fortunately, they’re forecasting rain tomorrow.

Already, a couple of vegetables are suffering for want of water, namely our winter squash and our corn, crops that are never irrigated as their roots run deep, but which nevertheless would have enjoyed a bit of extra water this year. No need to panic quite yet, Quebec summers are always full of surprises, so August could be as rainy as July has been dry… Meanwhile, our irrigated vegetables are enjoying the 2018 season, and we will do everything we can to ensure that that continues to be the case in coming months.

A heads up, fyi : we will be starting to harvest this year’s garlic on Friday. And while we can’t promise El Dorado yet, our early season tomatoes are ripening nicely, and if the hot, dry weather continues, the balance of our tomatoes should do very well indeed. We look forward to seeing you at your respective drop-off locations.

Carrot Agony

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

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

Dog days of…July

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

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