It’s been another unseasonably warm week, but just cold enough to keep the mud situation semi under control. And there have at least been a few sunny breaks between the generally cloudy conditions. Enough to produce a little bit of growth in the greenhouse anyway.
We’ve changed our Wednesday plans this week to be order pickup delivery only again this week. We decided based on the snow forecast late Wednesday, and a back injury Nathan is trying to recover from that it didn’t make sense to try for a full market this Wednesday. The extra time at home is helpful too. On last Wednesday afternoon getting home earlier allowed us to pour cement for a second automatic water bowl for the sheep to save us hand watering the one pen twice a day, so a bit of available time really has ripple effects. Our Saturday market at Wychwood Barns has been getting increasingly busy, which is good since we have upcoming van expenses, but at the same point means we aren’t really looking for more work. On a related note, we may be interested in another helper for our Saturday market since it is getting busy for three people, and also in the summer could use one person helping at the Dufferin Grove market on Thursdays. We’re still amazed we have enough salad greens to keep up with market, but the greenhouses keep producing, and we have more space than we had two years ago when we last had a good winter growing season so that is probably helping too.
This is the last week of the fall/winter CSA season, so if you were planning on signing up for the winter/spring season but hadn’t yet, this would is the last week for signups. Not sure if you signed up? Send us an email and we can let you know. This week’s box will be Lettuce Mix, Baby Kale, Carrots, Beets, Daikon radish, and Garlic. We figured since the greens are doing so well we might as well all be enjoying them.
We are still looking for a few new team members here. We’re getting a little tired of saying it for so long, but we just aren’t seeing applicants so it’s taking longer than normal. So if you or someone you know is looking for an organic farm job, let us know! We’d love to hear from you!
Partially related to our hiring difficulties, we’ve been spending some time thinking about how we can simplify some of the more management intensive aspects of what we do. We’d rather not give up too much of the crop diversity we love (and already ordered seeds for), but there are still things we can do to make what we do easier. For starts, the big item is the new van we have ordered. More room should mean less time trying to wedge two more boxes onto an already over stuffed van. And getting it refrigerated should save a step loading in and out of the cooler. Another thing we are looking at is upgrading our transplanter. The one we have absolutely revolutionized how we grow when we got it. But then two years ago we got a (new to us) five row seeder and for a variety of reasons we have the outside rows set to 30 inches. That is great for our overall bed spacing, but leaves us with one little problem. The transplanter has a max row spacing of 28 inches. That doesn’t sound that different until you try setting up a cultivator on the tractor to go between those rows. So now with everything seeded direct in the field being at 30 inches, the transplanted crops tend not to get cultivated very often because we are normally trying to get it done in about an hour before dashing off to market on a Thursday, so there is no time for fiddling with cultivators. So we are looking at upgrading the transplanter. The whole machine should be nicer, but mostly we are shopping for two more inches.
Another possible labour saving investment we are considering is improved fencing for the sheep. There is government cost share funding through the federal On Farm Climate Action Program for increasing rotational grazing acres, so last week we spent some late nights on our application. So for now we wait and see if we get approved. And if and when we are, we’ll start looking harder at the budget for where that money is supposed to come from.
At market many of you ask about how our chickens are managed, and basically what makes our eggs special. Obviously in the winter there isn’t much pasture available, so we try to make them as comfortable as possible inside. As part of that, this year we have been trying something new with their bedding. In years past we have always just added more shavings or peat moss to try to keep them clean. This year we have been trying something new. Every day we break up the surface of the bedding pack to promote composting, adding bedding somewhat less frequently, as needed. For a few months the improvements were marginal. The bedding would go a bit further, but it still smelled like a chicken house, and the compost wasn’t very active. Then in the last few weeks something magical happened. The compost got a bit warmer helping battle the winter cold, it got less sticky, and started to smell nicer. So for now anyway, we are managing a successful compost pack. The other thing that is special about our eggs in the winter is that some days the chickens get fresh weeds and greens from the greenhouse. This is just one of the things I love about having crops and livestock. The waste product from the vegetables can help feed the livestock, and then in good time the manure they produce can help feed the crops.
Well I think I’ve rambled on more than long enough. Time to get back out there with the crew and start harvesting this week’s salad, and then hopefully get some more seedlings transplanted into some gaps where arugula already came out.
Until next week,
Nathan and Aleta Klassen