According to the general principal that stuff doesn’t usually break when you aren’t using it, it makes sense that when temperatures plunged in the later part of last week would naturally be the time the geothermal heat in the shop would fail. Quite a bit of sense really, but inconvenient regardless. As it turned out, the two circulating pumps for the ground loop were a bit weak, so a cold few days was all it took for the system to run just long enough to trigger a low temperature cutout. And also, naturally, as it would go, we got it fixed just in time for the cold snap to break and return to hovering just below the freezing mark. Oh well. Such is the nature of things.
This Wednesday we are planning to be back in person at Montgomery’s Inn. Conversely, to make this possible, we are taking this Wednesday off of the delivery route we have been running the last few weeks for our Dufferin people. The delivery route will be back on the following week.
This week in CSA we have Parsnips, Lettuce, Beets, Garlic, Carrots, Cabbage and Rutabaga.
So far this year we’d had enough mild days for washing storage vegetables outside, but this week that wasn’t going to be popular with whoever was washing. So we chipped the root washer out of the frozen mud and hauled it inside. It’s been part of the long term vision ever since we took over the space, but this was the first time we brought that machine inside. It worked fairly well so we will probably be doing that again. With some modifications, but what would farming be without things to fix.
Slowly but surely we are making progress on hooking up the new greenhouse controller to a second greenhouse. Most of the wire has been pulled, and some connected at one end or the other. Next step is to get another box connector to fit the extra wires through. And we have finished and hooked up the longest wire all the way through two greenhouses and back to the shop to the alarm so if the temperature strays too far the controller can call me about it. It is a project a long time in the making, and we are thankful for our previous foresight to instal an extra conduit for future communication wire needs. It made this project possible.
We are also steady making progress on the manure spreader repair. Currently about done the taking apart phase, and not yet putting anything back together, but it all has to happen in its appointed order. Hopefully this week I can at least take some rusty bits to the local welding shop and see if he can make me some new parts.
Well it’s a busy day again. Day two of the Environmental Farm Plan today, and we have some lambs at the butcher today as well so I’d best be going.
(Psst its Nathan’s Birthday today, feel free to send him a Happy Birthday Wish!)
Just as January comes to a close the weather seems to have caught up with the season. So far this winter we’ve been absolutely spoiled by having warm days when we wanted to wash storage crops, so it’s about time reality caught up with us. We’re thinking either we dress up in lots of layers, or maybe get creative to figure out how we can bring the root washer inside. Moving more of what we do inside has been a long term goal, but we aren’t sure about the equipment we have, or the space we currently use for making that work, so there may be some creativity required. But that’s a job for tomorrow.
Today is a bit of a change of pace for us. We are working on our five year renewal on our Environmental Farm Plan. Doing this allows us access to some government funding to improve our farms environmental footprint, but at the same time is a time for reflection on the last five years of where we have been, and the next five years of where we hope to be. So today, and next Monday, we will be learning and planning, and finding out what help is available for doing what we do better.
This is the first week of the winter/spring CSA season. Welcome to our new and returning members. We look forward to providing you with veggies in the coming months! This week will have Carrots, Delicata Squash, Huckleberry Gold Potatoes, Arugula, Parsnips, and Onions.
Again this week we are planning a pickup and delivery only Wednesday. Get those orders in for tonight if you want something!
For those of you following the ongoing saga of our manure spreader, we actually made some progress this week! Well, we managed to take more of it apart anyway. Still a few more parts to torch off of it before we can start putting it back together. Still enough work, but progress is progress. But since there is always something that needs fixing, on Thursday when we went to clear snow, the tractor wouldn’t start. It has been off and on problems for years, especially when it is cold, but this time it just wouldn’t go. An hour of diagnostics and fixing later, we had the plugged fuel line cleared out and the air back out of the fuel system. It runs way better now with no trouble starting to clear the snow again on Saturday. It still needs some work so this doesn’t happen again, but for now it is at least better progress than the last few times we have sent it off for repairs.
Last fall we installed a new controller for venting one of our greenhouses. While we have the venting turned off for the cold season, the controller still runs the heat, and collects more statistics on the recent temperatures of the greenhouse as well as daily furnace run time than we have ever seen. Not that we have figured out how to use all this data yet, but even just having a look every now and again gives us more to work with for management decisions than we have had before. But that’s just one greenhouse, and this controller has capabilities for two. So we’ve started pulling control wires to a second greenhouse for the temperature probe, furnace and alarm. There is lots of work to go, and more greenhouses to do another year, but after 11 years of manual venting and mechanical thermostats it is way more than we’ve had.
We finally have an applicant for one of the jobs we’ve had posted. Still looking forward to meeting him, but it is somewhat encouraging anyway.
Well that’s about all the time I have today. We need to get chores done before heading off for a day of learning.
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.
First off, sorry for the technical difficulties on the online store this morning. It is being worked on, but in the mean time at least it should be mostly functional. Not the best timing, but such is the nature of life.
Well it finally feels like January. At least it isn’t as windy as it was a few weeks ago. We’ve had a little extra ice to deal with in the barns, and we got the row covers back on in the greenhouses so the salad doesn’t have to experience the worst of the overnight lows, but it hasn’t at least added as much to our workload as the windy deep freeze in December. And so far it hasn’t impacted greenhouse production too badly, so that’s nice anyway.
We finally have some news for our Dufferin customers. We will be doing Deliveries this Wednesday in the Dufferin area! We need orders in through our online store by Monday night. We are planning a biweekly schedule for deliveries, so make sure to order enough for two weeks! We are also partnering with Lev Bakery to offer their bread as part of our deliveries to offer more diversity.
On slightly less happy news, we will now be attending Montgomery’s Inn on a bi weekly schedule. This has been a decision a long time coming as we have gotten increasingly busier everywhere else, while getting increasingly less busy there, but the final push was losing another staff member over Christmas leading us to the realization that we couldn’t expect to run market and deliveries on the same week. The good news is the Inn has graciously offered to serve as a pickup point for online orders on the off weeks, so if you pre order you can still get our veggies every week. As I said, it was a difficult decision. We’ve been there longer than we’ve been at any other market, for almost every market during the years we’ve attended. But for now at least we’ll be there every other week at least.
Speaking of being busy, we are already bringing back an extra crew two days a week to help us get through the workload. It’s great having more people here to get through the bigger jobs a few days per week, but also nice having quieter days between.
CSA this week we have Lettuce Mix, Carrots, Turnips, Parsnips, Beets, and Delicata Squash.
After weeks of work the main season plan is done enough to get on to actually ordering seeds. So far two are called in, and some substitutions already made for varieties that were not available. Hoping we can actually get seed for the Kuri squash this year. It’s been a problem for a few years and the company we planned to order them from didn’t have them (catalogs don’t mean everything). Two more to go, and hopefully not too many more problems.
Well the crew should be arriving about now so I’d better get some more onions ready for them to clean.
Welcome Back for a new season! It’s been good to have a change of pace for the last two weeks, to have some time to gather with family and friends and celebrate Christmas. But it is also good to be back to market and seeing all our wonderful customers again. The time has flown by. We were hoping to make progress finishing our laundry room renovations that we started over two years ago, but predictably the time went too fast and there is more work left to do before the drawers are built or the doors can be hung. And so many other things demanding our time and attention. Perhaps there is still hope before spring to make more progress.
The weather the last few weeks has been a wild roller coster ride too. Right now the mud is pleasantly frozen, but we have had a range from three day winter storm that had roads closed and lettuce frozen in the corners of the greenhouse, to a thaw so warm last week that it feels like we should be planting outside soon. In a way the wild swings make me think of last winter when we would have a winter blast about every two weeks, but so far the results for growing have been remarkably better this year. Still we’re trying harder to be prepared for the cold snaps with extra row cover in the greenhouses. Not enough to protect everything in a wild winter storm, but hopefully a better use of our available resources to keep things going through increasingly variable growing conditions.
Besides the day to day work of keeping this place running, this time of year we spend a lot of time working through our season plan. We’re not always the best at following the plan once the season starts, but it does help us know how much seed to order, and at least provides a first sanity check on what we expect to plant for the season. This last season was perhaps the worst drought we have experienced in our 11 years here. We tried our best with irrigation, and overall did an ok job of growing most things anyway. Potatoes were unfortunately at the bottom of the priority list for the water, and their yield suffered accordingly. Additionally, we had a hard time finding enough space with available irrigation to plant our fall crops. Golden beets and rainbow carrots went in late, and too close to the tree line, so the yields were poor there as well. So in our continuing quest to do what we do better, we are trying to reduce the total area we use to better match our ability to irrigate it. It’s hard going through the plan and figuring out what we don’t plant as much of, but hopefully it will make us better prepared for whatever the season brings us.
CSA this week we have Rainbow Carrots, Cabbage, Huckleberry Gold Potatoes, Lettuce Mix, Onions, and Rutabaga and Garlic.
Before the break we promised updates on what we were planning for our Dufferin customers. We’ve had a lot of moving pieces to work with the last few weeks, so we are still working on what that should look like within the limitations of hopefully not burning ourselves out any more than we are already. Whatever we do, it will likely be on Wednesdays, and we aren’t ready to make it happen this week. Hopefully we’ll have more news next week.
Well we’ve got a crew in today to get caught up on a few things, and the animals need to be fed, so we’d best get to work. Always something going on.
Somehow for a week that didn’t seem like much happened, there is a lot to share in the update. For those of you who like to skim for relevance, I’ve included subject headings to make it easier to navigate.
News from the week
Normally this is our slow time of year. Fewer hours of daylight mean slower growth, and more chance to spread jobs out to manage the weekly load. So how did we end up harvesting nearly half a greenhouse full of arugula in one day on Friday? Well it all starts back in early September. At the time we were up to our eyeballs in harvest. Tomatoes were in full swing, there was still a surprising amount of irrigation that needed looking after and keeping on top of the crop coming in and going out was already more than we could really manage. We were already running an extra crew on Saturdays to just try to keep on top of the cherry and plum tomatoes. At the same time we were trying to get lettuce and spinach seeded in trays for the greenhouse so they were ready to go when the tomatoes came out. Well that got pushed a bit, so the seedlings were a little behind what would have been ideal. Additionally, we never got the full planned quantity of spinach planted. We tried some direct seeded in the high tunnel, and one bed of the greenhouse, but past results with direct seeded spinach have been variable at best. So all this added up to more space than planned available for arugula, all at once. It grows ok, but it makes for a lot of one thing all at once. Which all leads us back to this week harvesting over 100kg of arugula on Friday. We had to call in extra help for the first time ever in December, but got the job done. Just in time before the Christmas break.
Other than harvesting and packing Arugula, one of the big parts of our week has been season planning for next year. We need the seed orders in soon so they are here in time for the early crops, and so we don’t miss out on varieties that sell out early, but before we can order the seeds we need a plan of what we are growing. This means hours going through a spreadsheet, comparing plans with actual yield and sales numbers from this year’s harvest and market records, and tweaking quantities up and down as seems to make sense. We’ve made it almost all the way to the end of the alphabet, so soon we can move on to the seed orders.
On Thursday, in spite of less than ideal weather, we had a good time at the Dufferin Grove craft market with our wool products. If you didn’t make it through the freezing rain last week, you still have one more chance this Thursday to shop before Christmas.
We’ve been really enjoying the winter continuation of the Dufferin Grove market and all the support we’ve been getting from customers. So it is with some sadness that we say this week is the last. We are still working on plans for the new year, but it will likely involve some form of pickup point or delivery option, possibly collaborating with one or more other vendor to bring additional product range. So stay tuned for that. We should hopefully have news to share in our first newsletter of 2023!
CSA this Week
Lettuce, Arugula, Carrots, Potatoes, Parsnips, and Delicatta Squash
Reminder that after Thursday we are taking the next two weeks off. The Stop’s Market is back on January 7th, Montgomery’s Inn is back on the 11th. CSA will also be starting back up on the 11th. We still haven’t confirmed a schedule for our Duffern people, but will let you know once we know.
Last Friday was Hayley’s last day since she is going back to prepare for the upcoming season trying to restart their market garden with her partner. So we officially have an opening for pack house lead. For now, Dylan and I will be doing our best to cover the gap, but it would be good to have someone in place well before the spring rush when we need to be applying our focus to the field. So if you know someone who want’s a career in Agriculture and has strong organizational skills send them our way! In the job market these days word of mouth seems to be about the only way we are hiring!
Well thats about it for this week. We’ll be celebrating Christmas, but no matter what you celebrate this holiday season, I hope you find Joy, and connection with the people who are important to you. Since we will be off, there will be no update next week, so this is the last update for 2022.
Yesterday we woke up to a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground. Such a contrast to the green and growing salad inside the greenhouse. It was nice to spend some time Friday being refreshed by the fresh green growth while preparing for market on Saturday.
CSA this week we have Arugula, Cabbage, Carrots, Beets, Huckleberry Gold Potatoes, Onions, and Turnips.
This past week between our regular work we enjoyed being part of the online conference with the Ecological Farmers of Ontario. Probably some of the best sessions for us this year were on rotational grazing. While this is something we have been doing for years, this past summer really highlighted for us that we don’t have everything down as well as we should when the drought limited pasture production. This combined with our flock expanding faster than our grazed area left us short this summer. So hearing someone else’s perspective on grazing months for a given flock size and land area helped point us to where we could make improvements. But beyond the information gained, connecting with other like minded farmers helps energize us for another season.
It’s craft market season, and we will be joining the Dufferin market with an extra table devoted entirely to our wool products this week and next! We already got a jump on the season last week at Dufferin and Stops by bringing wool as part of our regular setup, but if you can make it out to the Dufferin market at St. Anne’s Church this Thursday it should be a good time!
Seed catalogs have started arriving and have us dreaming for next season. For the most part we aren’t making too many changes to varieties, but it is always still worth a look at what is new this year. And there are always a few crops where we aren’t happy with past results and we may be looking harder for replacements.
Just a reminder that the Winter/Spring CSA season is open for signups/renewals.
Christmas is still two weeks away, but there is only one more Saturday before we are off since we are not attending the market on the 24th. We will be doing two more weeks on Wednesday and Thursday before being off for two weeks at all locations. We don’t know yet if Dufferin will be running in the new year, but our the Stops will be back on the 7th of January, and Montgomery on the 11th.
Well that’s all for now, and we have some Christmas baking with the family today after chores so we’d better get at it.
Well another week, and more things to fix. On Monday we decided to make use of the nice weather to finish putting posts around the pond for the new fence, only to find that we couldn’t start the tractor that we normally use for the post hole auger. Fortunately we have another tractor that works, just isn’t as nice for the job. I still haven’t chased down for sure if the problem is actually the starter motor or the wiring getting there, but at least we were able to get the posts in while we still could. And as the bright side as far as repairs go, at least my parts are ready to pick up for the manure spreader.
This week in CSA we have; Lettuce Mix, Carrots, Clancy Potatoes, Rutabaga, Onions, and Baby Kale.
I know it’s only the beginning of December, but we had an inquiry about giving a CSA share as a Christmas gift. Well this got us on to setting up the winter spring season which is now live on the online store. And if anyone else is wondering, yes we can do that. And the new season starts the last week of January.
This week we’re hoping to get a bit of fixing done. Perhaps we can get the manure spreader done and out of the shop, and with luck have the tractor back in working order as well. And perhaps we can even make some improvements. We have all the materials for installing another automatic water bowl for the sheep, just need to do it. But in truth, we probably won’t be getting much of that done this week. We’ll be too busy getting the regular harvest and market pack jobs done while taking in some sessions at the online Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario conference. But learning is important too.
Well it’s a shorter update this week, but that’s just sometimes how it goes.
Better late than never. Finally this week we were able to move inside for our Saturday market. It honestly was a nicer day to be outside than the previous Saturday, but still it was nice to be in out of the weather with no concern of the produce freezing before it could sell. And so marks the end of this year’s outdoor market season. This is also the last week for deliveries that we have been doing while the Montgomery’s Inn market has been closed for parking lot renovations. We are looking forward to seeing the nearly finished result a week from Wednesday when we are able to start back there for their indoor market season. Even more so, we are looking forward to next summer being able to enjoy the new space, which we understand features some custom features for hosting the farmer’s market!
Moving inside for the winter always presents some challenges when we are used to taking up roughly three times the space we are now allotted. Something about growing so much diversity presents its challenges for condensing the space. But with a little extra creativity and a few hours with scale paper cutouts we got most of it in. There are still improvements that could be made, but it’s a good start.
In CSA this week we have Carrots, Beets, Turnips, Cabbage, Delicata Squash, Green Sweet Snack Peppers, Garlic, and Dill.
The warmer weather this week had us back out in the field. We got a few more fence posts in, and also managed to harvest some last surviving lettuce, cilantro, and dill. We also installed an additional conduit between two greenhouses to run control wiring so we can extend the use of the new controller we installed earlier this fall. At this point it won’t be running any vents, but it will run the heat, and keep additional statistics on temperature and furnace run times to help us better understand our production systems. Also, for peace of mind, it should allow us to run wires from the alarm function back to the shop where we can use a call out feature to alert us when the temperature is outside the acceptable range.
Continuing work from last weeks breakdowns, we got the manure spreader into the shop and did a bit of tear down on the broken parts. We have parts ordered in for the main drive unit, and are working on assessing the best approach for replacing the rusted out floor supports. Just some of the joys of working with older equipment.
For this coming week we hope sometime between the rain to continue putting in fence posts, and maybe install an insulated water bowl on the second side of the sheep barn. We got the manure cleaned out this past week so it’s a good time to do the work before the bedding gets too deep again. And it just might be the perfect job for a week that is above freezing, but raining.
Well it’s been a week. This is our first week with Dufferin Grove inside after two weeks without market on Thursdays. That combined with larger deliveries than we’ve had in a little while on Wednesday made it not really the best week for the van to be giving us problems. Naturally, given all that, the check engine light came on last Saturday. Given a series of other unreliabilities over the last few years where we still haven’t been happy with it after repairs, we’ve already been seriously looking at replacements, but this helped further motivate the process.
CSA this week we have Baby Kale, Cabbage, Daikon Radish, Carrots, Parsnips, and Garlic.
This Saturday we will be upstairs at the Kitchener market for the Christmas Artisan Market selling yarn, hand made knitted and crocheted items, and sheep skins. If you are in the area, check it out! If not, we still have a selection of these items on the online store if you are in the mood to do your Christmas or winter craft shopping from home.
We are also excited that this Saturday we will be moving inside at the Stop’s Market. For the first two weeks of November the weather wasn’t too bad, but this last Saturday the temperature dipped to the minus side which while somewhat unpleasant to work in was even more concern for produce that prefers not to be frozen. But with some lessons previously learned in winter outdoor markets during past few years we made it through without too much freeze damage. We’ll still be glad to be going inside.
This week there isn’t much to report directly from the farm, mostly because we haven’t been here as much as usual. Between Monday trying to help a friend spread their manure for next year’s garden and the spreader breaking in the process, and being out at least part of the day on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday Van shopping, between all the normal livestock chores, packing orders and markets, and being out for markets and deliveries, we just haven’t gotten anything interesting done here.
The weather has definitely shifted to winter this week. Most of the fresh greens we harvested before freeze are gone now, so unless it warms up we won’t have any lettuce this week. And even it it does, who knows if the row covers will have been enough for it to survive. Fortunately we have fresh Arugula and Baby Kale from the greenhouse, but lettuce and spinach were still coming from the field so they are on pause for now.
It was good to be back at market with the Dufferin Grove community. Being in a much less obvious location than the summer setup in the park it was attended by mostly the hardcore market faithfuls, so much lighter attendance than summer, but on the other hand, we were expecting that, and there were fewer vendors as well. So it went better than expected. The biggest drawback is hauling everything in and down the stairs.
So, after all that, what are we doing about the van situation? Well after spending the week considering many options new and used, and learning which models of van we couldn’t drive comfortably, we put a down payment on a new van that came available from a canceled order. We’re expecting it to be ready mid May next year. And for now, our van is back on the road and running better than it has in months, after having a dirty sensor cleaned (thanks to Aleta’s Dad for fixing it up again). Hopefully it hangs on a little longer. And hopefully markets keep doing well so we can afford the payments when the new van does arrive. We appreciate all the support from our faithful customers!