Happy Spring!

It is almost hard to believe that spring is finally here. The mountains of snow are slowly starting to melt (yesterday I found a “to do list” from January in a snowbank: some of the items are still to be done…) and the first signs of life have appeared in the greenhouse. This weekend we’ll be planting up a storm with some volunteers from Queen’s University and by Monday our little greenhouse should be nearly full of seedy deliciousness. Heather and Irene were built a lot of new tables and we’re going to put them to good use! Only two months to go before we can start enjoying the leafy goodness we’re starting today.

In two short weeks we will be starting our tomatoes! And this is my main reason for shaking you out of winter and into spring: if you’re at all interested in ordering some tomatoes for summer canning (yes we always like to plan ahead here on the farm), then your should check out the CSA page for Toronto (http://www.fiddlehead-farm.ca/the-csa/) or Belleville (http://www.fiddlehead-farm.ca/csa-belleville/) and tell us what you would like. We are asking that all tomato orders be in by March 31st so that we can start them in the greenhouse in early April.

Happy Spring!
Steve and Heather.

April Showers

KaleSpring is finally starting to take shape here on the farm.  I am happy to see that the progress that we made in our first year has laid a good foundation for this year.  The greenhouse is full of seedlings ready to be planted and the fields are plowed from the fall.  The rains have so far kept us off of our fields but this doesn’t mean we’ve been sitting idly by waiting for nature to warm up and dry out.  No we’ve been busy getting everything else in ready to run condition for 2013.

Last weekend Heather and I attended the local Slow Food AGM and were quite excited to make new acquaintances and to have renewed old ones.  We were there to talk about our CSA and to learn about what Slow Food is doing locally here in the County.  Heather and I expect to join soon, just as soon as we can get around the filling out that membership thingy…If you have a Slow Food group in your area I would recommend getting in touch with them.  It is a great way to enjoy new and local foods while supporting the farmer and artisan producers in your area.

April Pictures 211Remember, if you are still interested in a CSA Summer Food Box from Fiddlehead Farm we are still accepting memberships.  Our membership drive has been going well, but we are still only half way to our goal for this year.  So please send those memberships that have been sitting on your shelf waiting to be posted to us in the mail or register online via our new Paypal option.  If you have friends who might be interested we greatly appreciate you spreading the word about our CSA.  The CSA program helps our farm get through this financially challenging period of spring inputs and as thanks we work all spring, summer, and fall to make sure you get the best produce we can provide.  Much thanks to all our members for their support and much thanks to future members for the incoming support.

April Pictures 199New broiler (meat) chickens arrived the day before the last ice storm hit us here in Prince Edward County.  Lucky for the birds our power kept going despite it being out for a day or more just West of us.  I’m still thanking my lucky stars for that one.  The 100 little birdies have been doing really well tucked in the greenhouse.  I built them a large chick coop under a few of our seedling tables.   The chicks have to be kept warm for their first four week until their adult feathers come in.  After that they move outdoors for more greens and ranging.  Their current coop offers lots of space to run around and we are able to capture the extra heat at night for the greenhouse when we’d be running heaters anyway.  Sometimes I feel clever…sometimes…

The birds will be available fresh on June 22nd for pick up.  The birds are by order only so please message me now with the number of birds and your preferred weight range.  Our birds generally weigh from 3.5-6 lbs and sell for $6.00/lb.  They are raised on all organic grains from Bernerland Farms in the Smiths Falls area and have access to a mix of pasture and garden greens.  The response to our birds was quite impressive last year and we look forward to continuing with the trend of happy taste buds.

April Pictures 247In an almost ironic sense we had our irrigation pond dug last week.  I say ironic because as I write the problem is too much water on the fields; not too little.  Dry days will come again and now we are ready for it!  Our pond is 100’x50’x7’ and will provide us with enough water to keep our veggies growing through almost any drought.  Our target depth was 7’ and wouldn’t you know it we hit bed rock at exactly 7’.  Add to this the fact that below our top soil the subsoil is all clay and we have one top notch irrigation pond.  My thanks go out to the Carrot Cache foundation of the Big Carrot in Toronto again for their help in making this a possibility.

April Pictures 246On top of all this repairs, maintenance, digging drainage ditches, and a good old dusting off of equipment is in full swing.  From here we are on a full run for May to get all of the new seeds and seedlings into the ground.  Exciting additions to this year’s garden will be garlic (coming up beautifully), sun chokes, strawberry seedlings (we’ll see how much they yield in year one), and our first asparagus seedlings are getting planted (expect three years to harvest).  Lots to look forward to for sure this spring.

Spring Details:

CSA delivers to Toronto to Bloor & Borden and John Street Farmers’ Markets on Wednesdays, Toronto Junction and and Withrow Park Markets on Saturdays, and to Belleville downtown on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Saturday Farmers’ Markets start May 25th and Wednesday Markets start June 5th.  See you all soon!

April Pictures 245

Maple in the County

IMG_0697This past weekend (March 23rd  & 24th) was the annual Maple in the County event.  While Fiddlehead Farm hasn’t yet gotten around to establishing its sugar bush I took the opportunity to do something rare: I got off the farm and did some touring around the county.  Heather will attest to the fact that I can at times be a bit of a workaholic.  She might contest the “bit” part.  I am always busy puttering away at farm work and often my free time comes at the end of the day when I mostly just want to sit down with some wine and good food.  With the farm work tottering somewhere between the slow and crazy period of the year I thought it was a good time to take in some local fun, see places I hadn’t before, and chat up friends and make some new acquaintances.

Saturday morning I awoke to my regular routine of greenhouse chores.  The greenhouse is now full to capacity with our early spring crops; leaving the greenhouse alone for a day can be tricky as it needs to be closed in the morning and evening to trap heat and opened during the day to allow the air to cool.  Days away have to be carefully planned so that all our baby veggies stay happy and thriving.

With the greenhouse set for the day we hoped in the car for a day around the county.  There was a brief delay as we helped our weekend East Wing renters get their car out of the snow.  With ease everyone was rolling and Heather and I were on our way to Picton for the Artisan Market above the local bookstore.

The Market was a wonderful collection of county fixtures.  Happily, after a year of living here, I am starting to recognize more and more faces.  We stopped in at a number of different booths and had lovely chats with Honey Pie Hives and Herbs, Pyramid Farm & Ferments, Sunset Farms, Prince Edward County Lavender, and a few friends we happened to bump into at the event.  Heather introduced me to Rebecca from the Pink Lunch Pail and we also met a local clothing designer and seamstress.  We walked away with a few tasty treats and Heather got excited about the Maple Kombucha from Alex at Pyramid.

From the market we were off for lunch at Vicki’s Veggies.  Vicki and Tim have been great supporters of our farm and it is always a pleasure to attend their events.  This time around Tim was cooking up pizzas on their bread oven.  The pizzas had béchamel sauce topped with bacon and an egg.  They were officially called a breakfast pizza, but worked pretty well for lunch too: delicious.

While Heather was off helping collect some syrup from their trees I stayed put and enjoyed a cup of tea that Vicki had given me.  The tea was maple sap with black tea and mint.  It was really addictive and led to a few refills.  We got into a conversation with Stacey from Edible Antiques and got to try a maple tart from Pink Lunch Pail.  After an hour we had to be on our way to our next stop and said our good byes.  I made sure to squeeze in one last tea refill before leaving.

Our next stop was Nyman Farms.  The Nyman’s produce syrup and raise a number of animals.  Our farm is increasing its animal offerings this summer with chickens, turkeys, and pigs arriving on farm in the next month.  It is always of great value to talk with other producers and see how they are doing things.  The Nyman’s operation is compact and efficient.  I walked away from our visit with a few ideas on how to improve our farm and things to strive for down the road.

Sandbank’s Winery was our next stop.  Despite living in a wine region and being a wine lover I have not been to many of the 30 plus wineries that make up the viticultural scene here in the county.  This has to do with the aforementioned workaholic issues that have kept me from visiting the wineries many of which are only fifteen to twenty minutes from my home.

Sandbank’s Winery is just outside of Wellington and has a good selection of wines.  They are evenly split between reds and whites.  This is a good thing as I tend to be a lover of red wines while Heather is a lover of whites.  We sampled through several of their offerings on both sides.  While we loved a number of the wines on offer the riesling and baco noir reserve stood out as our favourites.  The challenge now is finding the right event to open them at.

Our last stop of the day was Sugarbush Winery.  This is a small winery that specializes in estate wines.  Everything they do is from their own grapes and despite being a fairly compact vineyard they have a sizable selection of quality wines.  I was particularly impressed with the Pinot Noir.  Pinot Noir tends to be my favourite wine and the one from Sugarbush put a particular smile on my face.  Heather walked away with another reisling: I think there might be a trend developing.

IMG_0720We pulled into the driveway with perfect timing for the greenhouse.  Temperatures had just started to drop and I was able to close it up before the temperature went too far down.  With the day’s loot away we put together a sprout salad from the greenhouse and curled up with an episode of Edwardian Farm followed by a bonfire hosted by Alex and Jenna of Pyramid Farm & Ferments.  As things go out here in the county it was a full day.  That night we both slept soundly.  It reminded me that I have to get out more often.

Summer & Fall

August 22, 2012
We trust everyone is enjoying the return of salad greens; we definitely are here at the farm! We’ve been having cooler mornings out in the county, which is definitely good for our greens. We’re seeing a lot of recovery in our kale.  It was particularly hard-hit by flea beetles for most of July. It’s not up to full production yet, but it’s getting there and seeing as the flavour of kale actually improves after the first frost, we’re looking at a great fall crop.

 Finally, this week, the tomatoes are beginning to mean serious business. This week we have Cherokee Purple for you. They are a beefsteak tomato, and as most heirlooms are, absolutely stunning to look at while packing some intense flavour. These have a rich, malty sweetness. They are a favourite for sandwiches! When we are harvesting tomatoes we often find many that are not market quality. These seconds often make their way into the farm kitchen and we have been making fresh salsas to go with practically every meal. Fresh salsa is our intern Vanessa’s favourite condiment in the summer. It’s not quite as brine-y as a cooked salsa, and really packs a tomato punch. Here’s a recipe for her Fresh Tomato Peach Salsa, a great way to make use of those tomatoes that may be less than perfectly shaped! If you like a milder salsa, be careful to leave out the seeds of the hot pepper. Conversely, if you like it hotter leave the pith (the white part that attaches the seeds) in, as it will definitely bring the heat!

 Tomato Peach Salsa

  • 2 C roughly diced tomatoes
  • 1 C chopped peaches
  • ½ C finely diced onion or scallion
  • 1 finely diced hot pepper (jalapeno or paprika work well!)
  • Juice of one lime
  • ½ C chopped cilantro
  • ¼ C fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, stir. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit your preferences! Serve with taco chips, fresh tortillas, sandwiches or on a salad!

 In this week’s box you will find a bunch of either kale or swiss chard, onions, lettuce mix, a gorgeous (and tasty!) small bag of edible nasturtium flowers, a cucumber, a bag of scallopinis, tomatoes, ground cherries, Jalapeno hot peppers, cilantro and parsley. The scallopinis are beautiful. If you blanche them quickly before sautéing, they hold their colour in the most fantastic way!

August 29, 2012
Life in farming is never dull.  On Tuesday we took Vanessa’s batch of 49 broiler birds to the abattoir.  The drive was going wonderfully well until this head popped into view out of the dark just to the right of the van.  We had enough time to register in our minds “DEER!” before we heard it run face first into the side cargo door.  There was a crash and thud followed by an adrenaline rush.  I looked back to see a stunned but very functional deer pick itself up off of the road and continue on its merry way.  Our van was left with a few cosmetic dents, but nothing functional was damaged.  We just have a little more character on the road now along with a few tufts of fur.

I was very happy to return to the garden after that adventure for a good long day of harvesting.  It takes a lot of time these days as there is a lot to bring in for both you, our CSA members, and for market.  We put together what I think is our best box yet!  This week you will find some lovely salad mix, Swiss chard, basil, parsley, cilantro, cucumber, carrots, beets, Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers (they are long, thin, red, and at first glance you’d think they were a hot pepper but they’re sweet), jalapeno pepper, a bag of mixed salad tomatoes (in the mix you’ll find red and green – ripe when soft to touch as they stay green – zebras, yellow perfection, and indigo rose), onions, ground cherries, nasturtium flowers (a refreshing edible flower with a slight peppery flavour for salads or garnish), and some tomatillos.  The last item is the main ingredient in our recipe for the week.  Tomatillos are common in Mexican cuisine and are most prominently found in salsa verde or “green salsa”.  This version is super simple and deliscious.  We made it on Monday and served it as a sauce on roasted chicken.  I was very happy with the results.  (recipe on back)

If you have an interest in one of Vanessa’s chickens please let us know by phone or email and we’ll arrange delivery.  These birds will be slightly smaller than our last batch averaging likely 3-4lbs rather than the 6-7lbs we had last time.

September 5, 2012
Rain is a wonderful thing.  On this past Tuesday September 4th we enjoyed being poured on for nearly nine hours straight during harvest.  In total some 38mm of rain fell on our little farm.  It had been 23 days since our last rainfall.  On August 11th-12th we saw 20mm fall on our farm.  We do a little happy dance every time we pass 1mm of rain.  For our plants to be happy and vibrant they need rain.  Irrigation keeps them alive and can help speed them along in a normal year, but the little we add disappears fast with our depleted water table.

A moist soil is alive.  There are millions and billions of micro organisms in the soil that establish symbiotic relationships with our foods.  Our plants need these organisms in order to extract nutrients from the soil.  Water is essential to plant growth, but it also ensures an active soil culture that can keep our plants thriving.  A good rain like today brings life back to the dry soil I was looking at when I awoke.  As I was walking in with the last of the harvest I swear the plants looked greener and more vibrant already.

Your box this week is a bonanza of garden wonders: Mesclun Mix, Kale, Parsley, Cilantro, Tomatillos, Tomatoes (big bag of Roma’s for saucing and some Green or Red Zebra Salad Tomatoes with a Brandywine Beefsteak), Cucumber, French Fillet Beans, Yellow Wax Beans, Bunched Carrots, Onions, Ground Cherries, Sweet Pepper (either yellow bell or a Jimmy Nardello), Jalapeno, and beets!

We are moving into the next phase of the year.  We are still planting greens, but a lot of major harvests are underway.  Keep your taste buds on edge with the soon to arrive waves of squash and potatoes.  You can expect leeks to make an appearance soon too.

September 12, 2012I am happy to report that last weeks rains have quite rejuvenated our gardens.  Our kale, chard, and lettuce beds are growing fast and producing very well. With help from our WWOOFers (volunteer farmers) Rebecca and Nick we’ve been out pulling in major bulk harvest in preparation for the fall leg of our CSA. We are looking forward to sharing a selection of squashes, potatoes, and turnips with you from now until our CSA season ends.

The times are certainly busy here on the farm.  We harvest four days a week now to bring in the full diversity of produce that you’ve been enjoying in your baskets of late.  Mondays and Thursdays usually see us harvesting our non-perishables while Tuesdays and Fridays see us harvesting our tender greens and packaging up all of the deliciousness you have been seeing in your baskets of late.  It takes a good deal of time, but the results have been more than worth while.

This week we are happy to see the return of a favourite item and the arrival of a new item.  Returning this week is our friend the potato.  All of our beds are now ready for harvest and this is the week we are doing it!  We started late this afternoon with part of our fingerling bed and were able to sneak a pint of Banana Fingerling Potatoes into this week’s basket.  The fingerling is a category of potatoes that are slender and elongated.  They are very tender and are amazing if done at a slow simmer in a pan with butter.  Just slice the fingerling into rounds and enjoy; I know I will be J

You will also find some mesclune salad mix, kale, chard, beets, carrots, yellow beans, onions, ground cherries, cayenne hot pepper (labeled “Hot” on the bag), sweet peppers, one spaghetti squash, cucumber, Cherry Tomatoes, and Leeks.  Yes, the new item is the leek.  They are just entering into edible size and this fall treat will make a wonderful addition to soups, stir frys, and as a garnish.

September 19, 2012
September is more than half way gone and it appears that things in the garden are still moving along at a good clip.  Our summer crops continue to produce well and we are starting to see our fall crop plantings near harvest size.  We have also enjoyed semi regular rains so far this month.  I believe we have had more rain this month than we did all July and August combined.  The abundance of moisture has come with a few wonderful surprises.  The principle of which is the fact that the cabbage and brussel srpouts that we assumed we dead and gone to the drought appear to be thriving again.  My fingers are crossed, but I am hoping that some of these beauties will find their way into baskets come October.

As I write this newsletter we are about to see our WWOOFers Rebecca and Nick depart for Nova Scotia.  They have just finished a two week stint here at the farm and we’ll miss them.  They were excellent field hands and great people to trade stories with.  Nick was a great help in loading and unloading our pigs for their trip to the abattoir.  Together they picked epic amounts of beans, tomatillos, tomatoes, ground cherries and carrots.

This week we are happy to see the first appearance of Turnips in the boxes.  These turnips have a wonderful bite and full flavour.  Along with them you will find some ground cherries, potatoes, onions, leeks, mesclune salad mix, beets, kale, Swiss chard, beefsteak and salad tomatoes, and carrots.

September 26, 2012
It is now officially fall.  Myself and many other vendors at the Junction Farmers’ Market noted the traverse of the equator by the sun, the actual time of the equinox, with a mix of emotions.  For many of us it signaled the beginning of the end for our gardens and the shift from planting and cultivating to harvest and closing mode.  I think one of the biggest emotions was that of relief and celebration.  Many of you know that it has been a challenging year for our little farm due to a confluence of circumstances from drought, equipment failures, and the inevitable startup struggles every small enterprise faces.  This summer was a seventy hour a week marathon that holds promise of winding down with the coming of fall.  The work has been great and I have been lucky to have the chance to meet so many wonderful people as a result through both you, our CSA members, and through the customers who frequent our market stands.  With the start of fall I am celebrating our successes this year, reflecting on our failures, and beginning to dream about round two in 2013.

We wake these days to cool crisp mornings.  The dew is heavy and our greens look vibrant.  Growth is slow due to the low light levels and low heat.  Lettuce, turnips, and beets are all looking healthy and are moving along at a steady pace.  We started harvesting a new bed of carrots this week.  Our tomatoes are still on the vines and we watch the weather reports religiously for any signs of frost.  Soon we will have to clear the vines to allow the fruits to ripen inside and with luck will have tomatoes well into October.

This week we are focusing on one last hurrah of summer’s bounty as we close on that chapter of the year and move on to the final fall leg of produce.  Tomatillos are back for a final appearance this week, next week too for our full share members, and you’ll find some roma tomatoes for roasting, drying, or saucing as you like.  You will also find what I am happy to call CSA staples such as carrots, beets, ground cherries, and mesclun salad mix.  You will also find squash, turnips, kale, a sweet bell pepper, cayenne hot peppers, Onaway potatoes, onions, scallions, a pie pumpkin for those not receiving a basket next week.  If you are a full share member you will receive your pie pumpkin next week in preparation for Thanksgiving.  It is early this year so enjoy with some pie!

October 3, 2012
Happy Thanksgiving!  It came early this year and we are happy to say that the full bounty of 2012 has made its way into your boxes.  As a farmer thanksgiving is a time to look back on the season that is ending and to reassert my humbleness before nature.  At times we people can be a little self assertive in our demands on nature.  I know that I have been critical of the heat and low rain we were dealt this year.  It is easy to get focused on the things that went wrong than those that went well.  Thanksgiving is a time for me to say my thanks to those I am indebted to and whose charity I have gained from.

I think firstly, on behalf of us all, I should send out thanks to our departing intern Vanessa.  Vanessa has been a solid presence on the farm since May and has been instrumental in making these weekly boxes happen.  I am thankful for her dedication to the farm and her willingness to persevere through difficult times.  Coming to intern on a farm during its first year is always brave and to do so through drought and heat is a serious test of character.  The food we have all enjoyed this summer was made possible through her hard work and we here at the farm wish her well as she moves on to bigger and better things.

Secondly I owe thanks to the family, friends, and volunteers who have made Fiddlehead Farm their temporary home throughout this past season. They came to work, visit, and often times eat with us.  Their contributions helped to enrich our lives and our farm.  I can only hope to have as many positive encounters in 2013.

Thirdly, I believe that thanks are owed for the land, the sun, and the rain (that which did fall) that ultimately made the garden flourish in tough times.  There were a few rains where I was out doing a little happy dance.  These rains helped to breathe life into the crops that we are now enjoying.  Without the land and weather there would be no food so we must always remain thankful for them.

Lastly, I want to express my thankfulness for you our CSA members.  This was a challenging year for our farm and I feel that your support and understanding has helped me to fell secure in our project.  Even when the weather was difficult we knew that our desire to grow good food organically and sustainably was the right one because we had people like you standing behind us.  Thank you for you support.

This is our climax box.  From here we will begin the denouement as crops die out and settle down for winter.  You will find mesclun mix, kale, beets, carrots, parsley, turnips, a small cabbage, fingerling and norland potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pie pumpkin, hot and sweet peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes, scallions, leeks, onions, and ground cherries.

October 10, 2012
On October 8th, this past Monday, we experienced our first frost of the fall season.  It was expected.  October 8th is actually the average date for the frost to return in our area.  The arrival of frost signals a shift in our garden work.  Several plants were killed and a few others were knocked back.  Our fall brassicas (radishes, kale, turnips, mesclun) are doing very well, but our peppers and tomatoes are half dead.  We have begun the process of stripping the vines in hopes of getting some fruit.  You will find the results of this labour in your baskets this week.  Frost marks the real beginning of fall here on the farm.  Lots to do still, but the beginning of the end is here.

Thanksgiving came and went fast on the farm.  I work weekends attending farmers’ markets so I only had a little time with family, but it was quality time.  I hope that you were all able to make use of the extra large boxes last week and that many a great meal was had from them.  We have only a few weeks left in our CSA and you can look forward to lots of greens, some root veggies, and hopefully I can still pull off a surprise or two.

In this weeks box you will find mesclun salad mix, a stir fry mix (mixed spicy mustard greens), red and green peppers, a squash, potatoes, carrots, kale, beets, scallions, some thyme, and watermelon radish.  Yes, watermelon radish is our new item for the week.  The watermelon radish is an Asian radish related to the Daikon.  It gets its name from that fact that underneath its dull white skin is a bright red centre.  It is a wonderful radish that plays with your taste buds.  It is both sweet and spicy shifting from one to the other as you chew.  I am very happy with how it performed and we can look forward to a steady flow of them from now through to the end of our CSA run.

October 17, 2012
The end to our 2012 CSA half shares has come upon us fast and by surprise as always.  We started way back in June, survived a historically significant drought together, and all the while got to enjoy wonderful organic produce.  I hope that you have all enjoyed the year as much as I have.  The CSA program is a central part of our farm.  It enables us to fund our yearly seed costs and ensures a stable destination for our produce.  I hope that you have all found the experience rewarding.  It was important for the farm to offer unique foods that were both tasty and nutritious.  I hope the winter months treat you all well and I want to thank you all for your support and feedback throughout this season.  I want to invite thoughts and suggestions on how we can improve our young CSA for next year.  Thank you all for being a part of our inaugural year.

It is amazing at how fast this farming season has flow past.  We were hit with a hard frost last Saturday morning.  I woke to my final day at the Junction Farmers’ Market and crunched by way across the frozen four in the morning grass to load the van.  It was a conclusive end to our heat loving crops.  Our peppers and tomatoes had been limping along last week and I did manage to save a large amount of both before the frost finally killed the plants and the fruits.  We enjoyed much from both of these favourites and it will be another ten months before we are able to enjoy them again.

We welcomed two volunteer guests to the farm over the weekend as well.  Stefan and Felix are visiting us from Germany and have already been a great help in the field.  While I’ve been focusing on harvests they’ve been starting to put the irrigation equipment away.  This ensures that we will soon be able to turn under this year’s garden and begin our preparations for 2013 in earnest.

The biggest point of excitement in terms of 2013 preparations is the imminent arrival of garlic to the farm.  We are especially pleased to be purchasing some Fish Lake III.  Fish Lake III is a garlic variety developed not just here in Prince Edward County, but on the property directly next door to us.  Keeping local food culture alive is something I am very excited to be taking part in.  Only nine months until we can start enjoying it!

In this week’s basket you will find beets, carrots, leeks, turnips, cabbage, thyme, watermelon radishes, potatoes, onions, hot peppers, green peppers, and a squash.  It is still quite a full basket despite the frost.  I hope all is enjoyed.

Some recipe suggestions would be stuffed peppers, a good vegetable soup with the roots, and radish with a little lime and salt on them.  I also enjoy the radish sliced and eaten as a snack.  Watch for the little heat at the end 😉

October 24, 2012
Here we are, the second to last CSA box for our full share members and the last box for our Belleville half share members.  I hope that everyone has enjoyed their boxes this year.  Please send us feed back on what you liked and did not like about this year’s program.  As we start to reflect on next year your input will help us grow and improve our CSA box program.  We will be in touch during the winter months with 2013 program details.

I still cannot believe that we are in the full grip of fall.  The days are chilly even though frosts are still few and far between.  In the field our team of German WWOOFers has been rolling up thousands of feet of drip tape from our irrigation system for winter storage.  The drip roller has evolved in fits as each incarnation of our makeshift device breaks or shows flaws.  The biggest challenge has been to build a handle that won’t sheer from the weight of the full rolls.  I think the Mark III might be the winning design.  I hope 😉

Soon I will be back on the plow turning under this year’s garden with visions of 2013 in my head.  I am excited to have this time to work on the garden.  We did not have access to the garden in the fall of 2011 to prep fields or build infrastructure.  We hit the ground running in February and have not stopped since.  Preparing the garden now means more time to focus on planting and cultivating in the spring.  Even though I am ready for a rest after a full season of farming I am still getting excited about 2013 and starting it all over again.  Yay!

For our second to last full and last half box we are still showing a decent array of produce.  We started into a new bed of carrots today and were happy to find some decent sized yaya carrots ready for eating.  Scallions, leeks, beets, turnips, parsley, watermelon radish, potatoes, green peppers, mixed greens of Red Russian Kale and Spicy Mustard for cooking, and a goodly sized Kohlrabi.  Sadly our salad greens are looking a bit tired and tough for harvest these days.  If you find yourself in a pinch for some extra cooking greens try the radish greens they are a bit tough for salad in my opinion, but they do cook up nicely.

Eat well and thank you for supporting us in our first year.  We enjoyed ourselves and I hope you have too.

For our full share members there is still one more delivery to look forward to.  Lucky ducks.

October 31, 2012
The final delivery of the year has arrived.  I am happy to say that we have managed to keep a good level of variety into November.  While our CSA is only a short 18 weeks it has seen a dramatic range of weather, struggles, and successes.  I am thankful to you our inaugural CSA members for your bravery in supporting us in our first year and for weathering the summer drought with patience and understanding.  I am already formulating crop plans for next year and I am eager to hear requests or suggestions that you may have.  We might not be able to do it all for next year, but every year we build in our complexity, competency, and quality.  Your feed back will help us with this 😉

Life is changing gears here at the farm.  I still have some local markets to attend, but the weeks now are largely focused on preparation for winter.  We put the greenhouse to bed with all of our seedling trays cleaned and stacked waiting for spring to put them back into full use.  The WWOOFers and I spent this week pulling deadwood out of the forest for winter fires.  Our old farm house has no central heating, so to avoid the cold we are about a third of our way to a full wood shed.  It took a few sore muscles to get there and it will be a few more before we finish.

I think Fergus and Willow have been enjoying the wood hauling the most.  For those of you not in the know, Fergus and Willow are our 11 month old pups.  They generally spend their days in the garden with us.  The forest has been a wondrous new world for them.  I think they also enjoy watching us human folk work while they play.

In your box this week you will find some familiar friends: we have watermelon radish, turnips, beets, kohlrabi, carrots, thyme, leeks, fingerling potatoes, onions, and cabbage.

Thank you for enjoying the bounty of 2012 with us.  We hope to grace your table again in 2013.


Summer Fun

It has been some time since we added a posting here.  The funny thing is that we do write a newletter for our CSA Members each week.  In the interests of bringing you up to date here are our new letters to date and I’ll be adding the new ones as we go from now on 😉  We start with the earliest and move forward in time:

July 4th, 2012

Welcome to the start of Fiddlehead Farm’s 2012 CSA!  It has been a lot of hard work to get to this point, but it is finally time to start enjoying the harvest.  We started seeding in March, and by April we were plowing the fields.  We continued through May with seeding and weeding.  In May we faced a challenging drought.  It rained the first weekend of the month, but it didn’t rain again for weeks after that and hotter than average temperatures led to very dry soils and a very poor germination rate.  Sadly, several of our plantings were lost in this weather.  The return of regular rains in June has been very much welcome.  Our crops have perked up and lots of new seedlings have sprouted.

In your box this week you’ll find a mixed bag of Lettuce Greens, a head of Paris Island Romaine Lettuce, one bunch of either Siberian or Lacinto Kale, Early Wonder Beets, Oregano, Hyssop, Savory, Cascadia Snap Peas, and a head of Nappa Cabbage.

Our unique item of the week has to be our Hyssop.  It is a member of the mint family, but it tastes like licorice.   You can use it to season cooked dishes or add to a fruit salad.  We’ve had some lovely pastas with hyssop at the farm this week and there was a beautiful fruit salad with hyssop, banana, apple, and pineapple at breakfast the other day. You can also make a wonderful tea with it.  Enjoy J

While you enjoy this week’s box we at the farm will be continuing the work of preparing for later harvests.  Our Tomatoes are just getting ready to trellis and lines will be strung this week.  Tomatoes are one of my summer favourites and I am excited this year to be trying some new varieties.  You can hopefully expect those treasures to start appearing mid-august.  I know, it is far away, but the wait will be worth it!

July 11th, 2012

Time is moving super fast at the farm.  I still cannot believe it is July!  We are nearly finished trellising our Tomatoes and last week we made use of the damp conditions to do a lot of hand weeding on our carrots and beets. The new crops are looking quite promising and will hopefully make up for our drought delays. Irrigation is a wonderful thing once you have it, and our drip tape is proving to be increasingly efficient at giving our plants the water they need without loss to the surrounding soil. The greatest part about being in our first year is seeing how fast our systems can evolve and adapt. Learning our soil and how it responds to water has provided a lot of insight into how our garden ought to evolve and where the most efficient uses of water, hoeing, and space can be made.

This week’s box is quite a shuffle from our last delivery.  This week we have the first of the year’s Zucchinis.  You’ll happily find one scaloppini zucchini and one straight green zucchini.  Herbs are back with a special first appearance of basil.  You’ll also find thyme and sage in your box.  Swiss chard is our feature leafy green of the week.  If you are unfamiliar with it, treat it as though it is a large-leafed spinach. Beans are also making their first appearance in the CSA this week.  You’ll find either a green French, or yellor wax variety in your box. They are both delicious so I know you’ll enjoy!  Kohlrabi is our unique item of the week.  You can eat this “turnip cabbage” raw in salads or cooked into a variety of dishes.  If you experiment please let us know the results J Scallions, in big beautiful bunches, are on hand to round out the box.

July 18th, 2012

It has been hot hot times here on the farm this week.  I’m sure you’ve all been struggling with the heat and our crew has been doing its best to keep these veggies growing and smiling.  This has meant a few modified days where we take the bulk of our rest time during the afternoon before returning to work from 4:00pm to 8:00pm.  Prolonged afternoons are usually cause for celebration followed by an immediate nap.

New crops are starting to grow, and with them the promise of delicious food down the road.  New beds of mixed lettuce are sprouting alongside parsley and parsnips!  I had quite the time getting the parsley to start in the dry hot weather we’ve been enjoying this year, but perseverance has paid off and we now have the first little shoots of parsnips starting in the garden.  With steady irrigation, loving hands, and the odd bit of hoeing we’ll nurse these delicate seedlings into deliciously sweet fall veggies.

This week’s box is fairly similar to last week’s.  You will find Kale, Scallions, Zucchini (regular and scallopini), basil, hyssop, lemon balm, and beans.  The new item this week is the lemon balm.  I figured it would be a good addition given the hot weather and everyone’s need to start hydrated.  Simply cut up some lemon balm (the herb looking like mint that smells of lemon) and put it in cool or cold water.  The lemon flavour and essential oils will seep into the water giving it a refreshing lemon flavour without the need for lemons.  You can also make a hot tea with it or put it into food.  It would pair nicely with fish.

Thoughts on Kale!  One thing that I’ve started doing with the kale recently is breakfast smoothies.  I am frequently given tips and suggestions for veggies by market goers and one of the best so far has to be the kale breakfast smoothie.  You simply take the kale and remove the stem.  You only need two cups to make a tall glass so you can be sparing.  Add two cups milk, one banana, and a tablespoon of maple syrup.  Blend until it is smooth and enjoy.  It may be the greenest thing you’ll ever drink 😉

One final note for this week: we are processing our small flock of meat chickens this week.  If you are interested in some farm chicken please email or phone the farm to reserve a bird.  As of my writing we only have 5 birds left for this order, although there will be more later in the season.  They will range 5-10 lbs (note if you have a size preference) and will be whole and frozen.  Birds are $4.50/Lb.  We will bring them with us for delivery next Wednesday July 25th to Scadding Court and Bloor/Borden Markets.

July 26th, 2012

July is coming to a close and as it does I am breathing a sigh of relief.  This has been one of the most difficult months of farming that I have experienced in my four short years of farming.  July was incredibly hot and our water reserves evaporated.  The result of it all has been higher than acceptable losses and the delayed maturation of our surviving plants.

A CSA Member asked us last week why we were not yet seeing CSA staples like carrots, beets, or lettuces.  I expect that many of you have similar questions and I want to provide an explanation.

The hot and dry conditions have been the greatest cause of losses this year.  We have been working non-stop for the last few weeks trying to get irrigation to as many of our key crops as possible.  Crops which in a normal year would never need irrigating have needed saving this year.  The biggest save of the last week is our winter squash crops.  We are growing lots of squash and two weeks ago it looked as thought we were going to loose them.  We spent some extra time putting irrigation lines on them, and I’m happy to say that they are recovering well.

Our lettuces were burned out by the heat.  Hot weather causes lettuce to go to seed and take on a highly bitter flavour.  We grew two beds of lettuce for mixed bags and one of head lettuces in July and saw high losses to plants simply burning to a crisp in our fields and found the survivors too bitter to be worth eating.  They did get a regular supply of water, but it wasn’t enough.  We have reseeded with one bed sprouting and another just seeded.  Lettuce is coming back, but it will take a few weeks to get to proper size. I’m comforted by the fact that few others have lettuce either; the problem is across the board on small farms in our region.

Our carrots and beets are in the field and should be getting close to harvest soon.  We put more irrigation lines on them and hope it will have an effect.  The big problem is that while we are keeping them alive, the heat and surrounding dryness in the soil is making it difficult for them to size up.  Rain came Thursday so I hope that it will be the push those crops need to finally swell up.  It is odd; we received our heaviest rainfall of the year (50mm), but soils that usually become mud in lesser rains are today just damp.  It is a sure sign of just how dry things were.  We have been able to keep our carrots looking healthy and green, but beets showed a propensity to burn in the drought leading to lower numbers.  There are a lot in the ground though so you should expect them in your baskets soon.

The hot and dry conditions have been exacerbated by what has been a particularly bad year for insect populations.  An early spring gave populations a head start on our gardens and stressed plants are more susceptible to attack.  This pressure has been particularly felt in our crucifers (cabbage family plants).  We have been able to save our kale only through great care in covering the plants and by using a calendula extract to knock the populations back from time to time.  We had one plant left uncovered for a day and by the next morning the beetles has eaten all the flesh from it.

Our goal for the fall is to make up for this loss by providing you with the produce that the heat and insects destroyed this summer.  Flee beetles disappear by September so we should have a greater success rate and crucifers prefer cool to hot weather.  My fingers are crossed.  Wetter weather should help our crops to mature and thrive.  Irrigation can keep them going but it is never as good as a solid rain.

We do also have some success to tell you about.  The heat has been particularly good for our tomato and tomatillo crops.  These have been thriving on irrigation and we expect to see a good return come August as these crops begin to ripen.  Onions and potatoes have also proven hearty and we should see good harvests of these in the coming months.

I expect to have a good fall, but I do expect leaner than intended boxes to continue as we recover from the drought.  Carrots and beets should be coming along in August with September and October looking to be very good. We have been fine tuning our irrigation to work with this weather and our soil type to allow new seeds to germinate. This is in perfect time as the fall crops are being seeded in the coming weeks, and we plan to have them germinate and grow on schedule.

For this week you will find some of the aforementioned Kale along with scallions, basil, beans, savory, zucchinis, and…to our amazement…Dumpling Winter Squash.  Yes, somehow one of our winter squash varieties has matured already.  We had one with our lunch on Tuesday to experiment with this delicious small variety of squash and found it to have a mildly sweet flesh somewhere between an acorn squash and a butternut.  We baked it in the oven and I would suggest cutting them into wedges, brushing with maple syrup, facing wedges up (skin on baking sheet), and cooking until soft in a hot oven.

A great suggestion for the Scallopini Zucchinis is to slice them into half inch steaks, coat with a little bit of olive oil, sprinkle with coarse salt, and grill on a barbeque or indoor grill.  I did them on a fry pan here to great success.

Thank you for being a part of our 2012 CSA and for you patience as we weather the worst Ontario drought in 40 years.

Aug 1st, 2012

It has been a lovely week.  We had a good rain last Thursday and now this Tuesday we’ve seen more rain with the promise of even more rain on Sunday.  My hope is to get our big fall planting round in before the rain.  We have the land ready; we just need to get the seeds in.  We’ll be putting our fall spinach, beets, carrots, kale, cabbage, and (fingers crossed) peas into the ground for September and October harvests.  With a little rain and irrigation we should enjoy a healthy harvest.

The rains have made a big difference in the field.  Crops are perking up and are starting to finally look normal.  Our carrots are starting to grow again and I think I can safely promise Parsley bunches for your next basket.  We are getting painfully close to a beet harvest too.  They just need a little more time to be ready to come out of the ground.

One exciting note to make is that this week marks the first appearance of POTATOES in the CSA box.  We harvested a full bed of Red Chieftains on Tuesday and found many beautiful looking potatoes.  The drought killed them off earlier than planned so we get to eat the results a little earlier.

This week you will find potatoes, swiss chard, beans, scallions, basil, sage, savory, and zucchinis in your baskets.  We have a few mammoth zucs this week for you all too.

Aug 8th, 2012

It has been an exciting week for us to be out in the garden. August has had a very promising start, with a couple decent rains already and enough hot weather to provide the final push towards ripeness for many of our crops. We spent most of last week getting on top of our seeding and transplanting for the fall; all the scallions are finally in (yay!) and spinach amongst other things has been seeded.

This week we’ve seen the diversity of our harvest almost double. For a while we were relying on well-performing staples like beans and greens, herbs and scallions; these crops seemed to weather the drought the best. However, in the last week we’ve been able to add to our repertoire some of the delights of summer. On the farm we’ve been patiently waiting for carrots for what seems like months, and we finally harvested some this week! They are still on the small side, but sweet and so satisfying after the long wait.

In your boxes this week are many firsts! We have small onions, as well as some bunched carrots, a cucumber, a couple of hot peppers (one jalapeno, one Alma Paprika) and a delicious sweet treat in the form of Ground Cherries! We’ve also included those weekly staples –herbs, basil and anise hyssop, and of course some zucchini as well as a reappearance of kohlrabi! The Alma Paprika hot pepper deserves a cautionary warning, although it looks like a small yellow bell pepper, it is quite spicy! The green Jalapenos are also hot, but are more traditional in their shape and therefore less likely to trick you into taking a bite right out of them!

If you’ve never encountered Ground Cherries before, be prepared to develop a serious affection for these small fruits! They’re one of Heather’s favourite summer treats, rarely staying around long enough to become anything other than a snack. They’re related to the Tomatillo, with the texture of a small cherry tomato and a flavour that has elements of melon, tomato, and something fruity that’s hard to pinpoint. We’ve been reading recipes for using them in jams and pies, as well as more savory meat dishes and salsas. It’s amazing to think that there are people who can resist their delights long enough to finish a recipe! Wrapped in their little golden husks, they’re part fruit, part treasure hunt, and completely delicious.

For those of you looking for interesting ways to use your kohlrabi there is a great slaw-type recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Plenty. Plenty is worth a gander in general, being a gorgeous book of fantastic vegetable recipes with a wide variety of ingredients! We’ve included the recipe straight from the book, with some notes on supplementing if you can’t find Alfalfa sprouts.

Aug 15th, 2012

All in all, August is promising to be a lot more “normal” in terms of weather and harvest. We’ve had a mix of rain and sunshine this week, and a lot of the crops we’ve been holding out for have started to come on with a vengeance! We have a number of helpers at the farm this week; a new WWOOFer arrived, Sylvana plans to be with us about a month. Her help, combined with family, and the occasional interested visitor means that today we pulled in our largest harvest yet!

We have one particularly exciting returning item this week – lettuce mix! After a summer of drought, and fighting a loosing battle to keep lettuce from bolting, we are happy to report that our later plantings of lettuce mix and head lettuce are coming on strong. With a pint of the first of our heirloom tomatoes, a cucumber, and some bunched carrots this week’s box is begging to be turned into a gorgeous salad! You will also find a bunch of beets, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, onions, cilantro, parsley, another pint of delicious ground cherries, and a Delicata winter squash!

A wonderful weekend meal could combine a roasted squash soup made from the Delicata squash, topped with a quick fresh salsa from the tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Serve with a simple salad of lettuce and grated carrots and beets tossed lightly with some sesame oil. Delicata can be roasted like other squashes, and its skin is soft enough to eat! If you’re feeling especially ambitious you could lightly toast the seeds of the Delicata to top your salad. After a thorough rinsing, toss the seeds with a bit of olive oil and coarse salt and spread on a baking sheet, bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 10 minutes.

The onset of tomatoes for us really signals the beginning of the bounty of late summer. There will be tomatoes for every occasion in the coming weeks! We’re growing a number of different heirloom varieties, one that has been teasing us for weeks is called the Indigo Rose. It begins to look ripe when its shoulders turn a dark indigo purple colour. They are not actually ripe until their undersides turn a vibrant red that blends upwards to the purple. We’ve had one (!) ripe one so far, but there are many on the vines that look super close to being ready! As soon as we have them, we will be sharing the joy with you.

Aug 20th, 2012

That brings us up to date for now.  Next newsletter will be up on August 22nd.

Eat well everyone!

In The Garden

In the garden indeed – that’s where we’ve been the past month and a bit. Some things of note that have occurred around the farm during this time; our interns, Vanessa and Tyler, have arrived, as well as bees, laying hens and a steady supply of milk from Bella the goat. We’ve seen the first of our seasonal markets come and go, and prep for the CSA is well under way. In an attempt to catch everyone up on all the exciting happenings here at Fiddlehead, Vanessa has started a series of blog posts, each one dedicated to a more specific area of the farm. After jumping into transplanting kale on her very first day, Vanessa has spent the majority of her time here out in the field with her hands in the dirt and thought that the place to start blogging was definitely “in the garden.”

Vanessa weeding, Steve hard at work on his new toy… whoops! I mean tractor!

The Laying Hens in their coop.

The general theme of this month has been one that I’m sure farmers and gardeners alike are well familiar with; the all encompassing, “I’ll dance if it makes a difference,” constant refrain of when (when?!) is it going to rain? Well, it didn’t, for quite a while. Almost two full weeks without precipitation, and we were without irrigation, doing everything we could imagine to get some water on the plants that had been recently seeded or transplanted. Much to the amusement of some we drove the farm van around the field with a 1000L tank in the back, getting gravity on our side to get a little moisture on the brassicas. The reality of drought at this time of the season is that any crop that is beginning to germinate, the tiny little carrot seeds under a protective layer of soil, has a giant ‘pause’ button pressed on its development. They wait, they wonder as much as we have been where the rain is, and they keep their delicate first leaves underground well sheltered from the glaring county sun. When it finally does rain, (and luckily for us it finally has) everything that’s been patiently plotting underneath the soil busts out with a vengeance. The garden, as Steve is fond of saying, is “popping!”

Waiting for rain…


Hiding out under row cover.

Even in the midst of drought we had crops that were thriving, and I’m not just talking about the pigweed! Our spinach, lettuce mix, and radishes have all been coming up quite consistently. We’ve had some decent production in the kale, collards and chard department, and our mesclun, though bedeviled by flea beetles, is still coming back heartily enough to take to market every week. In the past week we’ve seen the dwarf snap peas fruit and fatten up – it’s a remarkable thing to watch the dainty little pea flowers shift into thin, flat early peas that gloriously take a fuller and fuller shape, busting at the seams with peas inside. Did I mention they’re delicious? Don’t worry, they’re on their way to market – and you – very, very soon!

The pea beds early in the month before their glorious transformation.

The month of May, and now June of course, has had us in the field so long we’ve been bad bloggers, but it does mean that every section of the garden now has something to boast about. When we (the interns) arrived, there were a number of beds planted, but the big crops, the ones that are staggering because of the sheer number of things to go in at once! still loomed ahead of us. It can be daunting to look at bags upon bags of seed potatoes (for the uninitiated those are basically potatoes that have been stored because they’re too little, or lumpy or unfortunate to sell, that in the spring send shoot right out of those eyes we trim off eating potatoes) knowing that each potato within the 20lb sack will be cut at least in two, if not in three. Seed potatoes don’t sit nicely in trays, they’re darned heavy and it took a little creativity to figure out the ideal system for depositing each little chunk-with-an-eye into the furrows Steve had made with the tractor. The answer? Tree planting bags. Worn like a back pack, with large sacks at the hips, planting bags were made to be stuffed to the brim with potatoes. A week later we discovered they were also meant to be overloaded with onions! They’ve been a delightful, albeit hilarious, solution to the conundrum of attempting to carry many little things and plant with both hands.

The WWOOFERs, Tyler, and I, affectionately (we swear!) refer to the days of planting onions, scallions and leeks as the days we enjoy planting thousands of something. One of the more interesting aspects of being a farm intern is those moments when you catch yourself re-learning something you thought you already knew. For me this was so clear when it came time to plant the leeks. While we may have an idea of how something is grown, or how to harvest it, our understanding of planting is often limited to seed-in-ground, plus water and sun. Just like bean plants in kindergarten, right? On a farm that intends to get the most out of the vegetable growing season, this is the case only part of the time. The rest of the time there are plants painstakingly seeded in the greenhouse, on some farms as early as February, coddled and nurtured through germination, through the development of their true leaves, and later transplanted into the wide open spaces of a garden bed. Leeks and onions are often seeded in rows, without the use of separated planting blocks. This means, come transplant time, you take a tray with approximately one thousand tiny leek bulbs into the field and you separate them out by hand. One, sometimes two or three at a time, and then carefully ensure that the spider’s web tangle of roots is safely under a healthy layer of soil. For a few days there, we were dreaming of leeks.

Squash – another one of those ‘thousands of something’ crops. All in the ground now!

These are, of course, the moments that stand out. We’ve already learned to appreciate the steady rhythm of hand weeding a bed of peas, or picking spinach. We’ve come to be pleased about the speed and accuracy of a wheel hoe for clearing the aisles between garden beds. We’ve accepted the fact that weeds can feel like the most productive thing in an organic garden, a challenge that needs to be met consistently head-on, with determination and the right tool for the job, which, often times, is a set of well trained hands. In one short month these tasks have become routine enough to barely meet the requirements for an ‘interesting’ blog post. They occur with such frequency that we sometimes forget the last time a bed was weeded, or what exactly was planted there, even though we may have only done it a couple days (hours?) before. Life in a garden moves quickly. These moments are worth mentioning though, if only as a reminder that the little tasks that make up the everyday life of the farm bear such substantial fruits. I’m not just talking about the peas either! Every crop that we fuss over, every bed that we rake in preparation for transplant, every hole we dig to protect those delicate little roots, is going to become something glorious – our, and your, food. And that’s certainly something to celebrate.

Garden bonus! Tyler picking wild asparagus.

Next Up: Animal Adventures

Restorations, WWOOFers, and CSAs

One of the joys of moving into an old farm is the odd bits of equipment that have been left behind from ages past.  The effort of uncovering and evaluating the equipment can be a time consuming one.  If you can find some helpers the work goes so much more smoothly.

Luckily enough for Fiddlehead Farm we have some helpers staying with us.  Alex and Mathild have joined the Fiddlehead Farm team as our first WWOOFers.  WWOOFers are traveling volunteers who take advantage of world wide opportunities on organic farms to learn and experience local culture and farming.  They are staying with us for three weeks as part of their one year journey across Canada.  While here they chip in six hours of work a day and spend their free time exploring the County and surrounding areas.

The first major challenge we threw at them was cleaning out the garbage in our antique manure spreader and uncovering the old plow, spring tooth harrow, and discs that the previous owners of Fiddlehead Farm had left us.  By the end of the day we had moved all of the equipment but the discs.

With a lot of grease and a little oil the gears on the old spreader started to turn.  Throw in one new spring and voila we have a functional antique manure spreader.  It is ready and waiting for our Turkey Litter Compost to arrive this week (April 10th).  Having a functional spreader is a great weight off of my mind.  The pieces are in place.

Yesterday I took the harrow that Alex and Mathild had helped to uncover out to the field.  It wasn’t as good as a plow, but it helped turn over some of the plant cover while opening the soil up to breath out any of the extra wetness that may have rested in spots.  Tomorrow I’ll be out with the tiller to turn that plant matter in and make some bed for the peas that are ready and waiting to plant.

With just a little help projects are hopping off of the shelf and are getting done.  We are beginning to pick up speed as our garden is getting ready to spring into life.  There are green in the Greenhouse and there will soon be greens in the field.  The months of preparation have all been building to this: our first field planting of the year!

With all of this fun going on in the field it is easy to forget about marketing our CSA.  Memberships have been coming in the past few weeks and we now have a solid start to our first CSA year.  I thank everyone who has signed on and I look forward to providing you all with top notch tasty veggies this year.

We are still looking for more members and as our major garden expenses are just starting to land on our table every member is treasured all the more.  If you’ve been sitting on the signup form or have it waiting on the table to be mailed to us now is the time to send in your registrations.  Tasty food is being planted.  Reserve your share now 😉

Until next time…

Seedy Saturday

The is nothing quite like a seed gathering to put a little fire under you to get rolling with the garden prep work.  Yesterday was Picton’s annual Seedy Saturday.  For those of you who might not be totally familiar with this type of an event I’ll share a little.  Seedy Saturdays are events held across the country where communities gather to trade and purchase seed for the new year.  They often happen in church basements or community centers and can feature local seed producers as well as backyard seed savers.  The whole event is a celebration of the food to be and of gardening.

Fiddlehead Farm was lucky enough to be able to participate in the event this year.  We made up a lovely booth detailing our farm with a focus on our CSA program.  Our goal was to chat up folks about our farm and to meet the Prince Edward County community.  We met a lot of great and interesting folks.  Some people were involved in the local community and others were working farmers just starting out.

I was lucky enough to meet my neighbour at the event.  Ted is known locally as the Fish Lake Garlic Man and while he now lives in a nearby retirement home he still is an active garlic advocate and proselytizer.  Ted has developed many of his own varieties of garlic that are now grown around the county.

I first ran into his garlic while working on a farm in New Brunswick and now I live next door to where that garlic was developed.  I was particularly eager to listen to Ted’s thoughts on growing and to hear his exceptional life story.  One of my hopes for Fiddlehead Farm is to be able to continue growing Fish Lake Garlic on the hills overlooking Fish Lake.  It is a heritage that few farms have to grow a variety of something that was developed right where it is grown.

We also met folks just starting up farms.  One is a short five minutes from our farm and we look forward to having her as a neighbour (of sorts) and another couple is starting an herb farm just south of Picton.  They will be specializing in medicinal herbs and, as a young couple, had an infectious level of enthusiasm for what they were doing.

We also met many established local producers.  Vicki of Vicki’s Veggies was there and it was a pleasure to finally meet face to face.  Patricia of Gale Force Acres was there too as one of the event organizers.  Heather had a great conversation with her about meat birds.  We will be raising meat birds this year for ourselves; with a few extra for sale 😉

Our return home saw us curl up for a good nap.  The day was wonderful.  I particularly enjoyed a conversation that must have gone on for nearly an hour.  I chatted with Garnet about Violins.  He is a gentleman who took up the craft in retirement and is a wealth of information on the history and artistry of instrument.  There were many lovely people and so little space to recount all the details.  I strongly encourage readers to get out to your local Seedy Saturdays and meet the wonderful people who make up your food community.  It is a great setting to just chat and learn about the place you live in.  Thank you to the organizers who made it all possible.  We enjoyed being there and look forward to seeing everyone we met through out the growing season.

All the best.

Positive Insanity

Yes, it is now just over a week since we first cracked the doors open here at Fiddlehead Farm.  The changes over this period have been quite dramatic.  I’ve managed to unpack a large number of my boxes and I’ve actually found my desk underneath it all!  Slowly the place is starting to feel more like home.

On Wednesday I took a trip into Picton to chat with Karin at the town office.  We spoke for over an hour and I got some really good points on connecting our farm into the Prince Edward County community.  I must say, every time I go out into the community here I am warmed by how welcoming people are to me and how excited they are to have another organic farm emerging on their rural landscape.

Picton is a lovely town.  I’ve only had the pleasure to walk its streets and shops a few times, but each foray brings new conversations and connections.  On Wednesday I walked into Penny’s Pantry and the Natural Health Foods Store.  Both were lovely.  I got into brief chats with each of the merchants.  I was particularly happy to find Penny’s shop.  She sells a number of organic bulk staple foods.  I’ve lived in a number of cities and it can be hard to find items such as Nutritional Yeast or Organic Flours, but Penny specializes in that kind of fair.  For a town of 4000 it has one of the most progressive local and sustainable food scenes I’ve ever come across.

I returned to Picton that evening to attend the Business Improvement Associations Annual General Meeting.  It was a fun event overall; mostly for the reception at the beginning where I was able to meet as few local business folks.  My longest chat was with Pamela a certified chair massage practitioner.  She is new to the county, like us, and was a fountain of information on people to talk to and groups that might be of interest.  One group was the local naturalist club.  I told Heather about it and she was thrilled.  So many people to meet and here I am writing about it and trying to get all of my logistics in order 😛

I does feel like an insane chaos of events at time, but the spiral is always upwardly positive lifting me and the group of us at this little farm up and onwards.

Now…where did I put that list of things to do…

We are here!

With a turn of the key we unlocked the side door to our now present home, place of work, and new life project.  At roughly 16h00 on January 31st we took residency at 978 Fish Lake Road in the Demorestville area in Prince Edward County, Ontario.  The turning of that key marked the end of nearly four years of constant moving.  It was in 2008 that I packed up my apartment, placed all of my goods in storage, and started the long journey of volunteering and apprenticing on organic farms.  It was an unintended change in direction from my academic career that has culminated in the creation of Fiddlehead Farm.

We were greeted at the door by James from County Fireplace in Picton.  James had been sent by the farms previous owner to give us a crash course in pellet stoves operations.  I am pleased to say that it was an excellent overview of the whats and hows of operating a pellet stove.  James took his time to make sure we knew all the details and that we would be competent to ensure the long life of the stove.  Fiddlehead’s heritage manor home was built in the 1860s and was never updated with any form of central air.  The house is heated by the pellet stove, a wood stove, and propane stove.

After our pellet tutorial we set to work unloading the cargo van and truck of their burns.  We were able to get most of the hard work done by sunset and we started to tuck belongings away by dinner time.  We ate late on our first night here.  It was 22h00 when we actually sat down to eat.  It was a simple meal befitting a moving day.  We enjoyed some pork tenderloins, salad, and bread.

The meal was capped off by Heather with a singing of happy birthday and some candled cupcakes.  It was the birth of Fiddlehead Farm in its real form.  Up until this point we’ve been planning, creating a virtual presence online, but it wasn’t until yesterday that we were actually a solid building with 128 acres of land.  It is now our task to shape it into a vibrant farm community.

But, before this transformation can happen we must finish our move.  Today Heather and I are off to Montreal to visit her parents and to pick up her belongings.  It will be a two day affair.  Then on Friday we are off to my cottage to empty the shed of my belongings which have been in storage since 2008.  From there we’ll find space for all of our stuff and the solid practical work of making Fiddlehead Farm succeed will begin.

Let the good times roll!