Week 10: Mid-summer Reflections

beet10This week in the pack, we expect to have beans; 2 bunches of carrots; zucchini; cucumber; basil; garlic; salad mix; arugula; herbs; we’ll try to have kale; and cherries.  Please note: the cherries are not from our farm and they are conventionally grown.

On Saturday August 9 we’ll have our first Open Farm Day from 2pm onward.  Directions to the farm can be found here.

David contributed this week’s farm news.

Over the next few weeks, the final field plantings of the year will be completed. Even though we are in the middle of the season, this is a time to review the goals we set last winter, assess how things are going, and start thinking about next year.  I’m glad to report that our original vision for Abundant Acres is still guiding and inspiring us. To build a farm that is a place of abundance on many levels. Health, joy, livelihood and perhaps most importantly, community.

In many ways this has been a successful year so far.  On a practical level, we are distributing almost 190 produce packs a week, close to our long-term goal of 200. Several big infrastructure projects were completed this spring as well:  the new wash area and walk-in cooler; the mile long deer fence; an irrigation system expansion to cover six acres of vegetables; farm road improvements; and the establishment of raspberries, seedless grapes, and 40 new fruit trees.  We also have continued to purchase equipment to further increase efficiency.

On a personal level we have also been experiencing major growth.  The big news is that Bruce and Nadege are getting married in September!  We’ve been getting to know Nadege over the summer and she is a gem of a woman.  Living and working side by side with Bruce for the past three years has been such a gift for Jen and I.  Spending so much time together building this farm has made us very close.  I can’t imagine making a connection like this with someone through leisure time activities and social gatherings, even if they spanned many decades.

This rapid growth has come with a number of challenges, and it is these challenges that make the personal side of farm life so rich.  For example,  I like to innovate constantly.  Over the past season, I began to use biodegradable plastic mulch with clover sown in the paths.  On the other hand, Bruce is cautious of trying unproven ideas.  I think this comes from his fondness for orderly planning, which of course relies on predictability.  Jen tends to sit back and let Bruce and I talk about farm plans for hours, only interjecting with a quiet voice of reason and caution every now and then.

Last fall I laid nine rows of plastic mulch and planted rye and clover between them.  I hadn’t guessed that the deer would go nuts for the cover crop, and punch holes through the plastic with their cute little hooves!

Come spring, with our new deer fence in place, we started over, laying thirty rows of plastic mulch.  This was enough space for all of our outdoor plantings of melons, onions, cukes, kale, chard and more.  I was nervous about putting so many important crops into an unknown field but could see how much easier the planning and management that Bruce puts so much energy into would be.

Well, for reasons we are still trying to understand, this system is not working well.  Most crops are way behind expectations.  Because of this shortfall, we have not been able to attend the Halifax Seaport market as planned, and some crops, notably chard, kale, melons, and onions will be light in the packs this year.

Fortunately, the hoop houses are booming and the other fields are doing fine, so we will have enough produce to keep the packs full.

Jen, Bruce and I have worked through this disappointment through a lot of talking, careful to avoid the spiral of blame.  Instead, I think we have drawn closer because we can trust each other to be supportive when something goes wrong.

While this has been a painful loss, we have gained more of the things we value the most: patience, mercy, acceptance and the ability to laugh at our big plans when they don’t materialize.  I’m also learning to listen to Jen more.  Being so quiet, Bruce and I can easily override her, clearly not a good idea when I consider how often she is right about something being a problem when I’m sure it will succeed, or seeing success when I see certain failure.

Into this rich mix we have welcomed Peter, whose family gets a produce pack in Fleming Heights.  Peter has been staying with us four days a week for two weeks now.  He comes eager to learn about farming and ready to take on big jobs.  It seems that he is quickly becoming part of our experience of community on the farm.

Thanks to all of you for supporting this farm.  After almost three years of produce packs, I think we are just getting started in terms of growing quality food and building the kind of community that truly nourishes everyone connected to it.

This week’s photos:

funnybeet10 rowsveg10

Peter working with David

Peter working with David

bean10 beanslori10 arugula10

David blissing out on the compost heap

David blissing out on the compost heap

Produce pack in bike basket.  Pack, clip on bike, and go!

Produce pack in bike basket. Pack, clip on bike, and go!

See you all soon!

Jen, David, Bruce, Benjamin, Marshall, Lori, Nadege, and Peter

Posted in CSA, growing vegetables, Produce Pack, visiting and events | 4 Comments

Week 9: Weed free carrots

radish9

This week in the pack we expect to have:

edible podded peas; 2 bunches of carrots; salad mix; basil; zucchini; a choice of parsley, dill or cilantro; cucumbers; green onions or radishes; strawberries.

We are planning to have an Open Farm Day on Saturday August 9 from 2pm on.  We will open the farm to visitors and make time to connect and answer questions.  We’ll organize another one in October for those who can’t make it in August.

I was also asked to mention two other things:

1 – It is a good idea to take the tops off your carrot bunches and put them in a clear plastic bag in the fridge to keep them fresh and crisp.  Clear bags are good for all vegetables so you can keep the veggies fresh and see what’s in the bags!

2 – All cheques should be made to Jen or David Greenberg, not Abundant Acres.  Our credit union recommended we keep the business account in our names to avoid business account fees.  We have a very cool credit union.  But they can’t accept cheques in the business name.

This week on the farm the guys were getting the front field ready for planting.  It has been land formed for better drainage, cover cropped, and made into raised beds for fall and winter crops.  They have also been working on getting weed-free carrots and salad mix.  On Saturday David gave a weed control workshop in Antigonish at the Bethany Garden.  It was a beautiful day and we even fit in a little swim in the ocean near Cape George!

Almost weed-free carrots

Almost weed-free carrots

David really likes to sink his hands in the soil!

up to elbows9 Soon we hope to have lots of tomatoes (including sungold tomatoes), peppers, eggplants, garlic, and melons.  Below is a sneak preview, along with other pictures of the farm this week.

The peppers are looking big and beefy behind the ginger root boxes

The peppers are looking big and beefy behind the ginger root boxes

tomatoes9

Benjamin using the wheel hoe to prepare parsnips for hilling.  David applying compost in the background with the cattle looking on

Benjamin using the wheel hoe to prepare parsnips for hilling. David applying compost in the background.  Cattle looking on.

Bruce and Marshall preparing to plant out seedlings

Bruce and Marshall preparing to plant out seedlings

Laying hens just got a new patch of clover

Laying hens just got a new patch of clover.  Num num num

I thought this grape was toast, but it came back!!

I thought this grape was toast, but it revived and sent out a new shoot!!

We were putting landscape fabric around the seedless grape plants.  Luckily David was able to take a little break.

We were putting landscape fabric around the seedless grape plants. Luckily David was able to take a little break.

yard9

See you all soon!

Jen, David, Bruce, Marshall, Benjamin, Lori, and Nadege

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Week 8: Horsefly Catcher

purple cabbage8

This week in the pack we expect to have:

edible podded peas; 2 bunches of carrots; salad mix; large basil; zucchini; a choice of dill or cilantro; cucumbers; garlic scapes; strawberries.

** Don’t forget this week we have an alternate pick up location for Victoria Park customers: 1187/5 Queen St around back.  It is on the corner of Queen and South.**

This week on the farm we were cleaning up after post tropical storm Arthur but we were very fortunate to get away with minor damage.  Some crops got thrashed around, part of the cattle shed blew off, a number of trees blew over or cracked, and the chicken coop window got blown out.

Coop window

Coop window

There were some very tense moments when we wondered if we should take the plastic off the hoop houses!  The crew had to make a few adjustments, but in the end, there was no damage.

Hoop houses after the storm and after mowing the buckwheat around them

Hoop houses after the storm and after Bruce mowed the buckwheat around them

We lost electricity on Saturday morning and got it back on Sunday around noon.  Somehow the cattle knew it was off and they decided bust through their electric fence to go wandering down the boat house road, and into the marsh.  I was happy for them, and they looked like they were enjoying their freedom, but by Sunday evening, I was worried they’d wander into someone else’s garden, or worse, into traffic.  So, I grabbed a bucket of grain and with David and Peter bringing up the rear, I called them.  My insane ‘here boss!!’ call.  They all appeared, and actually followed me back for about 1 km.  It sure saves a lot of work if they follow the call.

Cattle looking like they are swimming in the marsh grass

Cattle looking like they are swimming in the marsh grass

At one point, they got ahead of me, and I worried they’d go right on by their paddock and onto a road with cars.  Much to my surprise, they turned right into their paddock.  I sure like obedient bovines!!

I took this blurry photo while running after the cattle

I took this blurry photo while running after the cattle

This week was very special for two reasons:  David’s parents visited us from Boston, and Nona Fuller’s son Peter came to live at the farm for 4 days.  Peter fit right in with the crew and he worked really hard.  He’s going to come back for most of the summer and help out more.  Yay!!  What a delightful guy.

Bruce and Peter packing basil

Bruce and Peter packing basil

Peter's first harvest morning on Tuesday.  It was wet.

Peter’s first harvest morning on Tuesday. It was wet.

Peter disappearing in his t-shirt.  It happened a couple of times

Peter disappearing in his t-shirt. It happened a couple of times…

David’s parents told me that when he was a little kid, he would hang out in the kitchen with Danny, his father.  That’s where he learned to cook so well.  His mom, Hannah, also told me he didn’t really play with toys.  He just played with whatever was around him.  She said he played with beans on the floor a lot.

Now he likes to play with toys!!  I should say tools.  Like the tractor, tiller, thresher etc.  The newest one is the rotary power harrow.  Finally!  It is a special piece of gear that goes on the BCS and gets rid of weeds without pulverizing the soil like the tiller does.  We are really excited to use it on all the raised beds ready to plant.

Rotary power harro

Rotary power harrow

David is cleaning out the cattle shed and building a manure pile right now.  A fundamental operation for building soil fertility and tilth.  Here is Frank, the manure pile.  He’s probably grown since I took the photo.  Frank has a great view of the river.

Frank, the manure pile

Frank, the manure pile

We’ll cover Frank with a black tarp and he will shrink.  Little red wiggler worms will turn him into rich compost for next spring.

In general I like little critters.  But I really can’t say I like horseflies.  I don’t like the way they bite into us, and I don’t like their creepy green eyes.  So I’m in the chicken coop collecting eggs the other day and I notice one of the hens jumped up on the nesting box, which is tricky because it is slanted.  She makes her way up to the screened window and proceeds to consume about 15 horseflies in 3 seconds!  She waits around a bit longer, one more appears, she grabs it in her killer beak, and then she hops off.horseflyhunter

I also noticed in the evening that the hens will stand in the coop and kill mosquitos on its wall.  Tap tap tap tap tap.  Ecological pest eradication!

See you all soon!

Jen, David, Bruce, Marshall, Benjamin, Lori, Nadege, and Peter

 

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Week 7: Relaxing Wind

carrot7This week in the pack we expect to have:

2 bunches of carrots; salad mix; large basil; a choice of chard, kale, or perpetual spinach; a choice of green onion, dill, or cilantro; cucumbers; sugar snap peas; strawberries.

This week on the farm it has been hot!  Crops have been trellised, weeded, and irrigated; manure has been taken out of the cattle shed for composting; and things have been growing!

Peter and Nona helping out with a weeding job

Peter and Nona helping out with a weeding job

We are excited to welcome Peter, Nona Fuller’s son, to our farm team.  Nona is a faithful Fleming Park customer, and has known Bruce for about 6 years through the Hearing Institute.

As I write this, it seems like the strongest of the winds are passing over the farm.  I am feeling a little tension as I watch things blow around and trees crack.  Bruce and David are monitoring the hoop houses and fixing ropes, ribs, and plastic. We are hoping the hoop houses don’t get shredded because there are some mighty fine tomatoes starting to ripen up inside!

David came back to the house just as the line holding our bird feeder snapped off the wall and nearly hit him in the head.  He thought he’d better come in before he gets hurt.  A perfect opportunity to relax a bit.

The electricity has been off for several hours, which means our electric fencing is not operating.  The cattle decided to go for a stroll out of their fence, down the boat house road, and into the salt marsh.  They are having a ball!  I am grateful they didn’t decide to stroll down the Red Bank Rd. to go visit some neighbours.

Cattle on the marsh

Cattle on the marsh

Here are some photos from this last week.

Trellising in the fox field

Trellising in the fox field

Lori7

peapickin7

Weed control with black plastic

Weed control with black plastic

Onions are coming

Onions are coming

Compost!

Compost!

These are a collection of potatoes selected by Raoul Robinson for disease resistance.  I think they are so pretty

These are a collection of potatoes selected by Raoul Robinson for disease resistance. I think they are so pretty.  I planted them this week to continue the selection process

Marshall made a bracelet with scapes

Marshall made a bracelet with scapes

Nadege

Nadege

arugula7See you soon!

Jen, David, Bruce, Benjamin, Marshall, Lori, and Nadege

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Week 6: Mr Solutionhead

squirrelbutternutThis week in the pack we expect to have salad mix, garlic scapes, 2 carrots, romaine lettuce, new beet greens, strawberries, dill, and possibly one of kale, swiss chard, or dandelion greens.

We will be continuing our regular distributions this week even though there is a holiday.  Please let us know before the end of Sunday if you are going miss your pick up.

This week on the farm we had our organic pre-certification inspection.  Jessica Fogarty spent three hours checking out the farm and our records.  She sampled some of the strawberries.  We are hoping to be certified by the summer of 2015.Jessica Fogarty

We also had a great visit from George, Yann, and Isabelle.  They dug in and helped out in many ways.  Isabelle and Yann helped with the laying hens.  Yann, Isabelle, and George helped slaughter a sheep.  That’s hard core!  George got down and weeded carrots.  He and the kids were keen to help with everything.  What a great encouragement for us to have people like this around!

George in the carrot patch with his carrot-coloured shirt

George in the carrot patch with his carrot-coloured shirt

carrotlove

Jason Pelley and David pumping used oil into a barrel for Gertie the truck

Jason and David pumping used oil into a barrel for Gertie the truck

I am so impressed with David.  I love the way he solves problems.  Above is a photo of pumping out used fryer oil from a restaurant.  At first the pump didn’t work, and I watched as David tried different things until he figured out he had to reduce the length of the hose the oil was pumping through.  David has been working on getting an alternative fuel source for our delivery truck for months.  It was a huge risk because we didn’t know if it would work.  But as the price of diesel goes up and up it is a relief to have this source.  David had to find the right truck, the right filters, the right pump.  He had to figure out how to dewater the oil and how to store it.  It was very difficult to find a good source of oil.  We could have gotten discouraged and given up.  But David had the guts to keep going with it.

Another example of Mr Solutionhead in action was when he saw me struggling to get feed to the laying hens.  They are way out in the pasture, and the feed is in one tonne tote bags in the barn.  So I scoop out the feed into bins, load them on the tractor, and take them up to the coop.  David had a vision of something more practical, and was willing to put a huge amount of effort into getting a portable grain bin with gravity feed that we could haul around the pasture with the coop.  But it couldn’t be expensive.  Below is a photo of him unloading the second hand bin he bought from a farmer in the Valley.  This farmer was convinced David wouldn’t be able to load the bin and the trailer it goes on and told him to go home and get a bigger trailer.  David persisted, and got the works home.  It will require some adjustments but when it is finished, it will save me a lot of time and work!  Romantic or what?!?

grain boxIn fact, David is not the only Mr Solutionhead.  All of us have had to be persistent and not give up in the face of challenge.  All of us have had to come up with solutions to problem as they arise.  We’ve all had to be flexible and innovative.  That’s what farming is all about.

Here are some more photos from this week:

David and Benjamin raking beds in the front field

David and Benjamin raking beds in the front field

Buckwheat cover crop growing well in front field

Buckwheat cover crop growing well in front field

The irrigation pond has filled up from the rain this week.

The irrigation pond has filled up from the rain this week.  What a relief!!

See you all soon,

Jen, David, Bruce, Marshall, Benjamin, Lori, and Nadege

Posted in chickens, CSA, growing vegetables, livestock, Produce Pack, Uncategorized, visiting and events | Leave a comment

Week 5: Solstice

cowriverThis week in the pack we hope to have salad mix, green onions, beets, kale or chard, herbs (cilantro, dill, or basil), lettuce, 2 quarts of strawberries, and one of either carrots, spinach, or gai lon.

This week on the farm we finished up a number of important infrastructure projects, including the installation of Xplornet internet service which is working very well so far.  What a relief!  This should make communication issues much smoother.  We also got Jeff Hart to fix the leaking irrigation pond.  Jeff was impressed with the flow of water from springs as he created the spillway.  Having a reliable source of water is critical for farming and a real blessing.  We’re all super grateful.  I immediately went out and planted clover seed all over the exposed bank.  And then it rained.  Yay!

Building the pond overflow spillway

Building the pond overflow spillway

 

Jeff also took care of the foundation of the old house that burned down.  Goodbye old house!

oldhouseWe had a planting party this morning when Marshall’s friends came by.  They planted sweet potatoes in the fox field where we set up a bit of a comparison between two varieties (Beauregard and Covington), and between different planting methods.  We compared ‘slips’ with propagated seedlings from saved potatoes.  It was fun to have so much help.  Thanks to Logan, Kate, Cheryl, and Marshall!!  What a great way to celebrate summer solstice!

Planting sweet potatoes in biotello between rows of cover crops.

Planting sweet potatoes in biotello between rows of cover crops.

Logan planting slips

Logan planting slips

Here are a few more photos from this past week:

The solar-powered lawnmowers are getting fat and happy

The solar-powered lawnmowers are getting fat and happy

Kitchen scrap-converting machines seem happy too

Kitchen scrap-converting machines seem happy too

Filling up Gertie the truck

Filling up Gertie the truck

Confession: I killed the little colorado potato beetles-to-be.

Confession: I schmooshed the little colorado potato beetles-to-be even though the eggs are pretty.

Lunch time!

Lunch time! Including sungold tomato salsa made last summer, and frozen blueberries from last summer.

bellaromaDon’t forget to check out the recipe page.  Thanks to all who have been contributing.  See you all soon!

 

 

Posted in chickens, CSA, growing vegetables, livestock, Produce Pack, Recipes | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Week 4: Looking up!

Cover crops in between the raspberry rows

Lush cover crops in between the raspberry rows

In the pack this week…

We expect to have carrots, head lettuce, beets and greens, sweet turnips, green onions, swiss chard or fennel, and we hope to have strawberries.

Bedford pick up before people have arrived

Bedford pick up before people have arrived

On the farm…

Things are looking up!  The weather is better for growing crops.  The rain came just when we needed it.  Phew!  

The new strawberry blossoms are looking good.  They don’t have botrytis like the earlier ones had.  

Strawberry blossoms with bee doing its job

Strawberry blossoms with bee doing its job

I saw the first red strawberries and that is pretty exciting!  Our goal is to provide organically grown fruit from our farm in the produce packs.  This is a long-term project but it is great to see the first little beginnings.  We will still have to buy strawberries from other farms, but eventually we want them all to come from Abundant Acres.

strawberry1Still on the good news front, the laying hens are making me very proud.  Last year, the hens from the US were obnoxious, uncooperative, and generally a pain.  They flew over their fence, laid eggs everywhere so I had to hunt for them, and made a fuss when I tried to collect the eggs from underneath them.  This year, the hens from New Brunswick have been very sweet, they stay in their fence, they lay in their nesting boxes, and when I go to collect the eggs, they lift themselves up to make it easier!  They are also laying like crazy so we have enough eggs for everyone who wants them.

"Here you go!"

“Here you go!”

I’ve introduced Nadege and Hilary, partners of Bruce and Marshall.  This week I want to introduce Andrew and Andrea.  Andrew is Lori’s partner.  He came to help us harvest on Thursday last week.  Yay!  Thanks Andrew!  gangbeets

loriandrewAndrea is Benjamin’s partner, and she did something very special last Wednesday.  She and Benjamin, along with their daughter Ellianna, were very happy to welcome a little boy, Brendan Birch Isaiah Lee, into their family.

Here are a few more photos from the farm.

David has a new method to prevent burning on his ears.

David has a new method to prevent burning on his ears.

chiveblossom

Cows checking out the garden

Cows checking out the garden

There's more to farm work than what happens in the field.

There’s more to farm work than what happens in the field.

David seeding a cover crop of buckwheat.  It germinated very quickly!

David seeding a cover crop of buckwheat. It germinated very quickly!

Lovecarrots

Lovecarrots

 

Posted in chickens, CSA, growing vegetables, Produce Pack | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments