Spring 2012 Report Card

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No, we haven’t dropped off the map! Like many other farm blogs, this one tends to get a little light on content over the winter while the farm (and farmer) slips into winter hibernation. Let me assure you, we’ve been busy behind the scenes getting ready for the 2012 growing season…

Interns: Shaliz and Amanda joined us at the beginning of May and are already pros at a number of farming tasks that include caring for the chicks and laying hens, transplanting, bed prep, seeding, greenhouse maintenance, repotting, row cover and drip irrigation. It has been amazing to see what two extra pairs of hands can accomplish and it was never more apparent than this week as we prepared for our first ever Deep River Farmers’ Market! A long week of harvesting, sorting and heirloom labelling plants, and strategic planning was rewarded with a very successful market day. Hats off to the team, which also includes son Napoleon and husband Joe, both of whom provide infrastructure support, mechanical know-how (fixing things Sheila breaks) and extra hands in the garden when needed.

Infrastructure:

We’ve expanded the fields this year by a half-acre or so. One of the greatest impediments to clearing new areas for cultivation is the tree stumps left over. This year we struck a deal with our neighbour Steph who happily traded some back hoe time and expertise for some future tilling work. Barter is alive and well on Leader Road!

We’ve also converted an old square timber building into rustic, but cosy, intern accommodations for our new helping hands. The job entailed digging out an old plank floor and about 8 inches of dirt; redoing the chinking and mortaring; installing windows and doors; and prettying up the cinder block footing with some aged barn board we had kicking around. Hours donated by friends, family and CSA members all helped to get the job done.

The hillside cold cellar has been excavated and plans are in the works to get it built before the first CSA pick-up. The new facility will house our CSA baskets and market produce as well as our winter storage crops.

We added an old Farm All Super A tractor to our farm fleet this year. Much lighter and more agile than the White 1270 we use for the heavy work, it nimbly straddles the rows and speeds up bed prep by allowing us to scarify, cultivate and hill with its multiple attachments.

We are slowly working out way downfield with our operations, which means that the current irrigation system will have to carry water several hundred metres from the pond we currently use. We’ve solved this with a second pond and two more irrigation pumps (one donated by a CSA member) which will provide water closer to the new beds.

We kind of saw it coming, but it was still a shock to realize that we had no room for our tomatoes in the current greenhouse once we transplanted the cell-paks into 4-inch pots. Five hours and four pairs of hands later, we had a temporary greenhouse on the back of the garage, where over a thousand heirloom tomato plants now reside. This fall we will be putting up a permanent structure with the numerous patio doors and picture windows we’ve been collecting for the past few years. Measuring approximately 50′ x 8′, it should easily accommodate next year’s plants.

If we can get our hands on a 3-foot culvert, we would really like to add a community composter to our operations. Many of our CSA members are reluctant to compost in their back yards because of bears and other animal visitations. Soil fertility is always a major preoccupation on the farm and this would provide a wonderful source of enrichment.

A donated washing machine has been repurposed as a commercial-scale salad spinner, which speeds things up considerably on harvest days. Thanks to Rainbow Heritage Garden for the great idea!

Two-for-one is one of my favourite themes on the farm where resources, including human, are always stretched thin. We will require a number of chicken tractors to house our meat birds and laying hens when they return to pasture from their present status as free-range garden raiders! We were delighted to be able to resuse the steel roofing from an old collapsed wood shed that needed cleaning up and would otherwise have gone to the metal bin at the local dump.

Growing Forward

Every year we plant a few more trees, grape vines and field berries as part of our plan to expand into fruit shares. This year we’ve added more apple trees, a couple of cherry trees, two dozen haskaaps, 500 everbearing strawberries and some raspberries and rhubarb as well. Last years pears, plums, apples, grapes, haskaaps and Saskatoons are looking great 🙂

Expanded CSA

We’ve opened up 10 or so more spots in our CSA program this year. The five-year plan was to double our shares in our second year of operation, however with the unexpected and delightful addition of a local farmers’ market for our produce, we are keeping the membership on the conservative side until more acreage can be brought into production. We are delighted to welcome back most of last years’ members and look forward to a summer getting to know our newer members, many of whom have been on the waiting list since last summer!

Farmers’ Market

May 26 saw the launch of the Deep River Farmers’ Market. We have committed to attending for the full season, which ramps up the production scale considerably, but allows us to offer fresh local produce to a broader sector of the community.

The next couple of weeks will be a flurry of planting and transplanting as we empty the greenhouses and fill up all avaible spaces with a diverse selection of veggies.

Watch for upcoming posts in the Intern Impressions section of the blog.

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