Final Farmers Market

garlic basket polka dot hen produce
A true sign of fall: cured, cleaned garlic ready for use and storage.

 

So the market garden season is wrapping up. It is hard to believe on a warm, sunny day like today that there is one final market left. It feels much more like late August than October. Especially in the hoop house.

But here we are on the eve of another Thanksgiving. The days are shorter and the nights are cooler. The trees are turning. Chores and veggie tending have slowed enough to allow for time to review the last few months.

What a summer. Heat. Drought. Well running dry. Flea beetle plagues. And now hordes of slugs. Quite the year to start a market garden. But every year has it’s challenges. Next year we will be stretched in new directions. They tell me, that’s what farming is all about. Better learn to be flexible.

But we made it through, thanks to some timely help from friends and family. And also thanks to our customers. Lovely people who understood the difficultly of growing vegetables without rain. And didn’t get mad when the kale and lettuce we had on our table since early June suddenly were no longer available in August.

We did have some successes though, despite all the curve balls the weather threw our way. Continue reading “Final Farmers Market”

Soil & Sustainability

farmer-sitting-six-mule-team
Old Order Mennonite discing a field

By Peter

I was recently asked to speak at a nearby First Nation’s Reserve about Sustainability. “It’s ironic,” I said, “that someone who’s lived in the area less than 20 years is talking about sustainability to people who have lived in the area for 1000’s! However,” I continued, “some of my distant kin—Old Order Mennonites—have lived on the land for almost 500 years.”

I’m not sure how much Wes Jackson would be impressed with my ancestors’ history on the land. Jackson is the visionary force behind the Land Institute, a Kansas collaboration making slow, significant progress towards breeding a miracle. Their holy grail: perennial wheat—a timeless, food crop that would need no soil-disturbing plow and no genetic modification.

Wes Jackson Land Institute perennial wheat
Jackson compares perennial wheat grass roots to annual wheat roots

Jackson feels that any green-leaning farmer grasping at sustainability is vulnerable to the next owner who’s greed or ignorance prioritizes greenbacks over the needs of the soil. The best way to conceptualize conventional agriculture, Jackson has stated, “is that it is a mistake.” Continue reading “Soil & Sustainability”

To Market

Erin Gundy selling tomato plants at the Wiarton Farmers Market May 20 2016
First day for Polka Dot Hen Produce at the Wiarton Farmers Market. We sold tomato seedlings, herb divisions and herb bundles. Glad I had my helper/photographer along!

 

Our First Market Day

The weather was perfect.

The customers were engaged.

The other vendors were welcoming.

What a nice start to our season.

Spring was definitely in the air, so many folks at the Wiarton Farmers Market were ready to talk gardening. It was really fun to geek out on the heirloom tomatoes. Customers were interested, or at least very kind, and let me prattle on about the wonders of Saint Pierre, Cherokee Purple and Matt’s Wild Cherry. I also learned some great new tips for using catnip and lemon balm. I could have easily spent all my earnings with the other vendors at the market. Vending next to the chocolatier…deadly. And so good. I will have to pace myself.

However, there was quite the wind-up before this long-anticipated day. So many things to learn, so many things to consider. Where to start? Continue reading “To Market”

Peppered with Seedlings

Garden centres are getting better at providing more variety when it comes to vegetable seedlings. Last year I found a surprisingly nice selection of hot peppers at a nursery in Owen Sound. Still, I prefer to grow vegetable varieties that have the characteristics that are most important to me; whether that’s days to maturity, colour or disease resistance. I’m a bit of a control freak that way.

This year my priority is buying organically grown seed. I’m still using up seed from previous years, but most new seed I purchased this year had to be organic. One exception was a package of  blight resistant tomatoes – ’cause who knows when blight is going to strike and wipe out your entire crop. Better safe than sorry.

 

seeding peppers in a tray
The first seeds to be started around here are peppers. I’m still amazed that this little tiny dry speck grows into a lush tropical plant that provides food for us.

 

This is only my second year to grow pepper plants from seed, so I have a lot to learn. Last year it took the seeds almost a month to germinate in our less-than-tropical house. The sweet pepper seedlings I put in the ground were embarrassingly small compared to those hotties from the garden centre.

This year, I did some research into pepper growing so I had a few germination tricks up my sleeve. First, I started the seeds two weeks earlier than last year. Then, whenever I watered, I used warm water instead of cold. Finally, I set the black tray near the patio door on sunny days to heat up the soil.

All was going well until one sunny day about a week after I seeded the peppers. Continue reading “Peppered with Seedlings”

Chickens in the hoop house, finally!

Keeping chickens warm and safe during a Bruce Peninsula winter is challenging. This is only our third year, but each year we learn a little more.  It helps that our birds are pretty hardy; especially after surviving last winter’s frigid temperatures.

 

Chickens and their mobile coop during early winter
The chickens stay outside as long as possible in the fall. Rocky (front girl) gives me the stink eye – like this weather is my fault.

 

We like to keep our birds outdoors as long as possible into the fall. They are fine in the colder temperatures as long as they can get out of the wind and don’t get wet. We provide a covered area they can hang out in as well as their mobile coop. Yes, it’s an old truck cap. It works.

Things get tricky when the fence battery gets cold and has to be switched out with a warmer, charged one every morning. Man, that thing is heavy. Being off-grid, we are loathe to add any extra power draws during the dark time of the year. Charging a fence battery can use a lot of power we’d rather use elsewhere, like for lights and running water.

Traditionally, we move the chickens into the garage just before Christmas. This allows us the chance to get away for the holidays and have a chicken sitter. We know the birds are secure, and the sitter can easily tend to their needs and collect eggs. Win-win. Mostly. Continue reading “Chickens in the hoop house, finally!”