It’s Starting to Get Interesting

green field at Bird's Nest Garden Farm
Spring is here! Or is it summer?

Well, it’s a typical July afternoon with temps around 30C (mid-80’sF) and we’re cooling in front of fans inside the house…

But wait.

It’s the end of MAY. And there was snow on the ground May 9th. What’s going on?

May snowfall homestead Bird's Nest Garden Farm
May 9th snowfall. Merry Springmas from our home to yours.

The wild weather rollercoaster hasn’t stopped us from diving into new adventures this month.

What projects could top the dead hedge, you ask?


Piglets Bird's Nest Garden Farm
Yes. We are officially pig farmers now.

Darn, they are cute.

The plan to get pigs was well in the works before all of the changes caused by the pandemic. We figured we needed the pigs to clear some areas and prepare the ground for more plantings and fencing. Plus, bacon.

After two summers with sheep, I’m a little sad not to have them on the landscape. That’s easy for me to say, as I hardly did any of the daily work moving fences.

The mobile pig/chicken unit will be moved less often than the mobile sheep/chicken unit. More like every week to 10 days as opposed to every 4 days. This should allow more time for humans to do long term fencing work. That’s the idea anyway. We’ll see how it goes.

Pigs are very different creatures than sheep, so we’re learning a new language.

Sheep want to get out and munching grass at the crack of dawn. These piggies sleep in. Sheep are always watching you. They are ready to flee at a moments notice. These pigs seem unimpressed by anything going on around them, even loud noises. They follow the beat of their own drum.

However, both sheep and pigs will randomly gleefully zip around their pen. Which is very entertaining.

It makes it really hard to get any work done.

And there definitely is work to do. Like figuring out the:

Polka Dot Hen Produce Veggie Basket Delivery

Polka Dot Hen Produce fresh vegetables cilantro garlic
Bundles of fresh cilantro and green garlic are lined up and waiting for delivery.

This undertaking is a direct result of the pandemic as the Wiarton Farmers’ Market is not able to run in its usual fashion this year. While I was looking forward to my fifth season at market,  I’m quite pleased with my new Tuesday “Veggie Scheme.”

The plan for 2020 is to provide vegetable baskets to households between my home and the farm store at DeJong Acre’s , near Lake Charles. As an option, I can also deliver goodies from the farm store to my households. It just take a bit of creative route planning and clear communication.

On the produce side of things, growing for the farmers’ market is quite a bit different than growing for a basket system. This is one of the reasons I didn’t go into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model as a new farmer, and instead have been focused on selling at the farmers’ market. This early season transition has not been without some head-scratching as I try to assemble shares from what is growing and change my crop plan for this new venture.

And then there’s the Holy Grail of having our own on-line store. I’m hoping the house elves will make one magically appear by mid-June so we can also sell produce from the farm. All it should take is an extra 72 hours of desk time!

That Weather Though

It’s added another degree of difficulty to the month. Cold, then hot, now cold again today.

Diversity on the farm means having both cold-tolerant and heat-loving plants. The challenge is keeping them both growing well when out of their comfort zone.

Growing Tomato Plants in the Cold

Erin Gundy tomato plants Polka Dot Hen Produce
Hauling 11 trays of tomato plants twice a day got to be a bit of a chore during the mid-May cold snap. Here’s me looking tired, slightly irritated…and blurry.

Every March, I start my tomato plants in the house planning to move them to the unheated hoop house by May.

This year, the cold and snowy weather meant daily tomato “field trips” to the unheated hoop house. All the tomatoes had to return to the heated human house at night.

I came to dread the twice-daily hauling of those plants, especially after a full day of working outside. Also we lived with seedling trays covering every flat surface inside the house overnight.

Now three quarters of those plants are in their new homes. The rest are happily soaking up the sun outside.

Because (until this morning,) we had a heat wave.

Keepin’ It Cool in the Hoop House

Hoop house
Trying to beat the heat in the hoop house with shade cloth and frequent cold water sprays. Not exactly Pinterest material, but it’s doing the job.

At least with all the cold weather, the cool season crops were doing really well in the hoop house.

Then a heat wave arrived. When the skies are clear and sunny, the hoop house turns into a big solar oven. Great for the tomatoes, not so great for the spinach and lettuce. Heat triggers bolting in cool-season crops and the end of large tender leaves.

Using a daily regimen of ventilation, shade cloth and cold water spraying, I attempted to keep the hoop house as cool as possible. Unfortunately, I do see today that some of the spinach has bolted before my first major harvest. Oh bother.

At least we have this:


Fresh Arugula Polka Dot Hen Produce
This arugula is perfect – sweet, juicy and a bit nutty.

Returning back to cooler, rainy weather means that I should get another cut or two off the arugula row. We’ll be having some tonight to celebrate a significant birthday!

Wherever you are, I hope you are hanging in there.

If you can, get outside.

Find a local farmer to support.

And cover your tomatoes overnight if it drops below 10C (50F)!

Keep well.

3 Replies to “It’s Starting to Get Interesting”

  1. 91 yesterday. 81 today. 60 tomorrow and 30s coming at night Sunday. Yeah, I feel you!!! (But I’m not hauling around tomato tries like you have been.) Wish I could be there to help you. I love your basket model! Good luck, Erin. And enjoy those piggies.

    1. Thanks, Sue! If you were here, we’d knock it out of the park, baby. Or spend all our time knitting little sweaters for the tomato plants.

  2. Loved reading your post, Erin. Good luck figuring out the balance of tricks to keep pace with the weather changes…. and all that you are doing to deal with changes due to Covid19. I look forward to enjoying you produce again whenever we feel able to come and go to the area. Thanks for sharing your stories.

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