Fresh Produce

A selection of the veggie box shares from 2022

It has been our pleasure to provide fresh veg to our community for seven years through the Wiarton Farmers’ Market and weekly fresh veggie box subscriptions.

We are currently pivoting towards completing long term projects on the farm (fencing, increased perennial plantings, a more robust composting system) and away from the  constant vigilance required by annual vegetable production.

We look forward to providing more delicious fresh produce once we have our improved systems in place.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions. erin@polkadothenproduce.com

Wood/Land at Deep Water Gallery 2023

-By Peter

In March 2020 while winter waned and Corona raged, tree branch prunings started to pile up. We had needed to make a livestock fence on our property border. But it would have to run right down the middle of an existing hedgerow of trees, shrubs and other perennial plants. 

It would have been easier to just bulldoze the whole hedgerow. But if we did, what would happen to the orioles, the finches, the squirrels, the woodcock, the partridges, the blue jays, the hawks, the insects and all the other creatures that call it home? Sanity and science prevailed: we knew about the many, many ecosystem services hedges provide: wild and domestic animal shelter, shade, windbreaks, fruit, firewood, carbon trapping, and more.

I decided that I’d chainsaw, prune, shovel and pull enough trees, shrubs and roots to clear enough brush for a laneway for the fence through the middle of the hedgerow. 

The resulting brush could have been burnt. Indeed, like many itinerant medieval peasants, I did burn some in a controlled way to make a large amount of charcoal to use later to make bio-char. The majority remained. I dug into a different ancient playbook to make a different sort of hedgerow, an “instant” hedgerow: a dead hedge. 

A dead hedge is a fast way to make a hedge, but is far from instant.

After many hours of snipping, cutting, sawing, chainsawing, dragging, heaving, pulling, lifting, tossing, and packing down, we ended up with two dead hedges. The Happy Place ended up with two spines of wood on land. 

twin dead hedges 2021
Our dead hedges: 2 rows, each 125 feet long and about 4 feet wide and high. March 2021.

winter dead hedge
Hedges dead or alive act as windbreaks and collect snow and moisture.

Dead or alive, a “Wood/land” hedge had a very specific meaning in 1500’s England. In The Illustrated History of the Countryside, Oliver Rackham says a county had woodland if it had hedges. Counties without were called open or “champion.” In 1573, writer Thomas Tusser championed woodland counties as better places to live (Rackham p. 80). 

Hedged counties were prettier and had more valuable firewood and fruit. Thus being near a hedge—alive or dead—was to be in a happy place. To be beside one is not to have gone wayward. And a hayward (or hedge ward) was someone who mended hedges, often using hawthorn branches (haw also meaning hedge). While nobody likes to work with a prick, we should hedge our bets and leave some hawthorns around. An ancient saying states “The thorn is mother to the oak”. Thorns protect more valued young seedling and sapling trees.

Haweaters aren’t restricted to a Manitoulin Island festival! They live worldwide.

Just what, exactly, is a hedge?

 A hedge is a living edge between two often contradictory activites. Keeping undesireables out of crop fields and gardens is a battle humans have fought for ages. 

In Hedges and Hedgerows in Britain: A Thousand Years of Agroforestry, Rackham states that hedgerows—belts of shrubs and trees dividing fields—provided living fences, sheltered the fields, connected habitats, and produced firewood, craft materials, and food in the form of fruit and game.

If you have any European ancestry, for fascinating details about why your ancestors were wild about hedges (and the food they ate and why), read the blog The Lost Forest Gardens of Europe by Max Paschall.

Down the Rabbit Hole: An Insider’s Guide to Hedge Types

Willow pollards
Pollard-pruned willow hedge near Goderich, Ontario. Coppiced and Pollarded trees are traditional multifunctional components of many hedges.

Occupying a place on the landscape starting at least as far back as the Stone Age, by the Middle Ages hedges were everywhere. They were remnants of cleared forests, or grew up naturally along fences, or were planted on purpose with things like hawthorn, ash, oak or lime trees and were often specially pruned in coppice or pollard forms. For a thoroughly enjoyable ramble through the world of how your ancestors interacted with trees, see Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees by William Bryant Logan. For a more hands-on glimpse into this fascinating world, see Mark Krawczyk’s Coppice Agroforestry.

Our dead hedge in the dead of winter working hard to catch what little snow came in 2023.
Dead hedge facing the morning sun in summer 2021 with living hedgerows behind it. As time passes, seedlings are quickly taking advantage of microclimates formed by warm rocks and shady brush..
A traveller walks along a dead fence/hedge in the world’s largest natural apple/walnut forest in Kyrgyzstan. Livestock sometimes graze within. See blogpost here.
Shelterbelts are adapted hedgerows that may eventually grow into full-fledged ones. They are widely used especially in prairies to protect crops, soil, livestock and buildings from excess wind and sun.

Hedgerow apple trees trimmed to allow fencing.
Our hedgerow thinned out to allow fencing and snow to pass through.

February Follies (Newsletter)

German shepherd pup with toy in the snow

Hey! It’s been a little while since we’ve touched base.

As you can see by the picture above, we have a new addition to the family who is keeping us hopping. It is good for me to (begrudgingly) get outside with the new pup many times a day. But it also is hard to get peaceful chunks of time to think. 

So, how are you doing now that winter is so heavy upon us?

I don’t know about you, but to me, this February feels endless. I’m so happy for the sun we’ve gotten the last few days. But wow, there is a lot of snow on the ground! Continue reading “February Follies (Newsletter)”

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?

Pigs

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. Continue reading “It’s Starting to Get Interesting”

How Do We Plan For Spring?

What a spring it has been for all of us- all around the world. We hope from wherever you are reading this, you and your loved ones are safe and well.

chickens and nest boxes at Bird's Nest Garden Farm
These girls have been practising sheltering in place all winter. About the time we humans got stuck at home, they got access to the big wide world. Go figure.

Here at Bird’s Nest Garden Farm, we are four weeks into our new stay-at-home lifestyle.

When I say “new,” this is for the other members of my family. I rarely venture off the farm at this time of year. It’s been a pleasure to have company at home, despite their need to be often glued to their screens for work and school purposes.

Probably just like you, our family is looking for entertainments other than zoom meeting gaffs and watching yet another webinar.  We’ve undertaken numerous projects aimed at keeping our bodies occupied and out-of-doors while distracting us from disheartening pandemic updates. Continue reading “How Do We Plan For Spring?”