Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beware Tomatoe Growers!!

Another excellent piece on Garden Rant posted by Michele. Contains a link to Cornell Horticulture's Blog and Craig D. Cramer's article on Late Tomato Blight. Good information! A little scary for those of us who LOVE our vine-ripened tomatoes. People in the Northeast United States need to pay close attention, but as we become a more global world, it's information we all need to be aware of. Pests and diseases are moving around the globe in strange, new ways these days!

The Chicks Leave Home

Well, leave the house, actually. It was all getting a bit much - they could get up on the sides of their pen, from there onto the furniture where they were, well, pooping with great abandon. The whole house was starting to smell like a chicken coop. So, Farmer Boy built a new pen in the barn and we carefully placed them in crates and moved them out! Empty nest time for us! I kind of miss the sound of their peeping and cheeping. The new pen has more room and higher sides, but still has the heat lamp so they should be happy. And all just in time - niece Laura is coming for a visit in a few weeks and the sunroom is probably where she'll sleep. A BIG cleanup is in order, now!
The chicken coop has been started. It has a floor! Construction should go fairly quickly now. Nothing happened yesterday, though, as we had a very good (and timely) rain. The Girls seem quite happy in their makeshift coop but it is getting a little dirty for our taste. We did 'muck' it out a few days ago but they can get up on the sides and we can't wash down hay bales. So, time for a move, soon.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oh, My Gawd, We Forgot the Dill!

It's that time of season. The dreams of winter, the anticipation of early spring, all turn to.....quiet desperation. We forgot to plant dill, the lettuce didn't germinate, the beets didn't germinate very well, the seedlings need water in the south field and in the west field. The weeds are growing faster than anything else - we won't be able to find the asparagus soon! The potato beetle is making a big appearance, the babies are already hatching and the leaves are getting chewed! The guy we were going to get some young pigs from suddenly can't supply and where will we get more this time of year? What will we have for the first CSA share? What will we have for the first Farmers' Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre? It's an uncomfortable time of year, so many things to worry about. It all seemed sooooo well organized three months ago!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Love Your Farmers Market!

Love this! The great website LocalHarvest, which is all about local food, sustainable growing, CSA and Farmers Markets, is partnering with Care2 to have a summer contest where people can vote for their favourite Farmers Market! The Markets can win cash to help with their rents or upgrade their facilities. What a super idea! What a great way to promote local food, the fun of a Farmers Market and community! But, only in, shucks!!!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Girls Get Down to Business

Babies get all the attention, and our Leghorn hens must be feeling a little left out of late. The Girls are doing fine. We're consistently getting fourteen to seventeen eggs a day and the sizes are getting larger. They have a pen larger than our living room and kitchen combined, incorporating five large, old spruce for protection and shade. They happily scratch and cluck all day, particularly enjoying the couple of mole hills in the pen. They've gotten very comfortable in their makeshift coop; we no longer find any eggs outside under the trees, they are all in the coop. As the real coop gets constructed, we wonder about transitioning them into their new home. We may take their nest boxes and move them into the new structure, for some familiarity.
We wonder why we're not getting more eggs in a day. Officially, hens lay every twenty four to twenty eight hours, so maybe the Girls are just not co-ordinating their schedules. We've also wondered if Funky Butt is capable of laying with her deformed rear end (is that politically correct to label her?) The first hen we ever named was Old Mama, because she seemed bigger and older from day one. Maybe the supplier snuck a mature hen in and she IS older and not laying consistently. She has seemed more lethargic in this heat, as well. Well, nothing to do but wait and see!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Aquacize for Dogs!

Blaze likes to swim in the dugout in hot weather. It's one of the reasons he smells bad all season, with little pieces of muck hanging off him. But yesterday, it became apparent that it can be a good thing. Blaze was at the vet a week ago, who said he was a little lame because he was getting older (like the rest of us!) and because he was a little over-weight. So, during his swim yesterday he decided to give chase to a pair of ducks nesting in the area. The ducks didn't seem even slightly worried, they just swam ahead; when they got to the end they just flew up and landed maybe six feet behind him and started paddling in the opposite direction. Blaze would turn and dog paddle after them. This went on for an HOUR, maybe twenty laps of the dugout! Great workout for the old dog and did he sleep like a baby last night!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Terrible Twos

The little Isa Brown chicks are just over two weeks old! They've changed so much it is rather amazing. They are starting to get more mobile, they can easily fly up to the enclosure around their pen, and may even start roosting there soon. From the pen, they could conceivably fly to the desk, then to the wall unit, then.........It makes it, um, interesting to care for them now because anywhere they've been, they've pooped so we have to be very careful getting into the pen. No more sitting on the edge to watch them.
In the evenings they still like to snuggle up under the heat lamp; we have raised the lamp and they don't get right under it anymore. It may help that we are finally getting some hot weather, with nights staying up around 14 Celsius (roughly 60F) the little ones don't need the lamp as much. Last night was the first night that we left a window open in the sunroom. Partially to keep it cooler, partially so that the smell didn't build up! Yes, we need a chicken coop soon!! Farmer Boy has been so busy setting out seedlings that the coop is still in it's raw state. As the chicks continue to grow, they may be able to escape the sunroom soon and we'll wake up with a couple in bed with us!

Food for Thought

The always interesting Susan Harris of the blog Garden Rant has posted a very interesting piece on a new crop of food documentaries. One of her links is to food activist Joel Salatin's piece Taking Down the Corporate Food System is Simple. Readers may find it controversial - Joel Salatin admits that in the piece - but well worth thinking about!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Third Ever.....

Well, if you're reading this blog you now where I'm going with this! It WAS just Friday night. The Friday Night Farmers' Market at Shoppers' Mall had a pretty good night for its' third night ever. Wasn't really busy; we were hoping the volume would be building every week. But, admittedly, in Brandon it is soccer weekend. It seemed like almost every child in Brandon, and therefore every parent was down at the soccer pitch at Optimist Park. It was crazy down there!

Maple Valley Farms was first to market with some very nice radishes. They sold very quickly! We were there with asparagus, onions, our pickled beets and some plants. The asparagus is definitely slowing down now, although a good rain may perk it up. Farmer Boy did repairs on the irrigation system today (Saturday) so we can get the drip irrigation running on the asparagus. We didn't run any ads for the market this week, so maybe will try a bit more advertising next week to see if we can build the volume. Cory came by with her registration for CSA and she's so excited. It's so invigorating for us to see someone enthusiastic about what we're doing!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Seedlings Get Set Out!

The greenhouse is getting empty. Farmer Boy has been busy, and he's got the sunburn to prove it! Over three hundred pepper plants - all planted out! It's very hard work, all done by hand, either bending over or on the knees. This year we've got bell peppers, jalapeno, Bulgarian carrot, hot Thai, habanero and banana. They are in plots, in little hedges for easy picking. Now there's just all one hundred and fifty tomato plants, a few more cabbage, herbs and some tomatillos to go!

Lovely Prairie thunderstorm last night. Not a lot of lightening, but some fabulous clouds and some good rumbling. Not a lot of rain, but probably enough to keep all the transplanted seedlings happy. We'll have to keep a good eye on them - they'll need consistent water for the next few weeks.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Cucumbers ARE Alive!

The lettuce.....not so much. A whole plot of lettuce - just nothing. The cucumbers took forever to germinate and we were afraid something was wrong. But, after a few days of nice weather and warm nights, the cukes have put in an appearance. The lettuce, planted three weeks before the cukes, is still missing in action. And that's weird! The lettuce is suppose to love cool weather and should have been up very quickly. So, Farmer Boy is going to give it a few days and then he's plowing it under! Lettuce planted just a week ago is already showing, so not much hope for the first batch.

Farmer Boy has been busy! All the melon plants are in, most of the ground cherries, most of the vast numbers of peppers! Planting seedlings is hard work, lots of bending or crawling on the ground. He'll be happy to have all the seedlings in over the next few days. Then it's on to do battle with weeds and bugs!

Monday, June 15, 2009

We've Got Tail Feathers!

Yes, our twenty five little butts are sprouting tail feathers!! And much stretching and flapping of little wings is going on today. One little girl even managed to 'fly' up onto the crate the separates them from the wall. Pretty soon she'll be able to get onto the ledge for a view outside! Their little heads are showing markings; their combs are getting ready to make an appearance, probably!

A Personal Day, Sort Of....

It was a Sunday off, the first in quite a while. Farmer Boy did start out with some serious work - weed suppression in the potato field. (You GO, Farmer Boy!). I worked in the beds and borders, which are seriously behind schedule (The Veronica teucrium IS alive, yeah!!) Then, off to try out our new fishing gear! Farmer Boy has fished since he was a little boy, and Santa brought him the gear for Christmas. We went out yesterday to get a second set and then after set-up and practice at home it was off to the river. Definitely a learning curve to this fishing thing - push forward, hold line, cast, push back. I wasted more line reeling in the wrong direction but may have the hang of it now, sort of. We'll try again next day off.

Then, off to refurbish the fountain that is beside our outdoor sitting area. Farmer Boy decided we needed a deeper reservoir so out came the old pond and in went a new deeper one. The foundation is a piece of rebar and an old potato fork. Then, the artful stacking of rocks and we have a beautiful, lyrical little fountain. By bedtime, though, it was apparent that tooooo much splashing was going on, we were losing too much water so some rocks will have to be re-arranged. Faithful Blaze supervised the whole procedure.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One of These Ain't Like the Others!

Careful what you wish for! We were wishing that all the 'girls' would lay monster eggs. What we got was the world's tiniest egg, so everybody else's egg looks monstrous! This little egg measure just barely an inch in length! It's so cute! (the 'c' word, again). Farmer Boy can hardly wait to crack it for Sunday breakfast just to see if it has a yolk or not! We're thinking it may have come from a little chicken we call 'Funky Butt' who has a funny twist to her rear end and tail feathers. Farmer Boy has often wondered if she'll be able to lay at all - and we have leveled out at fifteen or sixteen eggs a day from twenty hens.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Second Ever Friday Night Farmers' Market!

Yes, it was our second, ever, in the whole wide world, Friday Night Farmers' Market at Shoppers' Mall!! Didn't get off on the best footing - literally! Twenty minutes before opening, just as we finished setting up, a big downpour. And wind, of course......But, it all ended just before opening and was just spitting a titch as selling started. Continued to clear up and was quite nice for the last half! Had a few customers waiting in their cars for selling to start - always nice to see at a new market that people are already in the groove! We were right in front of a big puddle though; have to consider our exact location for next week: maybe forward a foot would be better!

Again, not much for us to take yet. Six pounds of asparagus, a whole bunch of bunches of onions, some pickled beets and some of the more interesting seedlings we've started. Sold a few ground cherries, some 'Ildi' tomatoes, some tomatillos and some spearmint. Seedlings are looking a little tall and floppy - they've got to get in the ground soon!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You GO, Girl!

Somebody is doing very good work! Everyday, for the last few days, one of the girls is laying a monster egg! Bigger than what we would get if we bought large eggs! Rather puts the others to shame. When we first got the hens at nineteen weeks of age, we were getting four or five small eggs a day. The number has increased to sixteen or seventeen a day and the sizes have been getting consistently bigger. But,so far, no one else is laying the monster eggs. We'll have to do some more reading and see if it's genetic, or can we look forward to all happy hens laying huge eggs!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rain. Beautiful Rain!

A beautiful, light rain all day! Just what we needed. Not a heavy downpour that would beat down the seedlings or compact the soil. Just a gorgeous, steady drizzle all day, slowly soaking in to nourish the seeds and seedlings. We knew it was going to happen, of course. We HAD just washed the truck.........

The 'girls' are rather filthy tonight - maybe they haven't learned yet the difference between a dust bath and a mud bath. Rain is suppose to happen tomorrow as well, which is wonderful for our sandy soil - it almost can't rain enough! What rained this morning has probably soaked straight through to the other side of the planet already and is making their crops happy. But, we're happy not to have to use the precious water in our dugout to water now. That water is best saved until the usual drought mid-July.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

They Grow Up So Fast...

The chicks are growing rather quickly! It's only been three days they've been with us and we can already see changes. Particularly the wings; the babes have little wings all of a sudden, with little spotted feathers where only fuzz used to be. They are getting a wee bit bigger, too. Not really noticeable but a little heftier. They are a little steadier on their feet but there is still some rough-and-tumble around the food dish. They picked up on the eating thing really fast; they all try to stand in the dish for best pecking. Quite cute (oh, no, there's that "c" word again!)

The 'girls' are doing very well, too. We got seventeen eggs today, almost one from everybody! They have definitely filled out a bit since they arrived. They've settled in rather nicely: all the eggs were inside the roost tonight, and almost half were in the nests! It will be interesting to move the 'girls' into the finished chicken coop and it will be reaaaaally interesting to try to mix the two groups! The 'girls' are Leghorns and the 'chicks' are Isa Browns, so at least we'll be able to tell them apart!

The First Friday Night Farmers' Market!

The first ever Friday Night Farmers' Market at Shoppers Mall was, well, a great success! With little budget to advertise, we had over a hundred people out. We're counting that as a success. It's amazing what a little visibility can do for a Farmers' Market! We had people drop in from seeing the sign and the action. Lots of appreciative locals who are excited that there will be a market in their neighbourhood. We think that Market can grow quite nicely this summer!

We didn't have much to take. We got about nine pounds of asparagus off - the first time we've ever sold asparagus! That's the nice thing about an early market! The Farmers' Market at Riverbank Discovery Centre doesn't start until beginning of July, so the little bit we've gotten off the asparagus we've used for friends and as an early signing bonus for CSA members. Now the asparagus is a little older, it's finally cropping well. We also had some winter onions (very tasty!) and some of our more interesting seedlings like ground cherries and tomatillos. The other vendors with baking and jams did well and Julie of J.R. Greenhouses was the star with greenhouse grown cukes and tomatoes! We treated ourselves to a couple of tomatoes and they were good! (not quite like field-grown, but waaaaaaay tastier than what's in the stores!) Good to be back with some of our favourite suppliers - we've waited all winter for honey buns from Mann Apiaries and flax bread from Maple Valley Farms!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

There's Nothing Cuter Than a Baby!

Baby's, in general, are adorable. Doesn't matter the species: fish, fowl, mammal, they're cute! But there can hardly be anything more adorable than a baby chick. The ultimate in cuteness! Right out of their little box, our twenty five are peeping, pecking, fluffy cute machines. Little dashes around their pen end in little tumbles head-over-heels, then they stand up and dash somewhere again! Forays into feeding end up as face plants in the feed dish. And the little, gentle 'peep peep peep' all the time, just excruciatingly cute, cute, cute!!

There little pen is in our sunroom for now. We excluded the cats completely by stapling heavy plastic to the door, with an expandable gate over that so they can't get underneath or through the little area left for our access. We're both just popping in to check them out - then end up standing there just watching their antics for more time then we should spare. The heat lamp is set up; they should be happy in their new home!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Farmer Boy gets Fleeced!

Horticulturally fleeced that is! Or row covered. Fleece is an excellent tool for the pesticide-free farmer or gardener. Light enough for water and sun to get through but keeps bugs from getting in. This lightweight cloth we're using offers a couple of degrees of frost protection, too. (A very important consideration for the Prairie gardener, even in June). Here, Farmer Boy has covered baby cabbages he and Frank just planted out. This will keep the cabbage butterfly from laying her eggs, which become little chewing machines when they hatch. This fleece is not completely tucked in - all edges should be covered with soil to really seal it. However, we may be replacing this three foot roll with a six foot roll because it's not loose enough for the cabbage to grow. This is really a triple row of cabbage, and there is just not enough give to allow the plants to expand.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Potatoes ARE Alive!

It's always soooo, well, encouraging when something grows. It's hard to believe those little chunks of dirty, shrunken stuff can become big, beautiful plants! The potatoes are coming!! The potatoes are coming!! Soon after, of course, will come the dreaded potato beetle, the scourge of the Prairie potato farmer, especially the organic potato farmer. Those little beetles, and their really little babies, can decimate a plant in a day. This year we're going to throw everything we've got at them (and everything we've been reading about)! Rodale says wheat bran, which expands in their stomachs and they explode. Okay...... Read somewhere else diatomaceous earth scratches them up and they dry up. Sure.....Foliar kelp sprays to keep the potatoes so healthy they resist the bugs. Can do!! If we won the lottery, we'd get some spinosad - that naturally occurring bacteria that specifically kills potato beetle and doesn't harm the birds, bees or lady bugs. And whatever happened to Btt, we can't find it anywhere? Well, the battle commences and we'll keep you updated!

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's getting easier to get FRESH in Brandon!

Hard to believe, but our first Farmers Market is just four days away! It's a new market: The Friday Night Farmers Market at Shoppers Mall, corner of 18th and Richmond in Brandon. Great location, lots of visibility. People can get FRESH on the way out of town to their cottages or just to prepare for the weekend. It runs from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, so lots of time for people to come by!

Not much veggies will be ready for Friday night. We will have some fresh asparagus, which should sell well. We'll have some fresh herbs and lots of veggies plants! Unfortunately, we are unable to sell eggs at the Market because they are not inspected (we can sell them at the farmgate, though, because then it's a customers choice to come on in). It will just be fun to be back at the Market, talking to people about good food!