Monthly Archives: June 2011

Now this is good land

 

Today we returned to our second borrowed plot to do a little weeding.  Actually, we brought our never-before-used Glaser wheel hoe for a trial run.  Nice tool.  You just push it along a weedy pathway and let the stirrup blade behind the wheel glide almost effortlessly an inch below the soil surface, cutting young weeds before they have a chance to become a problem.

 

 

Wonderful rich, fluffy soil in a very picturesque and pastoral setting.  We started our impromptu crop plan here a couple of weeks ago by planting out pepper, melon, and allium plant starts and by direct-seeding a couple dozen other crops.

 

These are the Oregon State University Blue Tomatoes.  Recently their colour has changed from a steel grey to a hue of purple on top (still green on the bottom).  They may very well be our first tomato to ripen and it would be very sweet if they would do so soon, since no one else at last Tuesday’s market had any to sell yet.

The Plot Thickens

Whoops.  Guess I lost my bloggin’ noggin somewhere.  No post in a long, loooong while.  So, once again, there will be no profound observations, pithy one-liners or helpful advice today.  Just an update.  Here’s goes.

It continues to be the spring that never really sprung.  I haven’t checked but I’ll bet you could count the above normal temperature days on one hand and have a middle finger left to flip menacingly at a hapless weatherdude.  It’s warmed up – and it’s actually lovely greenhouse weather, not too hot – but the lack of heat and light has not helped alliums to grow or strawberries to sweeten.  I’m not really complaining though; all the growers are in the same boat.  And many crops are liking the weather a fair bit or, at least, not minding it.  Peas, salad, kale and potatoes are just fine.

But the corn?  Well, it’s maybe 6″ high.  Whether it makes the ‘knee high by the 4th of July ‘ milestone is still uncertain.  It doesn’t help that its roots are still shivering in its wet, cold clayey soil.  Same goes for the peppers inside the big tunnel.  They’re only 9” high and wondering how much longer they have to tolerate the water and nighttime cold.  Their tunnel-mates, the tomatoes, don’t mind being in the same soil but mostly because they’re in hills, just a little bit above the slowly-falling water table.  When we planted them 7 weeks ago, there was no other option than hills; the soil was that wet.  But everything else went in later and I incorrectly assumed that the wet weather would end sooner and the water table drop.  Not so much.

After a very successful 3 or 4 weeks of plant start sales mid-May to early June, things have recently quieted down.  Most gardeners have planted their summer garden and won’t be back until it’s time to plant their fall/winter garden (which Pauline started seeding starts for a couple of weeks ago).  Still, anytime is good for lettuce, kale, spinach etc and it’s only gotten warm enough for beans, corn and squash recently so those plants are still selling.  But we are looking forward to harvesting some of our high-value crops soon, just to make up for flagging plant sales.

 

Strawberries are just starting to ripen now but our 180 plants are only producing a pint per day (after the robins are fed, that is).  The trick is to leave them long enough to sweeten but not so long as to become bird food.  I’ve begun laying reemay cloth on them overnight so that the early bird does NOT get the fruit.  When we show up around 9, I uncover them, harvest the good ones and let the bees do their pollinating best, and hope that I haven’t missed any that the robins would want.

The tomatoes continue to be our best hope for a cash crop sales leader.  The plants mostly look really good although some have a bunch of yellow leaves which could apparently mean they were over fertilized (fellow farmer) or underfertilized (master gardener).  Yesterday I gave all the plants a dose of diluted fish fertilizer so we’ll see.  My previous thought was simply that these few plants’ roots were waterlogged, despite being in hills.  I may never know.  For now, I look forward to harvesting their fruit, which appeared in miniscule form a little over a week ago.  Some of the Sungold cherry tomato plants have multiple large trusses of fruit, just waiting to be ripened.  These are sure to be big sellers at the stand and at the market.

Speaking of markets: we have temporarily stopped going to the Saturday market.  Sales did not justify the 12 or so combined hours we were spending to do it, particularly considering the stress of setting up and taking down the display in that market’s morning mayhem.  But we’ll probably be back if/when we’ve got lots of perishable food that needs to be sold.  In the mean time, we’re doing the Tuesday market which has new hours of 3pm-7pm and seems to have a nicer vibe.  We can sell bread and other baked goods at this market with no restrictions and it’s less than half the time commitment of the Saturday market.  Plus, for the Tuesday market we simply unload the farm stand at 2pm right into (Dad’s) van and drive it all to the market.  Once the market is over, we load up the van, park it at the farm, and unload it all onto the farm stand Wednesday morning.  When we’ve done the Saturday market, which is 8-4, we’ve basically been sacrificing our farm stand abundance to enhance the Saturday market display.

My parents and nephew from Calgary will be staying with us again for the summer.  Unlike last summer when we rented the farmhouse from its Ontario-vacationing tenants, this year we’ll be staying in Pauline’s 40th birthday present; a 40ish year old Airstream trailer which we have parked on the farm property.  There are a few reno’s we need to do but otherwise it’s ready to use.  In fact, we’ve slept two nights in it already.  It just needs a water hook up and some floor work.  Or so I hope…

We have recently gotten access to a glorious piece of land in the Shepard Hills of Salt Spring.  Our friend Dan (proprietor of Salt Spring Seeds and founder of the Salt Spring Seed Sanctuary) bought 26 acres of land and offered some of it to us to use.  It helped that we are both board members of the Sanctuary but ultimately Dan is just a true community kinda guy and he wanted to share it with people who were really keen.  A couple of weeks ago the land was taken from hayfield to soft, deep, loamy, almost stone-free soil, some of the most fertile soil on the island, according to the soil test people.  Last week we spent a day planting  our last 150 pepper starts, 40+ melons, a couple hundred onion and leek starts and then row after row of direct-seeded beans, chard, beets, more alliums…I could go on.  We basically doubled our area under cultivation overnight.  I guess we also increased our workload but we’ll worry about that another day.