Monthly Archives: August 2011

Preservation

(Photo: Chocolate beet cupcakes with edible flowers arranged by Hannah. On sale at the Tuesday market!)

The blackberries have started to ripen. Dad and I cut through Mouat Park yesterday to a secret place where we harvested over a kilo (or 3 pints) in about a half hour. Earlier today, he went to a different secret place by himself and got another 2 kilos. As I write, he and Mom are transforming it into jam. Recently we went over to Paul and Christina’s place and grabbed 50 pounds of sour plums from one of their trees. The plums are loaded with flavour and their tartness combines nicely with the absurd amount of sugar a standard jam recipe requires. (I’m not sure what to make of the Pomona low-sugar jam recipes; their website made it sound pretty complicated and expensive for the amount of sugar you saved. And some web reviews were lukewarm. But we should experiment anyway.)


On Wednesday we toured two farms on Mayne Island in conjunction with our Island Natural Growers monthly meeting. Deaconvale Farm  had a really interesting operation in that they were geared toward processing and retailing their own food. Although they had to fight a war with local government officials, they were eventually permitted to build a store, Farm Gate, which they have now stocked with their own and others’ fresh produce, meat, and eggs and also a wide selection of their own jams, chutneys and other preserves in addition to a wide selection of groceries typical of health food stores. The tour included a walk through their commercial kitchen complete with super-sized everything.

When I see the satisfaction of a jam well-made by my parents, I’m tempted to spend a bunch of money and build a similar facility to allow them to do it on a larger scale. If only we had our own place…

Advertisements

In full bloom

I think this whole farming thing agrees with us. Even though we’re not quite sure yet whether we can make a living at it, we see promising signs all the time. And we already have long mental and written lists of things we will do next year, and things we will not do next year (to be expanded upon in future posts). All this when the farm is just starting to hit its summer stride, with some actual 100% summer weather.

The tunnel harvest is still modest by any measure but the exponential daily increase in harvest bodes well. Where just two weeks ago I walked into the tunnel with two pint-containers to harvest tomatoes, I began using a two litre yogurt container one week ago since the cukes starting producing (quickly!). Today I used a 1-gallon bucket and had to impregnate the bottom of my rolled-up T-shirt to hold another pint of cherry tomatoes. I suspect within a couple of weeks I will need a wheelbarrow and stacked cardboard flats to carry it all to the farm stand.

About two thirds of our winter squash are doing superbly. They gets lots of sun and all the water they can slurp, since they were planted in the Cowichan bottomland near the seasonal creek. The plants further up the hill and into the sandy, infertile Mexicana are doing less well and I’m thinking of abandoning them and not wasting irrigation water. I guess I should make up my mind before they whither too badly.

The zucchinis are also producing nicely now and we’ve been selling fruit for over a week. We’re harvesting all of our zukes, with the possible exception of the romanescas, at around half a pound and selling them for a buck. We’ll probably plant more next year, since the soil down below lends itself to growing sparsely planted, frequently-harvested, water-hungry veggies.

The aforementioned swamp land is really redeeming itself from its spring incarnation, when its water-logged clay made planting tomatoes and peppers in the tunnel a sloshing adventure. The soil is now firm and workable. I’ve been tilling an area where Ron briefly got stuck last fall while plowing and, once the root balls are removed, its rich, stone-free inner black gold is revealed. I think we’ll put our recent garlic harvest, which is currently hanging up to dry outside our house, back into the soil there this fall.

The remaining risk to the area down below is having a tunnel full of otherwise viable produce on plants which quickly become swamped if/when the fall rains come early again. The plant roots, which followed the gradually-falling water table as it receded this summer, will not be able to breathe when the table rises. For that reason, Dad’s recent project has been to dig a series of ditches close to the tunnel to re-direct the water that wants to flow through its soil. The ditches will capture the overland flow but whether the clayey soil lends itself to draining the upflow is an open question. Having underground drain pipes inside the tunnel would be best but we can’t do that until the food is out. Of course, instead of ditches in the tunnel this spring, I used hills to create the same effect. The problem is that the hills are not consistent in height or width and, now that they’re hard as rock, they make harvesting and pruning hazardous, if not to the harvester then to the plants. It would be way nicer to flatten the whole area.

We’ve been spending a half-day (times 3 people) per week at Dan and Celeste’s farm in the Shepherd Hills. The brassicas we set out a month ago are looking really good and many of the beans and peas we direct-seeded are also coming along. The melons and peppers, however, are not going to be superstars, both preferring much, much more heat than this summer could muster (so far).

The Tuesday market continues to be busy and successful and, next year, we will have an even better understanding of what to grow and in what quantity. Meanwhile, some of our observations from last year, like its lack of pickling cucumbers, are paying off now as we have much more demand than supply, and can assemble larger orders that require less post-harvest work (weighing individual portions, culling unsold portions, transporting product to/from the farm stand).

As busy as its been, we have had time to a little R&R from time to time. A bit of canoeing, beaching and taking in the travelling circus acrobats, to name a few.