Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Looking Forward to 2017

After a mix of lessons we learned in 2016 we are going into the New Year with a clearer vision of where our farm is going in 2017. Our focus is going to be to continue to develop the farm, increase our nursery operation and double our fresh market sales. 

PLANTS
Beginning in the Spring you'll find our vegetable starts and bedding plants available at Mid Valley Farmers Market (Friday 3-6) and Greenwood Mall Farmers Market (Thursday 11-3) plus at our farm stand in Torbrook and at Annavale Co-Op in Middleton where our greenhouse will be filled beginning in April. We will have a wide selection and include growing tips and recipes. We know we have superior plants, and we want to help you be successful in your garden and kitchen. 

PRODUCE
Veggies will be available as soon as the weather allows, usually early May. Be patient, just because the afternoons are warm doesn't mean the nights are and plants live outside 24/7.  Give them time, it'll be worth it! And check out the new farm stand which should be completed in April too. A new section of garden is being developed to include perennial fruits such as strawberries and raspberries, 

GARDEN ART
From wind chimes to sun catchers, we have just what you're looking for, all locally made! Available year round from Prairie Wind Creations, you'll find a good selection at the farmers markets and in the nursery at Annavale Co-Op in Middleton beginning in April.

COMMUNITY GARDEN
If there is any interest this year, we will be offering community garden plots again for 2017. Plots will be 10x10' and payment is by donation to help cover the cost of tilling and watering or you can help us with our weeding. We will fertilize, dig and water your plot, you just have to plant, weed and harvest. 

WWOOFERS
We will welcome 12 wwoofers from May to September. The cabin will also be getting a facelift in the form of a new floor and fresh paint. I'd like to take a minute to thank all the amazing people we've met through the wwoof program, you guys are awesome and we appreciate you all very much!

BAKERY/COOLER
The bakery will potentially be moving into its own building this year which will be great during the summer when it's so warm out. And a walk in cooler is planned as well for mid summer. I think my husband will be busy! 

So there you have it. Plans for 2017 in a nutshell. We're currently working on turning our daughter Meghan's logo design for the farm into a digital format and then we are going to make a new sign on the weekend as well. Something bright & fresh for a new start in 2017. You'll see it soon as we hope to revamp all our social media January 1st.

We also wish Jordan well in his new ventures, he's been the main helper in 2016 and he's a terrific son. He's leaving home to go be a missionary for 2 years. We will miss him but don't worry, I will post regular updates once we know where he's going and how he's getting on. 

Thanks for all your support and encouragement through what was not a very good year, and here's to the future, may it be brighter, full of love and laughter, and may it rain one day each week all summer. 

Love, 

        Elizabeth


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Poetry

People have different reasons they write. Escapism, therapy, a burning desire to help others. For me I sometimes feel compelled to write things down and last night was no exception so here is a rough draft of what happened to me yesterday night. Try not to laugh too hard. 

The Fifteen Dollar Moth

Driving, comfortably winding my way along the darkened road on my way to deliver eggs to the last customer before heading home. 

The girls are quiet, it's been a long day but now we are enjoying the peaceful evening and thinking thoughts of home and a comfy bed.  

I see something fall out of the corner of my eye. 

A soft, warm whisper of a touch on my arm which makes my heart skip a beat. 

Panic! Is it a moth? Bat? Panic! 

Breathe. Think. 

It's probably just a moth I tell myself. 

I really do not like moths, how do I get it out without looking like a complete idiot? Irrational fear or not, I do not want a moth inside my car. 

My mind is racing, my body tense despite knowing a moth cannot hurt me. Irrational or not, I do not like moths and I must find and remove this one. 

We pull up to our customers house and bag up her boxes of eggs. The air is cooling in the way an early Autumn evening does and the smell of the apples on the nearby tree reminds me of pie making with my children. 

I am pulled from my short reverie by the reality that I cannot find the change I need for this customer. I know I tucked $15, a ten and a five right there in my visor. I know I did!

And then I see it. The two bills of soft warm paper, lying beside the gear shift in the middle of my car. 

My $15 moth. 

And with a self deprecating chuckle and a deep but still unsteady breath I realize this whole panic has been for nothing.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Super Duck aka. The Feed Bag Bandit. Best Of 2016!

One of the best posts from summer, 2016. 

Pulling into the yard this afternoon after picking up the girls from their first day of school we were greeted by our ducks who came running over to show us that our drake had been snooping through a bag of old feed bags and somehow got one thread over his head and across his chest. It wasn't tight, just loosely hanging there and it took literally 2 seconds of holding the bag while he backed out of his new outfit, but it was hilarious in the meantime. Great advertising for Annavale Co-Op, a feed bag pulled by a fat duck. 

Things quickly returned to normal but I appreciated the chuckle that's for sure. 



Thursday, August 4, 2016

Royal Burgundy Bush Beans

Would you like free beans? Freshly picked from our organic market garden. 

Our beans this year are a roaring success. Despite taking longer to mature due to the weather, the production right now is fabulous! We are in the middle of planting our fall crops so I think burgundy bush beans are definitely on the list! Not only are the plants nice and healthy, the quality and yield of the beans has been very good. I'm currently eating them for supper. Here's how I prepared them. I put them in water to boil for two minutes then drained them, returned them to the pan with some coconut oil, garlic seasoning, and lemon juice and I sautéed them for 4-5 minutes. Delicious as a side dish or just as they are. 

Burgundy beans are really fun for kids to cook. They turn green and the water turns a beautiful green colour too. But when you sauté them the remaining water evaporates and leaves behind a purple colour glaze that you can see in the photo above. I think my anniversary special for the farmers market this weekend will have to be beans. Spend $10 and get a free bag of beans and ill include my recipe. Spend $20 or more and I'll throw in some cinnamon buns. Sound good? Get there early, it's going to be fun! Come see us from 10-1 at the Wilmot Community Hall by Bayard Rd on the #1 Hwy near Middleton. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Mid summer

I'm sitting here at the picnic table with a slice of plum bread enjoying what is probably the coolest morning we've had in a month. It's about 12 degrees but warming steadily as the sun rises. It's a welcome break from some very hot and unrelentingly dry weather. The river is the lowest anyone can recall for decades but our well seems to be fine as long as people do not leave the hose running for 12 hours. 

We had a late night last night. Jordan didn't finish work until 1am so I'm still a bit short of sleep but there's lots of work to be done so I'm sitting here with my notebook. It's now August which means thinking ahead to the end of summer growing. But it's not too late to plant a garden. We are 65 days from first frost (it's just an average) in Greenwood and that means we have time for cool season veggies again. Peas, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, radishes, leeks etc.  Some are started indoors and taken out as transplants so they're growing in the house until they're big enough, others will be direct seeded which means preparing the beds once one crop is finished to make room for the next. So even though we are busy harvesting beans, peas and watching the watermelons grow, were thinking ahead to the next crop and next year. We are also evaluating how the nursery did this year. Next year we will do more selection and an automatic watering system. 

I'm getting a camera for my early birthday present from one of my sons so I'll take some pics this week. Anything you want to see? 

This weekend the Mid Valley Farmers Market is celebrating its one year anniversary. There's a big celebration planned with activities for the kids and great deals at the vendors. If you've wanted to sell at the market but not sure how to give it a try, this week there are no fees for tables so what do you have to lose? Check us out on Facebook. 

Okay well I should get back to work. Time to organize the kids and wwoofers work for the morning. I'll talk to you soon. Elizabeth 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Summer Heat


After the driest June on record in 70 years we are now enjoying (or in my case not enjoying) baking heat in July.  I'm not accustomed to temperatures and humidity that make it feel like the 90's. That's just way too hot for me. And apparently my body agrees as I've developed blisters and lesions the size of marbles on the underside of my arms and had heat stroke last week. I've been enjoying the past two cooler days and thanks to a trip to Dr Canete in New Minas I have ointment that I hope will heal and stop any more new blisters forming. They are quite painful as I'm sure you can imagine. 


It's all good growing wise though. We had some very helpful wwoofers here over the past month. Yuka from Okinawa, Lucas from France and Nadine and Eva from Germany. They were all really lovely people and got lots of weeding and planting done plus they were great fun to hang out with. Now that they're gone it's back to the grindstone for me. 

As far as the garden goes, the burgundy bush beans are flowering as are the melons and squashes and peas. In fact I'll send the girls out to pick today. Kate is a slow garden worker but a good picker and she likes it. We have enough beans planted to keep her busy with a succession of harvests for the next 2 months so she should be happy. The squash plants have just reached the point of starting to run all over the garden so that's great and we will have more cucumber picking and tomatoes this week. I should pick more zucchini as well to keep them small. The recent day of rain have them a great boost. 

We dug out the troublesome potatoes in one section and have replaced them with other veggies such as beans, peas and beets. I'm going to start leeks, Brussels sprouts and more cucumbers today and give some fish fertilizer to everything. It's a never ending cycle of weeding and harvesting and replanting once plants are finished. Busy busy! 

One project we tried this week was using a strong vinegar solution to kill the weeds. I'm particularly interested in thistle control. I'll let you know how it goes. 

The turkeys are growing like weeds! This weekend should see the completion of their movable pen and they'll be outside on grass which I know they'll love. I will too. Less cleaning. If you're interested in buying turkey for the holidays just let us know. 

August 6th is going to be our farmers market anniversary celebration with extra prizes and family fun. Stop on down and check it all out at the Wilmot community centre on Hwy 1 near Bayard Rd just east of Middleton. Every Saturday all summer from 10-1. Don't be fooled by the junk sale near Frenchys, 2 more minutes down the road and you'll be finding freshly baked goodies, soap, lunch if you like a good sausage or dare to try the monster market burger, handmade gifts and crafts, and of course tasty produce. It's also just fun to visit after you're done shopping. 

Well it's time to go feed all my critters and I have a section of about 8 feet of peas that are falling over I need to restring. It's a good time to water as well while it's cool. Hope you have enjoyed this vey brief update and sorry I've been incommunicado. 


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Secrets to a Successful Market Garden

I'm going to take the weekend to write this but would be interested in your input as well. I'm going to reference our own experience, John Seymour, JM Fortier, Curtis Stone, and some great research from Victorian England to 1960s Canada. If you have an idea please message me at humblebeecanada at g mail dot com. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Working away

Just more of an update than anything. We finally have a nice day for working outside so the bed forming continues and then we will lay drip hose. Stephen is plowing furrows in the ground then piling the dirt up to form raised beds and pathways. It's a labour of love! We have some crops in the ground already but everything just seems slow this year. The nighttime temperatures are finally above freezing and so we will be planting like mad for the next two weeks. Thanks for your support. Back to work! 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Is it Spring yet?

While most of the country is enjoying Dpring several weeks early, the east coast is arguably colder and a few weeks behind. The day's certainly are warm enough being just a few degrees colder than normal, but the nighttime temperatures are well below freezing, even in the greenhouse. The sun is just coming up on this lovely May 1st and it's currently -5C/ 23 F inside the greenhouse. With the Suns rays it will quickly rise

to more comfortable levels but the low overnight temperatures mean seeds are delayed in sprouting, and some sprout only to freeze at night. It's very frustrating! Next week will see a return to above freezing temps but for now it's driving me crazy not to have more plants ready for people who are only seeing the warm days and want to plant. 

I shouldn't complain too much. Yesterday our friend Beckie and several other people were trampled by a crazed cow at the livestock auction. I think it sent a half dozen people to the hospital including at least 2 children before the police had to shoot it. And all because nobody at the auction thought to make sure all the gates were closed on the pens before unloading the cow. The cows owners took away her calf and unloaded her and she basically panicked and ran through the barn full of people viewing the other cattle for sale. I feel bad for the cow and for everyone who got in the way of her horns and hooves. A very scary situation that would have been much worse if one of the small children had been killed. It makes me very wary now of visiting Lawrencetown. 

I'm off for a firearms course today with my son Jordan. Should get going. It's 6 already. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Earthday and Permaculture

What is permaculture? Despite all the ways we can complicate explanations and make things seem either grandiose or like some unattainable dream, permaculture is simply short for Permanent Agriculture. It seems appropriate to celebrate Earthday by talking about ways that each of us can not only do less harm to our planet, but actually make it better and let it heal itself. 

Permaculture is as individual as those who practice it and as unique as each piece of land that's managed this way. As we learn more and as our small farm evolves the ways we steward our land change too. First the sheep came. They grazed down the old tussocky grass and added nutrients from their manure. Their hooves broke down the old dry grasses  and helped the old thatch get composted so that new grass could grow through. The chickens helped reduce the grub population and their scratching and pooping added to the biology of the soil, allowing air and nutrients in. The pigs dug over the pasture allowing for a garden to be planted the following year and the goats removed a lot of the brush. There is still more work to be done and more to be learned but the farm is now a haven for wildlife with so many more insects and invertebrates making their homes here. Our once barren soil is now teeming with earthworms and the fertility is increasing each year from the free range poultry. It's a work in progress for sure and we are trying to slowly but steadily make this a natural green oasis that will be productive ground for many years to come. But it's a slow and steady process to balance the rejuvenation of an old neglected hay field into a productive ecosystem that has room for humans, nature, and food production. 

People talk about permaculture as if it's some high ideal we should all study and then implement immediately. But to me it's just an integrated way of improving your land. And setting goals that balance the needs of your family and your land long term. Composting, recycling, home food production, mindful consumption (not wasting stuff), and integration of the natural world are just a few aspects of the ways we live and hope to teach others. Building community is another huge one. Shopping local, getting to know your neighbours and working on community projects are also great ways towards a more sustainable place to live. Permaculture in isolation isn't really permaculture at all. Working together to make things better, that's permaculture to me. So don't feel bad if you can't do it all at once. Start now and do something better. A thousand baby steps adds up and is more sustainable than a giant flash in the pan idea that never works out. Slow. Steady. Just like Mother Nature. That's the way to do things. We hope you have a wonderful week and that your seedlings grow strong and healthy. Love from Humblebee Farm. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Nursery Greenhouse

Good Monday Morning! You might be wondering how come I haven't written for a while. Well, it's been very busy what with building a couple of greenhouses and coaxing seeds to sprout in this still often sub zero climate. But Spring is becoming more and more entrenched and the cold weather crops are up and thriving. The nursery greenhouse at the Annavale Country Store in Middleton is almost done and will be open the first week in May. One of the neighbours had z little grass fire so some excitement on Sunday while we fastened the last of the plastic on the vents. Now we just leave it to settle, re-set the locks, and fill it with plants! 
I'm still moping around a bit. My best friend Deanna died on Thursday and I feel useless and a bit adrift. I miss not being able to just be there for her family. So all I can do is keep busy here at the farm. I'll get some photos posted later of our projects. In the meantime, hold tightly the ones you love.






Friday, March 25, 2016

Homemade Easter Egg Dyes

Today is Good Friday and here at the farm were enjoying a rather wet day. It is just sneaking up over the freezing mark and is supposed to stay warmer but a bit drizzly for the next day or so but we are going to make the best use of having Steve home for an extra day to get the greenhouse totally finished. Behind me in the lean-to greenhouse the chickens are cackling away like mad. It sounds like they've just laid us a few new eggs. Perfect, I have a craft to do with the girls this afternoon if it stays wet.
Without going into a complex chemical discussion of mordants and dyes, I thought I'd share a neat video for a craft you can do with your kids. It's in the link below. 
Onion skins have been used for years as a dye, I remember reading about Jewish prisoners in WW 2 who tried to brighten up the barracks they lived in by dyeing the curtains with onion skins. It's a very simple process of boiling the skins in water and soaking the fabric, or in this case an Easter egg, and allowing it to cool. It's time consuming but that's about it. The process is the same for other kitchen ingredients like red cabbage and turmeric as well. Is it suitable for kids? Yes, with some adult supervision for the boiling part. You will be sacrificing a pair of stockings/pantyhose, some eggs (white work best but use what you've got) and some flowers and leaves for decoration but it's a fun and interesting craft. I don't recommend using beets for the boiling method. Their intense colour will bleed past any decorations you use so they really don't work for this application but keep reading because I have a suggestion below. You can use a tsp of salt and vinegar in with your onion skins to help set the dye but it's not necessary. You're not looking to have these eggs last forever, they're still boiled eggs at the end of the day and won't last more than a few days as decorations. 
There are lots of other vegetable dyes you can research and experiment with once you've tried this. Using different mordants such as lye, salt petre, ammonia, vinegar etc can change colours quite dramatically and it's fun to wonder how our ancestors figured these things out. You might want to try melting a little wax and painting designs on your eggs with the wax too. Once the wax is cooled you could dip your egg into some puréed or boiled and cooled beet or other fruit juice and see your designs magically appear.
 Have fun with this craft and a very happy Easter from all of us at Humblebee Farm. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ugly Veggies -How to appreciate your knobbly produce


Despite all our skill, best intentions and hard work we always get a few chuckles each year when we're pulling root crops. We've had the usual carrots shaped like people, parts of the male anatomy, even a perfect pacman potato, but these oddities are still nutritious and delicious veggies that deserve a place of honour in the kitchen. Some are very tricky to wash and peel for regular use so the soup pot is a great destination. For the slightly imperfect fruits and vegetables that are now available at many grocery stores. For the most part these are a very cost effective way to get more veggies in your diet and once peeled and chopped you can't really tell the difference between them and more high quality veggies. But if it's nutritional density you're looking for, try growing veggies in your own garden. Even a small raised bed that's 4'x8' can grow a lot of veggies if you use methods such as square foot gardening, vertical gardening or planting fast growing crops such as lettuce, radishes, turnips and beans. Asian greens are also fast and easy to grow, often taking only 30-45 days from the time you plant them until they are ready to harvest and eat. And they're perfect for kids or beginners. If you really want a treat them get some grow bags or large pots and grow your own tomatoes and herbs too.  You can pick the fruits and veggies at their peak ripeness and eat them right away. Yum! So what are your plans for this year? Are you growing anything interesting? 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Our Children As Farmers

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/418059/why-north-americas-youth-must-rescue-farming/

It's really important to our family that we pass along what skills and knowledge we have to not only our own children, but to others who are wanting to learn. This type of community based learning and building up of local skills and the forgotten arts of things like basketry and hedge laying help to add to self reliance and food security. Having classes to learn how to grow and cook local foods as well as glean as much from your kitchen and garden as you can (I'm thinking about using your knobbly veggies and leftover chicken carcass to make soup) means more self-determination, less waste, and better use of our resources. If everyone made a meal a week using leftovers you might save your budget $5-10. But if everyone in your neighbourhood did, or every Canadian, can you imagine how much we'd save? Hundreds of millions of dollars every week! And that's just leftovers. So I challenge you to go through your fridge and spice cupboard and boil up a nice pot of soup this week. Don't forget to let us know how it goes 😊
And if you're interested in learning about market gardening or WWOOFing with us in 2016 please drop us a line. We love our woofers and can't wait to meet new friends this year! 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Wild Flower Bombs for Easter - Helping the bees

Do you ever wonder why planting wild flowers is important? Or why our bottom field by the river is always full of goldenrod and poppies? Because we plant for diversity to increase the food nd habitat for our pollinators. Our success as farmers is largely dependent on having our flowers pollinated and then harvesting the resulting fruits and veggies. As a planet, we can't afford to lose a third of our food production if bees and other wild pollinators fail to thrive. So each year we take a few hours and make wild seed bombs and spread them over the wild spaces on our property. We use native flowers, weeds to many people, and we also plant domestic flowers for their beauty too. It's a beautiful way to brighten up your yard too. 

Seed Bomb Recipe:
3 packages of wild flower seeds
10 litres topsoil (potting soil is too fluffy)
2 litres of well aged manure 

Add enough water to the soil and manure to make a sticky mix that will keep its shape if rolled into egg sized balls. Mix in the seeds. Roll into golf ball or egg sized balls and you're ready to go. Keep the balls covered so they don't dry out completely and use within two days. 

I've recently seen a video where coloured paper was ripped up into pieces, soaked in water for 15 minutes then put through a food processor until smooth. They squeezed out the excess water (it sort of looks like putty) put it into a shaped mold, sprinkled in seeds and then more paper mush on top. This made cute shaped seed bombs. Due to the seeds getting wet you'd still have to use within a couple of days but might make a good Easter craft. 

To use the seed bombs just plan to throw them out into your open spaces before a few days of wet weather. The soil and manure (or paper) will help to retain moisture as the seeds germinate and provide some nutrients. If you choose varieties that will self seed then you'll be starting a wild flower garden that will last for many years to come. 

https://www.facebook.com/LifeMadeDelicious/videos/10153644704948952/

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Trained Chickens

It's a bit of a nutsy weekend. The CSA shares are selling which is keeping me busy. Tomorrow is the Live The Smart Way Expo in Halifax and so we're gearing up for that while enjoying a last blast of Winter weather. Beckie's not feeling so hot and I'm busy organizing, advertising and planning. But it's going to be great! We will be at the FarmWorks booth from 1-4 and we'd love you to drop by. It's at the convention centre. Parking at Scotia Square. 

Steve is working on the greenhouse frame again today. It's nearing completion which is fabulous. I have big plans for next week. 


Even the chickens are being helpful. We have a chicken who regularly lays her egg on our front step. Yes, right on the step. I found the first couple by stepping on them. Even with this horrible wind and blowing snow she laid her egg there. How weird is that? In fact she's taught a friend to do it too! Lol. That's a little cat house beside the eggs. The kitten uses it as a shelter when he's waiting for us to come home. I'll have to re-paint it this year. It's looking a bit grim. 

Ok well off to buy a pump for Steve to play with. He's inventing a greens washer for us to use on all our leafy greens and salad mixes. A root veggie washer is next he says. Have a lovely weekend. Hope to see some of you tomorrow afternoon in Halifax! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why buy your veggies from us?

Our CSA is now taking new customers who want to share in the harvest of our vegetables and fruits. And I suspect that if you are met us at the Live The Smart Way expo in Halifax or just around town, you'll want to know more about us and what we do. This blog will show you some of the things we've been upto over the past couple of years, both the fun and the strange, lol. And it'll give you an idea of the kind of people we are too. I'm not sure if that's a good thing but you might as well get to know us as we really are 🙂
So why choose Annapolis Valley Growers for your CSA support? Well, frankly because we need customers like you to make the CSA and the farmers market work. And we know we offer delicious food in exchange for your hard earned dollars. We aren't a supermarket who produces perfect looking bland food, although I'll admit their tomatoes have gotten better over the years. But they still can't beat the flavour of your own homegrown or our fully vine ripened tomatoes and cucumbers. Mmmm now I'm craving a tomato sandwich, lol. Ours may not always be perfectly round but they are perfectly delicious. And we really welcome your feedback to let us know what flavours you enjoy most. We grow about a dozen different varieties for the CSA and more as plants to sell in our nursery, and we'd love knowing what works best for you. 
The clocks have changed this morning and it's surprisingly dark. The snow is largely melted again and since it's a new moon there was mostly just starlight to illuminate things outside. But the roosters are crowing and I can see the sky is starting to lighten a bit over the hill. Morning is coming and with it another day of spring farm work. Today that means planting another batch of wheatgrass and some cucumbers. I'm still waiting for the bulk of my seeds to arrive this week but I want to get some peas in the ground if I can. It's still too cold to plant things like beans but spinach and peas will be okay under cover as well as some of our Asian greens. But we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. It's now 2 months until our first vegetable deliveries and the market start up. Time to get planting. So much work! But the greenhouse is shaping up nicely so that's a plus. It'll be so nice to have the extra space and if I can kick the chickens out of my lean to greenhouse then I'll have another place I can use for plants. We're at that time of year where Mother Nature teases gardeners with warm days and cold nights. But my little lean to is great for hardy seedlings and then tomatoes and peppers as the year goes on and the nights are warmer.

Just a reminder if you are interested in investing in FarmWorks, that their current share offer is closing on Tuesday so give them a call today. 

In the meantime enjoy the warmer weather and if you're a gardener take some time to prune and clean up the yard. Compost and manure can be spread now too. Spring will be here before you know it. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Greenhouse Restoration

We were very fortunate to be able to not only get a lot of lumber for framing greenhouses but also a metal framed one that was damaged in the snow last winter. Why was it damaged? It was in a location that collected a lot of snow and the weight collapsed one side, bending and breaking the gable ends. But thanks to my awesome friend Colby and my amazing husband Steve, they're cutting and bending metal pipe, forming splices and making new pieces and the greenhouse will have a new life. It will also have reinforced anchoring, purlins to strengthen the walls and rebuilt roof pieces. We will also be keeping an eye on he angle of he roof to see how it ends water and snow. Keeping the roof free of snow is important to a greenhouse in the winter and so is keeping he fallen snow way from the walls. There is a tendency to just leave the piles of snow that slide off the roof but they can cause pressure on the side walls so it's better to keep it all dug out if you can. 

Why are we going to all the time and trouble to fix up a greenhouse when we could just take our loan money and buy a brand new one? Well, we want to use our resources wisely and that includes using our brains and muscles when we can, and using our money when we have to. The amount of money saved by fixing this up ourselves will allow us to build two more greenhouse frames. We did not cheap out on the plastic that goes on a greenhouse and bought the proper 6mil 4year UV protected film. The amount of effort needed to re-cover a greenhouse makes this option worth it for sure plus regular super six vapour barrier may only last a single season. I will say it's definitely worth shopping around for the plastic. For the same rolls we got quotes $350 different in price. Take your time. Do your research. And make decisions that work for your individual situation. For us that means reusing and recycling where we can. And hopefully by the end of the day we'll have a greenhouse to show for it. 😊

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Spring Rains

Due to a few warm and windy days all the snow is now gone and everything's sopping wet. The ducks are loving it but it's a bit wet for we humans.


 Being careful not to turn everything into a mud pit is important this time of year as the ground thaws and freezes. Certainly work on the garden can't happen until we have lots more good drying days. But that's okay because the weathers not quite warm enough yet anyways. Our seedlings are started in the house and once the greenhouse is ready to go again it'll be full of shelves of the tomatoes and everything we need to start early. Most seeds like to germinate at about 21 degrees so a warm room indoors serves that purpose then the still tender seedlings move to a nice warm greenhouse once the weather has passed the freezing mark. We're not quite there yet. Sure, we could heat the greenhouse, but it's not really worth it this time of year. Better to wait for a bit longer and be patient. I will be putting the small wood stove out of the barn into the greenhouse but it's not going to be enough to protect against a freeze should the weather get really cold. 

Getting our CSA up and running has been keeping us all busy. The website is now 90% functional and can be found at avg.harvesthand.com   We hope you'll have a look and tell us what you think. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Planning our Beds

Long before we even dig a fork into the ground, we plan out our crops for the year. Each bed gets used for multiple plants and we take into consideration crop rotations, weather, bed location ie. sunny or shaded, availability for CSA members, growing and cropping times. There's actually a lot of thought that goes into the planting of 54 beds plus the greenhouses. As you can see, I'm just in the beginnings of putting everything from my sheets of paper into one spreadsheet. It should help me keep better records and aid in rotation for the next 6 years too. Having the spreadsheet also means that when it's done I can glance down a particular month, say August, and I know what to plant, what to harvest, and I can make sure our veggie boxes have a good mix of produce. Being able to alter the list can be helpful and printability is also useful. Well back to work for me. Spring will be here before we know it and I want to be ready. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Warm then cold then melting then snow

Yes the weather has been up and down this week warm enough to melt everything and cause the rivers to flood and then it got cold and we had freezing rain, ice pellets and then a bunch of snow. Fun hey? But rather than panic we just salted the driveway Steve went out early this morning to shovel. He's over at the church cleaning with the kids and I'm here making lunch. Perfect for a cool day is split pea soup with some nice fresh bread. And it's so simple to make! 

Place in a heavy pot with a lid:

2 chopped onions and 1 tbsp oil. 
Fry until lightly golden.

Add:
1 pound split peas
2 litres of chicken stock or water 
1 bouillon cube if using water
2 bay leaves
Leftover ham steak cut into cubes
Dash pepper and herbs. I like bouquet garni or herbes des Provence. 

I simmer gently on top of the stove for about an hour, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick to the pot. Pea soup has a tendency to separate into layers with a thick layer of peas on the bottom and liquid on top. Cooking at low heat means you won't scorch your peas with occasional stirring. 

Be sure to remove the bay leaves before serving. They can taste quite bitter if accidentally crunched. And for really fast soup (my five minute method) grind the peas into flour in your grain mill then follow the above directions. Stirring frequently. Voila! Pea soup in five minutes. 

Today I'm doing the long boil method. I like a nice chunky pea soup and I'm using a jar of our mixed green and yellow peas. We had a small piece of ham steak left over from a ham steak stew I made this week. It was perhaps 2x5x.5 inches and I just cubed it and threw it in. Once it's done cooking I'll check to see what it needs for salt. Pea soup is one of those dishes that benefits from a little salt and I add mine near the end of cooking. Same with freshly ground pepper. I put a little in at the beginning and then I grind some fresh on top of each bowl. 

Well there you have it. Pea soup day! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How to eat for less in a world of expensive veggies.

I had a great chat with my dad last week and then with my son Jordan about the price of veggies and eating well. And this morning on Facebook a friend of mine in one of our groups answered the question of "do you support and buy local" by saying that he bought what he could afford, mostly canned vegetables, processed foods and pasta. He's a senior on a fixed income and I think he represents a lot of people who have to eat and don't have a lot of money. 

When cauliflowers $7 per head people freaked out and all the national newspapers in Canada carried stories about rising food costs. It was the big news story of the week and everyone was interested because let's face it, we all eat. 

So what's causing these price shocks? The majority of our imported produce is paid for in US dollars and with the current exchange rate that means things cost more. It's winter, and there's little local produce available. And people have forgotten how to eat seasonally. We don't prepare ahead of time by storing out of season foods and we expect bananas, strawberries and lettuce to be available year round. How can we complain about the price of lettuce being $4 when it has to come all the way from South America? Of course it's going to cost more. 

I'm not saying we shouldn't eat lettuce in the winter but what we should do is focus our diets on what is local and available. For us in the Maritimes that means roots, cabbage, leeks, potatoes etc. Andy's squash right now is 33 cents a pound. Potatoes are 25 cents a pound and carrots and turnips remain pretty steady year round at under a dollar a pound. Once you've got the basics covered you can add in the lettuce and tomatoes etc. Even frozen vegetables like peas and green beans are fairly cheap and retain a lot of their nutrition. 

The $7 cauliflower didn't last. When people asked me what I thought about that situation I said it was simple, wait a week and see if it goes down again (it did). I also told them that now is the perfect time to join a CSA veggie box program like ours. You're essentially doing what the big guys do and pre-buying your vegetables at a fixed price. Your share is paid at the beginning of the season and regardless of what happens you'll get your veggies delivered fresh and on time for 26 weeks. 

I realize not everyone can afford to join a CSA so another great option is growing your own food and learning to store it. There's really nothing quite like a home grown perfectly ripe tomato sliced up in a sandwich or peas right off the vine. If you're finding that seeds are expensive then I recommend you enter our contest and take the seed package as a prize.  It's got some good hardy and productive varieties.

 Now is the time to think about having a garden. If you've never grown one before then start now and every year you'll learn more and more. Talk to friends and neighbours, gardeners are a friendly bunch and will love to take you under their wings. 

Happy Garden Planning. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

CSA Veggie Box Program NS

If you've read my blog for a while you know that we not only have market experience, but we used to do a CSA (community supported agriculture) program where we shared the harvest with our subscribers. We enjoyed the financial support and they loved waking up on a Saturday morning to find fresh produce waiting on their doorstep.

2016 marks the beginning of our new CSA in Nova Scotia. Yes, we will have veggies to deliver to you for 26 weeks starting in May. Our delivery areas will cover the HRM, Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, Sackville, Porters Lake, Mt Uniacke, Windsor, Kentville, Greenwood, Wilmot, and Bridgetown. We will offer delivery to your door for a fee or have central pick up locations that are convenient and reduce our driving. And in addition to our fresh fruits and veggies we'll be offering meat, eggs, bread, preserves and soap. You can order as much or as little as you like and you're guaranteed good wholesome organic food and locally made goats milk lotions and soaps.

We're still in the planning stages, the CSA is a partnership between 5 farms and since we are all busy with the markets and planning for the coming year it's taken a while to formally get things rolling. But we are taking names for our shares if you're interested and we have decided to cap our shares at 50 for this first year. We will most likely have extra boxes available each week and will sell them to our wait list first and then to our retail partners second. Our goal is to provide the very best quality and service in 2016 and then expand again for the following year.

We will have several different sizes of veggie box available from a small box for singles or occasional veggie eaters right up to an XL box for veggie lovers and larger families. Bread, eggs, preserves etc will be available as a standing order ie. You receive them each week, or you can order by a Wednesday and have them delivered on your next delivery day. Everything will be on our website soon and I'll add a link here once it's working.

If you're interested in getting your name on the list, please email me. Contact details in the tab above. Or leave me a comment. As soon as we have things ready to roll we will let you know. Probably in the next ten days.

To answer a few questions I've been asked so far:

Yes, we can split the payments for you. Half when you sign up and half by June 1st.
Yes, we can take credit cards and eTransfer, cash or cheque.
Yes, we are registered farms and have our HST number, but there's no HST on anything you buy from us, makes a nice change doesn't it?
Yes, your share is transferable. If you're going on vacation and do not want your delivery for a week or two you can either let someone else come and get it for you or you can donate your share to the local food bank. We support both Kingston and Nictaux.  If you move or are posted we recommend letting us know and we can offer your share to someone on the waiting list. We would pro-rate the amount, charge them and when they pay we'd send you that amount as a refund.
Any unclaimed shares (it's strange but sometimes people don't come to pick up) will be donated unless other arrangements are made prior to delivery.
Yes, if you really hate a certain vegetable such as tomatoes, we will do our best to substitute for something else in your share, but please understand that with lots of shares to pick, sort and pack each week we may make a mistake occasionally or may not have a lot to substitute. We will do our best.
No, we've never missed a delivery. But if really bad weather happens it's normal to have some crop damage. We try to plan ahead for this by planting in different locations and lots of variety, but an early summer snow could mean you just get a lot of hardy greens in your box that week. We always try our best to deliver a good variety and it changes as the seasons roll around. There simply aren't raspberries available in May or November.
Yes, we put out a weekly newsletter detailing the contents of your box, farm events, recipes and uses for your produce, and funny stories.
Yes, you can work off part of your share and pay less. If you're interested in this option just send me a message. Kids are welcome but will require close supervision. We love having our share holders come visit and there will be several social events throughout the year from work days to the annual pig roast, don't worry we'll have lots of vegan food available too.



Spring Traditions - Candlemas and Imbolc

According to Phil the Groundhog and our local Shubenacadie Sam, they didn't see their shadow and therefore we will have an early Spring. What am I talking about? Today is February 2nd, and all over the Northern Hemisphere there are traditions and festivals celebrating the long awaited return of Spring. Crepe day in Belgium and France (not to be confused with pancake day in the UK next week), Candlemas, the end of the Persephone period and in North America Groundhog Day. While there are religious roots in many of these festivals, it being 40 days since the birth of Christ and therefore his presentation at the Temple etc. The universal appeal comes from the fact that Spring is approaching and the days are getting noticeably longer again and so many folk traditions have developed around the arrival of Spring or another 6 weeks of Winter. The story of Imbolc is one I know from my Celtic ancestors. It bears strikingly similarity to other stories. 


It's still not a lot warmer here in Nova Scotia although it's been a mild Winter so far. We're all a little bit paranoid though because last Winter was pretty nice until February when we just got one dump of snow after another until we had over 15 feet. And there's a legendary storm that hit Nova Scotia in 1977 on this date. But this morning has dawned calm and is now beautiful and sunny and it's hard to be grumpy and pessimistic sitting in the sunshine which is just a little higher in the sky and holds a little more warmth. Local tradition shows the practical side of Maritimers, they say that by Groundhog Day you should have half your firewood and half your hay. Last Winter we did, and we actually ran out of hay and had to buy a lot in because we had such a late Spring. Our fields weren't starting to grow until well into May. It's good advice, and we do have about half our firewood still left at the moment. The good thing about that is if it doesn't get used up then it'll be lovely and dry for next Winter.

I'm really looking forward to getting seeds started soon. But resisting the temptation to plant too many too early can be really difficult. If you know you can't plant your stuff out until May, then you don't really want to be planting until the end of March or into April. It's far better to have younger shorter seedlings than to have them all be root bound and tall and leggy. SOme of the seeds I start in February are cool season veggies for planting out in the greenhouse and some of the tomatoes I will use for grafting later. There are also some seeds that can take up to 3 weeks to germinate and they need the extra time. Being organized involves checking the dates you want to transplant and then working backwards to figure the rest our.
     For example: I want to plant my pepper plants out in the field on May 25th. I know that my seedlings will be 8 weeks old when they're transplanted so that brings us back to about March 28th, and I know that typically peppers germinate in 10-21 days so that brings us back to the middle of March. Therefore I know that to have my peppers ready for the end of May I need to plant them around the middle of March. Does that make sense?

So why don't we just start them all now and wait for the weather to be warm enough to plant out? Well, for one we'd quickly run out of room in the greenhouse. Having all those peppers in increasingly bigger pots takes up a lot of room, and they would suffer from not having properly grown out roots. 92 little seedlings in a tray don't take up much space but 92 plants in half gallon pots sure do. The more mature the plant, the more likely it is to suffer transplant shock which can delay plants by several weeks and thereby negate the fact that you started it early. My personal preference is to let plants continue to grow at an even rate and not stump their development along the way. It makes for healthier and more disease resistant plants and better yields.

Planning ahead and writing these things down will really help as we get into the gardening season.


My seed order still isn't in but I'm almost done. Hopefully today or tomorrow. I'm still sick if you can believe that, and it's driving me batty. I'm looking forward to my first greenhouse being built so that I can get more fresh air and sunshine, maybe that will help my lungs. In the meantime I'm just going to dream about warmer days to come and enjoy the sunshine.


Just ten more days to get your entry in for the Spring Contest. What better way to beat the February Blahs than to win something? Just check back a couple of posts ago for the easy contest details.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Market Gardener by JM Fortier

If you read Tuesdays contest announcement (if not check it out) you may be wondering how it is that being a farmer in the middle of Winter I have the money to be giving things away, including a new copy of such a great book. Well, I wrote to the author and asked for a copy. I explained that it was for a contest for you all and what my blog hopes to accomplish and he wrote back saying that he feels passionately about what he does and how important it is and that he'd be happy to send me a copy. So YAY! It's nice to receive support from other farmers and especially those we admire.

So if you haven't read his book or if you're toying with the idea of picking up a copy I'll give you my review and maybe that will persuade you to go to your local bookstore and look at a copy for yourself. You can also find a preview on Amazon. There's a downloadable Kindle version for your smartphone that makes good reading if you're waiting somewhere and need to pass the time. The preview is free of course so check it out.

The book, while aimed at current and potential market growers, covers not only how to grow methods but also the reasons behind them and in other cases there are options presented, not just what works for them. They discuss tools, marketing, harvest and storage, and how their deliveries work. I know my husband likes the more technical descriptions because then he can copy them or come up with adaptations to use here at our place. Overall this is a good book that connects you with the author while also being of practical help from the planning stages through the harvest and selling of your produce. I would say "I'd buy this book" but of course I already have. 😊

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Garden Giveaway Contest - Win before Spring!

It's time for a celebration! Thanks to all of you my blog is well on its way to 300,000 page views and so I think it's time for another contest and giveaway don't you? Besides, it gives us all something to look forward to during these dark and dreary days in the northern hemisphere. Unless you're one of my readers in India or the tropics, what is your weather like there in January? Does it stay fairly much the same all year except during monsoon?

You're a pretty darn loyal bunch so you deserve something awesome this time for prizes. My book is still not done, it's too early to celebrate with tomato plants, okay I've got it! I'll do a first, second and third prize and I'll let you pick.

I will draw the name and let you pick your own prize. If you've won before, you can still enter. If you live in my household you cannot, lol. Yes, you can enter and give the prize to someone else if you want to.

Prize Choices for First are any two of the following:

The Market Gardener- an amazing book by JM Fortier that will be helpful for anyone interested in growing for a profit, no matter how small the scale. I love my copy, the poor books only a few months old and is half beaten to death from over use lol. We will have an English language copy available for this prize, but I'm pretty sure it comes in French at your local bookstore.

or/

A box of fresh vegetables from our CSA. Yes, this only works if you live in NS between Annapolis Royal and Porters Lake. We will deliver.

or/

A handmade Swarovski crystal spider or dragonfly to catch the light in a nice sunny window in your home.

or/

A selection of non-GMO seeds from our garden, veggies and possibly a few flowers and herbs because what would life be without a little flavour and colour?

or/

Two grow bags. I will be doing a post about this later in the month. Fabric grow bags suitable for growing tomatoes or peppers on your doorstep, balcony or in your greenhouse.

Shipping is of course included in the crystal, grow bag, seed or book choices so feel free to enter even if you live a long way from Nova Scotia. We don't discriminate, we love all our readers and most of you actually live thousands of miles away. Last year it just happened to be that the winner of the tomatoes turned out to be a friend who lives fairly locally so that worked out well!

Second and Third prize will be at my discretion and will be one of the prizes listed above unless there's something you'd really like to have, and then I'm sure we can talk. After all I want you to be happy!


How To Enter

Send an email with you name, country you live in and email to hbfcontests@gmail.com  Please answer the following 3 questions:

1. What do you want to read about on my blog this year?
2. Why do you think people are reluctant to become more self-reliant?
3. How do we overcome the negatives and work together as friends, families and communities to build better self confidence and self reliance? You can relate this to skills, knowledge or food.

Contest is open to everyone regardless of age or postal code. Deadline is February 12th at noon AST.

Seed Money




Having a nursery and a market garden requires a lot of advance planning. And just like everything else in life, the better the plan, the easier the work later on. Sure, we could just write everything down on paper but having computer records means we can track as we go, share with others, and print off multiple copies. You can also keep track from year to year which is really helpful. That's not to say I don't use paper, I use a lot, but I appreciate the ease of organization that can come from using a good computer program. So with that in mind I'm happy to announce that as of tomorrow I will have a working laptop again! My MacBook, rest her soul, is retired because she's not working and I was able to find an older laptop on kijiji for $120 which my son assures me is a good deal for this particular one. It's older, the keyboard has issues, but the processor is good and yes, I will be more diligent about backing up my files on this one. You might be wondering how I'm typing this blog entry for today. Certainly not on my phone although I have done that in the past. Since I was already driving yesterday I checked kijiji and was also able to buy a used Bluetooth keyboard that connects to my iPad mini. My mum had this little iPad but didn't use it very much so she passed it down to me. It's lovely! Like a bigger version of my phone. I don't care that it's in used condition, the set up with the little keyboard works great albeit tiny. The keyboard keys feel nice just a bit cramped and I wonder if this is how people with very large hands feel every day. It's a bit comical but I'm making it work and for the $30 I spent on the keyboard I'm very happy with it. It gives me a little ultralight computer to use when I'm out and about so no more excuse for not writing the blog regularly in 2016. I might even try my hand at making videos.

Do you want some happy news? Spring is coming! And with it our new growing nursery business. With some start-up money we are able to buy in our seed early, get the supplies we need for construction of greenhouses and build a retail greenhouse at Annavale Co-Op in Middletown. We're super excited to get this off the ground so as we get closer to Spring you'll be hearing all about it I'm sure. We'll give detailed instructions for construction and hopefully inspire you to try it yourself as well. Although it may seem daunting, timber framing a greenhouse is not as complicated as you might think and allows you to pitch your roof in the best way for snow shedding and light collection for your area. If you're local, we'll gladly accept any help on building days and are happy to share our knowledge with anyone who wants to learn.

I'm hoping to talk with Owen from Annpolis Seeds today about a couple of projects including peanut growing and seed collection. And I want to have my main seed orders done by the weekend. I know it seems like a lit of work and it is for sure, but selecting the nest varieties for our garden and climate mean better plants and food later in the year. If you think it's hard choosing the perfect carrots for your home garden, try selecting a variety for market growing that's organic. It's time consuming to say the least. But in the end all the time spent on planning had benefits and rewards throughout the year.

** Just a quick note about seeds, we get ours from Annapolis Seeds, West Coast Seeds, High Mowing Seeds and Veseys. If we discover something interesting well let you know.

Well it's 6:15 and the kids are starting to stir. I've had the fire going for a couple of hours now so the house is warming up nicely. My bedroom is up to almost 16 degrees, balmy! It's exam week right now so the schedule is a bit different what with kids finishing early and leaving at odd times but we make it work. It's hard to believe Jordan graduates in a matter of days. Wow. I'm very proud. Not only is he done school early, he's getting excellent grades in the 80s and 90s. Now it's time to find a job and keep saving his money for future schooling and his mission fund.

Have a lovely day wherever you are. I'd love to know what your plans and projects are for this coming growing season so feel free to drop me a line. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Deep Cold

I woke this morning to the hush of a deeply cold Winters night. The house is cool but not terribly so. Having my lovely husband at home means the bed is nice and warm. And the peaceful sounds of children and pets lightly snoring while the fire in the wood stove crackles reminds me almost of a spell being woven about the house to ward off the cold. I don't know if we will have another night this cold this year but we'll see. It's -17 Celsius as I type this. That's cold. Given the damp of the Maritimes it feels like -40 does on the prairies. 
This very cold air is what's fuelling the development of snow along the eastern states that has practically ground things to a halt. They're really getting hammered but I suspect it will clear soon enough. Their temperatures and ours will rise over the next couple of days and in the States things will melt. 
In the news the stories of high food prices and empty store shelves are a reminder that we need to be prepared for things like this by having water, food, candles and blankets tucked away. In our case we have food we can cook on top of the wood stove plus firewood. The kids will tell you that the first things we do when bad weather is forecast is fill our water jugs and all the animals waterers and food dishes and then top up the two wood bins we have inside the house. It means we are good for at least a day without having to go out in a blizzard to get more wood and that's good for everyone involved. 
We do still check on the animals during severe weather and if we know bad weather is on its way we prepare by putting down lots of dry bedding and filling up all the feeders with feed and some extra soybean meal for protein. Keeping drafts down to a minimum is really important too while making sure the ventilation means there's not a buildup of moisture in the barn. It's a balancing act for sure. 
Well I should get up and put wood in the stove. Our wood stove is a good size for our small house so that a good fire can burn without having to be constantly damped down and sooting up the chimney but is small enough that it doesn't keep a fire going all night. Getting any coals banked and the fire rekindled is my job. I'm sure the kids think the fire fairies do it sometimes and that the fire just magically refills itself but for the most part having the wood stove and feeding it just fits into the rhythm of daily farm life that measures out our days.

Stay warm my friends. Spring is coming and we are busy making plans. In the meantime I'm going to the Dr to get my horrible cough seen to and I'm getting my seed orders together. The food prices hopefully won't affect us so much and right now we're eating a lot of stored root vegetables and beans so we don't notice the price increases as much as others. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Farmers Are Optimists

In an often cynical world I have to say that I find the farming community as a whole to be pretty optimistic. If we weren't we'd quit when things get tough, we'd never be able to continue after a natural disaster wipes out all your work or a hail storm destroys your harvest. And yet farmers just assess the damage, sigh, and get back to work. Okay, we do complain about the weather a lot because it's one crucial variable of farming we can't control, but apart from that I think we're good. 

Here's how my day went. Around midnight we were checking that things were still okay because the winds had picked up into the 80-100 kph gust range. The greenhouse on the house was flapping so I thought we might have problems but it was fine. However Steves 6am check found the other lovely shelter on the barn was horrifically mangled. 
You can see that one post and anchor block were dug out of the ground by the force. The rest of them had the flange plates literally ripped off. The bee hives were blown apart and scattered and the glass door smashed in. However all is not lost! Steve was able to find and save a few bees so he's got the hives back together. I'll make some food for the poor things. Our friends Becky and Colby stopped in for moral support and to help me take the frame apart. Now it's in nice neat piles and can most likely be welded.   The door still needs replacing but it's blocked off for now and I'll get a board nailed over it tonight. And the gate, well, we can now improve on our gate design because it's toast and I'll need to build a new one. I have some ideas and I'll re-use the hardware. I'll have a new post hole dug in the spring and then we will hang it. Oh and the clear tarp cover is still usable which is pretty amazing. 
The kids have been helping with chores and clean-up. There's siding blown all over the place and we need to fill the wood bins inside the house as well as the usual chores. It was really warm last night so we let the fire go out and it was a great chance to shovel out the ashes and clean the wood stove before the weather turns cold again. It's gone from plus 10 Celsius  to plus 1 and flurries this afternoon so I suspect we will be back to our regularly scheduled Winter tonight. It'll actually be good because the warm and wet weather melted all the snowpack and now the rivers are quite swollen. Another couple of inches and our river will breach the southern bank. The house is fine though, we're on high ground. 

Kate's night to cook supper is tonight so we're getting tater tot casserole (a version of her smiley casserole) and roast squash with Brussels sprouts. She's the cook, who am I to argue? Everyone has to start cooking at some point and she has her favourite recipes. Root vegetables should be a much more important part of people's winter diets I think. And here I would also include apples. Local Cortlands are currently on sale for $4 #10 bag so we stock up and put apples in a storage tub with slightly damp sawdust. Kept in the addition they don't freeze and will stay fresh for a long while. It's worth it to me to do the extra work if it means we have fresh local apples to eat. 

Well. There's my day. It started badly, but you just have to pick up the pieces, figure out how to prevent it in future if you can (have metal flanges on the anchor posts) and then continue on. Friends helped clean up, and my bestie took me out for a two hour trip to town for some errands and lunch to cheer me up, and our family all pulled together. So yes, I'd say we're optimistic that this is going to be a good year for our farm, despite the setbacks. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Happy ducks

I've been wondering why the ducks are spending so much time under the trailer...and now I know. There's a small leak in the water line and the smart little guys are using it as a drinking fountain and personal shower. Well unfortunately for them Steves under the house right now replacing that section of pipe. No more shower. Poor ducks. They'll have to use a waterer like everyone else. 

The weather has been pretty good and we're getting lots of work done. But we are also taking time to have fun. Dinner tonight with friends is lamb and roasted vegetables, yum! I don't know if I'm looking forward to the food or the company more. It'll be nice. When the nights are long it's always a good idea to make the most of them. 

Anyways I've got to keep this brief. I have parsnips and carrots to peel and prepare for roasting. Hope you're having a good winter. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Self Watering Containers

As many of you have no doubt experienced, drought and dry summers are becoming just one more thing gardeners are having to contend with when trying to grow plants. Self-watering beds are a great option to beat the heat, especially for someone growing a few plants on their patio or balcony or for people who travel and may be gone for a few days. A self-watering bed is good because you can simply fill the reservoir to overflowing and it will wick up the moisture into the soil as it needs it while you're away. 

The major drawback to wicking or self-watering beds is the cost. Veseys has some lovely ones but I'm sure the price tag puts a lot of people off. $200-400 for the basic unit isn't unreasonable, it's just unaffordable for many. But never fear! You know I've used them before and I've found a set of plans online that are cheap, easy to follow, and reusable for many years. 

This is the time of year that storage totes go on sale. I recommend Rubbermaid but that's just my personal preference. You can use any tote that has a lid. Do you have some extras from a past move or from de-cluttering your house? You can use those. You'll need some pipe, a tote, plastic garbage bag, cable or zip ties, fertilizer (or mix in slow release fertilizer to the mix and of course good quality potting mix. I also sometimes put a single piece of landscape fabric over the inner tray before putting down my soil but you don't have to. Check out all the instructions for several variations from a five gallon pail to a large tub. I'm posting this on my phone so I may not be able to connect the hyperlink until later. http://postoilsolutions.org/documents/earthbox.pdf

Well I have to go. The kids school bus just came 15 minutes early so of course they missed it. Now I'm going to have to drive them which I'm not happy about. What happens to all the other kids who miss the bus and their parents already left for work? Of the normally 7 kids at our stop, nobody was there yet. You'd think that would be a hint. Oh well, time to go. Have a lovely day!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Planning My Winter Away

I'm sure that at some point you must have wondered what we get up to here on the farm in the winter. Well I still find myself pretty busy. Life at the farm has certain rhythms that revolve around feeding the animals, caring for them, doing repairs to tools and fences on the warmer days, maintaining our equipment, keeping the house warm (it's currently 12.8 Celsius and the fire has been burning for two hours already) and setting in place all the plans for the garden. A garden plan is like a complex dance, a balance of light, shadow, water and succession. This week it's time to think about ordering my seeds, supplies, and fruit bushes and plants. Wholesale orders fill up fast so January is a good month to plan and buy seeds rather than waiting until March. While it's still cold in Canada, other place are getting spring by March and getting lots of crops started indoors. I think this week I'll plan my cash crops like peppers and tomatoes and decide if I'm grafting tomatoes this year. I have my sales records from last year so I know what varieties of tomato performed well and which sold the best as plants. I also want to look into some grow bags as I've heard they're great for tomatoes and peppers in a greenhouse. If they work well, perhaps guy could replace my hard sided pots. Way less plastic! But I wonder about the benefits. I will have to try it and see. I have some landscape fabric so I'm going to see about seeing myself some fabric grow bags. This might be a good addition to the retail side of things in our nursery but really it's just to experiment. If any of you have experience with them please drop me a line. My big debate currently is this... Is it worth paying four times the price to get bags that are white outside and black inside? I think they'd be cooler on the plants roots in the summer. And you could write directly on the bags so there are no labels to lose. 

Our first small batch of wheatgrass went in to Porters Lake yesterday. Hopefully it's just the first of many deliveries. I have to admit that the wheatgrass does taste better than some of the other stuff I've tried. But it still tastes like lawn clippings, which anyone who has cut grass with a hand mower can surely relate to. A little trial and error and we'll have a nice little sideline going. 

My last post was about a local Nova Scotia CEDIF (Community Economic Development Investment Fund) and there was quite a lot of talk yesterday on CBC radio about how great the various CEDIFs are for the economy in terms of the development of jobs and businesses in the region, and also as an investment if people are interested in seeing their money being used to strengthen and help rebuild sustainable communities. If you're interested (and you should be) check out FarmWorks or the development funds in the areas where you live. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Investing In Nova Scotia

The title of this post might be more easily read as "putting your money where your mouth is" and I'd mean it literally. I found a great investment to tell you about and no, it's not a scam, you will not get rich, but your money will be secure and you'll be supporting the economy here in NS. There are tax breaks as well so you're doing good for the local economy and potentially paying less in tax depending on your situation. 

We were introduced to a group called FarmWorks back in November. They are the ones who do the Gentle Dragons I wrote about a couple of months ago. And what they are is a Community Economic Development Investment Fund or CEDIF. As the name implies they are an investment fund that uses its capital to invest in local businesses that promote sustainable, strong, diverse and secure local food production from farmers to value added processors to restaurants.  After a rigorous application and vetting process the Board makes recommendations on worthy projects that can receive small loans of $5000 a $25,000 to start a business, expand an existing business or diversify. They provide support and mentoring in addition to requiring regular reports to monitor how things are going.  Payments and an interest rate are set and as repayments occur the money is then immediately available for further investment by FarmWorks into other projects. I'm making it sound pretty simple, and it is in theory, but I'm sure you have lots of questions so be sure to check out their website for a far better explanation than I could ever give. 

So why does supporting local food production matter? Let me tell you how it's going to affect you in 2016. 

As you know, the dollar is at an alarmingly low level which meant that the hat or book you bought on Amazon or eBay in US $$ this Christmas cost you a lot more once it was converted to Canadian dollars. The same thing is happening to food imports too. Oranges and lettuce are still costing $1 lb in the US but translated into current dollars that's now become $1.43 Cdn or whatever the current rate is. I apologize I'm actually not sure of the current rate.  Price fluctuations are initially absorbed by the wholesaler and retailers who make less profit, but the continued slide of the dollar means that now in order for them to stay in business you and I will be paying more at the store. Probably quite a lot more. 39 cent bananas, dollar bread and dollar apples and oranges are a thing of the past unless you're lucky enough to live in a producing region. Even here in the valley food will be rising in price as it becomes more profitable to ship our apples elsewhere in Canada instead of importing them from the States. 

Now you might be thinking that an increase of $100 on your monthly grocery bill isn't the end of the world. But what if your best friend is on disability or your grandmother lives on a fixed income? Then what? What happens when there's simply not enough money to buy healthy food? Two things. People buy cheap processed foods and skip the fruits and veggies. And reliance on local food banks increases to the point they can't keep up with demand. 

If you're thinking this doesn't concern you because you've got a job and food in the freezer think again. Having a population living on processed food leads to health concerns over time which leads to more tax dollars needed for health care which leads to less services and funding for other programs you might enjoy like funding for the Arts. Longer wait times to see a medical specialist can affect us all at times when we're feeling pretty vulnerable.  As much as we'd like to pretend we're above things like hunger, it affects us all. Nova Scotia is a tiny blip of a community on the World scale. We're a close community of not quite a million people in a World of billions. That's not to say we can't have an influence but what I think we should be doing is strengthening our home communities first. 

This is where FarmWorks comes in. Not only do they help food producers, they provide a good place to invest your money. Most of Nova Scotians retirement savings and wealth is in foreign and domestic investments outside NS so we're missing out on the millions and millions of dollars that could be used to bolster our own economy. That's where a CEDIF comes in. Periodically FarmWorks offers shares for sale that provide a provincial tax credit and a return on investment. I won't quote numbers because I'm not a hundred percent sure what they are but I know that to date approximately $1,033,400 has been invested and everyone seems happy. This is money that's working to benefit lots of different people. 

Let's say for example that we wanted to expand our farm. We could apply for a loan and do our presentation to them and fill in all the paperwork. Their board would check us out and see if we meet their criteria and if we are doing something they can support then a loan would be made and guidance and support would follow over the following years to ensure that we're successful. My business would increase and more food dollars would be which would be spent locally. In turn that gives me an income to spend locally while promoting farming in the Annapolis Valley.  The market grows, I hire a couple of seasonal workers who then spend their money locally and the cycle continues. Money that is already here in the valley stays here rather than going into the pockets of growers in Mexico or Florida. Or even the CEO's of Big box stores. Something as small as a 10% increase in local food dollars would have an enormous impact on the number of young people who would get into farming and those who would stay farming. Suddenly having a small family farm like ours would be sustainable and the local youth would be able to seriously consider staying in Nova Scotia to raise their families instead of moving out west. Being able to feed our home communities more would make farming an economically viable option for new farmers. And this could be duplicated in any area and country in the world where free enterprise and farming are possible. 

Of course I'm biased. We are very motivated to have a good customer base for our farm, for the farmers market and for the CSA that will be starting in May. We're working with other farms and growers to create an environment that's both economically viable and fun to do. Nobody wants to do a job they hate. But if you've ever sat on your tractor and  stopped to watch a sunset or marvelled at a perfect row of seedlings you planted, then you know that working with nature is a blessing like no other. Farming is a job that despite the ups and downs of livestock and weather, is good for your soul. 

If you are thinking about supporting more local growers this year, or looking for a return on your investments, then please check out FarmWorks. They are good for Nova Scotia in so many ways I can't even begin to list from providing a safe investment to encouraging better food security for all Nova Scotians. I'm definitely not doing them justice in this article so feel free to ask any questions you have and I can pass them along or contact them directly. I know new shareholders are very welcome to join this amazing group of people so look into it. It's truly a hidden gem of NS enterprises. 

There was an error in this gadget