Life and thoughts from a small-scale organic farm . . . and its farmers

This is a blog that explores ideas around the growing of food and community at Glen Valley Organic Farm.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Weekly round-up

Just a few quick notes about farm activities this week . . .

The fields finally dried up and we've been composting beds, transplanting and seeding. It's always a huge relief once we can start getting things into the ground. We're slightly later this year than we were last year, but there are so many factors that influence how fast things will grow.

Now we'll wait and see how long it'll be before we have to start irrigating. After the winter rains it doesn't take much time before things dry up sufficiently to require regular watering.

We cleaned out the chicken coop today to make sure it has a chance to be washed and aired out before the next flock arrives in May. Cleaning the coop is never first on anyone's list, but it's never as bad as we expect. It stinks, but it went relatively quickly.

Some of the other tasks for this time of year include making sure we have all of the supplies we need before the season starts getting busier. Yesterday I picked up some of the floating row cover we'll use on carrots this season. The cover prevents the carrots rust fly from doing damage to the carrots that would otherwise make them unmarketable.

We're also getting ready for farmers markets. This means organizing supplies, making sure signs are ready and lining up helpers for each market. Not many days left until the first market -- hope the rhubarb grows so that we have something to sell!

Two apprentices arrive on 1 May, so there are preparations to do to make sure their living spaces are ready and that we're organized enough to have work lined up (there is work, we just have to be prepared to do it).

Milking the goats is going well. The three goats that we're milking have been nervous on the milk stand and upset about being separated from their babies at night. But they're gettting into a routine. Rob started playing meditation music for them the past two mornings. They've increased their collective milk output from 1/2 gallon a day to between 3/4 and a full gallon this week. We now have a batch of feta aging in the fridge and an attempt at chevre on the go, not to mention a few batches of yogurt finished.

So, that's a summary for the week. Lots coming up and I'll try to keep the blog up to date.

Ready to Plant

Below are a series of photos taken just before we started transplanting seedlings into the fields. It's always spectacular to see the full trays . . . and in no time at all the space is empty!

A peak inside the start room -- mostly tomatoes waiting to go into the coldframes.

Salad starts -- beets, kale, lettuce and chard.

One of two rows of transplants in one coldframe.

Cabbage and kale transplants were moved outside to make more space in the warmer coldframe.

Storage onions, sweet onions, shallots and leeks. This is a good example of why tags are crucial for every tray. It's impossible to tell the difference at this stage of growth.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Waiting for the sun

I've neglected doing a posting for a while amidst various other tasks and taking some down time before the start of the season. Here's a summary of what's happening on the farm these days as we get into the spring season.

Most of the potatoes went into the ground a couple of weeks ago. There's one bed's worth of spuds still waiting . . . the weather changed faster than they could be dealt with. Kale and Collards also went in.

In fact, I was away for the planting. A good friend was getting married in Ottawa (he must have wanted farmer friends present, because March is a great time to attend weddings in terms of workload and schedule adjustments, not to mention airfares and hotel costs). That means Jeremy was hard at work doing much of the work solo. Word is that we was in the field one evening, working on the tractor in the dark with spotlights on trying to beat the rain.

Since then we've been waiting on the weather to dry up and warm up again. The early start we had in February has evaporated and we're back to a slow start similar to the past couple of springs.

Nonetheless, the warm February has brought about an early crop of flowers. The daffodils are almost finished and tulips are in full bloom. We purchased hundreds of bulbs this past fall when they were on discount (end of season) from a bulb company. As a result, we have a whole new array of spring colour on the farm. This adds to the multitude of daffodils already present, planted by farm shareholders in past years. The results are visible in the photo at the top of this post.

Our 2010 CSA is now full with a small waiting list. We'll consider whether or not we can accommodate the waiting list later today.

We had the chickens slaughtered on Thursday, which means we have a freezer full of stewing hens and a break from the daily chores related to feeding, collecting eggs, packing and such. I'll have another blog post finished soon about slaughter day (I'm sure you can hardly wait). Thanks to BC's meat regulations we can't sell these birds because they were slaughtered on-farm.

The other major event has, of course, been the arrival of the new baby goats. Six kids (four male, 2 female) were born to four does in mid- to late-March. It's a manageable number. It'll give us the ability to increase of milking herd in the next year or two with the two females and provide us with a good supply of farm meat next winter from the boys.

New goats bring about a whole set of tasks ranging from monitoring feeding from the mothers to removing horns and castrating. As of this weekend we're also milking three of the adult goats -- a daily event at 6 a.m.

Milking got off to a shaky start. We put the kids in a separate pen overnight. The first night is noisy across the farm. Babies cry much of the night and does make their displeasure known. By morning the maternal instincts lead some of the goats to fight us for the milk.

Last night, however, the kids seemed settled into the new routine (they pile together under the manger) while the mothers realize that they get a full 10 to 12 hours without babies -- not bad for a break. They aren't as uncomfortable with us milking in the morning either. The kids still feed all day, so everyone is happy.

I recalled the other day that at their last farm the goats listened to the CBC during milking. Having constant voices seems to sooth them, but I wonder if they will produce differently based on the host. I imagine they would prefer Radio 2 over Radio 1, especially at 6 a.m. We'll have to give this a try!

The one last activity of the season is to do taxes. Agricultural taxes are a bit more involved than I did in my past, but I still refuse to pay someone to do my taxes. I'm really trying to get this done in the next few days of heavy rain. Once the weather turns it'll be too busy outside to worry about catching up on paperwork.