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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Herb Walks with Glen Valley Herbs & Apothecary

Glen Valley Organic Farm's resident herbalist, Barb Hinde, is offering four herb walks this season. All walks will take place at Glen Valley Organic Farm.

Come and walk through the herb garden as well as the farm's 8 acres of forest. See how the plants grow in cultivated gardens as well as in their natural habitat. Learn about building your own backyard herb garden by understanding the seasonal growing cycle, learning which herbs grow best in this environment, and how to incorporate herbs -- both culinary and medicinal -- into your gardening and cooking.

Dazzle your senses as you touch, taste and feel the herbs and learn how nature has the potential to support good health. Dress comfortably for the weather; we walk rain or shine.

Each walk will highlight herbs in season as the garden and forest floor change and offer an array of herbal options.

About Your Guide
Barb Hinde is a chartered herbalist as well as a registered nutritional consultant. Practicing herbal medicine as well as good nutrition has been a life-long interest for Barb.

Barb grew up on a farm in the Fraser Valley with a parent who loved the earth and believed in the healing power of the body and the plants that Mother Nature provides. She spent time with her father in the garden as well as in the forest, thus starting a life-long love of what the earth has to offer.

After completing courses at Dominion Herbal College, Langara College and several long distance courses, Barb became an herbalist as well as a registered nutritional consultant. She has been growing medicinal and culinary herbs in earnest since 2002.

Dates & Times
Herb Walks will be held at Glen Valley Organic Farm on the following Saturdays in 2011:
  • May 28th
  • June 25th
  • July 23rd
  • August 27th
The walks start as 10 a.m. and continue until noon. The walks are following by a question and answer period in the farm's labyrinth garden. Feel free to bring a bagged lunch to enjoy during the Q & A session.

Each walk costs $25 per person. Pre-registration is required.

Please register by contacting Barb Hinde at 604-626-0681 or barbhinde (at) gmail (dot) com. Pre-registration is required.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Images of the past week on the farm

The season got a kick-start this wee with some wonderful, warm weather. We were able to catch up on weeding, seeding and transplanting. Here are some of the things we noticed on the farm this week.

Above, the strawberries are in full flower. We anticipate tasting the first berries of the season next month.

Our neighbour, the Fraser River, has been rising over the past couple of weeks. A heavy snow pack in parts of the province means we anticipate a high river level this year, although we are unlikely to face any flood threats. Nonetheless, when the river is high, the ditches are unable to drain and we may see back-ups into our fields during heavy rainfall.

It's always a relief to see certain crops emerging from the earth. This tiny row of parsnips came up this past week, three weeks after seeding. This crop is grown from Harris Model variety seeds we saved on the farm two season ago.

Our new mason bee condos are seeing activity. A couple of holes are already filled by bees with their eggs, pollen and a mud plug.

Tricia's bees are doing very well. As soon as the day warms up, they're out collecting nectar on the farm.
If you've even used the term "it's a tough row to hoe", hopefully you've had the chance to hoe a tough roe. The above bed was planted in potatoes by mistake. The bed is lumpy and weedy, and a miscommunication saw it getting planted in too early. Our apprentices did a great job cleaning it up this week.

Viewing the farm early in the morning provides a stunning perspective of the beds again the valley slope and sometimes the mountains in the distance. This view reminds me why I enjoy farming (being outside in this beautiful space) and how much work we have to do to keep on top of the weeds!

This is a similar view, from the tractor, getting beds ready for seeding and transplanting.

These are some of our earlier plantings of lettuce and kale. They grew a lot this week. Lettuce generally doubles in size each week, so we might have some head lettuce for market in a few more weeks.

It's always satisfying to see the potatoes sending up their first leaves.

Our rhubarb is always the first big crop for the season. This week we sent rhubarb to an organic distributor in Vancouver, our restaurant distributor, Aphrodite's Pie Shop and, of course, the farmers market.

We seeded many beds this week, including spinach, dill, cilantro, beans, beets, sunflowers and wildflowers. Kate, above, is using the Earthway seeder on a future crop of spinach.

The goats are all doing well. The seven kids are growing fast and two more does will kid in the weeks ahead.

This coming week sees the start of the Langley Farmers Market, the White Rock Farmers Market, transplanting many new crops (strawberries, squash and fennel) and lots of weeding.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New compost bin, warm weather

I finished building a new compost bin yesterday. This was something I've wanted to do for a while. For the past few years we've been piling organic veggie waste from cleaning and grading produce near our barn. The result has been an increasingly ugly and unmanageable pile of compost. Then, Paige found plan for a three-bin system on Metro Vancouver's website.

This bin allows us to fill one compartment over time. When it's full, we transfer the contents into the second bin and begin filling the first again. When it's full again, the contents of each bin get turned into the next bin again. By the time the waste comes out of the third bin, it is finished compost, ready for use.

Just a note about the Metro Vancouver plans: it's a great system, but the plan material list is short on wire mesh and screws -- you'll double of each to make it work.

And now, as you can see in the photo above, our indicator puddle is almost completely dried out, so that means we can get into the fields and plant, seed, weed and even harvest! Full steam ahead!

New Mason Bee Condos

Last week we welcomed Hartley and Brian from the Environmental Youth Alliance to the farm. They are running a native pollinators program with organic farms in the Lower Mainland. this includes a visit to each farm, doing an assessment of how the farm can better provide habitat to native pollinators and providing homes for mason bees and ground-nesting bees.

In the first photo, Hartley is assembling a mason bee housing frame. In the photo above, Brian is taping together trays for the mason bees to lay their eggs into.

A stack of trays, ready for placement.

After the housing frame was installed and the trays were in place, I got to place to mason bee cocoons behind. They placed one bee unit near our orchard and another unit in our fields.

Also part of the project is the building of nests for ground-nesting bees. Those aren't ready yet, but I'll post photos when we get them. Brian pointed out numerous, tiny holes in the ground where bees are nesting -- something I walk by and over every day without noticing!

Native bees are an important part of the diversity we have in our environment and a crucial part of the pollination puzzle we have on a farm. Honey bees are, by far, the most important pollinators for commercial crops, but they often overshadow the importance of native pollinators and their importance to many crops.

For more information about native pollinators, I recommend The Forgotten Pollinators by Stephen L. Buchmann and Gary Paul Nabhan.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chicken days

Our small flock of birds moved to a new area two weeks ago. They have a lot of green grass and fat juicy worms to feast on. Within days of moving them, the yolks in their eggs became deep orange. The previous chicken run was disked and then reseeded. The chickens will return to that run later in the summer.

We are lucky to have In Season Farms in the Fraser Valley. They are willing to deliver feed to small farms like us. This is the auger sending feed down to one of our feed barrels this morning. Shortly after the photo was taken, the truck got stuck trying to leave the farm. I didn't take photos of the tractor pulling out the feed truck. I don't think anyone would have appreciated the visual record.

More goats

Over the course of 48 hours last week, the size of our goat herd expanded from five to 12. First, Worri had triplets and the next day Jumper had four kids. Needless to say, they are always a hit and an incredible spectacle.

Our new term for the pile of goats (this tends to be how they sleep) is a Goat Cuddle Puddle.

How long can a three-year-old cuddle a goat? We've always had to intervene before finding out.

This is Jumper cleaning her new kids after being born. When we took this photo we expected that she was finished, only to watch as one more kid came out moments later. The dark liquid in the bucket in the corner is molasses in warm water -- a post birth treat for the new mother.

There are two more goats that will have new kids in the next couple of weeks. They make for a busy spring!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Baby goats -- Exciting day on the farm

The birth of new goats is always exciting on the farm. Our first set of kids arrived yesterday while we were all eating lunch. The farm children got to skip their nap to witness the exciting event.

Just minutes after the birth, all three kids are standing up, looking to feed. Worri, their mother, is trying to clean them all. Notice that the two females have exactly them same colouring as their mother while the male is all white, just like his Saanen father.

We relish the cuteness of baby goats. It's only a matter of time before they're just like the rest of the goats . . . lots of personality and, depending on the goat, stubborn and obnoxious.

Mama Worri stands guard as her kids snuggle in a pile under the manger. these kids arrived a full 10 days earlier than the average gestation for goats. Yes, we were surprised . . . and not quite prepared for this yet!

It's always a relief when the kids start looking for food and when the mother lets them feed. They're pretty self-sufficient animals as far as birthing goes. These two kids are competing for the same teat.

Four more goats are bred and will be kidding over the next month.