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Archive for the ‘Permaculture’ Category

June has come and gone too quickly. The rain has mostly missed us, besides a few gentle showers. Every day it looks like it will rain but the gardens are so very thirsty. Others who live not far from here are experiencing the opposite. We do our best to be adaptable to whatever the weather brings.

Farmer Andrea started the CSA this month, here are some highlights …

Veg-Head Andrea

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Garlic Scapes, Peas, Lettuce, very HOT days

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Photos by Andrea Nickerson

The most beautiful Kohlrabi I’ve ever seen, ‘Azur Star‘, pictures cannot do it justice.

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Photo by Andrea Nickerson

Market Set-up for Week 1 of fresh, local produce

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Photo by Andrea Nickerson

The Farm Toddler helping with the Garlic Scape harvest + cleaning

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Photo by Andrea Nickerson

Andrea also took some beautiful panoramic pictures of the raised beds …

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Our family gardens are coming along nicely. We’ve eaten our fill of pea shoots and sugar snap peas and are leaving the plants as a seed crop. We’ve also been collecting onion seeds. We found this beautiful surprise in our ‘Rattlesnake‘ Pole Beans, little leaves that resemble the seeds and bean pods …

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A look at our Pole Bean bed, using a re-purposed swing set, with marigolds as a companion plant to deter bean beetles …

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And the view from the other end of the bed …

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Most of the beans in this bed will be a seed crop as we need to grow out the ‘Trail of Tears‘ beans we started saving in 2008, and we’re starting to save the seeds from other varieties so we have seeds that are regionally-adapted. Beans are the perfect starter seed-saving crop as they’re super easy to save.

A teeny tiny Lunchbox Pepper on a tiny little plant …

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A new favourite, an heirloom Lettuce “Grandma Hadley” from Seed Savers Exchange

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Another example of companion planting that Rashel has wanted to try for many years, but couldn’t make feasible on a larger scale, is using radishes as a trap crop to protect Cucumbers from flea beetles, cucumber beetles, and squash bugs. The radishes will be left to go to seed and be another seed crop.

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In the trellised Cucumber bed we’ve also planted Lettuce as a companion but there were these beautiful “weeds” – 2 Sunflowers and a blooming Cilantro – that we decided to leave in the bed because they were just too nice to pull out.

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While we’ve seen many Insect friends – especially a variety of Swallowtails – we only got this one picture is a newly hatched Praying Mantis.

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We’ve had our first Lavender blossom harvest of the season …

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A medicinal plant harvest of Yarrow, Wormwood, Bergamot, St. John’s Wort, Red Clover, Plantain, and Comfrey. Most of these will be dried for later use and some will be infused in oil for later use. All but the Comfrey have come from the new wild area Rashel started in 2016.

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We are harvesting Chamomile and Calendula every couple of days, and dehydrating them to use later in teas and salves. In honour of the Summer Solstice why not try some of these recipes using a variety of edible blossoms ~ Sweet Magic: Honey Cookies

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Farmer Andrea has been busy this Spring getting ready for the 2017 CSA + Market Season! Spreadsheets, Seed Catalogues, Sterilizing Seedling Trays, SEEDS, Planting, all part of the Farm Lyfe.

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Photo credit: Andrea Nickerson + rashel t

Seedlings Indoors …

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Photo credit: Andrea Nickerson + rashel t

Seedlings Outdoors …

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Photo credit: Andrea Nickerson

Over-wintered and self-seeded Spring surprises …

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Scallions, Gorgeous Lettuces that popped up in beds, outside of beds, gorgeous Lettuce everywhere! Photo credit: rashel t.

Every year we let a couple of broody Hens hatch out a clutch of eggs. We don’t purposely breed them so they become Tremblay Farm Mixies. Farm child Oddy wanted to make sure we had some new chicks this season and Farmer Mike (Pepe) helped get them all set up before his major heart surgery this Spring.

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These Mamas are very protective of their babies. Here they are showing their newly hatched offspring how to scratch and forage for grains and seeds. After eating very little while incubating their eggs these Mamas are ravenous! Photo credit rashel t.

 

Interesting things found around the farm in May …

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Wallflower, ancient Pear Tree covered in blossoms, Wild Ginger, Fungus, Lilac, Chives with Busy Bees, Kildeer eggs, Scat, Insect Eggs. Photo credit: rashel t.

While Farmer Rashel is taking a break from Market Gardening they are turning their focus towards creating and maintaining a new Wild Space in an awkward part of the farm. This will serve as an Insectary (habitat) for beneficial insects + pollinators, as well as a space for Medicinal Plants. The focus is primarily on Indigenous Perennials and self-seeding annuals with the goal of having the space be self-sufficient and diverse, as well as a place to learn from and harvest medicines.

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Plantain infusing in oil, Chamomile, Nettles. Photo credit: rashel t.

This blog will have a different focus in 2017. Instead of being a weekly round-up of farm happenings and seasonal veggies it will be a monthly update of interesting things found around the farm, musings on gardening with children, current experimentations in permaculture and sustainable ecological food growing.

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Our “little” garden this year – only 15 4×18 ft beds – and our new little helper. Toddler S is a natural forager! Photo credit: rashel t.

More fun around the farm in May …

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The big farm children take the toddler on adventures, pea shoot snacks, plants in flower / seed saving, rainbow, potatoes planted by Rashel + Toddler S in an experimental hay bale bed, carrots, flooding. Photo credit: Mike Tremblay, rashel t.

Unsurprisingly Rashel’s favourite bed is the most diverse one. Lettuce self-seeded, Parsley over-wintered, Sunflowers showed up, and Rashel didn’t want to remove anything so they planted seedlings in the available spaces. Trying out Celeriac + storage Kohlrabi for the first time. Also planted Collards, Brussel Sprouts, and Radnips.

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Photo credit: rashel t

A new experiment this year is Trench Composting. This bed was in need of remediation so it was the perfect first experiment. A trench was dug out of the middle of the bed and in it’s place we placed unfinished compost and seaweed. Various squashes have been planted in to the middle where the compost is. If this is successful we will do a variation on this in years to come. Each year one third of a bed will be dug out and composting materials thrown in as the season progresses. The following year we will plant on top of the trench, rotating which area gets the compost from year to year.

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Photo credit: rashel t

We are also experimenting with more Companion Planting, with plants in closer quarters in our 4 by 18 foot raised beds. Some friends include: Peas + Carrots with Lettuce; Cucumbers + Squash with Radishes + Beans; Alyssum all over but especially near Lettuces; Garlic + Tomatoes with Basil; Marigolds + Pole Beans.

Looking forward to sharing more Cute Creatures, Garden Stories, and Farm Lyfe with everyone ūüôā

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Newly hatched Praying Mantis in a pot of Succulents. Photo credit: Andrea Nickerson.

 

 

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Spring has sprung and that means our farming season is well underway!

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Creating new easy-to-install and easy-to-remove covers for our raised beds. These are protecting our Bok Choi from possible frost from cold nights and from the Flea Beetles that munch on them. We’re installing these new covers on all of our raised beds.

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Filling up more beds. We are truly a family farm as everyone helps – from the youngest to the eldest. 4 generations work together to make it all happen. A large tarp is smothering weeds and will be the space used for our seedlings to harden off.

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Our cute little greenhouse! We planted out these Bok Choi, Salad, Parsley, and Scallions seedlings. We also planted Cilantro and Peas – trialing a new purple variety this year!

2 new specialty roots we are trialing this year - Salsify and Scorzonera - we here they are delish to humans and pollinators alike.

2 new specialty roots we are trialing this year – Salsify and Scorzonera – we hear they are delicious to humans and pollinators alike. We’ve never seen such interesting seeds!

Our friends over at Our One Acre Farm recently put up a post that sums up the Permaculture principles we apply on our farm when planning and planting, they can be adapted to any size garden ~ http://ouroneacrefarm.com/permaculture-principles-for-practical-gardeners-and-farmers/

Now it’s time to get back outside and enjoy the glorious Sun, happy May days everyone!

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Until now we’ve been using the back of our “Milkhouse” as a cooler to keep the veggies fresh. This is a very old building – it might be part of the original house – and was never properly insulated. As anyone who’s been to the farm knows the doorway was constructed for very short people and trying not to hit your head has always been a hazard. Earlier this Spring my dad (Mike), my children, and my brother were working on a new chicken coop but with the arrival of the pigs and the construction of raised beds the farm didn’t get new chickens in the Spring. But we did need a new cooler. We thought of, and checked out, various options including a refrigerated truck, but nothing worked out. So we decided to move the new “chicken coop”.019We used Permaculture concepts when deciding on its location. It’s under Trees and gets shade for most of the day. It is located at the end of the driveway so it’s easy for customers to access and it’s easy for us to get in and out and to pack up the truck for deliveries. It got a “facelift” so that it looks more like a “Cabane” that could be used as a guest house rather than the chicken house it was meant to be.020Again inspired by Permaculture principles the walk-in cooler is already set up for Rainwater Harvesting with a Rain barrel.¬† 024Right now we are using an air conditioner only and it fits our needs well but we will look into getting a Coolbot again in future years. We are so pleased with the extra room the new cooler provides, we aren’t tripping over ourselves and we are able to be organized when packing up the weekly CSA shares. It’s much more convenient, and safer!, for customers who visit the farm.

On a different note, some of you may have noticed that you didn’t get any Kale or Chard in your bags this week even though the weekly basket picture had baby Kale in it. When we were packing the bags up we noticed that while some of the Kale was still in good condition most of it was not and we could not give that out to customers. We only had 1 hour before needing to leave to deliver to Windsor so there was no time to get more Kale. We apologize for that.

Happy Long Weekend Everyone!

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As we have been working on building and filling our raised beds it occurred to me that what we are doing on this farm is experimental, Experimental Farming, even using raised beds to grow vegetables on a small but commercial scale is experimental, it’s a lot of work to set up but it will improve our vegetable production in the long run. Each raised bed is a little different as there isn’t one right way to create raised beds and, what goes in to a bed is as much about what materials are plentiful and on-hand as the “perfect” mixture. Some of our beds were layered like this: chicken manure, branches, leaves, sand, compost, topsoil, and wood-chip mulch. Some of our beds were broadforked before laying down the manure, and others were layered with newspaper on the bottom. For more pictures on the progress of our beds and on the farm please visit our Facebook page.

Putting down Chicken Manure on the newspaper to keep it from flying away.

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Next come the branches. We are doing a hugelkultur hybrid for some of our boxes. The branches will be a slow-release fertilizer and will add some bulk to the boxes as well as providing aeration for the hard clay below. Our boxes are 12 inches high so they require a lot of materials to fill them.

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Adding Compost on top of the Sand. We purchased a load of Compost from the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority and not only is it pleasantly fragrant (like Cedar or Patchouli oil) but it really is “black gold” and we couldn’t stop commenting on how beautiful it was. We’re going to need more of this wonderful growing medium! The Sand and Topsoil came from Rene Blain Trucking in Tilbury.

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Several of our finished beds. We got a really good deal on woodchip Mulch from Mark G Contracting in Tilbury so we decided to mulch between and at the ends of all the beds. Our seedlings will be transplanted right into the mulch.

 

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A sneak peak at 3 of our Kale varieties – Red Russian, Dinosaur, and Curly Vates. We also have Bok Choy, Rainbow Chard, and Scallions that are almost ready to be transplanted in to our new beds.

We are a family-oriented farm and the youngest children enjoy helping out so we find tools and jobs that are manageable and fun for them.IMG_6205

We are making notes of all of our beds so we can see which do better for different crops so we can refine our growing methods each year. We are striving to be truly sustainable and on our path we intend to experiment to fit our needs and to use as much as we can source locally.

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This is part 2 of a series of educational posts on why we choose to grow our produce using ecological methods.

The pros and cons of Raised Beds.

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Pros:

– Better drainage, especially in the Spring when the snow melts and there is significant rainfall.

– Beds warm up quicker in Spring – 8 to 13 degrees F higher than ground temperatures – which means crops can go in sooner and be ready for harvesting sooner.

– Less waste, saves money in the long-term. Irrigation is more efficient,¬† compost + amendments are only put where crops will be, less seeds are needed, and less space is required for the same yield. As Jean-Martin Fortier says, “Grow better, not bigger.” For example, the typical 100-foot row takes up at least 300 sq ft of space (because of paths to accommodate tractors) and will yield 100 pounds of carrots. In contrast, a raised bed of 32 sq ft will also yield 100 pounds of carrots. Using row gardening the farmer has to fertilize, mulch, add compost to, weed, and water 300 sq ft to get that 100 pounds. – Brett L. Markham “Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre”

– Doesn’t damage or interfere with the biological creatures – microbes, worms – needed to decompose and provide nitrogen to crops. I expand on this in the previous article on The Importance of Soil.

– Permanent beds have many benefits as explained in The Importance of Soil. In addition, framing the beds in means not having to re-make them with equipment every 3-4 years.

– Reduces or eliminates the need for tractors, roto-tillers, other large equipment, and the fossil fuels needed to run them. This is inline with our desire to grow food in a truly sustainable way, relying on humans and hand tools rather than machines.

– Being able to improve soil that isn’t already “perfect”. With farmland at a premium new farmers have to get creative with their ability to access land. One way to handle less than perfect soil is to create raised beds to have the soil texture and nutrition necessary. The family farm in Tilbury is highly nutritious but a difficult to work with heavy clay. While some crops thrive in this soil many more struggle. Raised beds allow us to improve the soil while keeping our farm in the family. We can make each bed differently to accommodate the different needs of various crops.

– Less weeds. This is a big one. By not tilling or using soil that has dormant weed seeds we greatly reduce the number of weeds in our raised beds. It’s important to get high quality professional compost, amendments, and mulch, so that you don’t import weeds.

– Adding posts for trellising, making cold frames to extend the season, and using row cover or insect netting are much easier because the beds provide the stability and materials needed for these items.

– Discourages certain pests – slugs, carrot fly – because they stay near the ground; adding mesh will keep out moles, voles, and gophers.

– Greater accessibility for the elderly and those with mobility or chronic illness; they can also be raised even higher to allow people in wheelchairs to garden.

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Cons:

– The time involved to get boxes done involves a lot of initial preparation.

– The set-up costs are larger initially.

– It can be difficult to find untreated wood or other reclaimed products that don’t leach undesirable chemicals. We were able to get a large amount of untreated wood at a discounted end-of-the-season sale.

– If large amounts of mulch aren’t used there is a tendency to dry out quickly especially in semi-arid or desert areas or areas prone to drought.

– Not moveable so it’s important to pick the right location and to consider all the variables (shade/sun, etc) before putting in raised beds.

– Not good for potatoes or crops that need a lot of room to grow like melons and squash.

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What we will be doing at our Lakeshore location:

– Putting companion planting into permanent practice; being able to have beneficial plants as hosts and habitat that will stay year-round.

– Letting crops that easily-self seed have their own beds means less work, less money spent.

– Because of the large time investment to create these boxes we will be favouring certain crops for the raised beds. Squash and melons will be grown under a mulch of straw and allowed to ramble. Tomatoes and Peppers will continue to be grown under black plastic mulch. We will be creating several Hugelkultur beds as well.

Our partner farm, Faerie Willow Farm, will also be using raised beds on their beautiful soil.

We’d like to experiment using materials other than wood for our beds. We are looking for cinder blocks, cement blocks, bricks, rocks, tree trunks + large limbs, and even large Lego blocks! Let us know if you have or see any of these materials available!

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Part 3 will focus on the importance of companion planting and of creating habitat for beneficial creatures with perennial plants.

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This is the first of a series of posts on why the way we grow our food is more important than labels like “organic”, “local”, or “natural”.

Growing food ecologically is more than simply not using pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, artificial fertilizers, and GMO’s. It’s a wholistic system that takes into account soil health, natural fertility, pollinators, beneficial insects, companion planting, the significance of weeds, birds and other animals, clean water, and more. Without healthy soil we cannot grow healthy food as plants can only take up nutrients found in the soil.

From Wikipedia: “Since soil has a tremendous range of available niches and habitats, it contains most of the earth’s genetic diversity. A handful of soil can contain billions of organisms, belonging to thousands of species.” These beneficial microbes live in compost and in fertile soil and do all the heavy lifting that makes it possible for our food to grow and to be nutritious.

When we disturb the soil with practices such as tilling we destroy the balance of these creatures and their ability to decompose and create fertile soil. Large scale producers must add fossil fuel based artificial fertilizers in order to keep growing food because the soil has been rendered infertile. Most organic farmers employ extensive tilling without considering that they are disturbing this precious balance while also creating a hardpan and compaction that weakens a plants roots and its ability to grow over the long term.

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Very few farmers employ permanent raised beds and compact their growing area every year. Other benefits to raised beds include: less weeding, soil that warms up more quickly in spring, efficient irrigation + drainage, reduced need for compost + mulch, growing more food in less space, and more.

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Tilling also kills the worms working so hard to make our soil more fertile and aerated. From Wikipedia: “Earthworm activity aerates and mixes the soil, and is conducive to mineralization of nutrients and uptake of them by vegetation. Certain species of earthworm come to the surface and graze on the higher concentrations of organic matter present there, mixing it with the mineral soil. Because a high level of organic matter mixing is associated with soil fertility, an abundance of earthworms is generally considered beneficial by the organic gardener. Plant roots depend on the process of respiration, and on soil ventilation, which can be accomplished via networks of soil pores and by the tunnels created by earthworms.As an ecological farmer, it’s important to me that this balance is kept, not destroyed.

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A wealth of information can be found here: http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010117attrasoilmanual/010117attra.html – lots of great resources on soil and microbes and earthworms

Tilling and ploughing were used a century ago because they gave a very short term shot of nitrogen to plants and appeared to make plants larger and more abundant. This effect wears off after a couple of years.

Tilling brings up weed seeds every time and the task of weeding – the bane of an organic farmers existence – is made more and more difficult every year, and it never ends.

Topsoil capable of growing food and supporting us is disappearing at an alarming rate every year and it takes 800 to 1000 years for a 2.5 cm thick layer of fertile soil to be formed in nature. We must work to protect this this topsoil. We can use different ways to manage our soils.

Permaculture is the only system that has the preservation of soil – and all it’s creatures – at it’s core.

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At our farm we use cover crops Рplants with fibrous roots Рand chop them manually to add the plant matter back to the soil as mulch while creating organic matter. Cover crops are also useful as a living mulch Рfeeding microbes, keeping the soil moist, keeping weeds under control. Micro-organisms, including fungi and bacteria, affect chemical exchanges between roots and soil and act as a reserve of nutrients. Dead plants and fallen leaves and stems begin their decomposition on the surface. There, soil organisms feed on them, mixing the organic material with the upper soil layers; these added organic compounds become part of the soil formation process. Humans impact soil formation by removing vegetation cover, resulting in erosion and loss of organic matter.

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We can help speed up the process of creating organic matter and topsoil not with tilling but by adding new materials throughout the season, with sheet mulching, trench mulching, or lasagne gardening. Burying whole or pieces of fish is another old practice. We enrich the soil with finished compost, vermicompost, and composted animal manures, creating our own sped-up organic matter and topsoil.

No-till, or no-dig, gardening works well in both small and large-scale gardens. It can improve soils that are hard to manage, such as the clay we have at the Tilbury farm. By combining techniques from Permaculture, Biologically Intensive, French Intensive, Hugelkultur, Raised Bed Gardening, Square-Foot Gardening, Ecological Gardening, Small-Scale Garden Marketing, and Eliot Coleman we can improve and make more productive any soil type. This works especially well with our clay soil.

Clay holds water well in a drought, has many more minerals, but creates a hardpan easily and is difficult to manage when wet. Sand doesn’t hold water thus needing constant irrigation, is low in nutrition, leaching minerals, and needs constant fertilization but it makes a darn fine seed bed.

Next Installment: The Pros and Cons of Raised Beds

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