totally tuesday

Totally (farm) Tuesday.

On Tuesdays we don’t harvest or sell any vegetables. This leaves the day open for farm work. It is a day I welcome. Now with the census, taxes and our CSA start-up paperwork off my plate, I can delve into what needs attention in the field.

Today was broad forking, rescue-weeding shallots, planting zinnias and calendula and moving black plastic over areas of the field that have provided a first crop already.

While working with Andy to haul a long stretch of plastic I discovered a handful of radishes that hadn’t been harvested – a surprise treat for me.

On the home front, we got into town quick for groceries, collected a few things to thank teachers, read a bedtime story, froze some raspberries our eldest picked and kept up with the bare necessities of keeping a working kitchen.

It was a nice day.

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beat the system with gardens & freezers

2 stories for you — A couple of things I found to be an inspiration this past year –

1. A friend and her family planted their first backyard garden this past summer. She showed me how they took a section of their lawn and began their first garden. They asked people around them for tips and then set to it. I was inspired, mid-summer, when she invited me to take a peek at their backyard bounty. As I looked at her tall kale and far-reaching cucumber plants, I was encouraged that they had taken some action to secure super-fresh vegetables for themselves. Her small children were seeing first hand what it takes to nourish yourself with some seeds, knowledge, work and a willingness to try something new.

2. Another person I was inspired by this summer was one of our CSA members, Barb. Barb is a senior who lives alone and signs up for our 7 pound weekly CSA box.

She emailed me mid-summer,

“I am processing your bounty today and knew when I started with you, I would be taking on the problems that would happen if I planted my own garden, so am always pleased to see what I am getting each week. Keep up the excellent work, I love what I get….5 pints of green beans and a pint of kale and a pint of chard are in the freezer along with all the others I have already done for winter and when I open them this winter the aroma is summer all over again. On the back of the stove I have large pot simmering with tomatoes, shallots, onion, summer squash, the stems of the chard and kale, and the Russian kale from last week. When ready they will go through the blender and be used all winter as well as sauce, soups etc. You guys are so great. You should smell the aroma here all because you grow them and offer them to us.”

She told me at the market one day as she recounted what she had processed, “I feel like I’m beating the system!” I totally loved that. Preserving your own food is an awesome way to ‘beat the system’ and eat local year-round.

Some people don’t sign up for our box because they feel 7 pounds is too much for one person (or more). However, summer is the perfect time to preserve.  A freezer, some basic equipment, a willingness to put in the time and a few learnable skills are the main things needed to eat more local food in the winter. Even if you pick just one vegetable to preserve this summer, that is one more local veg that you get to enjoy come winter. You are making a difference for yourself, your family and the environment too.

This year we tried to store away more than other years too – it is a challenge with time, for sure, but we got some green beans and tomato sauce, ketchup, relishes and pickles put away – either frozen or canned.

When the bounty of the summer is upon us, consider what you can put away for the colder months. Ask us or other farmers what kind of bulk discounts they can give. If people start buying vegetables in quantity (10 pounds or more), we will happily need to bring more to the market. Placing an order or inquiring a few days in advance is always helpful.

Here are a few things we have preserved ourselves or heard of others preserving (lots of idea online as well):

In the freezer: green beans, broccoli (need blanching), roasted peppers, shredded zucchini (good for baking), kale and spinach.

Canning: ketchup, relishes, pickles (beans, zucchini, beets etc.), jam and fruit sauce.

Fridge: carrots & beets store for months in sealed bags (stock up in the fall & use in the winter)

Drying: tomatoes

Potatoes: can store for months in the winter – somewhere cool, if possible, and dark (not the fridge).

I hope you are encouraged in your local food pursuits and inspired to preserve at least one type of vegetable this summer. Look up some recipes and make some plans in the coming weeks, because before you know it, your market and/or CSA box will be full of delicious treats you are going to want to enjoy in the winter too!

~Cara

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a quick glance back at 2015

I just wanted to touch base on the topic of our 2015 year, before we release our plans for our 2016 year.

Looking back on my last few posts I see a spring-posting trend. Mid-summer I have lots of reflections and thoughts while working in the field but don’t feel I have time to pen them once I’m done training cucumbers or weeding carrot beds – tasks that allow my mind to sift and sort all the action of my days.

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We just set up our Twitter account and hope that is a good way for us to stay in touch with you as well, a few words at a time (find us on Twitter at abundantacre@familyfarmm).

This summer was certainly hot – a bumper year for tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon. We sure did enjoy the different varieties of watermelon we tried and were super-thankful for this refreshing treat. Summer CSA harvest days would find us out early harvesting greens before they wilted and then quickly tucking them away into the root cellar to stay as cool as possible. Andy was kept busy monitoring and moving irrigation lines to make sure our vegetables got the water they needed. We would water ourselves on particularly hot days when we had no choice but to continue on despite the heat. A wet head clears the heat-dazed mind slightly.

We started at the Abbotsford Farm & Country Market in April this past year and were there almost weekly till mid-November. Having our 10 year old daughter helping out there most days was a treat.

She also learned some on-farm work this year like seeding and transplanting. It was fun to discover that our 5 year old son could also transplant with his trowel. I remember a couple spring days we were pushing to get cabbages in and we were all out there planting together.

Thank you to the volunteers who came out to our Potluck & Pitch In evenings in May and June. It was great to share a meal and work together. Thank you to our regular volunteers Dad A., Lee and Amy for your time and enthusiasm about what we do here.

We made 70 CSA boxes weekly for members in Chiliwack and Abbotsford, from mid-June till mid-September. Our Autumn box served a total of 45 weekly families and ran from the middle of September to the middle of November.

We were happy to partner with two local restaurants again this year and provide them with a weekly CSA box as well. Restaurant 62 and Seasonal 56’s creative chefs worked with our weekly surprise box of vegetables with eager hands and an appreciation for quality vegetables grown locally. I was told many of our cucumbers were turned into pickles, in Aldergrove, at Seasonal 56.

We are thankful for your support this past year and look forward to the coming year. We hope to serve you better, through our CSA and at the market!

Registration for our 2016 CSA will open later this week…stay tuned.

~Cara, for Andy and I

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this kale

kaleblack magic kaleI planted this kale last summer – sneaking out in the quiet of the morning to get it in. It was the second batch of kale we planted.
Summer plantings are always a challenge, with the harvesting, CSA, market days and maintenance of other crops that is going on. I remember thinking, “Are we getting this in too late? Will it mature?” It did. Our autumn CSA members got crisp, deep green baby kale.
Winter came and the kale stalled off and stopped growing. I did buy a few bunches of carefully selected kale for our family from grocery stores in December and January – that felt funny, but when the body craves green, it craves green.
Spring weather came early this year and with longer days, comes growth. The kale begins to grow again – the collards too. The collards had taken a hard hit by flea beetles last summer, so we never harvested them for market – maybe we did, but just once. This spring, there they were, in all their healthy-proper-collard-looking-glory.
Spring is when we feast on kale sprouts (aka shoots). The once-every-other-day mini-harvest for our family is good for body and soul. Being in the field again is refreshing. The broccoli-like shoots are tender, as are the new kale leaves. The kids snap their outdoor kale shoot snack off the plants while outside. Inside, they enjoy them with our favourite homemade miso dip (see the “Eating” page) and adults around here eat mounds of kale shoot salad (apples, nuts and miso dressing, raisins too if you have them). If we’re cooking kale shoots, it’s usually as a side dish. We saute them with garlic or shallots, salt and a splash of red wine vinegar – so good!
So, this kale, that required such a special output of energy to plant, has totally been worth it. This kale, that I put in while feeling the morning’s sun strength increase,  has given and nourished and given again. You see, after you harvest a shoot, another grows – albeit smaller and a little tougher.
The harvest of kale shoots is a couple months long. We don’t want the plants to flower and go to seed. The Black Magic kale flowered before the rest, so Andy brought those plants to the hens for thharvesting kale shootsem to enjoy. They love their greens!
When the plant is first flowering, the flowers are sweet – the kids discovered this. I always avoided harvesting the flowers because they represented what we didn’t want to happen (making seed). But after the sweet flower discovery, I would make sure to harvest some flowers for the kids for lunch or snack time.
Our kale shoot harvest is nearly over and I’m grateful for this crop. Meanwhile, our first kale planting for 2015 went in a couple of weeks ago. It’s time to start the kale cycle over again! ~Cara

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can you see it?

lettuce & asian greens

When I sat down to start this post Andy was tilling and I had just transplanted cabbage seedlings into one of our hoophouses. Our children were watching our landlord make a trench so we can have power brought to our outbuilding permanently.

I often marvel at the changing face of the farm come spring. In one day, we move a greenhouse on its handy track system, take out kale plants and prepare beds. On other days there is the grand shuffle of trays of seedlings from the germination room to the nursery greenhouse, while more mature seedlings get transplanted.

The longer days bring growth. The remaining kale and collards bud and then flower. They will be removed soon to make room for different crops.  We need to manage the growth of grass and weeds as well. We’ve thinned and weeded beets and carrots and have moved our big greenhouse for a second time — off of the lettuce it gave a head start to for a month. That greenhouse will be the home to some of our tomatoes and peppers down the road. The rhubarb we put in just last year has brought us a great crop of long, thick stalks.

I do enjoy spring at the farm very much.  There is a lot of good work to be done but the pace is more relaxed than when we are selling vegetables four times a week, like we will be in the summer.  The nursery greenhouse is bursting and seeing the seedlings mature is almost magical for me. I am involved in a lot of the seeding and then it is Andy who waters the soil blocks daily and sees the gradual growth. Sometimes I’ll seed a vegetable and then not see it again till it’s time to transplant. “Oh yes, I remember you,” I think.

spreading compost

The other day Andy and I were talking about values and how that which is seen can often be given a lot of importance. People naturally care about what they can see. That got me thinking about our farm and how we very much care for the often unseen or unconsidered things — like soil microbes, earthworms, birds and animals that call the area in which we farm home. We care to build up the soil so that this particular piece of the planet can be nourished, and people in our area can have good, clean, flavourful, nutrient-rich vegetables grown organically by farmers just down the road. We’ve been focusing, this winter and spring, on building up our compost supply. We bought a manure spreader in order to make the jobs of transporting manure and turning our compost pile more manageable.  We recognize the need to feed the soil that will nourish the vegetables that sustain us.

People from the Abbotsford and Chilliwack area have been signing up for our CSA this spring.  There are a lot of things – both seen and unseen – that are happening when you decide to sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture program.

Some things you see include:

-The cash you put in the farmer’s hand in exchange for super fresh vegetables.

-Unique vegetables you get the chance to try, learn about and quite likely come to love.

-You have the unique opportunity to get to know and ask questions of the people who grew your food.

Some unseen things are at play when you sign up for a CSA as well:

Your membership supports and encourages a local farming family. In British Columbia, more than 50% of farmers are aged 59 and up with less than 5% 34 and younger.* The few farms in our area offering CSAs, that we know about, are run by people in their thirties that seem to be into farming for the long haul. Supporting younger farmers helps secure the availability of the food they grow.

-You contribute to the health of our planet.  You participate less in an oil-fueled food system that relies on shipping produce from all over the world. We’re trying to keep things as local as possible and currently sell our vegetables within about 40 kilometers of the farm.

-Your hard-earned cash is funneled into your local economy rather than out of it. If you sign up for our CSA, you support farmers who make purchasing decisions based on buying local, ethical, and fair trade when possible.

So, thanks for your ear. Thanks also for your interest and support of the seen and unseen when it comes to food choices — wherever you may be on that journey.  

*according to the Fraser Basin Council’s 2010 Sustainability Snapshot.

red lettuce

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winter greetings

end of january

Winter at the farm can be pretty barren and wet. The withered squash vines are brown and the chard plants are black in the field. The sections of the field that were sown in fall rye are green. The kale towers tall and the collards are holding their own. We have a collection of leeks still in the earth that we are enjoying too.

We have had a chance to rest, reflect and spend some time in recreation. We’ve also plunged into getting outbuildings organized and records and files in order inside. A good block of seeds for next season have been ordered and irrigation equipment and other useful things are being acquired. We’ve also made a concerted effort into building up our supply of compost. Feeding the soil that gives such great food is a top priority.

Looking back at our Autumn a few things stand out. We brought in a fantastic crop of winter squash followed by an early hard frost and plunge into freezing temperatures mid-December. This brought us knowledge about how much protection our greens in the greenhouse needed and how hardy kale can be.

Prior to the frost, Andy got our garlic planted just before some heavy rains. Our hens got moved to a more sheltered winter situation in a greenhouse.  They enjoyed finishing off the greens there and later foraged for bugs and plants in the area of the field they had access to.

Like every year, we gathered more knowledge through experience and networking with others. We’ve taken notes on topics including varieties of squash requested from customers and ideas for managing the carrot rust fly larva that get into our carrots. We’ve made a plan to plant some field tomatoes and sweet potatoes this year as well.

Our Autumn CSA Vegetable box in Abbotsford went well as did the Saturday markets. I noticed quite a hunger for kale at the market this fall and it was neat to see a new group of young people eagerly loading up on vegetables each Saturday.

Spring crops we are looking forward to this year include early greens, lettuce, beets, carrots and rhubarb.

Registration for our Abbotsford or Chilliwack 2014 CSA starts Feb.1st, 2014. We hope to hear from you if you are wanting a weekly mixed box of organic vegetables, fresh from our farm here in Greendale.

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our season thus far

Happy September!

I’ve had many thoughts rumbling around in my head for a while now, but haven’t formulated them into words. I wanted to take some time to communicate with you about our growing season this far.

Looking back, our spring farm work days making beds and planting seemed to change quickly to selling our vegetables in mid-June. We had out-of-town family come visit mid-July and we were a stop on the annual Fraser Valley Slow Food Cycle Tour on July 28th. We had about 600 cyclists come through our place and see and hear a little about what we do. It was a really neat day.

We ran our Summer CSA Vegetable box in Chilliwack for the first time this year and in Abbotsford again, serving the total of about 60 CSA members each week. We continue to be at the Abbotsford Farm & Country Market weekly and plan on being there each Saturday till Christmas.

Most of our crops have been working out for which we are thankful. We had a couple carrot crop failures – one to poor germination, the other to weeds we didn’t have time to attack. We’re very happy with our mini-leaf Salanova lettuces that we grew for the first time this year. They’ve definitely been a hit at the Abbotsford Farm & Country Market and with the local restaurants we supply. We are glad to have a garlic harvest again after a few years without garlic due to a crop failure and moving our farm last spring.

We experienced many firsts this year, since our family only moved to live on the property we are farming last September. I got to be more involved with the outside farm work – from planting, to weeding and harvesting. I remember saying a few months ago, “I’ve never done so much planting in my life!” After years of being commuter farmers, it is amazing for me to be able to pack significantly less picnics, do laundry and harvest vegetables simultaneously while saving heaps of time.

That said, we are still finding out how much the two of us can handle. We are making mental notes for next year, about how to space farm tasks more evenly so we don’t get a huge pile up at the end of spring and in early summer. We also are taking notes about how much to plant. How many rows of pole beans can we realistically keep up with once they are ready to harvest, every two days, for example. As one farmer in, “The Greenhorns” book put it, “burn-out is our nemesis.”

It was, overall, quite a dry summer. Our warm-loving crops like tomatoes and summer squash thrived and Andy was kept busy with managing sprinklers and irrigation.

We are thankful for the helping hands of some family and a few close friends who have blessed us with help preparing beds, planting, prepping leeks to plant, training tomato plants, and weeding.

We are grateful to have you support our farm. It still amazes me how many different vegetables we can grow out here in Chilliwack and it’s great to see how thankful you all are for that food. Thanks for your encouragement in person, through email and at the market. Thank you for sharing recipe ideas with us too, or asking questions about something that is new to you.

Wishing you all the best as we head into Autumn.

~Cara, for Andy and our children too

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