So far, potato planting has been the favourite activity for David and Chelsea. How could it not be; making sure each little circle has a potato in it and that one drops when it should (it's not necessarily as easy as it sounds, especially when the potato is too big to fit through the hole).
Planting in action!
Let it be known that rolling out brand new remay (aka floating row cover) is a glorious experience. Chelsea and David got to experience it on Monday -- the double wide remay means that for the same amount of shoveling, you cover twice the space. It's awesome!
What a delight it was to see a shadow hopping along in front of me as I walked through our packing shed to close the start greenhouse at night. I couldn't help but take it as a good sign, as frogs (okay, this is a toad) have been a symbol of prosperity, wealth, friendship and abundance in many cultures and a symbol of fertility in others. For the Romans, the frog was a mascot believed to bring good luck to one’s home. The native Aborigines of Australia believed that frogs brought the thunder and rain, to help the plants to grow (excellent on the rain front!). Given how things are going so far on the farm this season, there is much friendship and abundance to acknowledge. We have repeatedly been in awe of how much we've been seeding, singulating, and transplanting. If everything takes (and we can keep up with the weeding), we'll have a rich abundance of vegetables this season.
There has also been much gratitude for the help of Don Cavers, so that we could get a new rototiller that sets gorgeous beds, Sahaltkum Daycare for providing wonderful care for Avé (which means we have a solid day to get farm work done), our interns David & Chelsea for their keen interest in growing food and living in community, and Anne Grube for her help with cooking, window cleaning, Avé-care, weeding, tending to the currants, chicken care, and on and on. So much thankfulness for everyone who contributes to this farm!
This post is a bit later than intended. After the irrigation was turned on April 17, we were running all week -- finally have time to share all of this!
It is, shall we say, aromatic on the farm these days after the delivery of 30 tons of organic composted chicken manure. Half of the load was dropped at Golden Ears Farm, and the other half was delivered to our friends down the road: Martens Farm and Roots Up! Vegetable Farm. They are using it on hay fields and a market garden. The truck has a 'walking floor' to unload the compost -- fascinating!
With the very early, high temperatures, and little precipitation, I was starting to get worried about the crops that were seeded on April 11th. Lo and behold, I was pleasantly surprised to check up on the beets, spinach, and radishes and see that they were emerging. Here's a photo of spinach that germinated and emerged without external watering -- seeds are amazingly resilient and they remind me to have more faith in them!
Soon after the spinach photo was taken, we heard the glorious sound of the Chase irrigation system being turned on. Hallalujah -- I think you might have seen me and Tristan doing a happy dance! This meant it was time to shift into high gear and transplant alliums and kale, as well as direct seed 10 beds of veg.
Irrigation on the raspberries!
David and Chelsea transplanting onions...we're going to have so many onions this year, and shallots, and leeks. It's going to be awesome!
With all of the singulating that Chelsea and David have been doing, the start greenhouse is jam packed! Well, this was a week ago. Most of these trays are outside now, hardening up in preparation to be transplanted. We've got lots of corn that has emerged in the start greenhouse, which is exciting for us as we are trying this method for the first time this year.
Here is Tristan working his egg cauldron magic. He constructed an egg washer system that allows us to put a large basket of eggs into roiling water, mixed with egg sanitizer, where it sits for 2 - 3 minutes. Once finished, we pull the basket out and hang it to dry. This has cut down a lot on the time it takes to hand wash/dry/basket eggs. Thanks, Tristan!
Okay, you've been very patient. Here is little Astrid, born on April 15, with her mama Acorn, who is the daughter of April (can you see the naming trend here? Supposedly that's how you do it to be able to keep track of lineage). Astrid is a day old in this photo. You can't help but smile as you watch her get comfortable on her legs; wobbling around, then bursting out with a jump or a run here and there. She's something else!
Our pig pen got a second house moved into it on Tuesday, providing Peggy and/or Maggie with a place to have their piglets in May. They both seem quite happy with the new digs and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of two drifts of piglets (we think and hope that the sows are both pregnant -- it's so hard to tell when they're already so large).
This lovely panoramic view of this segment of the farm shows our chick coop to the far left, greenhouse, cows and both pig pens (the boar was directly underneath Tristan as he was taking this picture, so you can't see him -- I guess he's shy or just too curious). What isn't visible is the millions of wildflowers on the hills. A bunch of us went up on Saturday to meander through them and it was stunning. Bluebells, shooting stars, Johnny jump ups, gaillardia, and so many more. Thanks to Anne for showing us this magical place.
In addition to loads of corn (David and Chelsea seeded a LOT so that we can experiment with transplanting early corn) and cute piglets to come, we have a nucleus of honeybees arriving on May 29. This ties in with a beekeeping seminar that will be hosted here. For full details, visit the Events page of our website. Doug Gordon is both informative and hilarious, so this learning experience will be most enjoyable. Hope you can join us to learn about these incredible creatures.
We've got so much started in the high tunnels and table top hoop houses, strawberries are getting weeded, and the irrigation gets turned on soon. This can only mean that we are going to have a TON of weeding to do shortly. Seriously, though, it means that we will have an abundance of delicious, super fresh items to include in our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) bags this year, which we still have spaces for. Program and subscription details can be found in the CSA Food Box section of our website. We would love to provide you with same-day harvested goodness from the middle of June to the third week of September (with farm pick-up, Chase delivery, and Kamloops drop-off options). Huge shout out to Kelsey for designing another fantastic CSA poster!
With the amount of seeding going on, we quickly ran out of space in the new start greenhouse that Tristan built in March. Plan B? Creating transition table-top hoop houses for the seedlings that are almost ready to be transplanted into the field (kale and onions). Chelsea and David did a fine job assembling two tables and putting new plastic on them. It feels great to have space where we can move onions, shallots, leeks, lettuce, and chard to in the next week.
Plan C? Tristan completed another shelving unit in the start greenhouse, so we have waaaay more room for additional trays. Just in the nick of time for tomatoes, peppers, some brassicas, pac choi, and the next batch of bunching onions.
Look at all of the seeding (on the right) that Chelsea and David did as soon as the new shelves went up!
With our extended farm family, as Tristan likes to call them, we have been able to prepare a new field for the market garden this year. The newest addition is a cute little rototiller that attaches to the John Deere -- what a dream. We've seeded beets and spinach, with peas being planted shortly, into the most beautiful beds. This is a huge relief to us, as we were making do with a broken rototiller last year and it made life quite difficult.
Things are rolling here and we're quite excited to see lots of new life emerging. Looking forward to a super season and CSA Program this year (still space available)!
Like most great adventures in life, our journey into organic farming, and the culture and community surrounding it, was both intentional and seemingly unforeseen. When my partner, and fellow farm intern, Nick and I started our internship at Golden Ears Farm, we really had no idea where it would take us, or how it would change (for the better!) our lives, but it surprised and inspired us in so many ways.
We started off our adventure as two young city folk who really just wanted a change. A change from, well -- everything we had grown up knowing. Neither of us had ever worked on a farm, and yet deep down something inside of both of us kept saying, "You need to re-establish your connection with the earth" and eventually that yearning led us to seek out a place to begin our education, and Golden Ears Farm was that place.
In the middle of May, we began our farm education with transplanting onions! We planted the little sprouted alliums in tidy rows in the field, and after a long day of kneeling in the ground, I wondered to myself if my aching hips and legs would ever recover! But they did! And as the spring went on, and the summer followed, we found ourselves caught up in all the busyness and joy of high summer. We watched as the tiny cucumber plants we had transplanted into the green house thrived and became an impenetrable jungle, we picked buckets of beautiful raspberries, feasted on juicy strawberries, and weeded -- a lot. We never quite ended up beating the weeds.
We learned quickly that in farming, nature does not wait for you, it simply happens. Summer felt like a marathon that we could never really finish, but we also learned to come to terms with that. The list never ended, but that was okay, because we were enjoying life as it came. Soon we were picking what seemed like endless prune plums, reaping the first ripe fruits of all the tomato plants we had planted, caged, tied, and weeded, and we were beginning to count down the weeks left in the CSA box program. For the first summer in my life, I felt attuned to nature's rhythm; something I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to experience.
The lessons of farm life were not just confined to the food we grew, however, there was much more. Perhaps, most importantly, that community still exists in our ever increasingly detached society. Nick and I had come into our internship craving a feeling of belonging to something larger and more important than just ourselves, and we found it at Golden Ears Farm. We went on farm tours, helped out at other farms, enjoyed fantastic socials and potlucks and established connections that we hope will last for life. For two former apartment dwellers who never once saw, or talked to their neighbors, this was a pretty special and significant lesson.
After six months that spanned three seasons, each with their own distinct highlights and trials, and moments of incredible beauty, our time at Golden Ears was winding down. We harvested the root vegetables, planted next year's garlic, and experienced the bittersweet transition when all life on the farm has come full circle, from greens, to trees, to roots, to livestock. Everything came and passed, including our time at the farm. We left this very special place feeling incredibly thankful for our experience, which not only got our life in organic agriculture started, but also provided us with the change we had been seeking for so long. We now count ourselves among the growing movement of young people trading in city life for a completely different experience, becoming young agrarians, and discovering how to live more sustainably. We are pretty happy we made the jump!
My Internship at Golden Ears farm was all I could’ve asked for coming from the Sustainability program at Dalhousie University, where I learned about the pressing issue of rapid climate change and humanity being the driving force behind it. The program was a more holistic approach to education than I had ever experienced by bringing in professors from a diverse set of disciplines to share their perspective. The program thoroughly explained the history, challenges, and future implications for dealing with climate change.
I was then motivated to start getting my hands dirty and learn some hands-on skills and figured organic farming was the most important action to take as the majority of greenhouse gases are a result of the widespread transition to an industrialized food system. Many of us have assumed that climate change is only due to our rapid transportation around the world, which in a large part it is -- but I was surprised by how crucial the state of our food system is to climate change. Food production requires our most precious resource in water, and our time and energy at the organic level. As you go up the industrial scale, however, with the use of tractors, pesticides, chemical fertilizers and other intensive inputs (which increases the volume of work that can be done in the same amount of time), something is lost in quality and the combination of increased inputs and mechanization contributes a great deal to greenhouse gas production.
While working at Golden Ears I was able to put an image to the quantity of water it takes to grow food and saw a great example of the importance of diversity being the key to climate change resilience. The consequences of climate change are quite hard to predict and will fluctuate through the seasons and years, as I saw when I arrived back in Ottawa with the non-native emerald ash borer wiping out most of the ash trees. The best way to combat this uncertainty is to diversify, as some crops might struggle while others will succeed.
Golden Ears was a great example of how we can succeed through the challenges of climate change by creating whole systems that take into account many factors that are too often forgotten in the industrial process, where temporary fixes are the response to problems that inevitably arise.
In the world of farming we spend a great deal of time growing food to sustain ourselves and our communities, but we often forget that all around us there is food growing; free for all people, and in abundance. Foraging for mushrooms is just one of the ways that we can reconnect with nature and the ecosystems that sustain us all.
Myself, Nick and Nate had always wanted to try mushroom picking, but didn't feel knowledgeable enough about species identification to pick safely. Luckily for us, there are mushroom-picking friends in the Golden Ears Farm community! We joined them in late September for an amazing day of foraging in the Shuswap and returned home, the next day, with our baskets full.
What makes foraging so incredibly satisfying, is the way in which it makes you slow down, breathe a bit deeper and see the forest for what it truly is; a rich and diverse habitat, teeming with life. Your senses sharpen as you comb through the woods searching for delicious edible mushrooms, such as chanterelles and admirable boletes, as well as lobster, pine, and honey mushrooms. When you find a beautiful, bright orange lobster mushroom, you can't help but feel a little burst of excitement!
When you forage responsibly, always leaving a few behind, and never taking too much, you establish a connection with nature that can't be grown in the garden or bought at the grocery store. Foraging reminds us that the earth provides for us, and that it is our responsibility to take care of it, so that it can continue to provide for us for generations to come.
Mushroom picking also just happens to be a whole lot of fun and a fantastic excuse to go camping, huddle around a fire with great people, and eat a pan full of your delicious findings.!
May has been a time to celebrate, that's for sure. Our three interns arrived and got right to it. All are eager to learn as much as possible about organic farming, animal husbandry, beekeeping, and so much more. They couldn't have arrived at a better time -- plants were getting to the harvest stage, the weeds were starting to overtake crops, a lot of plants needed to get transplanted, beds need to be prepared for seeding, seeding salad greens started on a weekly cycle and all of this needed to be watered with the unseasonably warm temperatures...Tristan and I were getting overwhelmed! With great appreciation for their contributions, let me introduce you to our interns this season.
Nate joined us as soon as he could after completing his second year in Sustainability studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Originally from Ottawa, Nate has helped out with the family garden and brings with him a meticulous approach to tasks. He is also up for any challenge and did a great job getting the drip line set in the summer squash and pickling cuke beds. He followed that up with organizing drip tape in the greenhouse for our cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, and basil.
Christy comes from a culinary arts background and is keen to learn more about growing food from the seed up. She has spent many hours in the strawberry patch, liberating them from grass, dandelions and other weeds. And steadfastly took on hand weeding beets and carrots -- a most uncomfortable job. She has also been the steward of the greenhouse on market days, making sure the plants are well watered. Her gentle spirit is truly appreciated, and she is a fantastic baker/cook, to boot! How lucky are we : ).
Nick also comes from a culinary arts background and the food conversations we have while weeding and transplanting are so enlightening. His professional, kitchen-born enthusiasm for incorporating the freshest of the fresh veg from the farm is contagious! As are the descriptions of the various facets of metal music -- I had no idea that it was so intricate and layered. I look forward to having a more nuanced ear by the end of the season! Nick has a fantastic "get 'er done" attitude and I am struggling to keep up with these three. They just plough through the work.
I hope you have the chance to meet them this season -- they will be helping out at the Saturday markets starting in June!
After helping to organize the Certified Organic Associations of BC Conference in Chilliwack, things on the farm got to a late start. That, in combination with chasing after a toddler and the intern we hoped would start first going to another farm, meant that things have been very, very busy. Spring has flown by and this post will consist of photos that show some of what's happened over the past three months...
It's been a bit of a learning curve fine-tuning the process to get fresh and frozen produce to you over the winter! I think our veggie washing and sorting went seamlessly this week -- thank goodness. We've been grateful to have warm days in order to wash the vegetables outside. No frozen lines and just a tiny bit of shovelling to contend with. You'll see in the photos that Tristan and I are dressed in our most waterproof gear with lots of layers to keep us warm while we washed tons (literally) of vegetables over a span of 3 hours.
Even though Tristan and I are assembling the Winter CSA bags, I've been feeling so thankful for the collective effort that made it possible (freezing strawberries in June; curing and bagging onions; late fall harvesting to bring in the last of the carrots, parsnips and celeriac; and freezing corn in August). A huge shout out goes to Kelsey, Paul, Annelise, Anne G, Sam, Anne D, Cornelia, and Libby for their work in the summer and fall that allows us to eat so well into the winter!
Photo credit: Martín Bustamante