Do All the of Things.. Yesterday.

There is enough to do in the spring on a well-established farm; on a new farm, there’s also new infrastructure that must be built and systems to set up. Some of these things can be done, or at least started, in the winter, but others, like the crops themselves, have to wait for the ground to dry or the air to warm. So, the race has been on the last couple of months to Do All Of The Things and be ready for our first markets.

Little pigs become big pigs, big pigs become pork.

Our Berkshire-Duroc cross piglets grew into pigs through a rainy winter. They spent their time in several different forest runs at the front of the property, giving them lots to do clearing future yard area, and a bit of protection from the rain. They went in to Gunters in March, so there has been pork for sale on the farm again. While quite a bit rootier than the Large Blacks we had last year, we’ve been thoroughly impressed by the pork, so these pigs are definitely on our “Potential Breeding Stock” list. And once again, we were very pleased with our experience taking them to Gunters. It is a well-designed facility: every time we have dropped pigs off, we have had much more pig curiosity than stress, everyone needing little convincing to leave the truck to explore a new place. It’s never nice bringing the pigs in to slaughter, but want their lives to be as happy and peaceful as possible right up until the end.

The little Large Black cross piglets that arrived in February have now also grown into big pigs. They have been clearing an area for us towards the back of the property, and have been having a lovely time galloping around, basking in the sun, and scratching on logs.

A new batch of little pigs, these ones Large Black-Tamworth crosses, will be arriving at the end of May. We’ll likely switch from organic to non-GMO feed with these pigs. While we’d prefer to keep feeding them organic for a number of reasons, it is almost double the cost of non-organic feed, and we can’t sell the pork for enough to make the margins anything but very slim. There are a few options down the road for making organic more profitable – for example, sprouting unprocessed grains, supplementing with spent grains from a distillery, keeping our own breeding sows rather than buying piglets – but for now, we don’t have the infrastructure in place to be able to implement any of these options, and we need to get paid more than a parking meter for the time we spend with our pigs, so we’ll likely make the switch, for now.

How to make your chickens less annoying

Chickens can be massively annoying. I know lots of people love these strange dinosaurs, and while there are many things we very much enjoy about having chickens – and not just their eggs – I’ll admit they also often drive us to distraction. This was very true earlier this year. We had two Explorer Chickens who refused to stay in the chicken run. No matter what we did, they always figured out how to get out. And some days, a whole pile of them would get out. There were chickens everywhere, pooping on everything. Chickens on the newly milled siding. Chickens in the porch. Chickens under the truck. Chickens in the workshop. Chickens in the buckets of pig feed I’m filling. Chickens in the hole I’m digging. Chickens in the greenhouse pulling up the peas we just planted and taking a bite from each kale leaf. And when they weren’t in the run, they wouldn’t lay in the run, so we also got to have an egg hunt each day. We tried explaining that this was only appropriate behaviour on Easter, but, well, they’re chickens. They don’t really do explanations or appropriate.

So we made a plan for improving human-chicken relations. We moved them around the other side of the house to put some distance between them and the greenhouse, which helped, and got the deer fence up as another line of defence. That was the greenhouse more or less protected, but we still had at least two Explorer Chickens out and about, and a daily egg hunt. We were only getting one or two eggs a day from the older ladies, so we knew it was time to reduce our flock, as we can’t afford to keep chickens who aren’t laying. But I had never killed a chicken, and it had been a while since Sam had, and neither of us likes killing things, so we kept putting it off. Then one day  we got back from running errands in Courtenay and the chickens were acting weird. There were two groups, one huddled under the coop with Franklin, and one in a corner with Winston. And then a raven flew off from the run with something in its mouth – a piece from a dead chicken in the middle of the run. Unusual, as ravens don’t usually attack full grown chickens, but not unheard of. Luckily, one of the older ladies. We discovered a second old chicken was badly injured the next day, so Sam took one for the team and ended her suffering. It seemed those two were the explorer chickens, as we didn’t have any more wandering after that, and the raven didn’t attach anyone else. That was the impetus we needed to finish reducing our flock back down to 11 layers, plus Winston and Franklin of course. Ten to fifteen chickens seems to be our happy chicken number. Human-chicken relations have improved considerably.

Orange squared

The two orange cats we got from the Comox Valley SPCA in February have settled in to the farm. They have been named Mort and Julien after the characters in the Madagascar movies because Mort the cat is entirely as annoying and endearing as Mort the bush baby. Mort spends most of his time outside chasing insects and imaginary creatures, leaping and bounding all over the drive, galloping the length of the greenhouse, and falling off things. Julien, when he finally came out from under the bathtub, turned out to be a lovely cat. Much more serious than Mort, but also very snuggly, and now loves to go outside at night on Cat Missions. We regularly find dead rodent presents outside the greenhouses, and have not seen any evidence of rodents in the greenhouses or feed storage area since the cats started going out. And, knock on wood, as of yet, no dead birds. Win.

In the field

Our plan for clearing our first field has changed many times for many reasons. This past fall, we were finally able to burn the stump piles made by the back hoe last spring, but then it quickly got too wet to get back on it with a machine to rake out the burn piles and root rake the whole thing. As the rain poured down over the winter, we anxiously watched for a break in the weather long enough to get on the field with anything bigger than our boots. As the planting season drew near, we started to imagine alternative ways to get ourselves on the field in time to start our season. In the end, we ended up with a lot more manual labour than we had hoped, but happily, only about two weeks behind the schedule we had set for ourselves. We managed to get a borrowed tractor on on the field to drag out the burn piles, and that was good enough for our BCS to take over and do the rest. We couldn’t get a root raker on it, so we’ve moved many, many barrow loads of wood and rocks. But we’re getting there. Sam has finished ploughing everything and shaping beds, and more than half the beds have been limed and composted. Seeding and transplanting is happening almost on schedule, the irrigation is in (this dry hot spring meant it was a race to get it on in time to save some wilting newly transplanted turnips), and we’re getting to bed before midnight most nights. And we’ve discovered only a handful of mistakes in our scheduling (like seeding three times the onions we needed….).

In the shop

We have a beautiful new lean-to on the side of our workshop now, giving us a designated covered spot for washing and packing produce. We’re pretty excited about the space, and using mostly materials salvaged from the house, it was inexpensive, which is a very good thing this year. It is a thing of beauty. I’d like to share the credit for it’s prettiness, but it was all  Sam who designed and created it. I used a nail gun for the first time to put in maybe ten nails. Now we just need to find a few minutes to set up and organize the space.

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A new cooler is in the works too. It would have been nice to have it up and running for our first market, but luckily, an extra fridge and the cool nights we’re still getting should tide us over for another few weeks until all of the beds are planted and we have a couple of extra minutes to put towards it.

In the greenhouses

We’ve been experimenting with shoulder season crops of salad, kale, lettuces, chard, radishes and peas in most of the greenhouse space. After a first successful crop of salad, the second has been dragging its feet. This hot spring has meant it’s already too warm in the greenhouse for salad mix and radishes, and it’s been a mission to get enough water on them, so they have been slow. And the race is on to see if we get any lettuces at all, or whether our heathy greenhouse wireworm population finishes them all off first. We’ve tried distracting them with potatoes, but that just seems to mean they have a side of spuds with their salad. On the other hand, the kale has been outstanding, and the peas are coming on strong. If the flowers are any indication, we’ll have a bumper crop of peas in a week, and then everything will be out in less than two weeks to make room for the tomatoes.

The greenhouses have been overflowing with starts, with pallets full of seedlings squeezed into every available space around the spring crops. We’ve had mixed luck with our starts this year. Looking at our only partially germinated trays of flower starts, it’s obvious we’ve done most of our learning with vegetables so far. If the market is there and we decide to continue with flowers, we’ll need to invest some time and pennies in learning how best to grow them better. Our first trials with 128 plug trays took off… and then quickly and pathetically stalled. Not enough nutrients in our mix we think. Luckily, everything has taken off as soon as it has been planted in the field, but we’ll need to add something nutrient dense like worm castings to our mix to make the 128s work properly next year. Some heat in the greenhouse probably won’t hurt either.

The tomato starts are blowing us away. We are experimenting with potting them up in 4″ soil blocks instead of pots. While it takes a fair amount of time and soil to make the blocks, the tomatoes are strong and healthy, and ready to be planted out already. We’re growing three cherries this year, a sauce tomato, an outstanding orange heirloom we grew last year, and trying a full size red hybrid. A new greenhouse area is prepped, making room for an additional 50 feet of tomatoes and 100 feet of cucumbers. The sweet pepper starts are also looking pretty fantastic. We’ve made a little make-shift heat tent inside the greenhouse with row cover and a little electric heater that seems to be doing the trick to keep our heat crops happy. The real test will be when we get the finicky cucumbers underway. We’ve deliberately pushed them back this year, knowing how busy the spring would be and how quickly they throw in the towel if the night temperatures aren’t high enough.

Must get back to it. Six more weeks and we reckon we should have all the full season crops in the field and the cooler and new greenhouse built. Maybe then we can take an afternoon off, if the weeds aren’t threatening to take over by then!

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Spring is Sproinging

Having grown up in southern Ontario where the trees don’t blossom until the end of April in an early year, I still find crocuses in February a joyous surprise. Spring is here and we’re ready to get stuck into a new season…mostly.

Singing the Winter Greens

As the days got longer, our winter experiments took off, and we got to try some tasty mixed mustard greens. A definite success. The trick for this coming winter will be planning plantings to keep us in a steady supply. The kale is coming on strong now, but is still tiny, so needed to go in a lot earlier. Lettuces will be off the island next winter, as we’ve lost way too many to fungi and what looks like wire worms. Greenhouse space is at a premium in the winter months especially, so we have to make every inch count and grow things we can eat or sell.

We’ve been doing some other learning too. Wilf and Emily went to Ontario to visit family for a couple of weeks in January. On a farm outside Ottawa, they got a lesson in soap making and a recipe for tallow soap. Now we’re gathering the necessary equipment from local second hand stores, and looking forward to experimenting with some of our pig lard.

Tasting the (Egg) Rainbow

In January we welcomed 11 new ladies to the farmlet, along with their own rooster, who we have called Franklin. At two years old, we expect the older ladies will slow down enough this summer to warrant a date with the stock pot, and wanted to have their replacements on hand for egg continuity.Winston is unimpressed with the whole situation, as Franklin has a few months and pounds on him and has claimed the job of top rooster. It probably didn’t help that Winston had a run-in with, we think, a dog late in January and lost most of his tail, so he’s a bit less showy now too. But, many of the ladies, both new and old, seem to like the look of him nevertheless. He usually has a small following of ladies hanging out with him in the run, and almost always comes over to the fence to say hello, so we figure he isn’t too hard done by. And we are enjoying the new ladies. Bred by a friend on Denman, they are a rather pretty crew, ranging from jet black (tinged with green in the sun – we call them stealth or night chickens), to barred grey and black, to white. They lay the most beautiful eggs: a rainbow of white, green, blue, olive, coffee and brown.

Pigs Pigs Pigs

Six new piglets arrived in early February from Saanich. Large Black crosses from Meadowbrook Farm. They are lovely, adventurous souls. The older pigs are getting big and pushy, as pigs do – still wonderful, but not quite as cute and rather more demanding. It’s fun to have some small pigs about again. These little boys and girls have been hilarious so far, galloping about their run and in and out of their trailer.

Hello Orange Friend

We have a new kitty from the Comox Valley SPCA, name TBD. He is 3 years old and orange, Hunter’s favourite type of kitty. So far, he’s still a bit wary of dog and baby, but a sweet, cuddly friend at night and getting bolder by the day. We’re looking forward to having him around this summer.

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Hunter really wants past the gate to meet the kitty.

Getting Ready for 2016…and 2017…and…

Crop planning was a major task this year, guestimating market sales for the first time and setting up planning and tracking systems. Lots of quality time with Excel. And, with the Canadian dollar being less than stellar, quite the mission to figure out the most economical supplier for each seed variety. It doesn’t help that no one seems to sell their seed in the same units or increments. How many seeds in a gram? Grams in an ounce? It took way longer than we wanted it to, but it’s done. And the seeds have arrived, and the seeding has started!

We’re working to tick off a pile of jobs to get ready for the season. We’ve had a Bobcat in to scrape the area for our washing and packing shed extension and cooler, and line we’re planning to fence. We’ve milled a bunch of cedar off our property to get it drying so we can side the house. We’ve got fencing priced and sourced. Steel for a third greenhouse has been delivered. Sam is chipping away at getting the insulation and drywall up in the evenings so that we can get electrified. We’ve got a greenhouse to build, supplies to source and order, beds to make, a fence to erect, and a whole pile of seeds to start. It’s busy. We’ve been lucky to have friends from Scotland, Ontario, and Vancouver come for visits and to give us a hand. We’re just hoping it dries out long enough that we can get the Bobcat back to rock rake the field before we need to start planting it…

And meanwhile, we’re also starting to think about 2017, and beyond. Our friend Ian was back for another week of therapeutic chainsawing. He took down a few more large cedars to finish the siding for the house, and a pile more trees down to extend our little patch north of the house into a proper field for 2017 and a second irrigation pond. The new pigs are clearing out land where we want to put fruit trees and bushes. We really enjoy this part of starting the farm – the creative dreaming that goes into creating a property that is productive, efficient, and also a beautiful place to work and live.

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An evening walk with visiting friends Mary and Michael

 

Reflecting on a year

Hard to believe we have been here this long already. A lot has changed on the farmlet in a year, as people keep kindly reminding us; at the same time, we’re nowhere near as far through the “to do” list as we had hoped. That is likely partly the result of unrealistic expectations, and partly just the way starting a small farm is.

A Raging Infernos

Everything finally fell into place to let us burn the two giant stump and brush piles on the 2016 field. It was a bit anticlimactic and not quite the island party we were hoping for, as we missed most of the pile going up while at the airport picking up our parents, and it was absolutely miserably pouring rain the whole time, which made for rather dismal bonfire marshmallow roast conditions. But, the piles are gone, freeing us for the final push of rock and stick picking before we start building our 2016 beds. Already a ridiculous load of rocks have come out – and straight into the holes in our driveway, which is giving up in the rain after the parade of trucks we’ve had this season.And yet, still a daunting amount of rocks and sticks left to come out… we regularly console ourselves that, unlike weeding, every rock and root we pull doesn’t have to be pulled again. And we’re putting the rocks to good use. We’ve traded some help building a neighbour a pigloo for some tractor time, some of which will be used to move a bunch of the larger rocks, and more smaller ones, to extend a drive into the woods where we’ll set up more pig runs this spring.

Winter Experiments

We’ve got lettuces, kale and salad snoozing under row cover in the greenhouses, winter experiments that we’ll scale up next year if successful. So far so good… after losing the first seedlings to come up to rodents (we think), we covered everything in remay and got some strong seedlings, which we transplanted out and covered. Looks like we could have started everything earlier, but otherwise, so far so good. The growth is slow to non-existent in these low daylight hours we’re getting, but they need very little care, and still look happy and healthy, even after several frosty days. We suspect everyone should take off growing again as the days get longer, and all going according to plan, we should have some winter greens to enjoy. Fingers crossed.

We’ve also got another group of 8 piglets on the farm – this lot a Tamworth-Berkshire cross. So far, we are enjoying them. They have nice personalities and are much rootier than the Large Blacks. We also got ourselves a free rooster, a lovely Ameraucana to hang out with the ladies. It was a bit rough at the start, as he was only a teenager and was getting bossed around. But he’s sized up and crowing, and starting to do rooster jobs, like herding the ladies under the trailer when he spotted an owl. We are calling him Winston.

All tucked in

The house is largely done… for now. Two more doors to go in, the electrician to come, and then the low level insulation and drywall (at minimum, we need to put up enough to keep wee Wilf from taking the walls apart), and then we’re ready to ignore it for a while and focus on more farmy things. We may still have all the studs exposed and extension cords running everywhere, but it feels pretty cozy and homey with the fire going, our Charlie brown tree (the lopsided top 6 feet of a fir we took down last week, screwed to the wall…), and some Christmas lights strung around.

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Reflecting on 2015

This year brought heaps of learning. A bit more about building houses and babies than was initially planned, but a heap of farm learning too. We experimented with some new varieties – we were impressed by Tango celery and Carmen sweet peppers, and will grow scarlet salad turnips and Jaune Flamme tomatoes again next year. A few things have been voted off the island – we’ll be back to Touchstone Gold beets rather than Boldor, and we’re still on the hunt for a red romaine that does well here. Some growing experiments will be repeated, some will not. A real deer fence will go up this winter, and BTK will get used on all the brassicas, including the greenhouse starts, so that we hopefully don’t lose so much to caterpillars next year. We’re planning to transplant our beets, and single serving cabbages were a happy accident that we’ll try to replicate this year with spacing rather than stressed plants. Eggplants and sweet peppers will move to the field instead of pots. And a few experiments will be repeated, as they didn’t get a fair shot – sprouting beans in perlite showed promise, though wasn’t hugely successful last summer due to sitting on the heat mat an unexpected extra week while Wilf was born. While in many ways it was frustrating to start so small this past summer, and it wasn’t always the perfect experimental season with our attention getting stolen away from the farm so often, it was also something of a blessing, as we learned many things that should hopefully(!) help us to make fewer costly mistakes when we scale up this summer. With start up margins in farming being hair-thin to non-existent, any savings are appreciated.

Planning for 2016

We took December a little slower, taking advantage of darker mornings to catch our breaths after the flurry of summer and fall activity. But with solstice behind us, it’s time to ramp up the activity again. While winter is generally a more restful season on a farm, that is somewhat less true on the coast, where all-year growing is much more feasible, and less true on a young farm where there is usually considerably more planning and set up that needs to happen to build and refine infrastructure and systems. The seed catalogues have started to arrive, and we’ve started to talk about plans and target markets for 2016. We’ve chosen our crops and started to roughly sketch out our field space and the new cooler and processing area we’re building this winter. Now for the not un-daunting task of choosing varieties, deciding when to plant, forecasting how much seed we’ll need, and placing orders. Many, many rainy day jobs lined up…. luckily the West Coast usually provides on that front.

Thanks for sharing our story this year. Happy holidays, and all the best for 2016!

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The seasons they go round and round

Autumn has found us with its cooler nights and misty mornings. The forecasts are greyer and wetter, and the daylight hours fewer. Here’s what we’ve been up to these last couple of months.

More happy visits

We continued to have a pile of visitors this fall giving us the wonderful gifts of their time and company. We had Ronan and Carrie here from Scotland harvesting tomatoes. Merinda, our first WWOOFer, helped us separate over 2000 seed garlic cloves. Jenn celebrated her birthday here and brought a party of 20ish friends who made quick work of stacking the last of the firewood out of the 2016 field, and rock and stick picking our new garlic beds. Em’s sister Laura and partner Kerri came over from Ontario and helped get the roof waterproof and the garlic in. Garlic: first Two Roads Farm crop planted on schedule!! A family Thanksgiving work party got a drain in. And, finally, Annie came over from Ontario and helped get some winter greens seeded and a bamboo plant burned that is threatening our septic. We have incredible friends and family.

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TL: Rock picking the 2016 garlic patch. Thanks Jenn for the photo! TR: Wilf in a bin of seed garlic. B: Visitors are a good excuse to get off the farm for a forest walk. Thanks Laura for the photo!

Oh deer

Shortly after our last blog post, the deer finally discovered that our not-a-fence (bird mesh with flagging) is actually… not a fence. While we feel pretty fortunate to have gotten three full months deer-free out of our psychological deer deterrent, and had already harvested most of what they ate, it was still more than a little bit annoying to lose two plantings of lettuce, a week away from having heads ready for sale, and somewhat demoralizing to watch the garden shrink back each night as they nibbled our crops down to stumps.For anyone interested, we discovered that our deer seem to like Brassicas, lettuce, bean leaves, dill and carrot tops best. Chard and beets were left to last. They gave the squash, alliums and celery a miss. We experimented with a few more psychological deterrents – scarecrows, tarps, fishnet – but each night, three sets of shining green eyes would greet our flashlight checks. We finally gave up and threw some bird netting directly over the chard and our last planting of brassicas (hoping that maybe the need to eat their meal with dental floss would be enough to persuade them to dine elsewhere) and admitted defeat. While our dental floss trick seems to have saved us some chard, the brassicas had an added layer of row cover to keep them safe, which the plants haven’t exactly loved. We’ve lost just under half the broccoli and caulis to rot (presumably from the moisture trapped under the row cover), and the plants are small. Deer fence is a priority for this winter!

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L: Brassicas hiding under row cover. R: Skeletonized broccoli plants. Luckily, we had already harvested all of this broccoli!

Autumn veggies and markets

The end of summer brought with it a harvest bounty, as it often does. We still had summer zucchinis and tomatoes pouring in as the winter squash and leeks came ready. Our super late peppers started to ripen, the basil had a second coming, we started harvesting the next round of broccoli and cauliflower. It has been fun to bring a wide and colourful range of veggies to the Denman market to sell alongside our summer pork – made mostly into a delicious array of sausages. We also experimented with rendering lard – time-consuming, but a beautiful result. We’re selling some here on island, and the rest will go to the Homesteaders Emporium in Vancouver to make a specialty soap line for the holidays.

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L: We brought a few beautiful Romanesco cauliflowers to market in early in the fall, before the deer got them. R: The early autumn garden with the zucchinis still going strong.

New critters

We were given 11 layer hens at the end of August. They are settling in nicely. They won’t stay in their fence, but we can’t be bothered to fight with them about it – one lady in particular insists on spending every day exploring. So the farm has gotten just a little bit more chaotic, with chickens popping up randomly in the middle of our days – one was even laying in the porch for a bit. We’re enjoying the eggs, and selling the extras at market, now that we’ve solved a raven theft problem we had for a few days. It was, knock on wood, pleasantly easy, just needing a bit of old fishing net draped across our chicken house door to effectively shrink the size of the opening. Our next pigs are unfortunately about two months behind schedule, a litter of Berkshires from Vancouver Island. We look forward to welcoming them to the farm in December.

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A house nearly done… for now

Finally. We are nearly there. The roof is waterproof, the roofers booked, exterior insulation going on, last windows and doors going in. It’s looking like we should be at a point where we can take a much needed break from the house come the end of November. It is going to be very nice to shift focus to the farm and getting ready for the 2016 season.

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L: Hunter supervising a load of plywood arriving on the farm. R: Outsulation going on.

Getting ready for winter and the 2016 season

The zucchinis are nearly dead and we’re entering into the, for us, less familiar territory of season extension and winter growing. We’ve seeded greens to go in the greenhouses (late, like everything else this season, but coming!), the basil and eggplants have come out, and tomatoes and peppers are on their last legs. We’ll be selling bits here on Denman, mostly just experimenting with what we can grow and what we can sell. Looking ahead to 2016, we’ve started to plan our purchases and the infrastructure that needs to be put in place this winter once all the construction materials are out of our outbuildings. Storage spaces, wash stations, road extension into where we want to run the pigs, walk in cooler… Lots to do. The garlic has gone in and been fenced and mulched – on time! Hopefully this sets a precedent! And, we’re starting to think about crop planning and what we’ve liked and not liked this season. Some favourites from the summer that are on the list for sure for next year are Carmen sweet peppers, small size cabbages, habenero hot peppers, and Blue Ballet winter squash. The rest will take some more thought and discussion.. perfect rainy day coffee activities!

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TL: Harvesting all the basil; making space for trays of winter salad greens. TR: Seeding winter salad. BL: Taking out the cucumbers. BR: Garlic mulched and fenced.

Where has the summer gone?

Suddenly we find ourselves nearly in September. The summer has entirely flown by. Here’s a little about what we’ve been up to the last 8 weeks or so.

Veggies!!

The veggie garden is doing pretty well, we’re happy to report, and is teaching us all sorts of useful things. Some crops have done better than others, but there haven’t been any complete disasters (yet, knock on wood). Some deer had a go at the fence, but didn’t do any damage to the veggies, so guessing they got sufficiently freaked out when the fence fell on them. Success. Sam’s forestry flagging trick seems to be working the charm so far (again, knocking on wood). We’ve had some slug damage, but only where the vegetation is high near the veggies, so it looks like if we keep a mowed buffer around the field, we should be able to keep a handle on the slugs. Worst case it looks like we can put out traps baited with peanut butter… check out our Instagram feed (top right) for a photo explanation. Planting squash in between vegetation and field has also proved a successful slug strategy. We’ve lost a zucchini or two to slugs, but seeing as we can’t eat/sell all we grow, having a few extra for the piggies is no problem. We’ve also learned that we for sure need to cover the Brassicas and carrots to protect from cabbage root maggot, cabbage looper and carrot rust fly. We’ve had earwigs in the Napa cabbages, so have added that to our winter research list to develop a plan for dealing with them next summer. We’ve learned that we have a stellar partial shade area in this year’s garden for growing lettuce, even through 30 degree heat. We’ve learned that it’s going to be a mission to grow good carrots in our clay-ey soil, and that Dragon carrots look awesome – but taste a bit… meh – until cooked.

The veggies haven’t been a huge money maker, but we’ve been able to sell a decent amount of our excess produce at the Denman market and the Denman General store. Small trickles of income, but everything helps this year, and all the learning will help us when we scale up and start selling on Vancouver Island next year.

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Our August veggie patch, and Sam at our wee Denman Market stall.

Greenhouse Bounty

The greenhouses have been going strong, and like the field, have been full of lessons for us this year. Growing basil, eggplants, and peppers in pots has proven a challenge. We’re getting some yield, but we are still figuring out a watering and fertilizing regime that works for each crop. We’ll likely try the eggplants and sweet peppers in the field next year under low tunnels, as we’ve struggled to get them enough water and nutrients this year. We’ve got heaps of tomatoes, despite losing quite a few to blossom end rot – especially the heirlooms -, and have several varieties we’ll likely grow again next year. The cucumbers have been beautiful, especially the lemons. With the cooler evenings and mornings, the cucumbers are on their last legs now, and while it’s sad to see them go, we’re looking forward to a slowing of harvesting and pruning, and the transition to a new season and winter greenhouse experiments.

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Tomatoes and lemon cucumbers, our biggest greenhouse producers this year.

Three Little Piggies

Our three Denman pigs got big and boisterous. Kyla shot some amazing videos of them, which can be seen in our Instagram feed to the right. We were sad to see these boys go to slaughter this morning. They have been fun, gallopy pigs, and rather strange – they are the first pigs we have ever met that prefer beet greens and chard to pig mash and apples. Weird and lovely pigs.

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One of our piggies tucking into some salad turnip greens.

Drawing inspiration from several sources, Sam built a pig arc of his own design – we are quite excited about it, and looking forward to seeing how it holds up. We’ll use pig arcs to house the ten piggies we have lined up to arrive on the farm in September. Have a look at photos of the pig arc in our Instagram feed.

Living in the Mad House

We have been in a bit of a race to get the house weatherproof before the winter rains start again in the fall. We have been so very lucky this year to have months and months of sun – the perfect year to take the roof off your house.. Which we unfortunately had to do when we realized the rafters were undersized and bowed in the middle. So, completely new roof and many new walls… we were expecting to put on a new metal roof and strip the walls back to the studs, but reality has been a few steps beyond our expectations. It probably would have made more sense to push the whole thing over and start again, but hindsight being 20/20, here we are. It’s been a transformative few weeks, as walls have come down and risen again, and the roof has gone on the lower storey. Sam is doing an epic job project managing the build, and it looks like we might just win the race, barring the five days or so of wind and rain we’re getting at the moment (bringing with it a few sleepless nights checking tarps, and checking them again…). We are looking forward to having a roof and doors and windows (and being able to leave out baby toys without the dog stealing them and hiding them in the woods at night) and turning our focus more to the rest of the farm start up.

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New rafters and window openings in the livingroom, and a family photo on our second floor at the start of August. Very open concept at that point!

Taste of Denman

Our first catered event! A celebration of music, art and local food on Denman. We roasted up three large roasts from our Large Blacks, and a large ham, and served up 70+ pork sandwiches with homemade onion marmalade, apple sauce, and coleslaw. We were very pleased with how it went – we sold out in just over an hour – and very thankful for the help of our good friend Kyla helping us prep and serve.

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Sam and Emily serving at the Taste of Denman, and our menu signage, a bit of inspiration from Kyla created out of bits of our house.

Visitors

We have had many! It’s been fantastic – many lovely visits, and tons of hugely appreciated help (above and beyond the wonderful help we’ve been getting from local folks here on Denman!). We had Sam’s sister and our nephew here helping pot up peppers. Kyla came from Ottawa and was a massive calming presence, helping prep and serve at the Taste of Denman, among many many other things. Mon and Joe were over from Calgary giving us a hand with mouse-magedon and levelling the crawl space. Rob was up from Nanaimo pouring concrete, cousin Cam stopped in for a week of chainsaw time turning a pile of trees on the 2016 field into logs ready for splitting, Stu and Val came down from Campbell River to help feed the splitter, and John was over from the UK for more splitter feeding, pig arc building, and other fun. We’ve loved having the company and extra hands, and are looking forward to the rest of our visitor line up.

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Kyla helped Emily on a materials run to Nanaimo (that naturally required a beach walk stop on the way home in Qualicum). Sam and Wilf and Sam’s sister and our nephew walking into Downtown Denman.