It has been a busy week of weeding and seeding. Now that the weather has warmed we were able to set out all of the transplants in the greenhouse. They look great in the field. What was once a large expanse of dirt is slowly starting to look like a productive garden.
Hopefully all our CSA members received their letters and certificates. If you did not, hopefully you read this. Here are all the pertinent details of the letter. Baskets are available for pickup every thursday at 124 grand market at 124 st and 108 avenue every thursday from 5-9 pm. If you can’t pick it up, I could deliver, but as I’m a one man operation, I would really appreciate it if you could send a surrogate. If you are out of town, you can send anyone to pick it up for you, just let me know who will be coming so I’m not surprised. If you need delivery email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday afternoon so I can make a plan to deliver. Delivery won’t occur until after the market on Thursdays so you can expect it around 10pm or later. If you live in an apartment and you won’t be home, delivery will be impossible so please send someone in your place. If you don’t email me and you don’t come to pick up your basket I will sell its contents or donate it to the Smoky Lake County foodbank.
This week our baskets will have rhubarb, some decorative native sticks and maybe salad greens and some herbs, probably tarragon. Greens will depend on how much the lettuce has grown overnight. I think we will make it, but we might not. Oh yeah, also, Annie, our nutritionist has prepared some great recipes and info cards for your enjoyment. Her work is great, I am very impressed.
That will be all for now.
The first 124 st Grand Market is tomorrow. I am terribly excited. Here is what we will have for sale…… bedding plants, tomato plants for your gardens, maple syrup that comes from the sugar maples on the farm and emu oil that my neighbour Willy and his wife Liz make from the fat of Emu’s raised by a farmer in the area. They used to raise the Emu’s themselves but they are too old for that now so they just buy the fat from a farmer and process it themselves. If you’ve never heard of Emu oil before, let me tell you, it is great for what ails you. I am always getting cut and burnt and a few drops of the oil helps speed up healing and reduces the appearance of scars. It is also scented with lavender. Yum.
Our first CSA baskets of the season will be available as well. They will contain the culinary herb tarragon, a bunch of pussy willows, and a bunch of crabapple blossoms that you can put in a vase to decorate your home. Very pretty. Seeing as I only heard from one person I assume everyone else will be coming in person for their baskets. I am excited to meet each and every one of you.
In other news, Victoria Farms has recently acquired the services of a registered holistic nutritionist. Her name is Annie and she is an expert in all areas of dietary health and will be on hand at the farmers market this week and every week thereafter to talk to people about nutrition and health. We haven’t worked out a fee schedule yet but rest assured her rates for one on one nutritional consulting will be very reasonable. A nutritionist can help to plan a menu for you to optimize your health. They can also map out a menu for the whole family. They will teach you the benefits of the foods you should eat and the negative aspects of the foods that are unhealthy.A nutritionists main concern is that you are eating the proper foods to maximize your life. They also want for you to understand all the benefits and negatives of your diet, and what a healthy diet can do for you. This is a service that I am very proud to be able to offer through the farm.
See you all at the market tomorrow. 124st at 108 avenue from 5pm - 9pm.
Things have been crazy busy around here. I thought I would have more time to make clever facebook statuses and tweets and update this blog twice a day with exciting news but as I am here working all by myself, there just isn’t enough time, and I don’t have enough energy at the end of the day to keep on top of this. But today it is raining and there is not much to be done in the mud and muck so I am inside, catching up on this lonely and neglected blog. Enough preamble, down to business.
Things are growing. The lettuce patch is magnificent. Baby greens should be ready for market by June 1st if all goes well. The rhubarb looks great, our perennial herbs are growing vigorously, and all of the shrubs in the orchard are starting to blossom. It won’t be long yet until we are enjoying fresh prairie fruits. The snow peas have been disappointing in their germination rates but it may have been my fault if I didn’t set the seed in deep enough. Peas require lots of moisture to breakdown the seed and they don’t normally get enough unless they are a bit further down where the soil stays cool and moist. But that’s ok. Live and learn I suppose. The shelling peas are growing like crazy, so if there is a silver lining on the pea front it is that. There was a mild disaster in the greenhouse two nights ago. The forecast did not call for frost so I chose to leave the heaters off, to allow my tomatoes to harden off in the cooler temperature before planting outdoors. Lo and behold, it did freeze and we had some tomato casualties. I was about ready to sit down and cry but I think I am made of better stuff than that so I stood up straight and soldiered on. I lost some plants but I have hundreds more coming up indoors. There will be tomatoes but not as early as I would have liked. The plants I lost were tall and flowering, mere weeks away from bearing fruit. Tragic, really. But live and learn I suppose.
This project so far has been one big learning experience. The process to me goes like this. Act on whatever knowledge you think you have, observe the results, learn from your mistakes and refine your techniques. I have learned much patience and humility in the past two months. Nothing is ever as easy as I assume it will be but I am a hopeless optimist. I am learning to be more realistic in my expectations. It is very difficult. Whatever setbacks I have had however are overruled by the successes. Things are looking pretty good so far and will only keep on looking better.
I refered in an earlier post to the landscaping we’ll be doing around the old farmouse. These are some of our materials. I am a firm believer that you shouldn’t pay for something until you have exhausted all avenues for getting it for free.
To that end, I am accumulating big piles of landscaping materials from the farms and forests around me. All of these rocks I picked from the adjacent farmers field. Future fence posts were once part of a stand supporting a diesel tank and the decorative trellis was found rolled up and tossed in the bushes. Our pole beans will be supported by poles taken from the forest and our peas will be supported by twigs from the forest.
I will be constructing raissed beds out of old fence panels. Why pay for something you could just as easily make by yourself? I’ll be posting more info on my projects and approaches as I tackle them throughout the season.
Our greenhouse is operational and starting to look green on the inside. We have hundreds of two week old tomatoe plants getting bigger in soil blocks. We’ve got month old tomato plants in pots waiting to go out into the hoophouses and we’ve got about a thousand more 2” soil blocks seeded with lettuce, brussels sprouts, celeriac and herbs just growing away. I love the smell of a greenhouse, moist and earthy. Walkiing into ours and feeling the humidity and warmth when its not so nice outside makes me feel like a million bucks and I think my plants like it to because they are growing like crazy.
Anonymous asked: The field that you are about to plant looks like it is on a slope, although maybe it is just the photo. Are you planning on planting on the contour, or taking any other precautions to protect your topsoil from erosion?
Yes there is a slight slope towards the river, firstly we have tilled across the hill creating ridges protecting from water runoff, we will also be building retaining walls, separating the field into small sections to accommodate our diverse crops and manage rotation more easily.
Second we will be adding compost, as well as straw and plant stalk for mulch that will prevent the wind from carrying the top soil away, the method that we will be using is called no-till farming.
Thirdly this photo is facing south-east, there is a row of trees already in place along the north and west of this field, where the wind is most likely to come from. If there is a sense that there will be strong winds from the south we will plant shrubs or berry bushes along the river bank for future seasons.
We have another potential 4 acre growing space but it needs to be cleaned up. For decades this piece served as a cattle feedlot but for the past ten years it has been inactive and has gone to the weeds and grass. The farmers who worked it, back in the day didn’t care too much for order or cleanliness either because the bushes are just full of their old equipment and rusty old barrels.
I want to grow on this piece because the soil is a beautiful rich black humus from all the manure deposited on it over the years but it needs a major cleanup. Lots of my down hours will be occupied with pulling debris out of the bushes and deciding whether it can be repurposed or if it is fit for the dump.
Lots of stuff that looks like junk is actually quite useful. Old rolls of fencing make great trellisses, steel barrels have a number of uses, and the steel parts from old tractors and whatnot can become useful with a little creativity but the truth is, most of this garbage belongs in the dump.
There is more to Victoria Farm than just seeds, dirt and water. We want to create a rural space that people from Edmonton and beyond would enjoy visiting for an afternoon. To that end, we are restoring an old farmhouse in our front field to serve as an office/ retail space on the farm. The basement will also serve as cold storage.
Restoring old buildings is a lot of work. The outside floor beams were rotted out so they needed to be replaced along with many of the outside wall timbers. This requires jacking the house up, pulling out the rotten wood and relacing it with new stuff. Definitely not a project for amateurs. Its a good thing we’ve got the help of two local old hands who know what they are doing. I asked, “how do you know how to do this?”, as I watched them use a front end loader to support a wall as they worked on replacing rotted boards with fresh ones. “We just do.” Which is great, because I don’t at all.
The plan is to rehabilitate the structure and make it sound. Afterwards we will install new windows, new wooden siding, a new porch, a new (old) front-door, and an area in back to use as a space to wash and prepare our produce for market. I will be planting a garden around the house inspired by the principles of permaculture design, that is, creating sustainable, low input, high yielding permanent food systems. It should be nice. We will keep you posted on our progress.
tylerjackbutler asked: Where in the city can I purchase your produce?
We are going to have a stand at a new farmers market on 124st Thursday nights. The opening day will be May 20th, we will keep you posted.