Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bad Crows, Good Rhubarb and Nasty Nettles

First planting of corn is finally in.  Last years weather was similar to what we are experiencing this year with below average temperatures.   Last year  I put an  early planting in but the second planting caught up with the first while the weeds went crazy in the cold damp conditions.  This year I just couldn’t see the right weather window and held back and now we are at the now or never stage so in it goes.  11 rows or Xtra Tender Super Sweet bicolor and 10 rows of Vision Super Sweet Bicolor all a 1000 feet long.  I will plant at least the same again in 10 days or so.  Our experience here in Pemberton is that planting any later than early June rarely gets you a harvestable crop and this year is starting off to be below average.
Bad Crow

The crows have taken a liking to fresh fava bean tips.  Once we walked the planting to see why the germination was so poor it quickly became clear that the birds had been waiting for a salad treat.  There was ample evidence to be found  and we even saw the culprits at work. They would pull the recently sprouted seeds out of the ground, snap the sprout off the seed which they left on the ground and crunched through the tender sprout.  Tomorrow the plan is to hoe the areas that were savaged for weed seedlings then replant.  It will make harvest a challenge as plants in the same block will be ready at different times but I don’t want to till the whole thing and start again.  It’s funny that the crows didn’t go after the peas the same way and they are planted right side by side.  The green, yellow, purple and shelling beans are in the beds adjacent and are just now breaking ground.  We may have to take action.  We shall see.
Good Rhubarb
The Rhubarb is looking like it enjoys a cool spring.  Tall, red, thick and crunchy, its in its prime and ready to go.  Think about putting some away in the freezer right now for use all year.  $2.49 per pound for a certified organic best ever first of the season rhubarb.  It will serve you well all year.  Discounts on orders of 100lbs or more.  The Pemberton Distillery  http://www.pembertondistillery.ca/contact.html has created a North Arm Rhubarb Liqueur which has the most fantastic magenta colour.  It looks surreal and very “sippable”.  We will have to wait another month for not only the rhubarb but also the North Arm strawberry, raspberry and blueberry liqueurs from Pemberton’s one and only boutique  Distillery.  Check out the distillery tours then come across the highway and have lunch at the Farm.  Now there’s a treat.
Hops shoot are available this week but I am not sure they will be harvestable much longer.  I didn’t hear from anybody about dried hops. Any interest?
Nasty Nettles
The nettles are still holding out but picking that patch is brutal.  I was using fingerless gloves last week while harvesting and was being careful but getting speared is inevitable.  Well, I have never felt such sustained and painful irritation that lasted for several days and was especially bad when washed.  When you look at the sting nettle “hairs” magnified and think about them breaking off punctured deep into your skin, it becomes less surprising. Full finger gloves for me this week.
Spinach is looking good as would be expected in a cold damp spring but is still a couple of weeks away.
I will be tweeting out some pictures of the farm this week so sign up if you like.  http://twitter.com/#!/northarmfarm

Have a great week.
Jordan

Monday, May 16, 2011

Roofing, rain and rot. But its not all bad!

What a day to be a roofer!  The rain was absolutely pouring down, puddles everywhere, and as warm as it was I couldn’t see myself skipping around on the strapping spaced 24 inches apart and twenty feet above the slippery concrete floor.  First thing this morning I wondered  if they would be showing up but at 8 o’clock, splashing through the pot holed driveway came a truck towing a trailer with the standing seam roofing machine followed by 2 other vehicles filled with the crew.  Up they scrambled onto the 3000 square feet of unsheeted roof and started laying felt, sheets of roofing and finishing with angled flashing.  They completed the east half of the roof today and expect to finish the west side and the entrance dormer tomorrow.  If the weather is even marginally better than today that should be no problem.

Bittervine hops has got busy trellising and pruning and is unable to harvest shoots this week. We will have a limited supply of North Arm “5th Ave” hop shoots available.  Bittervine may have shoots next week and is interested in having us distribute their dried hops.  Anybody interested?
We added lovage to the sheet this week.
Dangerous Dandelion Dress

The first pass of weeding in the strawberries was completed this week and we could see how last years cool weather delays caused us to get backed up in weed management and come back and bite us this year.  Several of the less vigorous varieties suffered and are showing gaps as a result.  It looks as though the day neutral varieties may have also suffered some winter damage.  Fortunately we did get through the patch before the masses of dandelions went to seed.  A pretty but dangerous sight, at least to the pocket book.
a field that looks like this means chemicals

The decision has been made with regard to asparagus.  We will be picking it to death this summer and then tilling it in.  The errors that I made in establishing the patch have become overwhelming.  I planted the seeds of an open pollinated variety rather than the more vigorous all male hybrids and it wasn’t planted deep enough and so we have trouble cultivating the weeds out without damaging the plants.  We finally have determined that we need to cut our losses and start again.  See you again with asparagus in 5 years.

Flagrano Beans
I planted 4 kinds of beans a week ago and they should be up by now.  Jade green, Rocdor yellow, Royal Burgundy, and Flagrano as shelling bean which is like a fava without the tough skin.  The weather is forecast to turn warmer on Wednesday which is about the limit to germination without rot so we will keep the fingers crossed.  It was a bit early for sowing beans and I hope worth the effort.  Risk and reward. We’ll see.
Have a great week everybody.
Jordan and Trish





Monday, May 9, 2011

Tragedy with no hero.

Super Hero

This past week came with some highs and some lows. 
The barn addition is coming along nicely and I am very happy with the look and feel of the space.
I have a great crew back at work, most of who have been with us for up to 5 years.  This means that I don’t have to instruct them on every decision and priority; they have lots of experience and a great work ethic.  I will introduce them to you in later blogs.
Pemberton  hit 17 degrees on Sunday which is a happy number and a number should be hitting more frequently at this time of the year.
Peas, beets, carrots, onions, arugula, and much more is up.  Not to say they are ready but they are up and growing which I was beginning to despair was ever going to happen.  Rhubarb is a week or two away from first harvest and we will have a lovage and sweet cicely next week.  The hops continue to produce well as do the nettles.
On the darker side we had a series of serious dog attacks on our sheep.   We have had dog problems on and off for years although our fencing has improved to the point where these are rare occurrences.  Wednesday night however was the exception.  At 230 in the morning we were woken up by a yipping in the sheep pens.  We got up and outside to investigate and followed the yipping and growling dog noises down into the wooded North Arm channel area.   It was drizzling and dark and in the woods we couldn’t see what was going on or what was involved, if or how many sheep and lambs we had lost but it didn’t take long to discover that two dogs had somehow entered into the fenced area.  I could literally smell blood and found a dead ewe almost immediately. One of the dogs ran off into the bush right away and disappeared while the other kept after the sheep while trying to evade us.  Eventually, in the dark and the rain and using a flashlight for illumination I got a off clean shot.  
No Hero
The one that had taken off came back the next night but we scared him off and he hasn’t yet returned.  For his sake, I hope not to see him again.
All in all, they killed outright 2 lambs and 2 ewes, chewed up and maimed 3 more that have had to be euthanized and 2 ewes drowned trying to escape.  That is 1/3 of our flock of ewes and leaves us bottle feeding a dozen lambs.  I expect to lose another lamb but then again she may pull through.
I also wonder that we have to fence out the dogs rather than just keeping or own animals in. Who lets their dogs wander around all night sniffing for trouble? Too bad its the dogs and the sheep that have to pay the price.
In what I suppose is a bit of an ironic footnote, the big male “Rambo” cowered back at the barn and was just fine thank you very much.   Not much of a hero but he does look good.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Building, planning, planting and trying to not get stuck in the head with a hummer

The last 2 weeks has seen the barn under construction as we expand our covered area by 2200 square feet.  It will be a great space looking out toward Mount Currie and will provide us with much needed storage for crops and equipment as well as extra elbow room for processing vegetables.  Look forward to huge piles of pumpkins in the fall and maybe a few farm dinners.

The Hummingbirds out are in full force at the Farm.  We have 72oz feeders with 8 drinking ports each which can have 2 or 3 hummers trying to drink at each port at the same time.  We added a video to our blog post and although the cel phone camera quality isn’t the greatest, there are certainly plenty of hummers.  As you step out of the house and they zoom by you can't help but wonder if getting jabbed in the head by a hummer moving at speed would be deadly 
Garlic and Potatoes
New planting of Sunchokes went in yesterday and we finally finished up the potatoes.  Russian Blue Banana Fingerling, Russet Norkota, German Butter, Yukon Gold and Chieftan Red.  As you may recall we were carrying local organic potatoes from other growers last year but this year decided to start growing our own again.
Horseradish

Plantings are also in of Fava, English peas, celtuce, spinach, mixed lettuces, chard, white turnips,  Spanish, watermelon and alta globe radishes, shallots, green onions, all colours of beets and all colours of carrots.  Next comes all the different roots, parsnip, burdock, salsify, rutabaga, root parsley, horseradish, and then transplants of squash and pumpkins.

New this week on the sheet is Nettles. They are the perfect size right now. We have a little bit of  sweet cicely although it’s not on the sheet.

Nettles
Bittervine Hops only has 45 bunches of hops shoots this week so get your order in early so that you are not disappointed.   We hope to carry Bittervine dried hops soon.


Have a great week.
                                                                          Jordan and Trish

North Arm Farm Hummingbirds

May 1st Dusk at the farm

Rufous Hummingbirds pass through the Pemberton Valley every spring.  Some stay for the summer but others    are just marshalling until the weather moderates on the Chilcotin Plateau. This cool spring creates the conditions where many hummers congregate here in the valley.  How they know that they need to stay in Pemberton longer than usual  is a question that has always vexed me.  
We have been putting out feeders and watching the antics for many years.  Its too bad that my cel phone camera doesn't capture the audio very well  as the chirping and humming and swooping are a huge part of a hummingbird experience at the Farm


video

    Dinner time for hummers at North Arm Farm.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hops and Worms

Spring has sprung in Lillooet. Hops are up and in order to direct growth up the 18 foot trellis and into  4 mains stems per plant, for a couple of weeks Sam Quinlan of Bittervine Hop Farm in Lillooet will be picking hops shoots for you.  North Arm Farm hops shoots should overlap with the Lillooet picking which could make for a 3 to 4 week season and an alternative to asparagus, fiddleheads and the eastern ramp.   

Hops or “Humulus lupulus”  are, according to Wikipedia “part of the family Cannabaceae, which also includes the genera Cannabis (hemp)”. More importantly to us they are a delicious spring green, similar in taste to asparagus, which can be eaten steamed, braised or fried. The male flowers can also be eaten in salads and of course the female flowers flavour my favourite beverage.    
This week Sam has picked Cascade, Chinook, Galena, and Nugget (purple shoots).  When blanched, if anything the colours become even more vibrant and they are a delicious complement to a meal.  Try them out during this short season when fresh local greens are scarce.

Despite the cold weather we have got some farming done lately.  The first planting of beets, peas, green onions, shallots and carrots are in the ground.  The raspberry pruning will be done by Wednesday and then we will get started on the blueberries.  The garlic is up 3 or 4 inches and I have chisel ploughed around the beds and will put in the potatoes next to them in a piece of ground that had a heavy oat cover crop last year.    I hope to have the potatoes planted today and the Sunchokes and Crosnes, hilled and fed as well. 

On the other side of the field next to the river and where the ground is very sandy the current plan is to seed with mustard as a green manure which has biocidal properties, scavenges nitrogen, builds organic matter and can drill through hardpan with its tap root.  The biocide consideration is interesting in that research has been done which shows a significant decrease in nematodes and wireworms in fields that have ploughed down mustard crops.  The wireworms especially are real problems in sandy soils so all that we can do to build organic matter and make life unpleasant for these ugly little pests the better.

Gotta go, sorry to be so terse but I’m “burning daylight”, more next week and eat Hops!
Jordan

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Cash Flow

The cash never seems to stop flowing out at this time of the year and nowhere near enough seems to flow in. There are capital projects to complete.  Seeds, tubers and plants to order.  Labour to pay.  Fertilizer to purchase.  And that is a story unto itself. 
Our fertilizer supplier, Terralink, has raised the prices of organic OMRI approved fertilizers an average of  30% for the second year in a row.  It turns out that while the organic marketplace is growing, the supply of fertilizer is not growing at the same pace.  Organic growers in the Fraser Valley are using manure from the large Poultry operations which actually pay to have the manure removed from the area of the Abbotsford Aquifer. That same product, while available to us is enormously costly to Pemberton growers due to transportation  costs and the need to acquire new  equipment to age and apply the compost as North Arm has traditionally relied on a granular fertilizer products.  We hope that a proposal currently before local government will be approved and compost made with sea to sky green waste will be processed at a facility in Pemberton.  This would give a huge boost to the growing organic industry, many of whom have similar challenges with obtaining fertility. 
Soil fertility is really what the whole farm program rests on.  Healthy soil equals healthy plants.  Maintaining and building the soil fertility, organic matter and in our particular case raising PH are overall objectives and we track this with an annual testing program set up to compare fields of like soil types year over year.  Cheaping out on amendments can lead you to wear your soils out, essentially mining them, not at all a renewable practice. 
We are essentially converting minerals and organic constituents into food using water and the sun as the catalysts.  And then converting the food into cash.  Quite a cool process actually, although it does take time.  A minimum of a season to be precise. I guess money does kind of grow on trees... or beets or carrots or...