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!

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...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fresh Sheet Post April 11th "Harbingers of Spring"

Its official.  It must be spring.   The hummers have arrived or more specifically a single hummer. One Rufous male who does appear rather plump if not happy came to the feeder on Sunday in absolutely atrocious weather, had a sip and left, came back for another, and again flew off and upon a third return, stayed.  So the familiar zip and zoom and bob and weave are back, abet only one so far, to bask in this year’s dismal spring.  Follow the migration at http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/humm_rufous_spring2011.html
The garlic is up.  The shoots are pale, as though they have been resisting pushing through the recently frozen earth, emerging into a cold wind that smacks and slaps with flakes of snow and rain. Not all of each the bed has emerged, the variables being; different planting  depths that hand planting with a crew of people can create, soil types with part of the beds being lighter, sandier and hence warmer or heavier and thus cooler,  slow melting snow drifts as these beds are 700 feet long and the snow settles across them in its own particular and lazy way,  fertility variations as the plants root during the fall and winter and as some may be more robust than others as a result, or shear obstinacy for either pushing out into near winter conditions or refusing to emerge into those small condition.  All I can say with certainty is that there are these and other variables that I haven’t considered which need to be factored in and only then you will still never really know.
On a brighter note,  soon to be announced in the Farm Bakery and CafĂ© is a new culinary partnership with North Arm Farm and the opening of the best darn patio in Pemberton resplendent under a grape and wisteria trellis looking over the fields of vegetables and flowers, up and away 8000 feet to a majestic and immense  Mount Currie.  Visit us and experience it all this summer.
The sheet hasn’t changed this week and as usual we are delivering in Vancouver on Wednesday and Whistler on Thursday.  I was optimistic on the Hops shoots but will keep you informed.

Have a great week.
Jordan and Trish

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Choose Pemberton Video

A group of eager and supportive Pembertonians gathered at the Log House Bed and Breakfast last night to view the new "Choose Pemberton" video produced by Randy Links and edited by Darryl Palmer.  We were not disappointed.  The images are crisp and fine and show Pemberton for what it is, a fine family place, oriented to the outdoors where there is no excuse to go hungry or to be bored.  One highlight for me was Courtney's hole in one at Big Sky. (wink, wink)   Check out the video on the Village website at  http://www.pemberton.ca/tpvideo/   or on the Tourism Pemberton website  http://www.tourismpembertonbc.com/   Who wouldn't want to be here?

Fresh Sheet Post April 4th "Spring?"

New in a week or two will be bunches of Hop shoots as the first sign of spring. Let me know if you are interested as it will be first come first served and we will try to be consistent with a limited supply. We are out of red carrots and all other potatoes but a few red nuggets.
The Marechal Fochand the Himrod grapes were pruned in the last few days but there is still too much snow in the Raspberries and Blueberries to even consider stepping off the road or you are sure to be ankle deep in the muck. That said, it sure is nice working out in the sun. I put out my rain gauge which had come inside for fear of hard freezing and cracking over the winter and although we have a month more of frost potential I am optimistic enough to think that we are finally on the way into spring.
I put up our first hummingbird feeder of the year as the first week of April is when we usually see the pathfinders. With all the snow I suspect it will be later than usual but the Rufous Hummingbird is a hardy little guy that arrives in ones and twos and proceeds to fight and chirp and dive bomb and argue about territory until late spring. The females and juveniles arrive at the beginning of May in large numbers and if the Chilcotin Plateau weather forces them to muster in Pemberton before heading north we have seen a hundred or more Hummers fighting for space at our bank of feeders. We will try and post a video on the shenanigans on our blog this May.
We hope to be joining the social media world starting soon with blog posts and twitter feeds. The links will be available on our website. twitter.com/northarmfarm blog at www.northarmfarm.com We are just getting going in time for the growing season so keep an eye out.

Have a great week.
Jordan and Trish

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fresh Sheet Post March 14 "Old Sow"

I had an old sow of some 13 years named Twinky who last week finally gave up the ghost and expired of old age. I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with her being the snow is still deep and the ground still frozen. I considered the dumpster but it seemed such an ignoble and useless end when a friend suggested that leave her to the eagles. So in a toboggan I towed her out to the end of the farm by the river and leaving her, I set up my binoculars in the window of the back room of the house to keep an eye out. It wasn't long before the white heads of mature birds and the brown of the young ones started appearing in the trees. They arrived in the morning were gone during the mid day (I suspect to digest) and then back again in the late afternoon. Two or three days and she was gone. Harsh, perhaps, but only for Twinky's carcass. The eagles are having a rough go of it this year and possibly some will survive that might not have otherwise. Or maybe not. Either way, around and around we go on the circle of life.

Fresh Sheet Post March 29' "Spring Cleaning"

Busy week this week as the snow is melting and all of the years detritus is re-emerging. The plan for this year (again) is to pick up, clean up, tidy up and recycle the accumulated bits and pieces that at one point where considered useful but are now clearly junk. We still have a foot and a half of snow so i can reasonably put it out of my mind for another week or two but it will make it to the work plan this year. Tidy farm, tidy mind. Thats the theory anyway.