Farm Blog

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”
― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

We hope all of you had a love filled Christmas with friends and family. There are two more days left of this year. How will you spend them? We like to use these last couple of days to stop and reflect on our accomplishments, failures, challenges, wishes and goals.

One of our biggest goals for the upcoming year besides farm related matters is to learn to “love”. We know how to love each other, how to love family and friends, but we know nothing about loving our “neighbours”. Our goal is not to judge, or jump into conclusions about people we meet and don’t yet know. Our goal is to be patient and more open minded towards them. Our goal is to treat everyone equally good, no matter who they are or where they come from.

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbours worthy.”
― Thomas Merton

Without love, we have no community. Without community, we have no community supported agriculture. Perhaps this is why we are so intrigued by the CSA, because it gives us a rewarding goal to work towards – to create a community of like minded people to care for each other and for their surroundings.

And since we are on the topic of goals – We are not very good at keeping up with the blog, but writing regular posts is on our new year’s resolution list amongst many other things. Every year we enter into with more ambitious plans for the farm.

We have been working hard on our projections for the next growing season and finishing our seed order. We spend many hours daydreaming of what the farm will look like at the beginning of next summer. We have many beds to build, even more seeds to plant, and a lot of compost to move. Our goal is to have this field filled up with permanent raised beds and one more greenhouse:

Having a farm comes with many challenges and trials. But the reward we get out of it is worth so much more. 2016, here we come.

Happy new year!

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ― Albert Camus

Seasons sneak up on you, and slip away. Our last blog entry was in June when the excitement of the approaching summer heightened our spirits. The days were getting longer and warmer, and we were just about to start our second year of growing vegetables. Although this season presented some challenges in the beginning, we managed to overcome them. Never lose faith/hope. It always works out in the end.

Due to Angus’ injuries in the spring and our late planting, we weren’t able to start the CSA in June as planned. Instead we had to push it to the beginning of July. We were unsure whether we would have anything ready by then, but miraculously we had just enough. Our boxes have been filled with plenty of variety and colour since then.

With the help of family and friends we were able to accomplish a lot this summer. We finished our walk-in cooler, implemented french drains on the field to help divert the water after heavy rainfalls (which we have plenty of during the winter months). We built a fence out of pallets. We built up our firewood supply for the coming winter, and we started building a pole shed using black locust trees we cut down around the farm.

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We were lucky and honoured to have my grandfather stay with us for a few days (he flew our for the wedding, he’s 75). Prior to arriving, he enthusiastically announced his plan to spend his whole stay (1 month) helping on the farm. Well, after his arrival, that 1 month stay was reduced to a few days (he stayed with my parents in the city afterwards).

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He, himself used to own a farm and we believe he had a very different image in his mind of what our farm was going to look like. He was used to big open fields with ready to plant in soil. Chickens and turkeys being chased by dogs. The sound and smell of pigs. Instead, he showed up to our “rough around the edges” (literally) work in progress project – unfinished buildings, building materials everywhere, weeds growing in places where they shouldn’t be, a big rocky field waiting to be dug up, no farm animals other than our dogs. (We also just lost electricity if half our home due to Angus’ magnificent wiring job with the new lamp he installed – which meant candle lit showers and flashlight reading in bed)

He was so discouraged by seeing the amount of work that still remains to make the place fully functional and self sufficient that he tried to persuade Angus to switch to chicken farming instead. That way we don’t have to put in the additional eighty 100 feet long beds, don’t have to bother with cover cropping, or picking the rocks out of the fields or doing any of the back-breaking labour that’s required to get us there. Soon enough he realized we were in this for the foreseeable future and he gave up.

We also had our friend stay with us from Hungary who is a homesteader therefore he knew exactly what we were going through – he did not need any explanation as to why we had to put in endless hours of work in the heat. 🙂

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We have to say, the highlight of our summer remains our wedding day. We could easily say it was the best day of our lives. To have all of our friends and family come together to celebrate our love and commitment to each other is very special. Let’s do it again! 🙂

Caution – Bumpy road ahead

We learned that farming is a very intricate business. It’s not one that requires our time only; we need to emotionally invest to see it grow: inspiration, joy, patience, perseverance, and care. And in return, it rewards us with the very thing that sustains us: food.

However; since farming is so intricate the farm’s equilibrium can be upset easily by many things: crop failure, disease, harmful pests, drought, flood, injuries, lack of money or machinery to name a few. When any of these occur, our emotions are also put to the test. We experience disappointment, sorrow, pain and we feel like our faith is put on trial.

To be honest, the start of this season has been a great mix of emotions from both the positive and negative spectrums.

We battled back and muscle injuries for a few weeks which put a halt on our planting schedule. When we finally recovered our rototiller refused to co-operate. We took it to the mechanic and were faced with the harsh reality of a dead engine.

We were told that it would be more cost effective to buy a new one rather than fixing it. Our finances haven’t allowed us to buy a new one. Thankfully, our dear friend Taylor (from Ferndale Farms) has been there for us through all of this – helping us out by allowing us to borrow his rototiller when we need it.

And to top it all off, our kale, broccoli, and cauliflowers were all eaten by cows that managed to get through the gate into the garden.

After all of these trials we found it to be a challenge to remain positive. But we also know we cannot succeed (at life or farming) if we allow ourselves to dwell on these events.

Therefore, here’s to the positive things: our friend Andrew has been volunteering his free time on the farm helping us out when he can in return for food – thank you Andrew! Our families have been more than supportive. We built our second greenhouse and created more raised beds.

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And of course…we’re getting married in just 68 days…

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Spring into life – greenhouse construction

“You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this:
“Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.” – Wendell Berry

 

We are thankful for our wonderful friends (and family) who help us out along the way without expecting anything in return. We are lucky to be surrounded by such self-giving individuals.

We started the construction of our second greenhouse this past weekend. The weather could have been a little warmer, a little sunnier, a little more dry but we battled the elements and faced the rain. We were expecting to only take an hour away from our friends’ busy Sunday schedules, but that one hour became two, three, four rather quickly. During the set-up stages of our first greenhouse we were more like spectators studying the essential steps of building the frames and the foundation for the frames, calculating the spacing etc… while the actual work was being carried out by a good friend of ours who happens to be an amazing carpenter. So when it came to retracing those steps this time around, our memories were a little hazy.

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Our aim is to finish this project by the end of this week so we can start preparing beds for our transplants that are eagerly waiting to be transferred to more spacious homes.

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The start dates of the Mission City Farmers market and our CSA are approaching really fast, and the closer we get the more excited we become. It is during the spring time when our dreams and plans are awakened and put into action on the farm. It is during this time when once again we realize that this farm is what we want to see prosper by creating a better community of healthy eaters and local growers.

2015 International Year of Soils

The United Nations have declared 2015 International Year of Soils #IYS2015.

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear the word “soil”? Is it an innocent childhood memory of a hot summer day, playing in the mud in your parents backyard? Is it perhaps the dirt that your dogs drag in from the yard just after cleaning the floors? Is it something that you take for granted, therefore you never really think about it?

Whatever thought it may trigger, one thing we can say for sure – most of us wouldn’t automatically think of food and human survival when in fact 95% of our food comes from the soil. From the top 8 inches of the soil to be precise (topsoil) because food cannot be grown in subsoil.

Knowing this, you might get a little concerned when you find out that generating three centimeters (1.18 inches) of top soil takes 1,000 years and if current rates of degradation, soil erosion, compaction, organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification, pollution continue – all of the world’s top soil could be gone within 60 years (and with it 95% of our food supply). Unless, of course we change our attitudes and the way we handle soil.

How can that happen?

Numerous farming practices promote the sustainable management of soils with the goal of improving productivity, for instance organic farming.

Organic farming doesn’t use synthetic chemicals or genetically modified organisms, growth regulators, and livestock feed additives. It emphasizes a holistic farm management approach, where rotations and animals play an integral role to the system. Soil fertility is the cornerstone of organic management. Because organic farmers do not use synthetic nutrients to restore degraded soil, they must concentrate on building and maintaining soil fertility primarily through their basic farming practices.

Organic farming practices significantly improve soil conditions, reduce land degradation and boost yields in many parts of the world by following three principles: minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotations. To be sustainable in the long term, the loss of organic matter in any agricultural system must never exceed the rate of soil formation.

Many more reasons to support you local organic grower!

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Here are some key facts to know about soil:

  • – Healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production;
    – Soils are the foundation for vegetation which is cultivated or managed for feed, fibre, fuel and medicinal products;
    – Soils support our planet’s biodiversity and they host a quarter of the total;
    – Soils help to combat and adapt to climate change by playing a key role in the carbon cycle;
    – Soils store and filter water, improving our resilience to floods and droughts;
    – Soil is a non-renewable resource; its preservation is essential for food security and our sustainable future.

  • Once upon a time – part 3

    Here are part 1 & part 2 of the story in case you missed them.

    …We both wanted to see Canada and learn about the country before “settling down” on a farm. Our plan seemed to make sense. So once again we packed/donated/got rid of our belongings and got ready to take off on our 2 month journey…

    Our original plan was to work on three or four farms across Canada to combine the joys of traveling with learning (and free lodging) in anticipation of starting our own farm the following year. We had farms lined up in BC, Quebec, and PEI.

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    One morning after settling down for breakfast with our temporary farmer family (our two wonderful hosts, and two great volunteers) in Northern BC, our “well” thought-out plan came crashing down on us triggered by a rather simple question from farmer Garry: “You are starting a farm next year. What are you doing taking a 3 month long vacation?”

    We scrambled to explain that “it’s not really a vacation, because we do plan to work…”, “…we are going to be learning and…and it’ll be valuable…and…wait, we do have a good reason behind this all, we just can’t think of it right now”. Silence took over the room as Angus and I looked at each other puzzled. What were we thinking?

    We quickly learned we were extremely naive and were filled with too much confidence going into this. Garry had many years of experience behind him working as a farmer, building his farm up from the ground to be what it is today, and he knew exactly how much work we had waiting for us. When this conversation took place we had mere 9 months left (including the 3 months we initially set aside for traveling) until we were supposed to start delivering food to our CSA customers and the farmers’ market and the only thing we had lined up was our leased piece of property (that we were very thankful for nonetheless):

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    We didn’t have any tools or infrastructure, no business plan, no seeds, no experience running our own farm and not even a place to live. We didn’t know what our soil quality was like, whether we would be able to grow anything at all (considering it was a forest just a few months prior). What a great question indeed – What were we doing taking a 3 month long vacation?

    Our trip was cut short, and we cancelled our plans to work on the other farms. We decided to make the trip shorter, but to still see the rest of Canada (we are a stubborn bunch). You can read some of our previous blog posts and see our pictures from the trip here, and here

    We certainly didn’t regret driving the 15,000 + kilometres so see this beautiful country, to spend time with family and friends, and to enjoy all the adventure we had, but we definitely started to feel the pressure to get back near the end of the trip. It took us only 5 days to drive from Quebec all the way to Mission – now, that’s dedication.

    After taking a longer trip people usually enjoy easing into the routine of their everyday life. Well, we were plunged right in! We discovered we had major issues with rocks on our field, a story which you can read here and here.

    If it wasn’t for Garry’s wisdom and guidance, we would have gone on a 3 month trip across Canada without giving ourselves enough time to prepare the farm for growing. We are very thankful for all the wonderful people in our lives and Jesus for often miraculously crossing our paths with these people who have helped make our farm a possibility.