Tiny farming: chives

Tiny farm moving – Part 4

Assorted transplants in buckets

When you’ve seen one 20-foot trailer loaded with tiny farm gear, you’ve seen ‘em all?! Well, something like that… Headed back to the old farm today for the final move, and the only photos I ended up taking were of three buckets crammed with dug-up transplants:  thyme, oregano, sage, chives, lovage, tarragon, rhubarb… It’s enough for a small herb garden start—we’re growing new herbs from seed, and may get some seedlings as well—but the feeling of continuity is cool. As for the rest of the load, it was mainly the dismantled farm stand (that is, lots of wood), more spare wood, and a few more hoses. The only more exciting item: the trusty old snowmobile trailer that serves as an all-purpose giant garden cart! And the move is complete…

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Farmers’ market: Day 2

Second day at the farmers\' market

Really fine weather for our second market day of the season: sunshine, warmth, a pleasant breeze…! A bit more variety than last week, with all-lettuce mesclun, spinach, arugula, Jerusalem artichoke, chives and rhubarb, but still not much quantity of anything. We were sold out by around 10 a.m. Hanging below the chokes bin is the “Certified Naturally Grown” sign. It’s a new certification this year, in addition to our “certified organic” status. Naturally Grown is a grassroots, farmer-to-farmer program, started in the USA, and entirely voluntary and at no charge, where farmers’ certify other farmers according to essentially the same production standards as the government-regulated organic program. Instead of a lot of paperwork and fees, it’s simple and straightforward, but of course the legal word “organic” can’t be used, so it’s…”naturally grown” instead. Since there are only a couple of other NG farms in Ontario, and none close by, the inspection for this tiny farm will be done by CSA members. I’m still maintaining regular organic certification, but for what we’re doing, selling local food direct to people, Naturally Grown makes most sense to me…

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Found: chives, spinach, rhubarb…

Chives, spinach, rhubarb in a bin

Harvest for the second farmers’ market of the season was OK, but still what I think of as kinda found crops. There’s the first market harvest ever of rhubarb, a binful (20 bundles or so) from the fairly giant patch (about 60 divisions) planted three years ago—kinda stubby, compared to the more sheltered rhubarb behind the farmhouse, but tasty all the same. There’s also 15 lbs (6.8kg) of all-lettuce mesclun from the greenhouse, around 10lbs (4.5kg) of new-growth spinach from a few beds planted last fall, 15 pounds of Jerusalem artichoke, some chives, overwintered and in full return in the herb garden, and a few bags of arugula. Enough to keep our hand in at the market, but I’m really waiting on new stuff from the field…!

Rhubarb

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First harvest 2008!

Mesclun and spinach

Tomorrow’s farmers’ market, the third of the season, will be the my first. This is the usual timing, although I made it on the second market day last year (our market starts on the first Saturday of May). The earliest harvest for field crops will probably be all-lettuce mesclun in a couple of weeks. But I do have the mesclun in the unheated greenhouse, a small quantity grown specifically for getting to the market as early as possible. So, today’s harvest-for-show: around 20 lbs (9kg) of lettuces-and-arugula mesclun. Not much. But, we also gathered about 10lbs (4.5kg) of “found” spinach (tasty new growth from spinach that made it to baby-leaf stage last year, overwintered, and started again this spring; green onion was last year’s early market found crop). Spinach and salad mixes are sold by the bag, and weight varies slightly depending on what and when: for this round, it was all 400g bags (just under a pound), around 35 units total. Also, collected an assortment from the herb garden: sage, thyme, oregano and chives. Plus, around 20 lbs (9kg) of Jerusalem artichoke. Enough to for a tiny spread! I love the market, for me, it’s as much part of veggie gardening as anything that happens in the field, certainly not a tacked on “business” end… Although cold, rainy weather is in the forecast, people always come out, and tomorrow should be fun!

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Little bundles for market

Chives and red peppers

As things slow down in the garden and crops finish for the year, there is more time for really tiny harvests of this and that. Fifteen bundles of chives, a couple dozen small but tasty red peppers—little hauls like these add variety and incremental sales at the farmers’ market stand. I imagine you can afford to spend time on this kind of thing only on a really small, hand-cultivated farm. The veggie line-up for today’s market: carrot, mesclun, potato, onion, garlic, beet, summer squash, tomato, green onion, parsley, a few eggplant, peppers, cabbage and cauliflower, a little spinach and chives…

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Seedlings aplenty

Plant racks loaded up

It’s getting crowded on the grow racks and under the four-light fixture tucked away behind (busier than one month ago). Going now, there’s tomato, pepper, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choi, chives, parsley, plus more to be started in the next couple of days. Right now, around 2,500 seedlings in all. The plug trays on the top shelves are 200-cell. In a couple of weeks they’ll have to be potted up to larger quarters, and depending on what size I go to, will take up 5x to 10x more space. There are also a few 128s, and even in 72s, the earliest plantings need to be moved up. Already, the light is stretched. The shoplight fixtures are really only good for two trays apiece. I’d gambled on a much warmer April so I could use the unheated greenhouse. Now, I’ll have to spot heat with the propane construction heater, which is a bit of a pain since it has no thermostat—night work. To keep everything reasonably stocky, not stretched or stunted, there’s a lot of juggling coming up! It’s great!!

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