Life on the farm is pretty dreamy these days - surrounded by plants, birds, bees, flowers and everything bursting with growth because of these heat spells and intermittent heavy rains!
The farm has taken on a momentum all its own as I move through this first season. I had no expectations as I placed the first seeds and transplants into the ground in early May, just the hope that I was providing what was needed for some amount of growth and prosperity for these little plants. My field preparation last Fall was just a starting point, an attempt to get to know the soil structure and to take the first step toward creating ideal growing conditions from an old pasture. The stand of Fall Rye that I seeded by hand over the 2.5 acres that was plowed and tilled last Fall came up beautifully and allowed for a dense Winter cover that kept other species from re-emerging throughout field. In the front garden I tried a sheet mulching technique where, after the ground was initially plowed and tilled, I spread decomposing hay, full or mushrooms, to cover the ground over the Winter. On top of that hay, a load of composted cow manure was spread, followed this Spring with a mix of peat moss and marine compost from a local supplier. The resulting soil was a mix of decomposing plant matter that was full of worms, greatly surpassing my expectations for soil quality in the first year.
Many of the grain and dairy farmers who pass by on my road or stop in for a visit, express their concern about the difficulty of all of this work done by hand. I respond that I like the work, and no I won't be buying a tractor. Instead, I was fortunate to find a used BCS walking tractor from a nearby farm, that I have been renting over the course of the season. This versatile machine has allowed me to create high raised beds that are perfect for increased drainage in my heavy clay soil. The implements never turn the soil, so the natural layers remain intact, which means that microorganism and worms stay in their desired soil layers without being disturbed. The power harrow attachment is used to gently mix compost into the top few inches of soil, creating a fine seed bed in an otherwise extremely lumpy soil. This is perfect for the germination of small carrot and beet seeds.
In addition to growing flowers, herbs, a kitchen garden that feeds myself, my family and many friends, and the main crops for the Winter CSA, I've been seeding a variety of cover crops. I'm using Buckwheat to add nutrients and supress weeds in the beds that will grow late brassicas and hardy greens; Oats, soybeans and field peas have been planted in the beds that will grow next year's potatoes; a mix of vetch, oats and field peas will cover the ground this season, but die over the Winter, creating a mulched area that can be planted in vegetable crops next year; And, a mix of vetch and clover has been seeded in an area that will turn into vegetable beds in the next two to three years. It has been fascinating to learn about the benefits of each cover crop and how they work together to create the conditions that the farmer needs, not only in the current season, but looking ahead to at least three seasons from now. It's also a beautiful sight to see lush, green growth covering all of the beds, instead of the sparse growth of weeds that appear on neglected land.
I'm just getting into berry picking season, as everything was rather late getting going this year. The strawberry and rhubarb harvests have already been put away and soon the freezer will be full with raspberries, blueberries, hawthorns and elderberries. The garlic scapes have come and gone and have been turned into pesto and the Fall crops have all been seeded in the field or started in their trays. This is a special time of year, when, for me at least, I can take a step back, lean on my shovel and just watch things grown. The gardens are beautiful, a true gift, and I could not have asked for a better first season on my new farm.
Winter CSA registration usually open in late August with payments due by the end of September, but I've already had a few early registrations! So, by all means, if you're feeling motivated, take a look at the Winter CSA page for the pick-up options this year. If you have a space that doesn't freeze (like a garage or insulated shed) and would like to host a pick-up location in either Moncton, Dieppe or Riverview this year, please get in touch. This will allow farm shareholders to have more options to choose from and if you host a pick-up location, you can expect some extra treats in your CSA share!