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Keeping it Real ; )

Do you ever wonder whether a sacrifice you make is worth it? Do you ever resent having to sacrifice something (i.e., family time) for something else (i.e., work)? If you can identify with either of those questions, you might have an inkling about what James and I have been wrestling with over the past few days. Every year, we try to schedule a couple days away for a post-syrup season/ pre-planting season family getaway, sometime in April. It is getting harder and harder to pin down a time with our oldest now in university. We decided several weeks ago that this weekend would be our time. We arranged for other staff to cover for us and had other commitments covered so we could take time away.

On Monday, after finding some blossoms in our everbearing strawberry patch, we looked at the forecast for the weekend and noted some concerning low temps for both Saturday and Sundays nights (the nights that we were planning to be away). On Tuesday, we confirmed that there were indeed lots of blossoms in the patch; too many to ignore and enough to make it worth fighting to save them from frost.

Strawberry Blossoms under row cover

On Wednesday we warned our children about our concerns and started setting up our sprinklers to prepare for frost protection.

On Thursday we officially cancelled our plans and began thinking of how we could make the best of things and have some family time at home (staycations don’t always work very well when you live where you work!). Our kids have been champs about adjusting our plans. They are disappointed but so understanding.

The current Environment Canada forecast shows a low of -2C on Saturday night and -1C on Sunday night. Often the temperature at ground level is colder than the forecasted temperature, so we keep a thermometer under the row cover as well. James will likely be up every 15 minutes to check the temperature until it hits 0C and will then turn on the sprinklers. As the water freezes, it will release energy in the form of heat (I know, weird, eh?). As long as the water runs continuously and freezes continuously, the blossoms will be protected. We will shut the sprinklers off once the temperature comes back up above 0C.

Will all of this effort and sacrifice be worth it? We never really know going into it. That’s part of the risk of farming. But if it’s evident that without our intervention we would have had significant loss, it will feel like it’s worth it. And if we have excited, happy customers in the middle of May who are so grateful to be able to eat fresh, local strawberries, it will be doubly worth it 🙂 That’s really what it all comes down to. #fieldtotable #dowhatittakes

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Strawberry Blossoms!

We took a quick peak at a couple spots in our day-neutral (everbearing) strawberry patch and found….(drum roll please!) 2 strawberry blossoms! One was fully open and one was a tighter bud. We didn’t take the time this morning to take the row cover off so that we could assess how many blossoms are open, but finding 2 is an indication that there are probably more.

The day-neutral (or everbearing) strawberries typically produce blossoms earlier than the June bearing strawberries, partly due to the fact that they are covered with row cover that allows light to pass through. The time lapse between blossom and fruit is about a month. That could mean strawberries in the middle of May! There are many factors that will impact when we pick the first berries off these plants, not the least of which is the very real possibility that we will have some frosty nights between now and then. Daytime temperatures and sunshine will also influence how quickly they progress. We will be watching the temperatures closely over the next few weeks and do what we can to protect these blossoms so they can grow into deliciously sweet strawberries for you to enjoy :).

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The First Seeds

We grow about 30 acres of sweet corn, in 1-2 acre blocks, so that as we finish picking one block, the next block is ripe and ready to pick.  The goal is to have a consistent sweet corn supply from about mid July until the end of September.  This means that James tries to plant “on germination” if the weather allows.  We plant about the first 5 acres of sweet corn under biodegradable plastic, which allows us to plant in cooler April soil.  We also cover some with a row cover to help it grow a little faster than what is not under row cover.

 As soon as April hits and the weather warms, the itch to get planting sweet corn strikes!  James went back out to work after supper (as he often does) the other night and told me he was going to dig some trenches to get water moving out of one of our fields.  I knew this meant he was on the hunt for dry ground.  When we looked at the forecast on Monday, he thought he’d plan to plant the first sweet corn sometime next week, as it showed sun several days in a row.  However, yesterday morning, we looked again, and the forecast had completely changed to rain almost every day next week.  He tried working up about an acre and decided it was ready.  Thus began our 2024 planting season.  Texts were sent to our sons (they were at school) to make sure they were available to help plant that evening.  Thumbs up all around 😊 One of them excitedly said “Heck ya”, lol.  They love helping to plant corn!

The energy was palpable the rest of the day as James worked toward getting the ground ready.  Logan (our son) fixed our disc (an implement pulled by our tractor that breaks up the soil and creates a good seed bed) when he got home from school so he could work the ground again one more time before planting.  I made sure supper was made at the right time so it didn’t interfere with the flow of work.  James literally couldn’t wipe the little smile off his face.  Even after 20 + years of growing sweet corn, and a lifetime of farming he still gets excited about the first seeds going in the ground.

Planting went smoothly.  The soil had just the right amount of moisture so that it closed up around the seeds as they went in the ground.  James drove the tractor.  Logan rode on the corn planter to make sure seeds were going in consistently.  Cameron and Jeremiah (our neighbour) stood at either end of the field and held the plastic in place when James started another row, and then shoveled dirt on top of the plastic to hold it in place. These first few acres of sweet corn take an incredible amount of time, effort and attention to detail to get into the ground, compared to when we plant on bare soil. It’s a team effort to get those little seeds from the package into the soil in the optimum way to give them the very best chance of growing to their full potential. 

Likewise, it will be a team effort in early to mid July to harvest the mature cobs of sweet corn and transport it to the market for our customers.  Stay tuned.

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Picking Strawberries is Good for your Health!

We are always excited for the first ripe strawberry! I watch the peony beside our house closely in these last days of May, because every year, like clock work, the first peony bloom on that plant tells us that somewhere out in the field, there is a ripe strawberry waiting to be found. James loves the delight on peoples’ faces at market when they see that the first fruit of the season is finally ready. He always tells me that strawberries are his favourite thing to sell 🙂 I could go on and on about the health benefits of eating freshly picked fruit…the nutrient value is at its peak when the fruit is picked when it’s ripe and when it’s consumed as close to picking as possible. Most of you probably know that on some level…but I bet fewer of you have thought of the health benefits of picking your own strawberries.

The First Peony 2018

Much is reported in the news about mental health these days. In fact there are few of us that are not touched in some way by mental health, particularly anxiety and depression. Now, I am not proclaiming to have the cure to anxiety or an antidote to depression! However, logic would tell me that a quiet drive in the country to a farm on a back road with very little traffic would go a long way to help the stress of your work week fall away. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes from filling the baskets that you take to the field, not to mention saving money by using your own labour to pick the berries. Making a connection with the people that grow your food can serve to broaden your perspective on life and help you feel positive about where and how you’re spending your grocery money. Picking strawberries with your children is an activity you can do side by side without the interference of devices, teaching them teamwork and providing the opportunity for conversation while you work. Finally, being out in the country can make you want to breathe more deeply, getting more oxygen to your brain, thereby helping you to think clearly.

The physical health benefits of picking your own strawberries are perhaps fewer, but no less significant. Walking out to the strawberry field to warm up your muscles… Moving from standing to kneeling to bending over while you pick are movements that should help you maintain your flexibility. Carrying a basket, laden with juicy strawberries, back to your car is way more fun than any weight training routine! And reaching for your 3 year old child or grand child before they put their 16th strawberry in their mouth sharpens your reflexes and improves your agility!

Life is fast paced and often seems to prevent us from stopping to smell the roses…or in this case, the strawberries. It is so easy to lose your sense of purpose in the busyness of everyday demands. I am learning that I need to carve time out of my busy days for things that are important…things that give my life purpose and meaning and activities that will be a blessing to other people. While it might seem like a stretch to put picking your own strawberries in this category, I would argue that taking time out of your busy schedule to drive to a farm and use muscles that have been dormant for a while suggests that you believe that picking your own fruit is important for your health.