Every year on the farm, awesome stuff happens, things we consider successes (and…. some less-than-awesome stuff….aka learning opportunities).
There are lots of small things we consider successes, but we used the winter months to think back on the season as a whole.
We each told each other a few special things we didn’t want to forget about 2017.
Here’s what we said:
The Swamp Milkweed flowered!
It’s a biennial so it starts flowering during its 2nd year after planting.
And Monarch butterflies found it!
Basically, we were obsessed with watching the Monarch caterpillars chomp down on the milkweed plants and grow big and then transform into butterflies.
We were also proud that our farm could host this beautiful, declining species. Huge win in 2017!
Our cucurbit crops, especially our winter squash and melons were incredible in 2017!
Over the years, there have been many different crops we’ve obsessed over.
Obsession with a crop, for us, means that we buy way too many different varieties from a whole bunch of different seed companies.
The practical side to this obsession is that we compare a lot of cool varieties and figure out which ones we really like, which ones do really well on our farm, and which ones our customers love!
In 2017, we were obsessed with winter squash and melons.
Melons especially because:
- They’re so delicious. I think melons are my favourite fruit, though I didn’t love them growing up. I think it’s rare for people to be able to taste a fresh, vine-ripened one.
- People think of them as a tropical fruit. We always get asked “where were these grown?” We’re lucky that our farm’s soils and sun exposure are great for growing melons!
- There are so many cool varieties of melons! Even among the well-known ones like cantaloupe and honeydew, there are lots of interesting varieties. But there are also other cool types of melons like Ananas, Charentais, Piel de Sapo, and Canary.
- We personally freeze enough melons to enjoy melon smoothies throughout the winter. Highlight of the winter for sure!
No burn-out or exhaustion!
Our marketing season is April to November.
We like taking a bit of a break in November before the farm conferences begin in late November.
Then the winter office work of: crop planning, visioning, bottleneck assessments, bookkeeping and accounting and volunteering for different farm and food organizations.
The real success of 2017 was that, at the end of our season, we felt ready to move onto the farm-work of late fall and winter, but we didn’t feel worn out. We felt good.
We increased our water resiliency.
2017 was dry. And 2016 had been too.
So, water resiliency was on our minds for a while.
At the very end of the season, we dug a pond and drilled a 2nd well.
The pond is at the end of an old drainage ditch. The run-off water had previously been leaving the property, out onto the ditches on the side of the road.
We’re happy that the pond can capture that water and slow it down while it infiltrates into the soil and regenerates the ground water.
We’re so excited to see how these water resiliency strategies improve both the crops we grow and the wildlife we share this land with!
In 2017, we invested in the process of greens rinsing and drying.
This used to be a less-than-fun job – using a hand-crank operated salad spinner that could only handle small amounts at a time.
We converted a washing machine (which we bought new from Sears before it closed) into a salad spinner.
We also created a “bubbler” in our greens-washing tub, inspired by a farm that Shannon had apprenticed at in NY state many years ago, Pleasant Valley Farm. The bubbler gently cleans the greens using jets of air to agitate the water.
These 2 projects improved our efficiency and made the job actually fun!
We were citizen scientists in 2017.
Tracking the bumblebee species we saw on our farm.
The Great Canadian Bumblebee Count is where people from across the country take pictures as often as possible of bumblebees throughout the season and submit the photos online.
We tried our best to take pictures where the bumblebee species was easy to identify.
These pictures were good (both are Bombus ternarius aka the Tri-coloured bumble bee) but the majority of our pictures were blurry or at an angle that made it hard to identify…..capturing bumblebees on camera is hard!
Some bumblebees are still common fairly common (like these B. ternarius) and others are declining or endangered.
We had seen lots of individual bumblebees, but we had no idea which species they were or which were most prevalent.
It was a great learning opportunity for us!
Each day on the farm is filled with awesome-ness (and “learning opportunities”) so it’s hard to pick just a few over a whole season, but these were some from 2017 we wanted to share (and remember).