Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tomato Victory

As a follow-up to my previous post, thought I'd share a few pics of the luscious victory in the tomato patch this year. There's some blight out there, but so far it's under control & the fruits of this year's labour are absolutely spectacular!

And the biggest prize yet? Striped German weighing in at 2lb 9oz (yes, my friends, that is >2 1/2 lbs!)

I have been absolutely gorging myself on tasty heirlooms this year. Flavour winners in my books? Striped German (above), Brandywine, Oxheart, Black Krim, Persimmon.

Come find some at market while they last...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Taste Local! Taste Fresh!

Foodlink's 8th Annual Taste Local! Taste Fresh! event will be taking place Sunday, September 18, 2-5 pm in St. Jacobs on the banks of the Conestoga River.  
This event features a sampling of the region's best from local farmers and chefs. 

Local farms are paired with chefs from local restaurants & each team prepares a tasty food item for you to enjoy as you stroll the picturesque grounds while listening to the Tim Louis Jazz Trio and sampling some local wine & beer as well. Guests will be able to meet and chat with chefs about the art of cooking and farmers about the food they grow.

Fertile Ground has been paired with Seven Shores in Waterloo, and Sidney & I will be there to greet you as you sample the fare.

The early-bird price is $65 (includes all tastings and pottery dish) until September 1.  Last year they sold out in August!
 To purchase tickets online, click here
For details, check out the Foodlink event page, call 519-513-8998, or email 

Sunday, August 14, 2011


On Friday we lost 1/2 a hive at the farm. Sad day. That said, watching the swarm was one of the coolest things I've done in a long time. I was at the wash station when I heard a strange humming sound & thought maybe one of the volunteers had left their car running. Upon investigation, I discovered it was coming from the crazy swarm of bees leaving one of the hives. It looked like this when I stood in the middle of it:
(The blurry dots around the little walnut tree aren't pixels..they're swarming honeybees!)
Here's a bunch of them sitting on the tree leaves:

And here's what I saw forming when I looked up:

Called Sarah Hemingway to see about catching the swarm (since beekeeper Trina was on vacation) & she brought out an empty super to try to entice them, but sadly they had other ideas & got away while we were in the field weeding.

The other 1/2 of the colony will have remained in their hive with the original queen. They were likely overcrowded & decided to let a new queen hatch - a new queen which 1/2 the bees will have taken to a new home in the wild. As I understand it, this is sad for honey production on a number of levels:
1. 1/2 the population of the hive has been lost, depleting productive potential for the rest of the season.
2. The 1/2 that left will have gorged themselves on honey in preparation for their departure, depleting existing supplies as well.

Wish I could've caught them leaving & followed them to their new home - though I'm not sure anything could have beeen done to recapture them once they'd settled. Sad day for honey at Fertile Ground, but it was a pretty spectacular thing to witness.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tomatoes: that ubiquitous yet elusive fruit

As August unfolds, I am delighting in my first taste of summer's most luscious yet frustratingly short-lived fruit. For how ubiquitous they are, their harvest window is awfully short in this part of the world - 2 months of fresh tomatoes is a really exceptional season. Sometimes we just get 1. Amazing. I am going to enjoy every mouthful of this month.

They begin here, in April:
6-8 weeks later, depending on last frost, we plant them out:
We've had lots of trouble with blight in past years, so this year I decided to try a new approach. Fewer tomatoes & more infrastructure. We mulched them to keep the soil from being splashed up on their leaves.
(Johnny was carrying the last bale out just before this picture was taken..I swear!)

Then we set up some high-tensile trellising to support them up off the ground, and have been pruning them weekly to encourage lots of air flow and allow the leaves to dry out. Blight loves hot, damp conditions, so we're out to foil it. I bought high-tensile electrical wire, tensioners, and lots of T-bars. It started out well, with volunteer Thomas taking the lead on stake pounding:
However, the wire, which was only available in a 2500' roll, quickly sprang to disaster when unclipped. Imagine 2500' of stiff wire crossed and tangled like a 100lb ball of yarn. I swore a lot. Occasionally, Thomas & I found some good humour. I only took phots of the good-humoured moments. Don't be deceived...
 We did finally get the wire strung and pulled taught with the high tensile reels. 
The next task was to prune the tomatoes down to 2-4 main stems & clip them to the wires. Nobody tell me I don't have a green thumb.
We've been pruning them & clipping them to higher wires weekly ever since - here they are recently with their 1st fruits ripening!
And finally...their 1st CSA appearance last Friday!
Now...lest you mistakenly think we have won the battle this year, I need to point out that I'm pretty sure I've seen early signs of blight in the crop. We're diligently pruning out any affected leaves to try to stave it off. So far so good but Tuesday's rain may have worked against us. Also, we've had a brand new alien appear at the farm this year: Hornworms! These disgustingly large beasts are a nasty brute to squish and many of us have been seriously gooed in the process already.
Yes..that is a bucket of its companions in the background... here's a close-up. My intern Carrie & I had a squish-fest with these guys after an understandably queasy-stomached volunteer collected them while pruning...
Here's to plenty of blts, pastas, salads, salted slices, quiches, wraps, sauces, salsa and other tomato-y goodness. I'm just saying, these fruits are elusive at a farm scale...they better be GOOD.