Acting/Modelling Career Update: Spring 2014 Season

Spring arrived all at once this year. My winter pruning is finished and now I’m 100% dug into the farm. The Young Agrarians mixer a couple of weeks ago was a tremendous success and a lot of fun. Four of us Quadralites drove down there together, the whole thing was a meeting of minds of the best sort. My presentation went well, I think. I definitely rambled about minerals and waved my hands around in the air and showed lots of photos. Last week I dropped my camera, which has given me almost 6 years of use, onto the ground for the last time. It died, and the search for a replacement begins. My criteria: A used Canon dslr circa 2011 or newer. Email me if you are reading this and you’ve got such a camera to sell. I may post some shots from the archive here, or maybe not, we’ll see. In the meantime, here is a short film created by Arrius videography and featuring yours truly: Funamongus.

 

 

Young Agrarians/Herbaceous Borders

It is past my traditional mid-March end-of-winter-pruning date, and I am still driving all over the island pruning fruit trees, finishing way late this year due to the couple weeks of deep snow a couple of weeks ago. The other day it was sunny and warm and I was pruning one of my favourite trees on the island, a crab apple up in Open Bay. I was way up in the canopy and the sun, and had my mp3 player on, as I generally do when I’m up in apple trees doing my thing. This set came on, and I repeated it three times. The second song is my favourite of 2014 so far for sure:

 

To me it is reminiscent of Stuart Murdoch/Belle and Sebastian. To tie things into soil, this is the only song I’ve ever heard that includes the words “herbaceous border” in the lyrics:

 

Spring is always the best time for finding new music. I  sowed daikon and kohlrabi this afternoon, listening to a bunch of new music, and this came on and I wasn’t quite sure what I’d heard. I have nothing but praise, and am aghast and disappointed this only has 900 something views on youtube:

 

Self propmotion: I am scheduled to give a brief presentation at the Young Agrarians Mixer next weekend, on Sunday afternoon. I’ll be giving an overview of how Jessica and I actually go about balancing our soils’ mineral levels. My plan is to focus like a laser on the practical aspects of soil remineralization: How we test the soil, how we ship it to the lab, how we determine what to add to the soil based on the lab results, how we go about acquiring the soil amendments we use and how we use them. That sort of thing. If you are near Nanoose Bay this coming weekend, click the link above and come on down.

 

Talking About Minerals in Nanoose Bay

I’m (probably) going to be giving a brief presentation about my experiences with soil remineralization at this Young Agrarians event on March 21 or 22nd in Nanoose Bay. I’ll post details here when I get them.

On Seeding Tomatoes

This is the first draft of part of an article I’m writing. I don’t think it will appeal to people who aren’t into growing plants from seed under fluorescent lights in their yurt or wherever. Of course timing and seed starting works differently in different places, and this is what works well for us here at 50 degrees north, 125 degrees west.

As a teen I seeded most of my tomatoes in February or early March. One year I was particularly eager, and I started some tomatoes from seed in early January, and grew one of them under fluorescent lights for months, potting it up and potting it up again. Eventually I potted it into a 5-gallon nursery pot and set it in my parents’ backyard greenhouse, and it grew happily and began to blossom, then died suddenly during a cold snap in April. Every winter tens (maybe dozens) of people say the following to me, almost verbatim: “R-Naz, I started all my tomatoes in November and I’ve been growing them in my window and they are getting spindly”. Timing can be such a tricky thing to pin down with some vegetables, while for others the window of opportunity lasts for months. Timing is also intensely personal, this may be as close as I ever get to a tell-all autobiography. In my early 20s, I switched to early to mid-March tomato sowings, after taking years to truly realize the horrors of root-bound transplants and transplants that are ready to go outside to an outside that isn’t ready to receive them. Now, in my early 30s, this will be my fourth year in a row seeding tomatoes on March 25th. My goal is to have each tomato plant growing strongly in unheated coldframe, in a 5 or 6″ nursery pot, by mid-May, when we begin transplanting them out into the field. Timing is critical in producing seedlings that are simultaneously not root bound but that have colonized enough of the potting mix that there is no stress in transplanting. I use peat/perlite/lime mix to germinate the seeds in rectangular cell packs, then all subsequent re-potting is with that year’s potting mix, generally good screened compost, peat, limes, rock dust, very old manures, sand, etc. Here is my how my tomato starting system currently works: By seeding on March 25th I am able to prick out the seedlings a couple of weeks later into 2″ pots. Now we’re in early April. I grow on the 2″ pots for 2 to 3 weeks, which brings me to late April/early May. At this time the final transplanting takes place into 5 or 6″ pots, one plant per pot. I used to put two plants into each 8″ pot or 1-gal pot, but I find that, when everything works as it should timing-wise, 5 or 6″ pots give them plenty of root space until mid-May, when I begin transplanting them out into the field, unprotected. Shortly after this last transplanting the young tomatoes are moved from out from under fluorescent lights in the yurt over to our Hammersmark Brand Unheated Poly Coldframes in the field. We close them at night and open them during sunny days.

 

Sweet Jessica Tea

And now the clouds taken a soft, clean dump all over my winter fruit tree pruning schedule. We’ve got about eight inches of snow on the ground here at Goosefoot Farms. We’re on Quadra’s Banana Belt, near the south end and close to the sea, so I imagine much of the island is even more snow-undated right now. As I mopped and broomed the snow off our low tunnels, and some of the young fruit trees and bamboo this afternoon, I pondered the possibility that we might be able to grow tea commercially here. In 2001 or so I planted a commercial one-gallon ‘teabreeze’ Camellia sinensis in my parents’ back yard. I’d begged the nursery manager at the garden centre I worked at to bring some of these plants in for the store. As I recall they weren’t very good sellers, possibly due to a lack of “pot appeal”, which is actually a very important part of retail nursery sales. Anyhow, I am always delighted to return home to visit my family and see that tea bush thriving in the same place I planted it, a beautiful dark green and expanding in size steadily. Apparently there is a commercial tea plantation at Tregothnan in Cornwall, and by my reckoning Cornwall is at about 50 degrees North Latitude as well, with probably a similar-ish maritime climate to the one we enjoy. Anyhow, I’ve ordered some tea seeds from Richters, and one of these days will get around to layering the plant at my folks’ place as well, and soon enough one will be able to buy Goosefoot Farms’ black and green “Sweet Jessica” brand tea, both loose and bagged.

View from the west side of the field

View from the west side of the field

the snowy ends of the cilantro and spinach tunnels

the snowy ends of the cilantro and spinach tunnels

this tunnel design is generally strong enough to withstand strong wind and rain, but probably not strong enough for much more snow than this without collapsing

this tunnel design is generally strong enough to withstand strong wind and rain, but probably not strong enough for much more snow than this without collapsing. The specific Japanese plum tree in the back is one of my favourite trees ever 

snowy conifers

snowy conifers near the ravine 

raspberry cane

raspberry cane

Jessica captured the topography of our beloved Wilby Shoal during a stormy retreating tide

Jessica captured the topography perfectly of the beloved Wilby Shoal during a stormy retreating tide

taken a day before the snow, this is some of what is waiting for us underneath, our essential, super-tough, March salad green Corn Salad/Mache

taken a day before the snow, this is some of what is waiting for us underneath, our essential, super-tough, doesn’t-need-any-protection-to-survive-the-winter March salad green Corn Salad/Mache

Water Morning Glory

I don't really have a picture to go along with this post. This is a highway rest stop meal in Burma.

I don’t really have a relevant image to go along with this post. Instead, here is a highway rest stop meal in Burma. Some of the green leafy vegetables are Ipomea aquatica, a beautiful member of the family Convolvulaceae that I’d like to figure out how to grow here at 50 degrees north. 

I know, I get it, everyone wants to know: “Ryan, you are ordering all your seeds online this year, which seed company has the best online shopping interface?” and “which tomato varieties should I grow to have big tomato success in 2014?” I will address both questions here now. Stellar Seeds was the best online catalogue of the bunch this year, by far. Their site is perfectly designed, and makes it very fast and easy to add and subtract items from a shopping cart. So many seed companies have websites where you click on “add to basket” or whatever for a particular item and it takes you to to a different part of the site and you’ve got to click your way back to the part of the catalogue you were just in. None of that sort of nonsense here. You just click ‘add’ and the item gets added and you can continue shopping. They also have the most aesthetically-pleasing printed catalogue of all the ones Jessica and I have received in the mail. Also, they sell ‘Latah’ tomatoes, a variety I bought from their catalogue back in 2007 and have been saving my own seed from every since. ‘Latah’ is our earliest tomato, and consistently matures a crop before the blight begins to be an issue during wet summer years. We don’t even cover them with a low tunnel (though we might this year for an even earlier crop). I remember one summer back in North Vancouver when Jessica and I were able to begin harvesting ripe outdoor tomatoes of this variety on the fourth of July. Here at Goosefoot Farms the ‘Latah’ harvest generally starts the third week in July, and finishes in late August. We sow all our tomato varieties inside under grow lights with bottom heat March 25th. A closing note: I’m pretty sure “Latah” is pronounced “Lay-Tah”, not “Lah-Tah”, because it is named after the county in Idaho in which it was bred, and I think that is how they say ‘Latah’ in Latah.

Seed Orders 2014

It is seed ordering time, and there are always all sorts of ethical and practical complications to consider. This post is sort of me thinking out loud, via typing, putting things down as a part of my record of our little mineral farm. Our seed ordering process is thus: First Jessica and I sort out the remaining seed from last year, putting seed of dubious age and dubious usefulness into a separate area for use in experimentation. All remaining 2013 seed will be sown in 2014. Fortunately we’ve got lots of 2013 seed left over, and will therefore be ordering much less seed in 2014, prioritizing last year’s leftovers. We’ll also (hopefully) be scaling-up our seed saving efforts this year, shooting for 6 types of tomato seed saved, and hopefully a good quantity of peas and also maybe some squash if we can find an isolated spot on the island to grow a large population out far away from other promiscuous Curcurbita maxima varieties. It looks like we’ll be ordering seed from the following companies this year:

Adaptive

Stellar 

Salt Spring 

Full Circle 

West Coast 

Richters

Johnny’s 

William Dam 

Jessica and I have discussed the matter at length and have decided to grow significantly more open pollinated vegetable varieties in 2014, with a few notable exceptions. We get lots of different seed catalogues in the mail each winter, and some of them (I’m not going to name names) now offer primarily F1 hybrids, with very few open pollinated varieties remaining in their pages. There are very few open pollinated vegetable varieties remaining in cultivation compared to 100 years ago. So Jessica and I decided that there are only a handful of crops with which, in our field, F1 hybrids offer us significant advantages over their open pollinated equivalents, so we might as well plant entirely open pollinated crops, with a few F1 exceptions, until we are able to find vigorous, well-adapted open pollinated versions of our old (new) hybrid favourites. I’m writing out “F1 hybrids” and “open pollinated” in full through this entire post.

The exception where F1 hybrids currently seem to offer us obvious advantages are:

zucchini, broccoli, kohlrabi, corn, cabbage, basil, and many beautiful asian greens.

Of course we’ve been sowing a mixture of open pollinated and hybrid seed here at Goosefoot Farms since we broke ground three years ago, and I doubt we’ll ever abandon F1 hybrids altogether. I’m interested in the relationship between plant breeding and the nutrient density of vegetables, and am intrigued by the idea that open pollinated vegetables may be more nutritious than modern F1  hybrids. I’m working on figuring out how to figure out if that is the case or not.

 

 

Minerals for the People

I’m back from my sabbatical in the USA, excited about the year of soil, plant and human health ahead. I’d go so far as to say I am currently as excited or even more excited than I’ve ever been in anticipation of an approaching gardening season right now. Jessica and I received the results of our second round of laboratory soil testing a few weeks ago, and did the calculations, and ordered the minerals, a tiny fraction of which will hopefully end up incorporated into our bodies and into the bodies of our friends and loved ones, via fruits and vegetables from our field. This is our second consecutive season of soil-test-based remineralization work here at Goosefoot Farms, and I’m feeling very confident that 2014 will be another year of great abundance and nutrient-dense deliciousness. It is very satisfying to look at last year’s soil test results and this year’s soil test results side by side to see the great strides we’ve already made in bringing our soil closer to an ideal mineral balance. I am now offering vegetable garden soil remineralization services, consultations, classes, and workshops as new additions to the professional horticultural services I offer to the fine people of Quadra, Cortes and beyond.

 

In other news, Jessica has almost finished creating the new web page for Goosefoot Farms. It is very modern and chic, very useable, and the sort of site you want to keep coming back to again and again because it is so intuitive and web 3.0. That site won’t affect this blog, as I plan to keep ryansgarden.com going just the way it is, and Jessica will keep eatingthecoast.blogspot.com going (I hope). The focus of the new farm site is the business side of things, with a real time list of the vegetables and fruits we’ve got for sale, a list of classes and workshops, positive press, links to places that carry our products and that sort of thing.

 

We’re trying something new this year: The farm is going to be open for public direct sales of vegetables on Wednesdays between noon and sunset, starting on an as-yet-to-be-determined date in June, 2014. We’ll also be open to sales on a by-appointment basis. The Vegetable Box Program/CSA  will continue in 2014 (year 3!), though it is going to be scaled back slightly. If you were a CSA member in 2013 and are reading this, expect to hear from Jessica and I within a couple of weeks with information regarding the program. One of the big goals for 2014 is to experiment with balancing and optimizing multiple vegetable distribution methods. We’ve got all sorts of things in the works right now. I’ll post a link to the new Goosefoot Farms site here once it is up and running. Until then, remember, a wise old monk once said: “It is best to have your garden soil tested regularly at a reputable laboratory, using the results to accurately remineralize the soil and encourage human and plant health”. Here are some pictures of sugarloaf chicory harvested this afternoon from under a low tunnel:

one of the last of winter's sugarloaf chicories, a green so fantastic and otherworldly in salads I can't even begin to describe it

one of the last of winter’s sugarloaf chicories, a vegetable so startlingly delicious with vinaigrette dressing I can’t even begin to describe it

leaves, heart and brain for salad

Anatomy of salad heads: leaves, heart and brain 

after -10 low temperatures recently (!) much of the outer leaves are used as mulch instead of salad

after -10 low temperatures recently (!) most of the outer leaves don’t make it into the salad bowl 

Sweet Angel Cupcake

My sweet angel cupcake Jessica has woken up her amazing blog, Eating the Coast. Go check it out while you wait for me to “put up” some “content” here at ryansgarden.com.

Hiatus

I figured I’d put something up here to let anyone who may be reading this know that this blog isn’t finished, it is just asleep. I’m down in Oakland, California right now, taking a few weeks off and planning the year ahead. So if I haven’t replied to your email, or haven’t moderated your comment, I apologize. 2014 is going to be an exciting year at Goosefoot Farms. I’ll be back on Quadra in early February.

Winter Cilantro 2013/2014

inside a low tunnel

inside a low tunnel

In July I direct-seeded a quadruple row of cilantro down one of the beds in Section 1. Half the planting is the variety ‘Calypso’, and the other half is the old standby ‘Santo’. There is no consistent different in appearance between the two varieties, though neither variety is particularly uniform and within each type there is much variability. I don’t detect any difference in taste between the two, though I am admittedly far from being a super taster. It may be worth noting that both Jessica and myself have experienced that winter cilantro tastes different than summer cilantro. Not necessarily better or worse, just different in some way I can’t quite put my finger on.

unprotected by a low tunnel

unprotected by a low tunnel

In late November  Jessica covered the cilantro bed with one of our standard low tunnels clad in .6 milimeter thick clear polyethylene. We’d started harvesting the cilantro a month or so before, and have continued regularly through now, taking two or three leaves from each plant. After the first real cold weather back in December we stopped harvesting from our non-low-tunnel cilantro, though I am pleased to report that those chilly fellows are still alive, if a little unhappy looking. Overall, I’m very encouraged to have found another delicious crop suitable for winter low tunnels in this area.

Less Internet/Winter Vegetables/Splitting Wood

the author and his grandfather, Roger Leberre

the author and his beloved grandfather, Roger Leberre, discussing chicories

I’m back after a break. I’m currently re-evaluating my relationship to the internet, and am attempting to pare down my use of it to blogging, email and podcasts. Also music and audiobooks. Spending a week in the Vancouver area recently reinforced many of my concerns regarding the internet and it’s intrusion into peoples’ lives, including my own. I’m taking steps to avoid getting completely enslaved: I won’t own a smartphone any time soon. (Can we retire the word “smartphone” permanently? They don’t seem to be making anyone any smarter.) Recently, after attracting a massive number of followers on Twitter, well into the double digits, and having many of my posts “go viral” and get re-Tweeted all over the place, I decided I don’t gain anything positive from Twitter and deleted my account. Just in case this post wasn’t rambling and hypocritical enough, I’m thinking of starting a podcast about soil and plants.

tools for splitting wood the old fashioned way

tools for splitting wood the old fashioned way

In other news, the garden has survived the winter very well so far. Some of the unprotected winter crops have succumbed to the weather (it got to a low of about -7 celsius one night last month). All of the low tunnel crops, with the exception of the Japanese edible chrysanthemum shungiku, are still providing us with bounteous harvests. Cilantro has been a stand-out winner this winter: An early-July sowing, now under a low tunnel, has provided us with many bunches of the finest cilantro, and is still going strong. I’ve got a post about it germinating. Smoothies with lots of kale, cilantro, radicchio, escarole, celery, and other greens and purples continue to be a regular part of our diets. Speaking of regular, I plan to begin composting all of my own digestive wastes soon. The plan is to process it in a hot composting system, similar to the one we already use on the farm for composting materials that aren’t human waste. After turning a couple of times, we’ll let it finish breaking down for two years, well covered, before using it to grow bamboo in a yet-to-be-determined sunny piece of land. Thought it would of course also be perfectly safe for use in growing vegetables after such lengthy processing, using humanure on edible crops is not a concept I have any interest in personally exploring at this point, for a million different reasons.

ready to be stacked somewhere dry and windy

some of next year’s firewood, waiting to be stacked somewhere dry and windy

It is wood-splitting season, and today I spent many enjoyable hours splitting rounds from a wind-fall hemlock that had been leaning into a big alder tree near the yurt for two years. We haven’t experienced any of the typical fall or winter wind storms yet this season, so freshly-fallen trees for use as firewood have been in short supply. Hence, I finally got (most of) the hemlock down from the big alder tree. I get gret enjoyment out of all aspects of the firewood process, except of course the air pollution. I particularly enjoy splitting rounds by hand in the woods on frosty winter days.

Technical Difficulties and Snow

this blog is well rooted

this blog is well rooted

(My best guess is that) Robots hacked this site the other day. Again. It is fixed now. I took it offline and sent it to a very competent woman in the southern hemisphere to have it fixed, and she got it sorted out in no time. We live in amazing times. I don’t know why I’m having this sort of issue at all – This must be one of the internet’s least controversial blogs, with a very modest readership, to put it kindly. The robots don’t seem to be picking their targets very well. I imagine it will happen again, sooner or later. All that exists does so in a state of continual change. One day I’ll start fresh, with a new URL, a new theme, a new look. Everything. Probably not for a few years at least. The whole idea of “hackers” and “computer viruses” is so passé right now. Boring. I shan’t waste any more time on it aside from asking: Why are they trying to hoe me out?

yesterday afternoon

yesterday afternoon

unprotected chard to the left, with cilantro and spinach under tunnels

unprotected chard to the left, with cilantro and spinach under tunnels

It got down to -7 the other night, possibly cold enough to kill these unprotected chard plants

It got down to -7 the other night, possibly cold enough to kill these unprotected chard plants

radicchio - this will probably survive and will be ready to harvest after thawing out

radicchio – this will probably survive and will be ready to harvest after thawing out

Leeks, one of our toughest winter vegetables

Leeks, one of our toughest winter vegetables

December 4th 2013

useful cool season volunteers/spontaneous cover crop

useful cool season volunteers work as a spontaneous winter cover crop

Section 6 in early December. The light plant matter in the foreground is withered nasturtium vines

Section 6 in early December. The light plant matter in the foreground is withered nasturtium vines lying on top of leaf mulch 

mushrooms, woodchip mulch, and a young gooseberry photographed last week, right before the first hard frosts

mushrooms, woodchip mulch, and a young gooseberry bush photographed last week, right before the first hard frosts

frosty morning tatsoi

frosty morning tatsoi

'bietola a costa fine' chard from Adaptive Seeds

‘bietola a costa fine’ chard from Adaptive Seeds

the comfrey border in Section 1

the comfrey border in Section 1

frosty radicchio

frosty radicchio

Cabbage Blanket

one of our 2013 winter squash beds, photographed in July

one of our 2013 winter squash beds, photographed in July

the same bed photographed today, December 3rd 2013

The same bed photographed today, December 3rd 2013. The squash were harvested in September and the vines were left to wither in place. This bed was fallow turf until May, when compost and minerals were spread and it was roughly tilled a twice, then sheet-mulched with paper and leaf mould and planted to squash. We have found this to be an effective way to create new beds, as the squash foliage shades the soil very thoroughly, slowing down any weeds that make it through gaps in the sheet-mulch. 

a section of this winter's hardiness trial, braving the cold without protection of fleece or poly: Mibuna, kohlrabi, daikon, choi sum, and a strange non-heading yellowish-green cabbage of some sort

a section of this winter’s hardiness trial, braving the cold without protection of fleece or poly: Mibuna, kohlrabi, daikon, choi sum, and a strange non-heading yellowish-green napa cabbage 

turning compost in the sun this afternoon

turning compost in the sun this afternoon

parsnips and leeks

parsnips and leeks

napa cabbage under fleece for this week of cold  dry air

napa cabbage snuggled together under fleece for this week of cold, dry air

unprotected komatsuna frozen and shivering, it will probably survive

unprotected komatsuna, though frozen and shivering, will probably survive the winter 

Kimchi Ingredients December 2013

not in picture: salt, garlic, ginger, Quadra-grown authentic Korean kimchi chili pepper, dried shrimp

not photographed: salt, Goosefoot Farms garlic, ginger (imported – need to grow in a greenhouse next year), Goosefoot Farms authentic Korean variety kimchi chili pepper, dried shrimp (maybe)

napa cabbage, not the finest specimens we've grown but it'll still be delicious

napa cabbage, not our finest specimens but beautiful nonetheless. We’ve found this sort of cabbage to be tremendously well-suited to our dreary winters. Some survived the entire (admittedly mild) winter of 2012/2013 in our field completely unprotected 

 

 

we've found green onions to be one of the most resilient winter crops in our field, surviving both floods and cold without any protection

green onions are another crop we’ve been able to overwinter successfully without protection

a beautiful daikon grown from Japanese seed. direct-sown on August 7th and thinned soon after to 4" apart

a beautiful plump variety of daikon radish grown from Japanese seed. direct-seeded on August 7th and thinned soon after emergence to  4″ apart in-row

Vegetables in the Field on December 1st, 2013

section 1 in the early December sun

section 1 in the early december sun

one of the last vegetables we seeded this year, a row of evergreen long white nebuka onions sown in early September

one of the last vegetables to be direct-seeded, a row of green onions (Allium fistulosum) sown in early September

I've noticed that artichokes often put on a spurt of new growth in October and November before dying down for winter

I’ve noticed that artichokes often put on a spurt of new growth in October and November before dying down for winter

the spontaneous appearance of corn salad/mach under a heavily harvested early July planting of unprotected winter chard

the spontaneous appearance of corn salad/mach under a heavily harvested early-july planting of unprotected winter chard. We grew a crop of corn salad seed in this bed a few years ago 

cilantro has been growing very happily under a tunnel. This is our first fall/winter crop of cilanto, and so far so good

this late-july sowing of cilantro, our first ever for fall/winter harvest, has gown very well so far and now enjoys the protection of a low tunnel

the shoots remaining on a late planting of shungiku (Chrysanthemum coronarium) died off in the most recent frost

the shoots remaining on a late-July planting of shungiku (Chrysanthemum coronarium) died off in the most recent frost

this shungiku volunteer in a different bed 100 feet away is still thriving

this shungiku volunteer in a different bed from the above photo, 100 feet away, is still thriving

two tunnels opened up in the mild afternoon

two tunnels opened up to the mild afternoon

closed for the night

closed for the night

an early-August sowing of arugula

an early-August sowing of ‘Astro’ arugula

an april sowing of red celery. 20% of the plants bolted before winter

red celery, 20% of which bolted before winter, and which has been one of my favourite new introductions for 2013

overwintering purple and white sprouting broccolis

overwintering purple and white sprouting broccoli, sown in pots in late June and planted out in mid-July

tough as nails old fashioned leaf celery

tough as nails old fashioned leaf celery

Japanese spinach from a late-august sowing

Japanese spinach from a late-august sowing

the most misleadingly-named vegetable in the English Language:  " 'Perpetual Spinach' chard".

the most misleadingly-named vegetable in the English Language:
” ‘Perpetual Spinach’ chard”.

sugarloaf chicory

sugarloaf chicory

'cornet de Bordeaux' escarole

‘cornet de Bordeaux’ escarole

'diva' escarole

‘diva’ escarole

"Jerusalem" "Artichokes" (can we please call them something else from now on? They are not from Jerusalem and they aren't artichokes. "Sunchoke" sounds like something bad that can happen at a picnic. Maybe "fartroots"?

“Jerusalem” “Artichokes” (can we please call them something else from now on? They are not from Jerusalem and they aren’t artichokes. Also, “Sunchoke” sounds like something bad that could happen at a picnic. Maybe “fartroots” is the best choice after all?

Goosefoot Farms

Tunnels bask in the rare November sun (about to be opened for the day)

Tunnels bask in the rare November sun (about to be opened for the day)

I’m back for good this time. I don’t want this blog to sputter out, so whomever might still be following at this point, I promise to post a bunch of recent photos of our field very soon. We’ve enjoyed a remarkably dry autumn, and the garden has now officially geared-down for winter. The last vegetable boxes have been distributed, and the sun sets just after 4:00. Jessica and myself have continued enjoying a wide variety of produce, and have erected seven (!) low tunnels to carry some crops through the winter. I expect 950 Square feet of beds under tunnels, and the odd survivor outside of the tunnels, will keep Jessica and myself in fresh vegetables through the spring. Celery, cilantro, and an assortment of escaroles are the low-tunnel crops I’m most excited about this year. The 2013 Vegetable Box Program/CSA finished on November 10th, and I didn’t post anything to this blog about it. The program was a tremendous success, and we thoroughly enjoyed supplying 20 members will boxes for 23 consecutive Sundays. There will be a vegetable box program again next year, for the third year, but we’re still deciding what it is going to look like. We’re almost certainly going to greatly expand the amount of land we have in crops in the coming years. I’m really excited for the 2014 season.One more thing: Jessica and I have decided to call the food-growing wing of our organization ‘Goosefoot Farms’. I don’t want to hear from anyone who thinks it isn’t a good name, because our minds are fully made up, and the last time we tried to name the farm, which was at the time a fledgling seed growing operation, so many people went on and on about how terrible they thought the name I’d thought up was that we abandoned it altogether. This is the new, permanent name. Goosefoot Farms. Like the foot of a type of bird, the goose. And farms with an ‘s’.

November Brassicas

塌棵菜/タアサイ/Tatsoi, direct-seeded in early August

Tatsoi, direct-seeded in early August

the remaining 8 or so of the 15 different types of brassica planted in this bed in early August

the remaining 7 or so of the 15 different types of brassica planted in this bed in early August. Photographed today, November 6th 2013

the same bed photographed on September 19th, 2013

the same bed photographed on September 19th 2013

Winter

Winter is coming. Between 6:36 and 9:42 of this collection of songs is exactly how I felt when I saw frost on the beds this morning:

This Weeks Shares, November 3rd 2013

2013's second-to-last vegetable box

2013′s second-to-last vegetable box

a few days after garlic was harvested from this bed in early August, two-week-old broccoli transplants were planted

a few days after garlic was harvested from this bed in early August, two-week-old broccoli transplants were planted

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This Week’s Shares

one of Sunday october 27th's shares

one of Sunday october 27th’s shares

mibuna is a miracle brassica that amazes us each October

mibuna is a miracle brassica that amazes us each October

'Sugarloaf' Chicory

‘Sugarloaf’ Chicory

beets and celery for next week's shares

beets and celery for next week’s shares

Autumn Fennel 2013

a member of the order Lepidoptera found this morning on one of the fennel plants

a member of the order Lepidoptera found this morning on one of the fennel plants

In July we planted some June-sown florence fennel transplants into a bed that had previously grown an overwintered crop of ‘Galleon’ Cauliflower. In startling contrast to a similar planting in a different part of the garden last year, most of this year’s fennel are now flowering. Members of the family Apiaceae are of course always welcome around here for the wide variety of beneficial insects they attract to the field. Also, the bulbs are currently still delicious and tender despite the bolting, and contribute a very nice flavour to bone stocks when added during the last hour or so of simmering.

80% of this bed's fennel plants have bolted

80% of this bed’s fennel plants have bolted

still delicious, despite the unexpected early blooms

still delicious, despite the unexpected early blooms

The Past Two Weeks’ Vegetable Boxes

one of last Sunday's shares

one of last Sunday’s shares

one of Sunday October 13th's shares

one of Sunday October 13th’s shares

Effects of A Variety of August Sowing Dates on a Crop of Autumn Spinach

The following photos show the effects of three different spinach sowing dates. One third of the bed was sown in early August, one third was sown in mid-August, and one third was sown in late August. The variety  (a beautiful arrow-leaf type from Northern Japan), soil preparation, irrigation and spacing were identical for all three sections, as was the bed’s preceding crop. Now, in late October, as the growth of all three sections of spinach winds down with the onset of winter, the role timing plays in autumn and winter vegetable growing becomes startlingly clear. Though the plantings only span four weeks, only the early August sowing has yielded full sized plants.

late august sowing date

late august sowing date

mid august sowing date

mid august sowing date

early august sowing date

early august sowing date

this year's autumn spinach experiment bed, viewed from the late August end

this year’s autumn spinach experiment bed, viewed from the late August end

School District 84 Field Trip

I was honoured to have the opportunity to tour a group of  highschool students from Kyuquot, Tahsis, and Gold River around our garden this past Sunday morning. I had a great time, and was very pleased to have been able to connect well with the group. Some of the girls even jammed their hands into a hot compost pile, which I generally take as a sign that a garden tour is going reasonably well. Also they laughed at my jokes, which I appreciate very much. I hope to be able to host more school groups here in the future.

End of Haitus

the author with a sugarloaf chicory

the author with a sugarloaf chicory

I took a few weeks off blogging. We’ve had miraculously dry weather so far this month, have been happily going about our many diverse autumn garden tasks without being forced to don rain clothes. I’ve got some photos from the past couple of weeks’ vegetable harvests, among other things, to post here soon. My twitter feed is another source of need-to-know…content.

Turning Compost

Great news: I’ll be giving a presentation to the Quadra Island Garden Club on Monday November 18th. Doors are at 6.30, and the meeting starts at 7.00. Non garden club members are very welcome, and are under no obligation to become members should they not desire to. A nominal drop in fee is kindly asked of non-members. I plan to discuss how Jessica and my understanding of soil health and vegetable gardening has evolved over the years, and how our techniques have changed. Also on the agenda are a discussion of our recent experiences with soil testing and soil remineralization. I may also meander into any number of other garden-y things, time and people’s fidgeting dependant. Please enjoy the following photos of a pile of thermophilic compost being turned from one bin to the other:

with the pallet doors removed, a hot compost  pile I assembled 10 days prior is waiting to be forked into the adjacent bin. The pile is roughly 15% horse manure by volume.

with the pallet doors removed, a hot compost pile I assembled 10 days prior is waiting to be forked into the adjacent bin. The pile is roughly 15% horse manure by initial volume.

half way there note: steam. Hot enough to cook and egg!

half way there note: steam. Hot enough to cook and egg!

almost finished...

almost finished…

an honest use of calories

an honest use of the pile’s and my own calories

Squash (Part Two)

squash from Sendai (eaten) and squash from Hokkaido (intact)

squash from Sendai (eaten) and squash from Hokkaido (intact)

rats? mink? martins? mice? cats? raccoons? bears? squirrels? Probably rats...

rats? mink? martins? mice? cats? raccoons? bears? squirrels? Probably rats…

Hokkaido from Salt Spring Seeds

Hokkaido from Salt Spring Seeds

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

poster

filledboxes

wheelbarrow

chardetc

Winter Squash (Part One)

buttercupandbabyhubbard

pickedvines

squashmachete

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

one of this week's shares

one of this week’s shares

I missed most of this past Sunday’s vegetable harvest, as I was at my beloved Aunt Alice’s 80th birthday party in Powell River. I got back to Quadra an hour before people started showing up to pick up their weekly vegetable boxes, and my entire contribution to the day’s work was placing a bulb of garlic in each box and taking some pictures. A big thank you to Eleisha for taking my place and helping Jessica with the harvest, and for drawing the week’s vegetable poster, which Jessica and I will have framed and will keep in our safe for a decade or two before selling it and using the money to buy bejeweled rims for our future future-car. The week’s boxes contain lots of beautiful July and August-sown greens at this time of year, with grade-AAA escarole and mizuna to add a touch of class. In unrelated news, Twitter is almost completely pointless and I’m tweeting here now, for now, mostly about vegetables and my relationship with Jessica.

filled boxes ready for pickup

filled boxes ready for pickup

Radicchio Irregularity

'Palla Rossa' radicchio, with one beautiful frizzy off type specimen

‘Palla Rossa’ radicchio, with one beautiful frizzy off type specimen

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

rain fell on us 95% of the time we spent harvesting the week's boxes yesterday

rain fell on us for 95% of the time we spent harvesting yesterday’s vegetable boxes

radish tunnel: For the boxes we harvested the remaining 2 rows of what was a very dense 4-rows-across-a-3-foot-wide-bed planting of 4 different types of radishes. The first row to be harvested, two weeks ago, was 'French Breakfast', and the second was 'Amethyst'. This week's boxes received 'Summer Cross' Daikon and Chinese Beauty Heart radishes

radish tunnel: For the boxes this week we harvested the remaining 2 rows of the results of a very dense quadruple-row planting of 4 different types of radishes back in early August. The first row to be harvested, two weeks ago, was ‘French Breakfast’, and the second was ‘Amethyst’. This week’s boxes received ‘Summer Cross’ Daikon and Chinese Beauty Heart radishes

the insect netting worked very well to keep cabbage root maggots from ruining the radishes

the insect netting worked very well to keep cabbage root maggots from ruining the radishes

daikon

daikon

beauty hearts (left) and daikon (right)

beauty hearts (left) and daikon (right)

my camera spent the day getting moisture-damaged and at the end of the day started producing moody "pieces" like this. If anyone reading this is interested in selling a good used Canon dslr circa 2009 to 2012 (or trading vegetables for it) contact me

my camera spent the day getting moisture-damaged in the field and at the end of the day started producing moody “pieces” like this. If anyone reading this is interested in selling a good used Canon dslr circa 2009 to 2013 (or trading vegetables for it) contact me. Also, prints of this image are for sale now for $250 (and up – signatures and finger smears cost more), with all proceeds going to the charitable ‘Jessica and Ryan take buses through Texas, Mexico and California for no reason this winter’ Foundation

filled boxes, almost no room left for more vegetables

well filled vegetable boxes, almost no room left for more vegetables

Fast Asian Autumn Brassica Bed

the east side of this year's fast asian Brassica bed, photographed this afternoon (September 19th)

the east side of this year’s Fast Asian Autumn Brassica Bed (FAABB), photographed this afternoon (September 19th). Missing from the photo is the bok choi we harvested from the front row last Sunday 

On August 7th my dear friend Heather and I direct-seeded 14 different types of Asian Brassicas into a bed from which a crop of garlic had recently been harvested.  The fastest of the 14 types of vegetables, this beautiful bok choi, was included in last Sunday’s vegetable boxes. The other 13 will be harvested throughout the remaining 8 weeks of this year’s vegetable box program. Over the years we’ve been continually amazed by how fast growing and delicious many of the Asian Brassicas are when sown between early and mid-August, and this year has been no exception.

August 13th, 6 days after sowing.

August 13th, 6 days after sowing.

I hoed this bed with a very sharp collinear hoe about two weeks after seeding, then thinned each type of vegetable according to past experiences with it and/or semi-educated guesses. I’m very pleased to see how well most of these brassicas are doing in this ultra-dense planting. The majority of the 14 seem to be competing very well with the bed’s weeds. Physalis pruinosa, the sassy, tangy groundcherry, is the main weed in this bed, as we grew a bunch in the same spot last summer and they are very effective at moving around gardens as they please by seed. It would be interesting to see what this planting date and spacing would have produced had the field not received reasonably regular rainfall since mid-August. I expect such a crowded rhizosphere would have made for some thirsty plants had it not rained.

August 7th, planting day: Furrows waiting for seed (and some broccoli transplants that needed a home)

August 7th, planting day: Furrows waiting for seed (and some broccoli transplants that needed a home)

August 13th, 6 days after planting

August 13th, 6 days after planting

the bed today, 43 days after seeding

the bed today, 43 days after planting

“Natural Farming Needs No Books. In My Books I Wrote ‘Books Are Useless’ ”

small fish farm next to a house on stilts on the Poso River, Sulawesi

small fish farm next to a house on stilts on the Poso River, Sulawesi

snake-handling hipster snake oil salesmen, Luwuk, Sulawesi

snake-handling hipster snake oil salesmen, Luwuk, Sulawesi

Central Sulawesi

Central Sulawesi

Jackfruit harvesting, Tentena, Sulawesi

Jackfruit harvesting, Tentena, Sulawesi

This truly bizarre yoga video looks like something Eric Wareheim would think up. It also reminds me of much of my life with Jessica inside the yurt:

The first two and a half minutes or so of this are utterly superb:

The bit where zany old man Fukuoka admonishes the rice farmer’s techniques while crouched down next to his crop is amazing:

And for some reason made me think of this:

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

from the centre of the field, shortly after sunrise

from the centre of the field, shortly after sunrise

We woke up in a cloud today, and most of our Sunday harvest took place in thick fog. There was so much moisture in the air that it dripped from the trees all morning. It felt like a pause in the regular weather programming, a sort of meteorological purgatory between summer and winter. By evening the heavy rains had arrived, and now it feels like summer is well and truly finished. We’ve got a fire going for the first time since April. We’ve started harvesting our traditional autumn vegetables now: Arugula, various asian greens, leeks. It was a great week for greens of all sorts.

a bed of fast growing asian brassicas

a bed of fast growing asian brassicas

bok choi

bok choi

my sweet angel

my sweet angel

escarole is our favourite green, and this is the best escarole we've ever grown

escarole is our favourite green, and this is the best escarole we’ve ever grown

ten escarole in a wheelbarrow

ten escarole in a wheelbarrow

Komatsuna, direct-seeded August 2nd

Komatsuna, direct-seeded August 2nd

filled boxes awaiting pickup

filled boxes awaiting pickup

the contents of one of this week's veggie boxes

the contents of one of this week’s veggie boxes

“Offering Views of Exiting Empires”

At about 7:00 this evening, shortly after returning home from spending the day off the farm, I went for a jog, starting at our yurt and jogging for about 200 meters before turning around upon running into the vicinity of a black bear running away from me. It was crashing clumsily and very noisily through the brush by the time I realized it wasn’t just another black ‘Spirit Deer’. Along with the wolves, I’ve now seen two-thirds of the “animal species that are technically capable of killing me while I run through the woods” in our area. That leaves you, cougar. Your move. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I’ve requested that both Jessica #1 and Jessica #2 avenge my death in the event I’m killed by malicious wildlife. Also, I fully intend to “stand my ground” if one of the marauding hordes of Wildlife-Gone-Wild happens to actually enter our yurt.

In other yurt news: Lately I’ve been working in a client’s garden once a week, and for the past couple of weeks as I work in the garden I’ve been listening to Dan Carlin’s epic five part audiobook-as-podcast The Wrath of the Khans. By the sounds of things, Old Genghis and his crew definitely made it up to and through the Carpathian mountains which are of course the blessed homeland of the Magnificent Nassichuk Clan. I don’t think it is a stretch to strongly suspect I’m most likely one of Genghis’ direct descendants. Apparently one in 500 people in Asia today can be genetically linked directly to Genghis. He was a very active man, right up to the end. A busy little guy. Lots of what we know about the man is speculative, but it seems certain that Genghis (his name is actually where the concept of being a “G” in hip hop comes from) lived a really crazy life and definitely killed tens of millions of people. Spending lots of time considering the expansion and consolidation of the Mongolian Empire of the 1200s made me think of the lyrics to this song. The top two youtube comments are:

1 – “The fuck is he singing about?”, and

2- “he’s signing about finally having everything you think you needed, and then having it mean nothing but outdated”

Inter-Island Tourism

completely unrelated to any of the content of this post. Storage onions and shallots drying with fans during wet weather a week or so ago

completely unrelated to any of the content of this post. Storage onions and shallots drying with the help of fans during wet weather a week or so ago

Jessica and I took a road trip with our dear friends Heather and Kevin to Denman Island last week, to finally visit this nursery we’d all heard about. It was well worth the trip, as we found picking Peter the nurseryman’s brain to be educational and thought provoking. Also, we returned to Quadra with all sorts of interesting trees and shrubs. A Meyer lemon, two types of mulberry (one from the Hunza Valley!), a couple of green gage plums, autumn olive, fig, and goumi. September and October are usually the months we spend the most time planting fruit trees and shrubs, and Jessica and I are both really excited to get our new plants in the ground. Particularly exciting to me are the mulberries: There is a black mulberry tree in my parents’ neighbourhood in North Vancouver that I had the good fortune of visiting mid-summer this year. Mulberries can produce spectacularly delicious fruit in our climate, and very high yields seem possible with minimal care. The tree in question appears to have been left to its own devices for a decade and a half, the decade and a half since the zany old Italian man who planted it left the neighbourhood (r.i.p. Mr. Iacovelli, probably). So much ripe fruit falls from this particular tree that the lane beneath it’s overhanging branches is stained purple. Old Man Iacovelli would be aghast to see such waste, I’m sure. I’m aghast for him.

“Don’t Raise Your Head If You Don’t Wish to Raise It”

This is by far the greatest youtube asana video I’ve come across. Everything about it is completely perfect in every way. Also, “Now exhale air!” is almost always great advice.

Compost Mural

Zoe Cassidy (yes, THE Zoe Cassidy) blessed our garden with his art a few nights ago. It spans two of the front pallets doors. He finished the piece after dark, by the light of a headlamp. I love the painting so much, and am so happy to see it each morning. Zoe is a unique, beautiful human being.

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes – September 8th, 2013

Last Week’s Vegetable Boxes

Last Sunday, August 25th, for the first time since the inception of our Vegetable Box Program, I completely neglected to post a photo of that week’s vegetable boxes. Better late than never, I suppose, so here it is, along with that week’s vegetable artwork, which will hopefully become a more regular part of this blog. The final image is the artwork that accompanied the previous week (Aug. 18th)’s shares.

one of sunday, August 25th's vegetable shares

one of sunday, August 25th’s vegetable shares

signcloseup

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes/Where Have I Been?

one of this week's shares, posing

one of this week’s shares, posing

I’m afraid I haven’t been dedicating as much time to this blog as I’d like lately. Between the gardening, the talking about gardening, the eating, the sleeping, the relationship intimacy, and the exercising, I haven’t had much pep left around sunset to get much done online. About a month ago I joined twitter and tweeted about a wart I had growing on my finger. I updated my followers fairly frequently for three days, then stopped abruptly. Now Ive lost my login and password, so I guess my tweets will remain for posterity. Look me up on twitter. The wart on my finger disappeared as quickly as it had appeared a couple of weeks ago. Anyhow, I’m back: Expect frequent posts starting now. I’ve been filling my CF card with pictures almost every day, and soon I’ll be able to make the time to post some of the backlog some time soon. I’m also considering posting some photos taken in the field this summer during the dull winter months, to keep this blog bright and sunshiney.

veg box signIn other news, Jessica and I will (hopefully) be selling top rate salad to whomever wants to buy some this autumn and early winter. I’ll post more regarding the logistics of this plan once we’ve got the finer details hammered out. The past couple of autumns we’ve harvested beautiful baby-leaf salad greens throughout September/October/November. This year, if the weather cooperates, we’ll hopefully begin selling salad some time in late October or early November. Stay tuned for exciting developments here at Hammersmark-Nassichuk (quarter) acre(s).

This

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

one of this week's boxes

one of this week’s boxes

filled boxes, awaiting pickup

filled boxes, awaiting pickup

my camera got lost in the field for four days this week, and about two inches of rain fell. It took foggy pictures when I found it this morning

my camera got lost in the field for four days this week, and about two inches of rain fell. It took foggy pictures when I found it this morning

Dragon Tongue bush beans

Dragon Tongue bush beans

Ping Tung eggplants - Success!

Ping Tung eggplants – Success!

Jessica harvesting broccoli from Paul's field in Q-Cove

Jessica harvesting broccoli from Paul’s field in Q-Cove

Paul Puddy, one of the island's very best vegetable growers

Paul Puddy, one of the island’s very best vegetable growers

beautiful red cabbage in Paul's field

beautiful red cabbage in Paul’s field

August 12, 2013: Photo Update

volunteer pathway shungiku (Chrysanthemum coronarium)

volunteer pathway shungiku (Chrysanthemum coronarium)

insect netting opened for irrigation

insect netting opened for irrigation

flowering artichoke with tenants

flowering artichoke with tenants

fast autumn and winter brassicas for planting now

fast autumn and winter brassicas for planting now

Pesto County

Pesto County

section 2 - Late cucumber experiment in the bed on the left (seeded in 2" pots June 15th, planted out in the field early the second week in July)

section 2 – Late cucumber experiment in the bed on the left (seeded in 2″ pots June 15th, planted out in the field early the second week in July)

Section 6, the new section

Section 6, the new section

open air tomatoes: No greenhouse, no polytunnel.

open air tomatoes: No greenhouse, no polytunnel.

This Week’s Vegetable Boxes

the contents of one of this week's veggie boxes

zuchflowers

sign

Found in a Flat of Escarole Seedlings this Morning

This Banana slug didn't eat any of the little escarole plants in this flat. I think s/he (they're both sexes, slugs) simply got lost and wound up on a flat on our back deck

This Banana slug didn’t eat any of the little escarole plants in this flat. I think s/he (they’re both sexes, slugs) simply got lost and wound up amongst the seedling on our back deck