Putting the “Urban” in Urban Agriculture

photo(2)

We seem to have done more general contracting work than farming last week, such are the joys of our urban environment. We came to a conclusion about our fencing options and put our plan in motion – purchase our own materials, hire a contractor to install our cedar posts, then rely on the skill and friendship of our community to put up the wire. So last week ‘Larry and the boys’ (contractors Kenton found in the Yellow Pages – not the actual company name) took a day and a half to sight, dig, place, and pack limestone for all 80+ posts around the perimeter of the Farm. Our wildlife fencing (page wire of different sizes) is to come some time this week, and we’ve already heard of some great ideas to make it’s installation more expedient. If you have some spare time, we’ll most likely still need a significant contingent for this portion. Keep an eye on our facebook page for dates (most likely this week, maybe the weekend).

Through the middle, grassy section of the Farm we have some hydro lines that have been important to both the police station and library construction projects, to the west and east of us respectively, so we’ve been working with contractors that need to access them for the last 2 or so years. This week they were around again with 3 huge trucks inside our fence (didn’t realize there space enough to ever do that!). That overlapped some with Larry and the boys for another day and a half of construction. This Friday they’ll be back to finish up one last thing and maybe that will be it for the season. Nice folks, they were. Brought us coffee break!

10256891_555811464539216_374720939260528188_n

Finally, a pile of top soil scraped up from the library site was left for our access. We’ve wanted to build up the south end of our space that’s been plagued with a combination of rocky soil and poor water drainage. So this long weekend we moved and graded what we needed with a skid steer. Turns out the pile contained a lot more clay than we expected, and while the space is now built up, our next task will be to make a few passes with a tiller before it dries to a cement-like consistency. Ah, another soil remediation project.

photo 2

photo 1

On a more positive note, arugula, salad mix, swiss chard, parsnips, carrots, cilantro and spinach are in the ground, extra basil, lettuce and cabbages are succession planted into trays, and in addition to garlic and radishes, our beets and onion sets have made an appearance!

Finally Planting!

Image

Friend of the Farm, Matt Dueck and CMU Farmer, Julie Derksen starting seeds last weekend.

As of today, onions, garlic, peas, beets, potatoes, and radishes are in the ground!  Succession plantings of summer savoury, rosemary, kale, cucumbers, and fennel have been seeded into trays and placed in the cold frame.  While it looks like we may have one or two below freezing nights coming up yet this week, soon enough it will be time to pick up our first round of transplants from the good folks at Room to Grow.  There’s something about the immediate vertical nature of transplants (and pea trellises, for that matter) that really make things feel like they’re coming along quickly.

If our last 3 seasons are any indication, we’re maybe 5 or 6 weeks away from our first share box pick-ups.  So far we have about half of our shares sold.  This is always a place of slight panic with a good dose of moderation.  We haven’t started marketing aggressively yet or shoulder-tapping anyone, but at the same time we’re putting seed in the ground as if these veggies are already spoken for.  It’s a place we’ve been in each season, so we’re not strangers to it, and it generally always works out in the end.

Image

The Gnome Gname Game has begun! Have a great idea for a name? Let us know!

So we went shopping last week to T&T with a quick stop at Shelmerdines as well.  Somewhere a long the way we picked up a garden gnome!  As you’ve probably seen on our Facebook page, we’re working to “Gname the Gnome”.  So far, suggestions have included Dennis, Gnorman, Svenne, William, and Timothy.  Our gnome wears a stylish garment of fresh green leaves, with sturdy logs for shoes.  His hat is made of tree bark adorned with moss.  He wears a fine leather belt with over-sized buckle, and in his right hand he carries a handy rake.  His left hand is mischievously folded behind his back and compliments the slight twinkle in his kind eyes.  If you have a good name suggestion, leave it on our Facebook.  We hope to have name for him before the start of the season!

We had a most distressing loss at the Farm over the weekend.  The carrots grown out last year for seed saving were put in the ground last week, only to be eaten by some opportunistic deer!  A years worth of work simply gone!  It brought into sharp relief the need for the new fence we’re putting up this year.  As we’ve started looking at the amount of labour and time requirement it would take to fence our space we’ve also begun looking more closely at the feasibility of hiring the “professionals” to do the work for us.  So far it looks like financially this might be out of our reach, but we keep exploring our options.  Fence building is no small task during an already busy time of year.

One final note, a list of what we’re growing and the stories behind our varieties will be up on the blog within the next few days!  I know we’ve had some folks wondering what we’re all growing this year, so we’re working hard on that this week.

Jeanette

The Weather is Warming

20140501-161521.jpg

Feels so wonderful to be out on the land again. As if my shoulders have been hunched all the impossibly-long-winter long and only now can experience a break. Not only is it good to get my hands dirty, but it is good to reconnect with my fellow farmers as we’ve been dispersed to all parts of the city – and even province – all winter long.

And already there is lots to do. Green annual weeds are already visible! We had some construction activity over the winter, this time in regards to the library, and it’s left some loose ends to tie up that we’re working around for the moment. Soil samples need to be taken and tested, tools need to be assessed for repair, our shelter needs to be put into summer order again.

We’ve decided to cut down on tilling this year, opting instead to plant directly into beds as much as possible. That will be a fun experiment! And we’ve committed to more record keeping and paperwork this year to better know where we’re at on many fronts. You can ask us how we’re keeping up on that throughout the year, I’m sure you’ll get some good answers!

Tonight our ‘seed saver in residence’ (if she’ll allow me to call her that!) is starting up the weekly Thursday night seed saving gathering. You’re all welcome to attend throughout the season. They start at 7pm and I think tonight they’re doing some outside work and also leaning about silica storage techniques. Caroline is a rock star, so make sure you get the chance to learn from her this summer!

This Saturday we will be out all day as well. We’ve employed the labour of a farmer’s partner to work on moving some of that soil mound at the south end onto our lower spots, making them more usable to us after seasons of flooding and rocky soil in those areas.

A new fence is also on the horizon for us this year. We’ve received some money from CMU Student Council (thank you!) and the Bauta Foundation through Caroline (thank you!) to cover the costs. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep more unwanted critters out this way. Last year we had an issue with deer eating our succession planted carrots, beets, and beans, as well as some kale and all our brussel sprouts, so hopefully we won’t have a repeat!

It’s our 4th season, we’re super excited for what it will all bring us! And we hope to see you around some time!

Jeanette