Myrah is 5!

Bouncy Castle Pizza Party Princess

Myrah turned 5 last Monday!

We mashed 4 years of birthday parties into one gigantic epic event! We rented a bouncy castle and had a pizza party with friends and family this weekend. It was great, even the adults had fun!

At Myrah’s request, we had brunch at Smitty’s on her actual day, then went bowling and to the arcade. It was a great week and turning 5 will be hard to top in future years!

Leeks!

The joy of planting onions! The disappointment of not being able to see them in the photo 😛

Jon was able to get some land prepared (compost applied and tilled in) over the past week and then we got a lucky window in between rains and got the leeks in yesterday. All 2000 of them! There’s still 5,000 cortland/storage onions, 2,500 red, 2,000 sweet, 1,000 shallots, and at least 5 trays of green onions to go in yet. Typically we plant onions during early/mid May, so we’re not too far behind yet this year!

Baby leeks nestled beside drip irrigation tape

It’s a bit of a later spring than usual, but not far off. After this, I’m headed out to pick the first spinach!

We have microgreens, beets, and Boho Soul Kombucha stocked at our cooler in Walker’s Greenhouse right now, and when there’s enough spinach to share we’ll stock it there as well!

Open M-F 10-7, Sat 10-6 Sun 12-5

Saturday May 7 at Walker’s Greenhouse

Kendra & Travis Walker are our neighbors and the owners of Walker’s Greenhouse.

They are hosting a Grand Opening on Saturday May 7th from 10 – 6 pm, and we’ll be there with our veggie trailer and some veggies and Mom’s pickles!

Here’s a list of what we will have available that day. Cash, cheque, or e-transfer accepted. (The greenhouse accepts credit & debit too)

Microgreens (shoots) assorted clamshells, and bags of single varieties
Beets, red & gold
Dried Beans
Mom’s Pickles & Preserves: Beet Pickles, Bread & Butter Pickles, Dilled Beans, Dilled Carrots, Dilled Jalapenoes, Dill Pickles, Hot Dog Relish, Million Dollar Relish, Mixed Mustard Pickle, Mustard Bean Pickle, Spicy Dilled Beans, Spicy Dilled Carrots, Spicy Dill Pickles, Corn Relish, Citron Marmalade, Cranberry Sauce, Grape Jelly, Habanero Jelly.
Skratch Bastid‘s Garlic Hot Sauce
Boho Soul Kombucha (Magen Swift, Minnedosa)

*Please check back on Saturday for a complete listing as I may update this today if we find some additional items!

It’s been quite cold this spring, so our nettles, spinach and asparagus haven’t yet started. When they do you will find these items in the cooler at Walker’s during their season (May 7 until mid June).

First Field Seeds of 2022!

Farmer Jon planting the first seeds of our 2022 season!

On Friday, Jon found the perfect window of not-too-wet, not-too-dry, already-composted soil and got some carrots and beets seeded! It rained shortly after to water them in, the remaining snow rapidly melted over the weekend, and this week looks like a good one to germinate some seeds!

Only a day later than the first day of seeding last year: Except last year the seeds went into dust and we had to irrigate immediately. So, despite the slow spring, we are in roughly the same shape as last year, with the advantage of more moisture!

I also took the mulch off the garlic Friday and it looks good!

April 27 Update

Geronimo!

Geronimo! This is Mom’s new cat. She has an interesting story that I wanted to share.

Sometime in January during a really cold spell, my Dad noticed a kitten hiding in the shed. He managed to grab the kitten while wearing a welding glove, and throw it into a heated room (my Dad who claims to hate cats definitely has a soft spot for them!). It was terrified and completely feral and he barely saw it for the next 2 weeks, but made sure it had food and a litterbox. Then Mom started going over to feed it and to spend time with it.

Over the course of the winter she has tamed the kitten, a female named Geronimo, and now she is tame enough to be in the house, and even tolerates Myrah carrying her, and her new brother Blondie, Mom’s other cat.

Geronimo has become the newest member of our family!

Below: Her favourite sleeping spot is in Mom’s puzzle box; our niece Maevey holding Geronimo last week!


A Visit from the Jenkins!

Jon’s sister Alyson visited last week from Calgary, with her kids Caeden (7) and Maevey (10) (husband Dion stayed home with the pets!). We haven’t seen them for over two years so it was great to reconnect and we had an awesome visit! The timing was perfect as we are delayed on spring planting and it feels like we’re just waiting. Might as well have some visitors while we wait! Caeden returned to the arcade at T-Birds that he hasn’t stopped talking about since they were here last time. Maevey was like a big sister to Myrah the whole time and Myrah can’t stop talking about both of them! Unfortunately, Maevey was born (early) a week after Jon and I left Calgary for Nova Scotia, so we have never lived close to the kids, but we are fortunate to typically see them a couple times a year.


A New Chapter

I deleted our farm Facebook and Instagram accounts this week. I haven’t been very active on either platform for the past 6 months, but it felt good to finally pull the plug. I’m just not interested in participating in those spaces anymore, and don’t buy the idea that every business has to have a presence on every platform.

A big part of it is observing overwhelm, in myself and others. Jon has been doing some reading on that topic this winter as well. Basically, since the invention of the printing press we’ve been sliding down an increasing torrential flood of information and there’s no hope of it slowing down. WE have to consciously slow down. I feel called to implementing this in my life.

This looks like spending as little time as possible on screens (As I write this on one, I am aware of the irony), eliminating social media (which truthfully isn’t even fun anymore, anyway), and taking time for slow endeavors like reading, writing, and spending time in nature. I prioritize people who are present in my life and reflect that those don’t seem to be of the same group as the “friends” on social media. (I increasingly find those relationships very shallow, and I find many rely on them as a substitute for an in-real-life relationship: It’s not a substitute. You can find out what others want to share about their life on there, but it is a far cry from truly knowing someone. I feel that part has been forgotten.)

It seems like every company and person is on every platform, so the things that I still want to interact with I sign up for their email newsletters. Then I can filter and file as I choose to: Conscious technology use is my goal.

All this being said, we are all free humans who can all decide what works for us and what doesn’t. If you’re not into receiving our newsletters, I get it! There are many things I am into but don’t want to hear about daily, weekly or even monthly: I seek those things out when I need them. You can check out this Blog page for the most recent updates anytime. I’m focusing on blogging and email newsletters because I feel it’s a good value for my time and the time of others.

Do you really need an up-to-the-minute update on how much the spinach has grown?

So I will no longer with envy, express “good for you” when I meet someone who isn’t on social media. I will fist bump them and say, “me, neither” and then we’ll talk about something real.

Oh, and here’s that spinach update, because I know you’re wondering now:

It doesn’t look like much, I know, but the roots are alive and with some sun and warmth it’ll be producing in no time! We will be sending our spinach harvest to Walker’s Greenhouse when it is available from their opening day May 7th onwards. If we end up with a bumper crop I may send out an email to take some orders, but I don’t expect to do that so Walker’s is your best bet for connecting with some Spinach!

If you’re reading this on our website and want to check if you’re on the mailing list, you can sign up here! (If you’re already signed up it tells you). You can also, apparently, subscribe to updates through our WordPress site. (I don’t know anything about it but there are 65 people signed up for that, and I can’t even figure out how to view who they are!) Jon is one of them, so he gets every blog post as I publish them as well as the newsletters. It’s a bit redundant, but if you are a super fan you can do that option, too (or instead! But I anticipate the deals and insider stuff will go directly to those on the mailing list rather than on the blog.


Seedlings Update:

These trays were suffering under lights longer than they preferred, but they finally got moved out yesterday! When it’s colder than -10C outdoors we struggle to keep the greenhouse heated, so as you can imagine things have been waiting lately as Spring hasn’t quite arrived yet. The good news is they will recover quickly and still have at least a couple weeks until they go into the field. On the left is lettuce, on the right is spinach, and at the back are different types of kale, far back, onions.

We are out of space. The seeds we and Janelle planted on Saturday have germinated and now Jon is scrambling for space. We will likely move more plants into the greenhouse today. It means moving tables back into there because some nutbar uses it as her pretend beach all winter.

I get asked all the time if we sell seedlings. We don’t: we scarcely have enough growing space for our own seedlings. But if you’re in the market for some veggie transplants, our neighbor’s at Walker’s Greenhouse have you covered! They open May 7th and are having an opening day celebration, we’ll be there all day with our veggie trailer. After that day we’ll have our cooler there stocked with whatever is available for their entire season (May 7 until mid June).

This is what we do: You do what works for you!

2022 Transplant setup

The longer I grow vegetables, the more I find that there’s no single “right” way to do things.

Case in point, this photo –>

There are no fewer than 7 different light fixtures and types of grow lights in this photo. Jon has been experimenting with different types this season, and has maybe now decided he’s happy with the setup. He observes, and if he sees plants getting leggy he adds lights or shifts the trays to a better place.

Another example: Many farms use a germination chamber for seeds. We don’t. I’m not saying they don’t work, only that we haven’t found the need for it. Every growing situation is different and all parts of the system should be considered. So I hesitate to give advice, and would rather frame this as “this is what we do: You do what works for you!”.

So I asked this week if anyone had questions about growing transplants, and Chalon had a lot! (Thank you!)

Q: What does your tray watering system look like?

It looks like this:

Jon just uses a watering can. He likes this style the best (and has tried all the fancy ones). I think mostly, it’s just what he’s used to and can control the flow of water as he wants to. The building we grow transplants in doesn’t have a winter water source, so all of the water is hauled by Jon in pails. He doesn’t spill much and any that he does, he mops up with a towel (somewhat important to mitigate the humidity, though this room does have an HRV system).

My Mom used to bottom-water her trays, which she had a small metal tray larger than the 1020 trays to dip each tray into. That takes a lot longer than the way Jon does it, but also worked! Our neighbors at Walker’s Greenhouse have a really excellent watering system in their greenhouse which makes watering a breeze, but was a lot more to set up and to maintain than Jon’s watering can. Often we find we like the simplest solution the most, but that’s just us!

Q: How to keep lettuce/spinach from getting leggy/spindly? Better lighting?

Generally, if things are getting leggy then they don’t have enough light. Unless it’s extreme, it’s probably not a big deal and your transplants will still work out. We have some things get leggy occasionally – lettuce can germinate in as quickly as 3 days and so Jon has to watch carefully to get them adequate light once they’ve sprouted. Leggy lettuce gets planted and turns outs fine, in my experience. (We do 4 weeks in trays, 4 weeks in the field).

Another thing to consider with transplants is wind. There’s this great story I remember about “Biosphere II” an artificially created atmosphere where the trees kept falling over as they got fully mature. Turns out, trees (and tomatoes!) need to experience some wind so they can grow stronger. So if your tomatoes are leggy, pot them up into larger containers, give them more light, and don’t forget to rough them up and aim a fan at them occasionally (we keep a fan on the transplants always, partly for this reason!).

Q: How much time daily do average do your seedlings take to water etc?

Good question! There are about 100 trays at the shed now, split between upstairs and the greenhouse. Jon does a solid watering in the mornings, around 9 am. At the same time he’s checking on all the plants, seeing if anything is getting leggy or outgrowing it’s cells or getting sunscald – it’s a very active practice, he’s definitely not zoned out watering, he’s paying very close attention. He checks water after lunch, and depending on where things are at, he will check again at 4 pm. After that time he doesn’t like to water unless it’s absolutely critical, as it’s not great for plants to be soggy overnight (can cause damping off or mold issues).

Jon also meditates with the plants in the morning.

In a typical day, he probably spends about 1 hour, but it does require a lot of time being present and home just in case. For example, if the sun comes out he goes out to the greenhouse to check, as things dry out faster in the sun. So we don’t go far from home once we’ve got transplants growing!

Eventually, as things grow, the job becomes bigger of course. Once the tomatoes are close to going out, the watering is constant and a big job.

Q: Besides onions, what else do you plant in open trays (trays without individual cells)?

We started growing onions, leeks, shallots in open trays last year as we weren’t having good success with growing them in 288 cell trays. Mom did it for years without issue – but it just didn’t work for us, and then last year I found that the open cell onions were ever easier to transplant than plugs. Sometimes it’s good to shake things up, you may find you like it better! In the beginning (22 years ago) we bare-root-transplanted onions and the plugs were a welcome improvement, now we’ve gone back to the old way. (Aunty Nancy is rolling over in her grave, watching her vacuum seeder rot as we no longer have a need for it!)

Otherwise, most things are grown in cell trays. Lettuce, Celery, Herbs, Peppers, Kale, Broccoli, etc all start in 128-cell trays. The tomatoes and peppers get potted up into 1501 or 1801 (15- or 18-pot sheet pots) at the point that they’re ready to go into the greenhouse (before now, typically!!). Celery/celeriac get potted up into 606s (6 six-pack trays, with 36 cells).

I can’t think of anything other than alliums that we plant in open trays like that. Most things don’t like their roots being messed with. When planting out the onions bare root, they need at least 3 frost free nights to get established (less important when using plugs, so there’s a trade off).

Q: Do you fertilize anything before transplanting?

We don’t specifically fertilize anything right before transplanting, but after the first couple weeks Jon begins a regular feeding schedule for the transplants. He fertilizes about every 10 days and then more frequently as they grow. We use an organic fertilizer made here in Manitoba for our transplants. Later in the plant’s life he waters with compost tea as well. Mom always used “the blue stuff” and I don’t really even know what it was, I assume some kind of Miracle Gro. But DO be careful with that stuff, more isn’t necessarily better, and you can easily over-fertilize and burn things. (Done that! We’ve done most of the “oops”es by now, so I’m happy if you can learn from our mistakes and not have to make them yourself. And if you do, well, that’s ok too, I get it!)

Rhubarb and Peppers, 2022

We’ve always lived by the adage that “the best fertilizer is the farmer’s shadow” with everything that we do. Careful observation and presence is so important. Possibly the most important! When you are tuned into your plants, you can spot issues quickly and manage them before problems develop.

Thanks for reading! I enjoyed writing this more than I expected to, so if there’s a topic or questions you’d like to see answered in a future post, please feel welcome to send me an email to sales@brownsugarproduce.com!

Pysanky, Spinach, Transplants Update

Myrah’s beans are blooming! You can eat bean blossoms; they taste like beans! And cucumber roots smell like cucumbers: Now you know!

Hello on April 11th! I’m noting the date because I don’t expect to keep up to the latest weather in this week’s newsletter. Storm’s-a-comin’, I’m writing this on a Monday morning for a newsletter coming out on Saturday and I expect it’ll look different by then (UPDATE: We were mostly spared, we do have a fresh white blanket and some major drifts in the yard, but the power stayed on which is the most important thing at this time of year!).

(If you’re reading this on our website, make sure you’re on our email list!)

Seriously, the weather is the most exciting topic in our lives in April. Forecasts are checked, re-checked (& typically found to be wanting when reality-checking), there are temperature recording devices in all corners of the farm, alarms for low and high temps and required actions for overnight greenhouse temps are a daily task. If it’s going to be cold overnight, we use an additional space heater in the greenhouse. If it’s going to be really cold we move the plants back indoors. Most nights we use the furnace in the shed to kick enough heat into the greenhouse to keep it above freezing. We had a feeling to not move more plants out there yet and I’m glad, as we’d be moving them back under the lights now!

(L-R: 1: Transplants (pepper, eggplant, onions, leeks, herbs, rhubarb, under lights in the shed, safe from fluctuating spring temps! 2: Rhubarb (yellow pots) and some beautiful peppers (Janelle’s!) 3: Tomatoes just sprouting last week. They have a long wait yet! 4: Celery, ours and Janelle’s. Same variety, seeded the same day, by different people.)

Winter storm prep in full effect here! We often have power outages when we get storms at this time of year, which is the hardest time to have them because of all the baby plants. We are being prudent with some preparations today (Monday), namely getting some water out of the well and cistern and ensuring all of our batteries, generators, and fuel sources are fully stocked and ready. (If we do all this, the storm will probably not hit us! But it feels good to be prepared, anyway.)

Seems a bit ironic that our Spinach finally showed itself yesterday! Myrah and I tasted our first spring spinach on a very muddy walk. This stuff has patiently waited “on hold” under a blanket of snow all winter, and once it gets some sun & warmth it’ll be producing like crazy. We always do multiple stages of spinach planting for spring harvest, this one worked out well! (Even if it gets re-buried in the meantime, it’ll be fine.) Looks like we will likely have Spinach at our market at Walker’s Greenhouse on May 7th! Hopefully asparagus too, it’s on the far right of the same field and just needs some warmth now too.

The Boss and I making Psyanky, Ukrainian Easter Eggs

I was happy for a “late Easter” this year as it is a good season for making some Pysanky in the tradition passed down to me from my Baba. My Mom taught me and now I get to teach Myrah! She did great considering it involves melted wax and sharp metal sticks and breakable eggs! Only burnt herself once and made some really cool designs! Here’s Myrah’s eggs:

Here’s a few photos to help you understand the basic process (L-R 1: first wax lines in white; 2: finished design with wax; 3: finished egg with wax removed). I was grateful to friend Laura gifting me some white and green eggs, as our brown eggs are beautiful but don’t catch the dye the same as the white ones!

Here’s our Spring Peeper!

That’s what we’ve been up to lately! Hope you’re having a good week!

-Teri 🙂

No Lady of the Lake Markets this season

We’ve decided to shift to a different format this year, and will instead be offering occasional order pickup opportunities via an online store on our website (coming in June!). This will work better for our family and energy management.

Believe me, this is a hard decision that we do not take lightly! We love farmers markets, and our spot outside of Lady of the Lake is the best “home away from the farm” we’ve ever had. We love the staff of the cafe and shop, and our great supporters, and it’s a great spot to spend Fridays.

At the same time, we have downsized and changed some of what we do, and it just doesn’t work anymore. Last season we found ourselves very short of popular items, without adequate parking, and struggling as parents to jam in two 14+ hour days in a row without imploding. It became clear to me that we were trying to keep something alive when it is clearly time to shift.

So we will heed the call, and shift. This is as much to do with the larger picture of what we want our lives to look like than anything else. We want more flexibility in the summer and we NEED more time on the farm than we are able to have with both Jon and I going to market every week. We have adjusted our production to accommodate this change, so we expect/plan to have more storage crops this fall if the season is decent.

This also makes it possible for me to terminate marketing the farm on social media platforms, which I am absolutely stoked about. To those who are interested, here’s more info about that, and please make sure you’re on our email list so I can keep in touch with you once we’re off there (May 1 or sooner).

Next email newsletter lands Saturday April 2!

Boiled Supper

“New England” Boiled Supper

A friend gifted us some corned beef he made this week. First of all, I love friends who exchange foodstuffs and homemade things! Secondly, I couldn’t resist making a traditional New England boiled supper.

I remember doing markets in Nova Scotia and everyone would always talk about boiling veggies and I thought it was really weird. Then someone made me a boiled supper and I understood!

A boiled supper is traditionally potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onion, and corned beef, boiled with a spice packet for a number of hours. I’m sure there are many regional variations, and I didn’t have a green cabbage so I subbed a turnip (rutabaga: Jon’s favourite veggie!). Anyhow, it was delicious, and today I will make the soup that Jon remembers loving as a child – which is just pureeing the leftovers (incl. boiling liquid) from last night!

Here’s a basic recipe: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/traditional-boiled-dinner/

Here’s a more complicated recipe, I used this to make my spice packet: https://www.afamilyfeast.com/new-england-boiled-dinner-corned-beef-and-cabbage/

I enjoyed with some cornbread and a big pile of microgreens!

Soon enough I’ll be eating my weight in green things every day, but until then this is a great use of root veggies, and a nice connection to the time we spent in Nova Scotia! (2012-15).

Shifting for the Heart

Hi! Just wanted to share an update. I have been seeking an answer this winter and it was recently revealed to my heart.

We have decided to discontinue using all social media platforms, personally and for our business, effective on or before May 1, 2022.

This is a decision that I have been moving towards for a number of years. I have always been a late adopter of social media technology and use it with a degree of skepticism. When I meet people who don’t use it, I reflexively find myself saying “good for you!” with envy.
I can no longer deny the internal conflict that using these platforms causes me. Excusing it with “but it’s so great for business” just won’t fly if I’m being truly honest with my heart, and showing up in the world the way I want to.

With our CSA program, we meet our customers weekly in a central location. If suddenly the park we meet in was converted to a garbage dump – well, I suspect we would find a better place to connect with our customers. The same analogy goes for online spaces. I have lost any desire to show up authentically on these platforms, and the idea that my content would drive anyone to visit that space bothers me. To contribute content to something I don’t believe in is disingenuous.

I believe we humans can do so much better! I don’t want to waste anyone’s absolutely precious time with obligatory posts that don’t come from my heart. I live by my values and for me the bad has begun to outweigh the good in those spaces.

Additionally, I have a strong desire to remove social media and cell phone culture from my life, on a path of increasing simplicity and peace for myself and my family.

So, we are shifting my energy sharing about the farm to the format of a regular newsletter, for those who are interested. It will follow our seasons and be monthly in winter, weekly in summer. It will be a mindfully curated source of veggie info, storytelling, recipes, farm life, and photos, just like my existing newsletters and social media content.

I feel very positive about this shift, and I look forward to growing something even more beautiful to share and grow with you.

If you’d like to join us on this journey, please Sign Up Here.

Thank you for your support of our heart-based path.

❤ Teri 🙂