Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 Catalogue Now Online

Today's the day you've been waiting for... the 2011 catalogue is now out! Check out the full online version at, the print catalogues are coming soon too. Spread the word!

Harvest Season 2010

Well that was a fantastic growing season! The nearly ideal weather we enjoyed during the summer stayed right through to the end of the harvest season, which was fortunate because we had a lot of seeds to gather! The seeds are now long since harvested and many are already packaged up for the new catalogue, while the garden is resting for the winter under a fresh blanket of snow. Here's a long overdue glimpse of some of what we got up to this fall...

-Amaranth and sunflowers are a great pair as we learned.

- Checking the Lazy Housewife beans for maturity, they were a few days away from getting harvested.

-One of the stories of the summer was our amazing corn crop. This is the variety True Platinum, and although only on in four seeds that I planted grew (due to lumpy soil and a lack of rain in May) each surviving plant produced three or four big cobs.

-Soybeans ready to harvest in September

-The new greenhouse

- To dry the corn I left the cobs on the plant for as long as I could, and when rain threatened I harvested them and hung them in the barn from their own husks. The seeds will come off easily when they're dry.

-A kaleidoscope of tomtoes. Clockwise: Striped Cavern, Cole, Azoychka, White Cherry, OSU Blue and Absinthe. Centre: Black Krim.

- OSU Blue tomato, a very unique blue skinned tomato. It was developed at Oregon State University by cross-pollinating a red tomato with a wild blue tomato from South America.

- Removing the seeds from one of our many Musquée de Provence pumpkins. We ate way too much pumpkin soup and pie that week!

- One of the final tasks of the fall, planting next year's garlic. I'm excited about our future garlic plans, it's going to take a few more years of multiplying the seed stocks but I hope to have a limited selection of seed garlic available in the not too distant future...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

End of Summer Updates

It's been a busy few weeks lately with Dan Jason visiting, putting on the seed workshops and throughout this trying to keep on top of the biggest seed harvest yet. All three workshops were big hits, many thanks to everyone who came out for them! They were so much fun I'm already trying to think about doing more... I'll keep everyone posted. Below are a few shots from the events:

-Threshing demo at the Halifax workshop, Aug 22.

-Back on The Weekend Gardener... this time with Dan! Hope you caught the show.

-The Middleton workshop was the biggest and most lively of the three, with a very keen and knowledgeable group. Here we are talking tomatoes.

-Thanks to David Baldwin for this great shot of us.

-Dan articulating the finer points of seeds.

The Watershed Music Festival and it's workshops were especially fun, unfortunately I don't yet have photos to post. Be sure to make it to next year's festival! Pollination Project is also holding the second annual Stinking Rose Garlic Festival on October 30, be sure to make it there too.

So after all this seed saving evangelism I'm pretty happy to settle back into the quieter daily rhythm of the farm and to get back to harvesting the actual seeds! There are so many cool new varieties that I'll profile in a future post, Cole and O.S.U. Blue are two tomatoes I really want to get people excited about...

Exciting news with the greenhouse, it's finally complete! We had a work party the other day and with many hands and co-operatively still air we got the plastic attached with no problems. The effect was amazing, within one minute of the cover being on you could feel a noticeable difference in temperature between inside and out. The plans now are to start drying more seeds in the greenhouse and later on to grow winter greens for the markets. Maybe I'll get into the heirloom tomato seedling business in the spring... Until then seek me out for both greens and seeds at the market this winter!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Radio Interview

Just a quick post before I go to the city, giving everyone a heads up to tune in to The Weekend Gardener this Sunday on 95.7 News FM in Halifax (I always find it easier to just go to and listen live). Dan Jason and I will be on Niki's show from 12:00 to 1:00 talking about seeds and about the workshops we're doing. We still need you to spread the word about the three workshops (people are the best advertising!) so please do spread it if you know anyone interested!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August Seed Saving Workshops with Dan Jason

Very exciting stuff in the works lately! Apart from the garden (which is overflowing with seeds right now... more on that later) the seed saving workshops with myself and Dan Jason are really coming together. Dan is coming out from Salt Spring Island at the end of the month and the two of us will be giving three workshops, one in Halifax, one in Middleton and one in Bridgewater. All the info is attached below, hope to see you at one of them and please do spread the word if you know anyone interested!

-Halifax Workshop: 3:00 to 6:00 at the Spryfield Urban Farm, August 22nd. Cost: $25 for the general public and $10 for Urban Farm members. An intro to seed saving at the urban farm! We'll have a garden walk and talk about as many crops as we can cover, as well as hands on demonstrations (bean threshing, tomato fermentation, etc..) and discussions on the deeper political and philosophical aspects of seeds and urban food production. Contact Su Donovaro to register:

-Middleton Workshop: 2:00 to 5:00 at Annapolis Seeds (8528 Hwy 201, Nictaux), August 25th. Cost: $25 Come visit the seed farm and learn the fun and increasingly crucial art of saving seeds. Some topics covered will include pollination, threshing, organic growing, the importance of maintaining biodiversity as well as a garden walk to discuss specific techniques for each crop. All knowledge levels welcome! Limit of 20 participants, contact or 825-4732 to register and reserve your spot!

-Bridgewater Workshop: 10:00 to 3:00 at Watershed Farm (768 Allen Frausel Road, Baker Settlement), August 29th Part of a very special weekend at Watershed Farm, the workshop is closely tied with the first annualWatershed Music Festival on the 28th (1:00 to dark). On the 28th we'll have lots of music and different workshops throughout the day, and on the 29th we'll have a slightly more advanced (and much quieter!) seed workshop. We'll go into great depth for this one covering each crop individually as well as covering broader topics like threshing and storage. Also exciting will be a lesson on hand pollination of squash from local squash guru Chris Sanford! Included is a delicious organic lunch along with snacks, you'll get to head home with seeds of both mine and Dan's as well as seed garlic from Watershed Farm. You can register online here. Spots are filling up fast!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Another Photo Update

-Lancashire Lad pea

-Leek flower

- My home glistening in the fading evening sun

-Arugula flowers (we're going to have a ton of arugula seed this year)

- These are pretty special: Crown Peas. They're the most unusual pea I've ever grown, formerly considered a separate sub-species of the common pea they have huge clusters of spectacular flowers, forming a "crown" at the top of each plant. The pods are short but tasty. It's almost like a cross between a sweet pea and an edible pea.

-Phacelia is a great nectar crop as well as a cool season cover crop. Bees are currently being drawn to it from seemingly miles around.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


The garden is at its leafy, blossom-filled peak right now, and so are the weeds. The hot weather and regular rains that we've had since June have been a blessing for plants both domesticated and wild alike, it's all I can do to push the weeds back enough for the cultivated ones to take up a dominant place... this is not an immaculately tended garden by any means! The newly seeded hay meadows are a riotous, tumbling profusion of wild mustard, ragweed, goldenrod and bindweed, however after scything down these opportunistic meadow dwellers I've discovered a healthy carpet of my cultivated grasses, previously hidden from view - a good sign for next year.

Our own hay meadows are another year away from maturity (they were just seeded this spring after wresting the land from the forest a few years previous) but we have the good fortune of having a neighbour on one side who has more land in grass than the inclination to cut. We've been scything and making loose hay up in that field for the last couple of weeks, it's definitely a learning process for me. Following the very thorough instruction from the Vido Family (you can read one of the articles here) and from what they showed me last summer when I spent some time at their farm I built a couple of hay racks and then went at it. The rack construction is really simple, I made mine with scrap 1x3 lumber, although future models might be made from coppiced hardwood poles from the forest. They're basically two square frames leaning against each other (like an A-frame) and tied with twine at the top (they fold for easy storage and transport).

My current hay making process is to cut the grass and leave it in it's windrow for one full day. I initially planned to spread the windrows so the grass dries more evenly but I've found that mature timothy and orchardgrass (and other course, airy plant matter) dry just about as fast without spreading. After that time I rake the grass into heaps with a wooden hay rake (hand made from yurt-pole cutoffs and with wooden teeth which avoid digging into the ground - photos on the way) and stack it up on the racks, forming a hay cock. After it's stacked the grass continues to dry with air circulation underneath it, and the bulk of the grass on the inside won't fry to brown in the sun like it would if exposed. I take the hay into the barn as soon as I can, though if built with enough skill a cock (or any other version of hay stack) can stay in the field and for some time without getting damaged by rain. I haven't yet mastered the cap design (ideally it should shed water like a thatch roof) and the cock pictured here got soaked in that last thunder storm we had. It was wet and steaming away like a compost pile from microbial activity when I dealt with it a few days after, it made an excellent mulch for the tomato patch! So there's lots to learn yet... I'll keep at it between weeding and tomato staking and the myriad other jobs on the mid-summer farm.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Photos

-An interesting experiment of mine: the potatoes on the left had fresh comfrey leaves buried in the trench with them at planting time, the ones on the right didn't. The comfrey provides a big boost of nitrogen in early spring at a time when not much is available to growing plants due to the cool soil and slow micro-organism activity.

-Green Oakleaf Lettuce

-Shungiku, an edible chrysanthemum.

-This is an exciting new plant: Chinese Salad Mallow. The young leaves like these are tender and great in salads like lettuce, older leaves even make edible bowls.

-A sea of lettuce

-Spinach going to seed

Of Deer, Greenhouses and Seed Workshops

Finally, some welcome rain and a much needed opportunity for some writing! The garden is growing better than ever this time of year, it seems like every time I look at a plant it's twice the size it was last time. Around here this is the season of weeding and staking, watching things grow and best of all of endless salads. Life in the yurt has been fantastic (I still promise that construction write-up soon!), although it seems to have had the unintended consequence of deterring the deer from the upper field only to drive them into the lower field and the main seed garden. The damage wasn't too severe, a few peas got nibbled and are now re-growing. Ever since I built my funky, improvised deer fence last week out of tomato stakes, twine, surveyors tape and pie plates the garden seems to be secure.

The greenhouse is finally coming together too. The frame is nearly finished now, it's just a matter of finishing the ends (we're having wooden ends with wide double doors) and waiting for a totally still day to throw the plastic over.

Also in the works is a very exciting series of seed saving workshops with both myself and my friend and mentor Dan Jason from Salt Spring
Seeds. Dan is coming out here in late August and we'll likely be giving three separate workshops around the province (details to follow!) the biggest one and the one that's all confirmed is the Watershed Farm Music Festival on August 28th. Organized by Pollination Project at Watershed Farm, we'll have music all day on Saturday the 28th along with organic growing and seed saving demos throughout the day. The following day Sunday will be a smaller, quieter and more in-depth course with the two of us, check out the details: . I'll keep everyone posted when we decide on the details for the other courses!

Also, here's a photo I've been meaning to share from my time as a guest on The Weekend Gardener the other week. Niki Jabbour hosts the show every Sunday from 11:00 to 1:00 on 95.7 FM in Nova Scotia. I ended up going in to the studio for the interview, which was a ton of fun with such a knowledgeable gardener as Niki. Check out her blog too.

Next up is a weeklong farm tour of sorts to New Brunswick, there's a lot to organize on this rainy day...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

June Photos

This is probably the busiest time of year on the farm with the seeding almost finished and the weeds now coming on strong, so instead of writing a detailed update here are a few photos of what's new!

-One of the new seed gardens.

-The new yurt! I moved in for the summer a few weeks ago, I'll post a more detailed write-up when I get the time...

-A tarwi sprout. This is a very exciting new crop for me, tarwi is an edible annual lupin with huge white seeds as big as beans. It's an ancient crop from the Incans that is nearly lost in modern cultivation, if it does well I hope to have seeds in a year or two.

-Milk Thistle

-As I write this the lupins are at their absolute peak bloom, the meadows are just filled with their heady fragrance on warm, still mornings.

-Lots of different greens destined for seed in the 2011 catalogue. The greens where so popular last year I'm really expanding in that direction, I have 35 lettuces alone planned for next year.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spring Farm Updates

Spring is sure arriving in full force now! Despite that extremely early start (the daffodils were in bloom in early April) things seem to have slowed down a bit and everything seems to be a little bit closer to average right now. There are a ton of farm projects that I'll tell you about as I get the chance, the biggest ones are the new greenhouse, the new yurt and of course all the seed expansion. I'm planting a bigger area than ever for seeds this year, two of the three garden areas on the farm have been greatly expanded. I just came in from seeding all 16 cereal grain varieties for this year, and the 35 new lettuces we planted last week are all sprouting in the loamy Nictaux soil (lettuce seeds were big this year so I'm growing as many as I can for 2011). The peas are all in now too, I've got almost 100 varieties on the go including some extremely rare ones like Monster, Prince Edward and Gravedigger. Now we just need some rain...

The other week we tilled, leveled, seeded and rolled two new hay meadows. One was seeded last year but the ground was so lumpy from the plowing work that we had to re-do it this spring (otherwise mowing would be nearly impossible), we had a tractor in to have it tilled then by hand we raked flat all the furrows and rolled the seeds in with a borrowed push-roller (thanks to our wwoofer Greg for the many hours of rolling!). It's looking nice and primed to start sprouting now, I really can't wait until we can start scything up there.

The house is full of seedlings in various states of growth and the new greenhouse is slowly coming along to provide some much needed extra space. The anchor posts are all set but I haven't had the time yet to move on to assembling the frame, updates to come!

As you can see from the photos the yurt frame is totally finished now too. I've just spent a couple of days over at Little Foot Yurts getting all the angles and dimensions right, it's so exciting to see it finally coming together! The canvas will be ready for it on Sunday, I'll have more photos and details real soon...

Seedy Friday photos!

Sorry for the lack of action on the blog as of late, there have been so many exciting projects on the go I can't stop to write about them! Now that my winter seed season is winding down and the much more interesting to write about farming season is sprouting back into the forefront I hope to be a bit more active on here again.

Here are the photos from Seedy Friday on April 30th, it was the first event of it's kind in Middleton and it went better than I ever could have hoped for! It was tied in with the Middleton Farmers' Market so it had that existing energy to build on, we ended up having all the local Maritime seed growers represented and an active seed trading table. Gilberte Doelle and her crew came up from Wild Rose Farm down Digby way and were a big hit with seedlings and Hope Seeds and the earliest greens around out of her high-tunnel. Pumpkin Moon Farm came out too to round out the local seed-scene. We ended up having almost 30 people attend the garden talks (myself on seed saving and Dan Moore on creating healthy soil), we had a good sized room booked for it but it was packed. I can't wait to grow on the event for next year, I can really feel the seed saving movement catching on more than ever in the community.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's Seedy Saturday Season!

You know it's spring for sure when communities begin gathering for Seedy Saturdays! For the uninitiated, Seedy Saturdays are community events for trading seeds, sharing knowledge and sometimes hearing some good gardening speakers, they're always a blast! They started in BC in the 80's and are really starting to catch on in the Maritimes. I'll be attending five around Nova Scotia this spring:

Bridgewater, March 20
Wolfville, April 10
Halifax, April 17
Truro, April 24
Middleton, April 30

(Check out Seeds of Diversity for more info on them)

I'm organizing the first ever Middleton event this year, it's tying in with the farmers' market on April 30th. Hope to see you there (whether you have seeds to trade or are looking to get some seeds, it should be fun!).

Monday, March 8, 2010

ACORN 2010

I'm back recovering my energy and catching up on orders after a very busy three days in Charlottetown! There never seems to be enough time to catch up with everyone, it's quite a feat to gather the entire maritime organic community in one place so it's often the only chance in the year we all get to see each other. Here're a few photos I thought I'd share!

(Two very seedy people. Check out Andrea's company Hope Seeds if you haven't already!)

(Contra Dance with the Smokin' Contra Band)

(The Seedy Saturday swap table)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring is Almost Here!

As this winter's deep snow begins to recede and the streams flow swiftly with cold meltwater we're reminded just how close spring is now. The maple trees are nearly flowing with sap and I saw the first starling singing sweet songs of spring in his usual place at the corner of the barn roof.

I started my first seeds in trays the other day; leeks, onions and celery as well as fennel, angelica, nettle and a bunch of other herbs sent to me by my friend Dan Jason on the west coast ( Some exciting news to report... I have a greenhouse on the way! I just bought a 20' x 36' greenhouse from Ontario, unheated with double-poly and roll up sides. It arrives in April (I expect in a million pieces) and with some luck should be assembled in time for next year's seedlings (hopefully sooner though!). In any case this will be the last year where I'll have to hijack the entire sunny kitchen for seedlings, soon I'll have a whole greenhouse in which to propagate things! I'll also grow peanuts, sweetpotatoes and peppers during the summer months (plants that are somewhat borderline in the field), I'll be experimenting with okra too... stay tuned.

Another ritual of spring comes up on Thursday, the ACORN Conference! In Charlottetown this year, I'll have a table in the trade show for the three days. There are lots of great workshops I hope to catch if I can get away from my table, as well a contra dance with the Smokin' Contra Band!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Farm Artwork

Local artist Shasta Grant recently made these beautiful paintings of scenes of our farm, they're on display in the Vegetarian Lunchbox restaurant in Wolfville!