So here are some pictures and results from the Living Labs/EFAO’s 2023 trials with no-till organic potatoes. The side-by-side trial was done with 3 different varieties, Norland, SP327 and Gemstar Russet. There were 2 rows of each variety in a 60″ wide bed. The seed was planted 12″apart in the row. The 2 rows were 26″ apart in the bed. Not a problem in the no-till beds but a bit of a challenge to cultivate with a tractor in the tilled beds. So there were 6 rows in a tilled area next to 6 rows in a no-till section all replicated 4 times down the field. The 2 treatments were planted the same day. The no-till plots were planted into standing rye with a RJ Equipment transplanter into the standing rye which had been planted the fall before. The no-till plots were flail mowed when the first potatoes started to emerge. This provided enough residue to control weeds the whole season and protect the tubers near the surface from greening.The no-till plots were slow to emerge and were about 3 weeks behind the tilled plots. All plots were then dug with a 2 row 60″ wide. Willsie potato digger with optional carrot blades and side coulters. The results presented in the bar graph indicate that Norland had a statistically lower yield with no-till and may not be adapted to this production method. The other 2 varieties yielded just as well under no-till as tilled. The other trial involved testing a deeper planting depth to avoid greenig but it showed no significant difference in yield or greening with a planting depth of 5″ vs. 3″

Planting into the standing rye with the RJ Equipment no-till transplanter.
Flail mowing rye at the emergence of the first potatoes in the no-till plots.
Potato seed piece in the standing rye.
Digging 2023 No-till Plot
Some of the 2023 No-till Crop

For several years Ellen has been managing the posts in the “blog” as she was managing the retail vegetable operation at Orchard Hill Farm. The retail vegetable operation has now been retired at Orchard Hill Farm and we are now entering another phase. Ellen and her family are still here on the farm and Ellen has explained the changes on the Killdeer Food Page of this website. Ken is pursuing his passion for draft horses, soil health and improvement including exploring no-till techniques, cover crops and permanent pastures. Martha is enjoying growing a variety of dye plants and exploring the world of natural dyeing. Over the years Orchard Hill Farm has continued to evolve to suit the needs at the time and we feel fortunate to be able to continue to do so.

Ken spent has spent much of the winter attending and speaking at various meetings and conferences, mostly about his no-till organic vegetable trials. Stay tuned for more info about that. One of the great joys was to reconnect with Lisa Miskelly, an intern from 2011, at the Pasa Conference in Pennsylvania. Lisa now works for Pasa see following link:

Ken and Martha at Pasa Conference in Pennsylvania with Past Intern Lisa Miskelly

Courgette and Mosquito living their best winter life – they are no longer barn cats but breezeway cats – since Caesar’s departure, they have moved into the breezeway.

Life is slow this time of year – and the past couple of days of snow have made the wood stove and all of the food that we have ‘put by’ seem extremely luxurious. There’s status luxury and then there’s the luxury of well seasoned hard wood, heirloom canned tomatoes, your own dried beans and some homemade nocino. There are seeds to order (done), garden and greenhouse timeline to plan (in the works). I love crunching the numbers and calculating the season gone by and am always a little chuffed by how much we got done. The summer always seems a little inconceivable in the winter – these days I make food, do the dishes and tidy up a bit…and it’s like 7 hours later. How in the world do I do all those things AND manage the garden and greenhouse? Right now it’s mildly amusing but every year without fail I have a minor meltdown about it in April. I was complaining about it to a farmer friend last year and she was said – Look – the days are longer, your house will be a little dirtier and your meals will be more simple. You’ve done it before, it will be fine. And she was right. It’s just a different aspect of the seasons.

Sipping soup (using up the last of the squash, with rich chicken broth), garden planning.

The entire time growing up my brother and I begged for a puppy – it would be so cute! We would totally take care of it and everything, etc. I called a family referendum to negotiate for a pet and finally got a cat.  And then miraculously, when Grayden and I were off to university, mom and dad got a puppy, Caesar. Beloved by our parents and every CSA member and intern. Not the sharpest tool in the drawer by any means, but it wasn’t until this year when he couldn’t chase the hawks from the laying hens that I realized how much he did do around the place (we lost like 10 chickens). Over the years, his mild manners and predictability has turned many a canine-averse toddler into mere skeptics of any other dog. ‘The only dog I like is Caesar.’ 

I think his acceptance and approval of pick up days during the CSA was entirely based on the access to the floors of minivans (rife with snacks), errant baguettes and the dog treats brought especially for him. The last few years he’s dedicated himself to guarding Aaron’s 4-runner with an alarming passion. Sometimes we would have to strategically park it so that he wouldn’t bark at cars driving close to it for 4 hours because he would make himself hoarse. He would sit with Aaron for hours, and always begged for a ride in the back. 

May he go on many more walks, eat all the treats and chase hawks and cats on the other side. Thank you for sharing your life with us, Caesar.  

Caesar and Mosquito Waiting for a Wagon Ride

Caesar is Eagerly Awaiting the Start of the CSA Season
Jayme and Caitlin Making Potting Soil with Caesar Supervizing
Martha and Caesar
Transplanting Onions with Help From Robin Grindley – CSA member
Apprentice Team in the Cabbage Patch with Caesar
At the End of a Big Day Gathering up Row Cover
Jean Francios Inglais
Martha and Caesar Sorting the First Seeds for 2013
Caesar enjoying a Carrot in the Field as he Suppervizes
Introductions Caesar and Mabel
Linning up the Logs to be Pulled Out
Caesar enjoying the ride.
Jayme and Caesar Relaxing after Gathering in the Garlic
Michelle and Caesar

 I make lunch for our work crew every day. It takes time, and there are more dishes, and I have to plan ahead if I want to make anything involved. But I make the time and we do the dishes because it’s worth it – we connect, rest & recharge. And sometimes we just have salads with stuff on top. It’s fun for me to think strategically and cook for grown ups, challenging to balance all the dietary restrictions, and gets me deeply in the seasonally cooking. I worked in quite a few kitchens before I worked at one that had staff meal, where we actually took time to sit down and eat a meal, with forks and knives and napkins – and I think we made better food because of it. We tasted things together and talked about what which dish we liked the best, and what needed a little more salt – we defined our palates as a group. On the farm, as in the kitchen, we work hard – but one of the perks should be that we eat well. So we sit down to lunch, we eat the first handful of green beans, and crunch the first cukes. It also serves as a reminder to me that not everyone has worked in French restaurants – what we plant and weed and harvest – it brings it all together if you also know the pleasure of crunchy fennel in a potato salad, or radicchio and endive with a poached egg.  
New This Week – White baby new potatoes, the first cucumbers, golden beets, baby carrots (online only, no market), tatsoi & mustard bunches, Arugula & White Bean Soup (with fennel), Potato & Fennel Soup with roasted garlic scapes.
Next Week – Broccoli, more green beans.   Have a great week and thanks for all the support – Ellen

Got some green things in the fridge that you need to use up? Same old dinners getting tired? Make a pesto! I love a pesto – I go into detail below. Once it’s in the fridge you’ll wonder what you did without it.

We are busy on the farm – the change in the weather is welcome – it was feeling mighty chilly there for a few weeks. But now we have to set up irrigation! The small plants and the freshly planted seeds need moisture to get established and it’s been a little dry for a little too long.

Ken has been working (in his ‘retirement’) on some research projects with EFAO and Living Labs – so we have insect tents set up around the farm, researchers are running tests on what might set back wire worms in potatoes, Ken has set up cover crop trials for different crops, and they have been doing extensive testing on our soil. One of the interesting things that came out of the tests is that our farm had zero levels of pesticide residue. Seems like a no brainer, right? That was my thought – we have been using organic practices for about 30 years, I would hope there are no pesticide residues! But ours was the only farm that had zero, and I’ve come to find out it’s actually kind of unusual. Ground water run off, spray drift & residues that reside in the soil from previous applications could all contribute.

Pesto Template

I’m a little loose with my definition of pesto – you could call it green sauce, sauce verte or pistou if you’re feeling French, zchoug if you’re feeling middle eastern. Once you have it in the fridge you’ll find a million ways to use it – this week alone we had an arugula-cilantro pesto on a lentil soup, in a potato salad, as a dip for roasted potatoes, and finally, mixed into some yogurt and mayo as a kid dip for cucumbers.

Step One: Choose your greens (about 2 cups, rough chopped)

All the flavorful green leaves and soft herbs work – arugula, parsley, basil, cilantro, tarragon, watercress. I love a spicy green like arugula with cilantro because the flavors lift each other up. Tarragon is a pretty strong one but a small handful makes it taste very Paris-in-the-spring and tastes great with asparagus. Equal parts parsley and cilantro bring a middle-eastern vibe.

Step Two: Choose an allium (1 tsp-2 Tbsp)

Garlic is classic, green garlic works great because it’s nice and mellow. Minced shallot or green onion works well if you want the greens to shine rather than garlic flavor – also will make it feel more French. Wild leeks are fantastic. Add roasted, grilled or sautéed onion for a sweeter, saucier, richer taste.

Step Three: Toasted Nuts/Seeds/Cheese (1/4 cup)

These are optional! I often use pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds, but pine nuts are delicious too. Cheese – try parmesan if you’re traditional, but also try something unconventional like goat cheese!

Step Four: Salt (1/2 tsp)

Throw it all in the food processor (or mortar and pestle if you’re feeling old school), and pulse it until everything is coming together and getting chopped up. Drizzle in:

Step Five: Olive Oil (1/4-1/2 cup)

Just add it until it’s the consistency you like. Taste for salt.

Optional –

Spices (1/4-1/2 tsp) – I like to add toasted and ground coriander and a pinch of cumin to any pesto with cilantro in it, sometimes a dash of hot pepper, or hot sauce.

Lemon (or Lime) zest and/or juice – Add the juice of a lemon or lime and taste how it brightens the flavours!

Make one up and tell me all about it.

Good morning! 
Pre-orders through the online store will open next week on 
Tuesday, April 27th at 8am. 

Order Tuesday/Wednesday, and then pick up your order at the farm Friday (in the old pick up room attached to the house) or at the Covent Market Saturday! Or just come by and say hi at the market Saturday May 1st at the outdoor farmer’s market 8am-1pm.  

As always, the season starts slowly – you all know it was chilly this week, but we will see some asparagus in just a few weeks, sooner if the weather cooperates! And rhubarb a week or so after that. But we will have spinach, salad mix, radishes, green garlic and other treats of the season.

Frozen soups – 3 bean Chili, Spring Greens & Pork soup, Chunky Veg with Chickpeas & Ginger, Kohlrabi & Sausage with Tomato, Pastured Chicken Broth.  
Frozen whole hog sausage from our own pigs – sausage is generally made from all the leftover bits, but this is a sausage made from one whole hog – I think it holds shape better and has better flavor.  Plain, garlic & breakfast sausage. 
Plants – at first we will have some of the hardiest seedlings (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, calendula and parsley), because we are still liable to get a frost until the latter half of May, and some sensitive types (tomato, basil, pepper) can’t handle it. As the season progresses, we will have more variety of seedlings. 

You’ll see Seth’s Bread, Darryl’s Maple Syrup and our own organically fed pastured eggs. We got a new batch of laying hens, so we will have small (they’re like practice eggs for the first few months) and large eggs. 

And Suzy had her foal! It’s a filly named Kelly and she’s doing well – she spends all of her time on pasture with her mama at this point, glued to her mother’s side. It’s lovely to have new life on the farm.

Have a great week and thanks for all the support! Ellen
Greenhouse is starting to pop at the seams!
Kelly with her mom, Suzy

March is here! It’s time to kick into gear, planting and prepping for the busy season. We are planning to proceed with the same system as last year – online store opening in May for pre-orders, as little or as much as you like, for pick up at the farm Fridays and at Covent Garden Market on Saturdays. We will also have a regular market stand at Covent, 8am-1pm, starting in May.

We will have seedlings for sale again this year – edible flowers and herbs, tough to find natural dye plants like Japanese Indigo, madder root and weld, as well as hybrid tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes and peppers.

I feel grateful for the slow season changes on the farm – I’m not quite ready for full speed ahead (my body or my mind), but I’m ready to start the engine. Jess started back at the farm this week, a couple days a week. We will seed quick crops in the unheated hoop houses, work in the cosy greenhouse, and do some construction projects. I try to improve a system each year on the farm – this year we are upgrading the wash area with a new salad washing tub and machine for spin-drying.

It’s also childcare juggling season – figuring out a new way to snatch a moment to sit at the computer (it’s 5:30am), finish the weaving project (exciting in the beginning but now a chore), and fetch all the jars and bags and boxes we need for the season.

Buttons and Suzy were both scheduled to foal this fall, but now we are waiting on just one…Buttons lost her foal in February, a little early, born in its intact sac. It was sad but we are grateful we have another little one to look forward to. Sonny, a gelding that worked here for many years has come back to Orchard Hill. He will be working with Buttons and with the young stallion, Joey in the spring. This will be the first year that Joey is out in the fields, and he’s doing really well in training.

Ken is proceeding with more research trials with EFAO (Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario) and Living Labs, looking at the techniques and benefits related to larger scale organic no-till. If you drive by the farm, you can see some of the cover crop demonstrations labelled.

I hope you’re all healthy and warm, and you have someone to hug.

I always feel resistant this time of year – my inbox and all the messaging around me is filled with what to buy and how much time I have left to buy and how much money I’m going to save by buying MORE and FASTER. Ugh. I want slower, and finer, and ultimately edible things. And cashmere. I’ll take all the cashmere. I’ve taken to hunting cashmere at thrift stores like I’m a quiet middle aged man that’s just discovered a tree blind for the first time. But I still like to remind myself that the best things in life aren’t things (I mean…unless it’s food).I was hoping to go until Christmas with market and online orders, but I’m simply running out of produce! This will be the last week. Thank you so much for supporting our small, diversified farm. We will be back with the same format (market and online orders to pick up at the farm) in the spring – probably May unless I get feisty. I’ll keep you updated. 
The Quaker Calm tea that we have been selling on the website and at market is almost gone, and Martha has been selling pillows made from up-cycled fabric – you can learn all about the project and the initiatives they’re supporting here . New this year – Sovereign Seeds, an indigenous-led support for seed keepers. Looking for Christmas gifts? Popcorn is a winner! There’s lots of Dill Pickle Kohlrabi kraut and Curried Veg Pickle and I mean, who wouldn’t like the gift of probiotic health? You do have to keep the ferments refrigerated but they will keep for months, so you don’t have to worry about them going bad! New – Spicy Pork & Tomatillo Stew – great depth of flavor and a spicy kick, this one could handle some rice, or be eaten on a bed of roasted squash. Great with some sour cream or cilantro. 

Have a great winter and thank you so much!Ellen
Take me to the store

Good morning! 

In just over a week, we have had three birthdays in our household – Aaron 44, Frannie 5 and Ken 70. Each celebrated in their own way, but Frannie, motivated by her own dream in the night, started riding a bike with no training wheels. It’s inspiring to watch the determination of someone set to do something new – leaping from a falling bike over and over, legs striped with grey marks from the wheels, yelling ‘I’m ok!’ whilst falling. I get into a similar – albeit quieter – mode in these dark days – I take up creative pursuits that I don’t have space for in the busy long days of summer. I try making something new. I love working in the workshop, making wooden gifts, warmed by the wood stove and surrounded by the grease, paint and sawdust smells of my father. I like making weird minimalist holiday decor for myself that has very limited appeal to anyone else, and all my favorite cookies. I burn beeswax candles like I’m a beekeeper. I stretch and read novels and plan really ambitious, super-time-sensitive plans for my no-till vegetable operation that are totally screwed by June but it’s ok because I’ve spent so many dark hours over cooking it and organizing my brain that I really have three overlapping plans. 

Jess just commented the other day that she just realized that we are closer to asparagus season than we are far away….I told her to just be quiet already. Let me enjoy this for a second. 

New this week – 

French Lentil Soup – green French lentils with parsley root, carrot & celeriac. Eat it on its own, or treat it like a grown up hamburger helper and add a pound of ground beef – brown the beef in a pot, then add the soup. We did it yesterday for lunch and it was fantastic. Pro move – make a wild pesto garnish with chopped parsley, and/or arugula pesto, onion or shallot, preserved lemon & chopped olives. 

Coming soon – more Dill Pickle Kohlrabi Kraut, more Curried Veg Pickle, variety packs of hot sauce, popcorn seasoning. 

Have a great week and thanks for all the support.