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.

Ellen

Jess and Jordan – Friday was Jordan’s last day for the season – thank you Jordan and thank you Jess! We have a great team here – they have demonstrated such kindness, flexibility and hard work, couldn’t have done it without them (there are more not pictured – thank you Ken, Martha, Cheryl, Jac, Jennifer, Derek, Jacob, Aaron, Frannie & Della).  Fall is for reflection. Each year in November we sit down as a team and have a seasonal review – what worked this year, what didn’t, what we would like to see next year, financial and personal goals, etc. People are always talking about January as the new year, the time to reflect and set goals, but by then I need to be ordering seeds and putting pencil to the garden plan (and besides we already had to roughly plan the garden and plant cover crops ages ago, so there are already some parameters in place).  This year, obviously, has been different than we imagined last November. We have a website where you can buy stuff, so we have an option if all the farmers markets are shut down.I wish that I had more melons this year, and I will be more meticulous with my onion & leek propagation next year. I will grow more peppers and give up on the dent corn for a year. I’m planning to grow more tarbais beans (this year I grew them mostly for the seed), and use broom corn as an in-garden trellis. I’m going to commit to more no-till techniques. I will buy a new potato digger that doesn’t require so much (live) horse power. I will plant more parsnips and one more succession of carrots and Dino kale. I’m uncomfortable with the amount of plastic we use each week, but I also want the produce to be of the highest quality…thinking on this one.  So send me an email if you have any feedback. New this week: Curried Squash Soup, Squash & Brown Butter Soup, Mexican Tomato Soup & Autumn Minestrone Soup (for real).Coming soon: Dill Pickle Kohlrabi Kraut, Cabbage Roll Soup, Kimchi. Have a great week and thanks for all the support.EllenPS – I know this seems like a season’s end type email BUT IT’S NOT – we will go to market at Covent and take online orders until Dec. 21. 
Take me to the store
Life is short – eat good food.

‘Eef you eat dead food, you vill be dead!’ – from a German ex-pat living in Tuscany, lecturing Americans on health food.This newt (technically the red spotted newt in the ‘eft’ stage – babies that live on the land for 5 years or so before they move into the water) was in one of our hoop houses, next to the pond that we use for irrigation. Newts are very sensitive to pollution – agricultural runoff, salt from roads and heavy siltation (usually from poor agricultural practices) threaten their lives. So to find one in a high production area of the farm makes me remember that the food we are growing is full of life. And the fact that my daughter was there to hold this little thing made it all the more poignant a moment. So much of what we read about health (mental health and gut health) has to do with supporting the microbes within us – by eating food that will help them live, giving them the perfect conditions to thrive. I just read ‘Food Fix’ by Mark Hyman & ‘This is Your Brain on Food’ by Uma Naidoo – both books underlined the importance of supporting the life within us. The breakdown is – eat fermented foods regularly, eat lots of veg to help feed them. We spend a lot of time at Orchard Hill trying to make sure that the plants have the nutrients that they need to thrive. Sometimes it means getting the right balance of minerals – if there’s too much of one, it often means that the plant can’t access another. Or using cover crops to help feed the soil between crops of veg. We feed the soil so that the vegetables will be more nutritious & vibrantly alive. Here’s to our health! May your microbiome be teeming with all the best bugs. New this week – Parsley Root – perfect for all the fall soups that you’re surely making. Some Euros swear by it for any chicken soup – it looks almost identical to parsnip, but rather than the funky sweetness of a parsnip, you get more of an herbal flavour – like parsley meets a potato. It’s great roasted too. Ginger Hot Sauce (fermented! Spicy!) – I had a tickle in my throat, made some chicken noodle soup and dosed it up with some of this hot sauce and POOF – felt better. Seriously. I mean, it’s very anecdotal but….Curried Veg Pickle – facto-fermented cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi, all chunky and perfect to throw on a power bowl, in a wrap, on a salad or on top of some rice. New Soups – Ratatouille, Potato-Leek & Autumn Minestrone. Have a great week and thanks for all the support.Ellen
Take me to the store
Life is short – eat good food.

Pork & Six Bean Soup
It’s Thanksgiving week! It feels a little different to most of us this year –

we’re probably cooking for less people, which seems like the perfect time

to try a new recipe. I love to make fried chicken for Thanksgiving – there

are always lots of fresh pastured chickens available this time of year, and

fried chicken is something I love to eat but don’t treat myself to very

often (gross chicken, or too lazy to make my own). But if I’m invited

somewhere else and I’m making a dish – and this one works for

American thanksgiving too because it’s full of vegetables that are still

good in November – I love to make this shaved celeriac &

fennel salad full of Italian parsley, lemon & parmesan.

It’s super bright and flavorful – a great foil for all the rich turkey dinner

foods, crunchy and unusual, but also doesn’t take up too much space on

the plate (real estate is at a premium).What I’m cooking these days….lots

of curries with chickpeas, squash & Swiss chard, ginger & garlic. And

also so much soup! The temps and the rain make the warm kitchen a

perfectly tempting place to be and right now there are so many crops to

use – end of the season tomatoes that seem boring now, but in a few

weeks and months will seem like the most flavorful gems, imperfect

squash that won’t keep, potatoes with a few too many nibbles to sell, too

many green beans to sell for the week, pears that Martha won’t sell

because they’ve taken 15 years to finally produce good fruit and

somehow they’re more precious than money, but also all ripe and

headed to over ripe in the cooler. It’s also luxurious to have so many

varieties – and the varieties that I think are the most delicious – to choose

from, without sweating the food cost like one normally would in a

kitchen. I’m using the waste! But also a soup that has 3 different squash,

with each their own flavor profile and texture – adds depth and layers of

flavor.

Most of the soups I make are free of dairy and gluten and meat because

we have a lot of vegetables and they’re delicious. However, there is a

Pork & Six Bean Soup that is smoky and rich and delicious, featuring fall

green beans and all the dry beans. Don’t be afraid to use the soup as a

canvas – if you have thanksgiving leftovers, throw some cooked chopped

turkey in the Curried Squash & Pear Soup, or add a can of black beans

and some chopped cilantro to the Roasted Tomato & Rice Soup – it also

wouldn’t be opposed to some cheese or sour cream dolloped on top.I’m so

thankful – for the land that provides, for my family’s love and support,

and for all of you. Nothing like a little pandemic to make you realize how

special it is to see the same faces week after week, even outside, for a

moment.

Thanks so much – have a great thanksgiving. Ellen

I found this piece of bark in the woodpile while moving wood for the greenhouse the other day. I love how it contains the forest within itself. How this fungus on skin of the wood so closely resembles the interconnectedness of the canopy of the treetops. We are all connected, even when we can’t hug loved ones, and share meals and laugh and tell stories, our inner life still holds on to that web which connects us. Our skin, some barely visible web within us, still remembers. 

Seeds have been planted outside, but the ones that are really taking off are all in the hoop houses. Everything is covered in row cover to help protect it from the temperature swings. 

My pants are tight. The food around here is really good. Take out is from my mom’s house and it’s never been so delicious. Last night we had yu choi (have you had it?!) – so tender, so juicy! It’s like how pok choi is delicious but without so much of the mustard family favor. 

The greenhouse is popping recently, although it’s been snowing everyday (and promptly melting) for what feels like the last 2 weeks. We are digging up all the volunteer plants that have seeded themselves in the side garden to pot up and grow on a little more quickly in the greenhouse, ready to go into your gardens. 

We have also been working on the online shop – it will be ready in May, when the asparagus is ready to go! At this rate (it’s been so chilly! I’m sure you’ve noticed), it looks like at least the second week of May. The store will be updated weekly, and there will be an ordering window (Monday-Wednesday), and then the box will be ready for pick up or delivery on Friday afternoons. We will have Seth’s bread in the store as well!

Take care out there!

Drilling Soybeans into Crimped Winter Rye

Organic farmers have been criticized for using too much tillage. We use tillage to terminate one crop and prepare the soil for planting the next crop and then we use more tillage in row crops to control weeds during the growing season.

To develop no-till planting strategies for organic farmers it requires a lot of management skills and experience to figure out what cover crops or combinations thereof to create a good planting situation and season long weed control.

To do it with horse power requires another whole level of adaptation and creativity to evolve the machinery necessary to do the job of planting into heavy residues – getting the seed through the residue and into the soil and not exposing too much bare soil which is an invitation for weeds to grow.

There are 2 basic strategies that I have used: planting into winter killed cover crops like daikon radish or sorghum-sudan grass: or planting into mowed or roller/crimped growing covers like oats/barley/peas or winter rye or buckwheat.

Interestingly the 2 pieces of equipment that I use for terminating growing covers are both built by I&J an Amish equipment company in Pennsylvania. The I &J mower[7ft.] I use has a double reciprocating design which enables it to cut through any standing crop without plugging and does a nice job of laying it down evenly. The other tool, the roller/crimper was also designed by I&J and I was fortunate to find one they had built with wheels to be trailed behind a forecart. The drum can be filled with water to make it more effective and the wheels can be lifted right off the ground to transfer even more weight to the roller. It is 8 feet wide and can be pulled by 2 horses or 3 if it is a bigger field.

No-till Drill

The more challenging piece of equipment is the no-till planter/drill. Listening to the advice of a long time no-till conventional farmer [ who is also my nephew] I avoided a system which is common on no-till drills which is a row of coulters ahead of the openers. These coulters effectively loosen the soil to allow the use of a lighter opener system. The problem is they absorb a lot of horsepower. There is an Amish company that builds such a drill of various sizes, ESCH in Pennsylvania. The design I went with involves a heavy double disc opener on parallel-o-gram arms with one disc leading the other by ¾”. Then there is a press wheel at the rear to control the depth of seeding and also functions to close the seed trench. These units were off a salvaged tractor no-till drill built by Crust-Buster in the USA. There 8 units spaced 8” apart. I usually pull this drill with 3 horses. It is raised and lowered with a battery driven hydraulic system. I intentionally built the drill quite heavy but I still added more weight because very heavy residue of firm soil can cause an end wheel to lift off the ground. That is why the drive wheel for the seeding mechanism is on a third wheel. The down pressure on the openers is easily changed by moving a spring on the opener unit but of course is limited by the total weight of the machine.

We have successfully no-tilled spring cereals into winter killed daikon radish, oats/barley/peas and sorghum-sudan grass, soybeans into roller/crimped winter rye and winter cereals into roller/crimped buckwheat and mown millet.

No-till Drilling Oat/Barley Mixture Into Different Winter Killed Cover Crops, April 6, 2019

We are offering a unique opportunity this year – On Farm Beef Butchery Workshop, December 18th 9am-4pm. $125 including lunch.
Looking for the gift of experience?! Perfect for the right person;)
We have become more and more disconnected from how our food is produced and processed, so this provides access to an experience is unavailable to most! Learn from a pro how to break down a side of beef into primal cuts. It will be mostly demonstration and a little hands-on work.
Email info@orchardhillfarm.ca for more information and to reserve your spot.

Aidan Cooper will be leading the demonstration and she is a farmer, butcher, doula, and wilderness EMT. Aidan has been working in small scale agriculture and exploring food systems for the past 7 years. After working for an urban farm in Hamilton, ON, for 3 seasons, Aidan moved to upstate New York in the spring of 2016 to work at Essex Farm, which produces a year round whole diet CSA. During Aidan’s time at Essex Farm she received a crash course in on-farm slaughter and meat cutting. Aidan is passionate about on-farm slaughter and butchery and connecting omnivores to the process of responsibly harvesting and preparing their meat. Since leaving Essex Farm, Aidan has worked at Reber Rock Farm and Butcher Shop for three fall butchering seasons, assisting with on-farm slaughter and butchery and all the other things that make the shop go round. Aidan currently lives in Wheeling, WV, with her partner David, and is working for a non-profit organization focusing on food access.

Happy New Year!

It feels refreshing that it’s finally cold and snowy outside – when it’s balmy and muddy I always have the vague feeling that there’s something I should be doing outside, so the snow settles me in to make the garden plan for next year.

As some of you know (Fall CSA members) 2019 is going to be a different year here at Orchard Hill – we are changing directions, and will no longer offer a CSA – for the first time in 21 years! It’s bittersweet – a lot of members feel like extended family at this point. We will miss catching up with you each week. But I feel the need to explore other directions, and feel out the market without the commitment to growing lettuce for 100 each week! I’ll still be growing vegetables, and we will have lots of asparagus and rhubarb in the spring at the market – followed by strawberries! I’m pursuing organic certification this year to make it more viable to do some wholesale vegetable sales in the future.

This year we are going to be at the Horton Farmers Market in St Thomas (Saturdays 8am-12) and the Covent Garden Farmers Market in London (Saturdays 8am-1pm & Thursday afternoon 4pm-7pm). I’m planning to do a little catering, and some value-add foods to take to market as well. We won’t be taking interns this year – also for the first time in more than 20 years!

Jess Andrews will be staying on as my right-hand woman, with Ken, Martha and Aaron in supporting roles. Ken and Martha worked hard this fall installing wood posts and electric fence around the majority of the west side of the farm, in preparation for a custom-grazing operation – we will essentially rent out the pasture for the growing season to another farmers’ herd of cattle. Great for the cattle (excellent, organic, nutrient-rich pasture), and also great for the land – intensive pasturing where you mob-graze ruminants – moving them every day – is one of the best ways to encourage biological activity and organic matter in the soil. It also attracts insects and birds to the farm. Martha is planning to pursue organic natural dye production and Ken will continue to produce organic grains, hay as well as breeding and training Suffolk Punch draft horses (we just got a colt this year that he hopes to train into a gentle stallion to run with a small herd of mares). We are expecting another calf from Florence this year, as well as two foals from Sadie and Buttons.

If you’d like to continue receiving emails about upcoming events, markets and special sales, just add your email to this list – here’s the link:

https://goo.gl/forms/5qMkxCLuah9PLCgL2

And finally – a big thank you to all of you who have been a part of our extended family – or just eaten our vegetables! Thanks for supporting our local economy, and keeping our family here growing food for the last 40 years.

Take care and keep in touch – come see us at the market, and find us on Insta and FB

Ellen, Aaron, Ken & Martha (and Della and Frannie)