Grandpa and GrandmaIt’s been a whirlwind of activity on the farm the past few weeks – this time of year, everything wants to be done at the same time. What to do when?! This morning we were trying to figure out what to tackle first and Ken said ‘Well, which of the 14 things that all need to be done now should we do first?’ The greenhouse is exploding with plants whose roots are seeking real soil. The garden ground has finally warmed enough we can plant more and more seeds directly, and barely keep ahead of the weeds. And all the plants are so new and tender that they are the most delicious for the bugs and beetles, so everything has to be covered with row cover (floating fabric that keeps the bugs out). But then again, it’s spring, so some of them – like the tiny and voracious flea beetle, are just emerging from the soil and so they come out under the row cover to a feast! These are the culprits responsible for the (ahem) ‘lacy’ radish leaves.

Garden June 1However, the greenhouse is looking rather empty these days – we have planted broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, beets, carrots, corn, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, beans, melons and gladiolas in the past few weeks. Everything just needs a good soaking in order to take off. Since nature doesn’t seem to be cooperating, we are going to take matters into our own hands and start some irrigation. That should make it rain for sure!

And of course, it’s the perfect time to move and merge households – ha! Ellen and Aaron have sold their house in Portland and moved their things to the family farm. Farm succession in action has a lot less to do with tractors and spreadsheets than it does with 4 almost identical mesh strainers and too many laundry baskets.Rototilling with baby in back

We have been doing some experimenting with cover crops and planting crops directly into them – aka – no-till, with mixed success. The advantage is that the plant matter left on the surface provides nutrients and protection from the elements for the new plants, as well as benefiting the micro organisms that live in the soil (this is obviously extremely simplified – see Ken for a full scientific explanation of the complex symbiotic relationships at work here). The disadvantage is that sometimes it’s difficult to kill the cover crop, and sometimes the weeds get too established before the cover crop takes over. Just last week we tried a few rows of popcorn planted into rye that had been rolled, and initially it looked great, but now the rye is rising from the dead and seems like it might smother the poor popcorn. But have no fear – there is lots of popcorn that is not part of the experiment, looking great!

IMG_4061Finally, keep a look out for a calf in the next month – Utah, the Jersey cow, is due to calve any day!




We are really into summer on the farm!  It looks like we will need to do another round of irrigation this week. Our first field of wheat is ready to come off and then we will have straw to bail. The garden is growing well with some tasty summer squash, cauliflower and broccoli being harvested. We are watching our garlic closely to make sure we don’t let it get over mature. Our strawberry season was short and sweet. We were pleased that so many strawberries escaped being frozen after our hot March and then -7 degrees C  nights in April!  We have another round of brassica transplants to go out this week and a succession planting of carrots and beets for the fall. My plan is to plant and then irrigate.

Amanda Building Pasture Fence for Mabel

We are getting another pasture fenced for Mabel, our Jersey cow. She has grown up in  the last two years and is ready to calve in August. We got her when she was two days old in May of 2010. Last Thursday she ducked under the top wire of the electric fence when Elias was moving her water barrel out of her patture and had taken down the lower fence.

Elizabeth Burying the Electric Fence Wire

Usually she is very friendly and quite happy to come to us for some attention, but she was having too much fun when she was out, playing tag with us, and it took a while before Ken was finally able to get hold of her halter!  Today Elizabeth and Amanda are fencing off the front pasture beside our chicken pasture so that Mabel will have some more good grazing. Next year the chickens will be in that pasture and Mabel can have the pasture where they are.  There are so many jobs to do all the time that, although fencing the front pasture for Mabel has been on the “list” for some time, it has only just now floated to the top.

Every week our work is framed by our CSA harvest for our Tuesday and Saturday pick-ups, however around the edges of that we do manage to keep up with other farm tasks. Finishing cutting up the fire wood for next winter is still on the list and every other week we do manage to do a sweep of in the garden – cultivating with our Suffolk Punch draft horses and then weeding and hoeing by hand. Ken also is planning to finish the cold room that has been under construction for some time. It will allow us more harvest flexibility and hopefully result in better quality produce for our CSA members. We now need to find and install a cooling unit, add some weather stripping and move the building into place. Ken finally had time to saw some of his lumber last week and then the new motor on the saw mill broke down! Understandably, he was very frustrated. The motor is at the repair shop and we are awaiting its return.

On the horse front we ended up buying back two Suffolks, Suzzie and Sonny,  that we sold five years ago along with, Sandy, a five year old mare out of our old stallion, Rufus, and Suzie. Sandy is untrained, but Ken is enjoying having two horses back that he trained himself. It’s nice to have more Suffolks on the farm again. After loosing three horses last year it is taking us a while to sort everything out. We also bought Queen, a lovely old belgian mare that we leased last summer. We are happy to have  Queen back on the farm to help out. We have Mater and Princess for sale because we don’t need quite so many horses. (See the horses for sale page of our website for pictures.) They are both good work horses and we hope they can find good homes. Our two foals from last year, Wendel and Eli, are “growing up” in the south pasture.

Grandma Martha Holding Della

In the back of my mind I am still remembering holding little Della Jane when I was in Portland for her birth. It’s too bad I can’t be in two places at once! We hope that Della can come for visits when she is older so we can get to know her and share our farm. Ken is of course hoping that she will take after him and be horse crazy and grow up to be an organic horse farmer! He has been collecting horse toys for several years…

Bill back from Cultivating with Buttons and Queen
Elias Seeding Head Lettuce Transplants
New Cold Room
Cultivating and Hoeing Onions and Leeks


Caesar, Bill van Zanten, Ken Laing, Amanda Lushinger, Elizabeth Hammond, Paul Papadatos

Now it seems like the new year on the farm has really begun with the arrival of our apprentice team for the season.  We have a new group this year and they have arrived with a welcome burst of  enthusiastic  energy. The whole crew took a turn driving our Suffolk Punch draft horses, Gwen and Gena, as they ploughed a round in the potato plot, yesterday, with oversight from Ken and Caesar.  The apprentice team and I also spent the better part of the day wrestling with row cover for the early garden planting.  Row cover seems like one the necessary evils of organic farming. We are using it this time of year just to keep the soil warmer where we have tucked in the early garden seeds and it does make quite a difference in the early garden growth.

Ploughing Under the Rye for the Potato Ground

Bill van Zanten actually arrived  a week earlier than planned because the weather was so warm and we were over whelmed with all the early spring work to be done.  He helped us get our hoop houses ready to go and worked in the greenhouse and with the early planting. We aren’t sure what the weather is going to do from here on out. We have left the strawberries covered hoping that it will protect them from the extremely cold nights we have just had.  However, we don’t want them to start growing under the mulch because that is also hard on them, so we will have to uncover them soon  and hope for the best. Our early peas, spinach, carrots, beets, radishes and mesclun are planted out doors. One of our hoop houses is planted to spinach and we are going to plant more of our hoop houses later this week. It is a challenge to time it so it will all be ready at the right time to go with our perennials of rhubarb and asparagus and then  be able to dovetail with the outdoor plantings so that we have a continuous supply of produce once we start the CSA pickups.

First Log Sawed !

Ken’s new sawmill did arrive. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had time to do much more than try it out, because all the fields are calling to him.  We are expecting to have some windows of time to do some sawing a little later after the oats are planted. The earlier you plant oats the better they do.  We  are hoping to get them planted before the end of March, but we are still waiting for our new seed to arrive. The early spring has everyone feeling like they are behind before we even get started!

Skidding out Logs with Gena and Gwen

Ken has spent a good part of the last month felling trees and skidding logs out of the woodlot with our Suffolk Punch horses. He was ideally waiting for some nice snow cover for the log skidding. The logs get very dirty when they are pulled out in the mud. Today, on our Sunday farm walk/talk, he was saying that he should probably get a power washer to clean up the logs before cutting them or he will have a lot of dull blades in a hurry when he starts sawing. I was delighted with the idea, because we could also use it to wash the garden soil off of the carrots and other root vegetables. We purchased a “root washer” last year, but I have been very disappointed with it. It does a lovely job of washing peppers, tomatoes and zucchini, but in my opinion they don’t usually need much washing anyway. However, with the really dirty roots we had to pre-wash them for them to come out clean. I’m ready to try a power washer!

Walnut Logs Ready for Sawing

Ken’s farmer blood is starting to boil with all the warm dry weather in the forecast and he is ready to start spring plowing so he can plant some early oats. The earlier they get in the ground the better. It is unusual for us to be able to plant before the end of March, but it looks like this year it should be possible. The frost is out of the ground and it is starting to dry up! The good thing about doing so much logging is that the draft horses have kept in shape and should be ready to go with the plowing. It is hard on horses when they are out of shape and the weather warms up quickly. We have three new horses to work with this spring and it will be good for Ken to begin working with them before the apprentices arrive at the end of the month.

Molly, Jonathan, Martha, Ken, Bill and Jolianne

On the weekend we were delighted to have two of our past apprentices, Jonathan Bruderlien and Joilanne Demers, come to the farm for a stop over with their new team of draft horses, Molly and Bill. They are CSA farming in Quebec and have purchased their first team. Ken helped them hitch for the first time and they even did some plowing. It is very gratifying for us to have helped train this fine young couple who are pursuing sustainable farming with horses and we wish them every success.


Leaving the barn yard with straw to mulch the strawberries.

When we come round to mulching strawberries for the CSA it really feels like we have come full circle in the farm year. We were discussing today whether it was the last job of the previous season or the first job of the new season. I guess that this year it is the first job of the new season since it is January 3rd. It’s hard to believe that three days ago we were planting garlic! The weather is so changeable. However, I am happy for the draft horses to have the snow to exercise in.  What a mess the winter has been so far with all the mud!

Driving to the field.

We hitched up two of our Suffolk Punch horses, Sassy and Gwen and loaded up the straw to take down to the field to mulch the strawberries with. We were waiting for the ground to freeze before we did this job, but we weren’t expecting to have so much snow over night. It was hard to see where the strawberry rows were! Caesar enjoyed coming along especially if he got to ride on the sleigh.

Caesar enjoying the ride.
Mulching the Strawberries

On another note we have been picking fresh kale from the garden, it just gets sweeter with the frost and tastes so good as a green vegetable. Kale chips are good too.  The following recipe was given to me by two different CSA members and it is very tasty.

Kale Chips with Cashews

KALE CHIPS with Cashews

Blend together in food processor:

1  Red Pepper (I use frozen ones from the summer).

1  Cup Cashews

2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

1 Tablespoon Tamari Sauce (you can use soy sauce)

2  Cloves Garlic (crushed first)

1  Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast (optional)

1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

6  Cups of firmly packed Kale (tare bit size pieces of kale off  of the center stem and discard stem).

Massage the above mixture onto the kale.

Spread on a 2 cookie sheets and dry in a slow oven until crisp. You can even turn the oven off after it has warmed up and then turn it on again every hour just enough to warm up. You don’t want to cook the kale, just dehydrate it. I use my dehydrator, but not everyone has one.





Beautiful Cauliflower
Last Saturday we had our first Fall CSA pick-up at the farm. Ken and I had a taste of harvesting in the rain without our apprentices to help. We did have some help from CSA friends and were very pleased to have a good showing of produce. We moved into the bunkhouse in anticipation of colder weather before the final pick-up in early December. Also our summer pick-up area doubles as our woodshed in the winter and we have it full of firewood to keep us warm this winter.
Tomatoes from the Hoophouse
The fall Cauliflower stole the show for the pick-up, but all the tomatoes from the hoop house were a close second.
Pumpkins on the Couch
We had to use the bunkhouse couch for the pumpkins. Ken wanted to put the potatoes there so we could give “couch potatoes”, but I thought they were a bit too dirty.

Martha Putting up Insulation
Now that the pick-up is over we have been able to go back to work on the greenhouse. We have used cut outs from patio doors. They have insulation between layers of aluminum and we screw nailed them to the outside of the foundation wall. Now Ken is busy back filling around the outside and then we can put the rocks inside for a heat sink. It is going to keep us busy getting it all done hopefully before the snow flies.

We finished up our main CSA season with a great group of apprentices.  We tackled a number of jobs during the apprentices’ last week to complete the season. The garlic for 2012 was planted with our Suffolk horses, the potting soil for winter started transplants mixed up and stored away, the corn ground and this year’s garlic ground was worked up and seeded to rye. We also managed to work on the foundation for the greenhouse.  Our garden area for next year was worked up and seeded down to rye and oats using our draft horses and the grain is coming up nicely.

2012 farm team: Tara, Graham, Ken, Martha, Lisa and Andy
Next Year's CSA Garden with Rye Cover Crop
Greenhouse Foundation Cement Work Finished
Andy and Suffolk Horses Seeding Rye

Some Beautiful CSA Produce

Well, our season seems to be rapidly drawing to a close! Overall it has turned out to be a wonderful year for many of the crops that we grow. I’m thinking back especially to strawberries and melons, as well as bumper yields of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and fall raspberries. We grew the CSA to just over 200 shares this season. It feels like a manageable size and are happy to not get any bigger. Our apprentices and working shares have been wonderful in helping us harvest the bounty of produce that has come forth during the season. The response to our fall CSA has been very positive and we are looking forward to the challenge of extending our season to the beginning of December for a smaller group of CSA members on a bi-weekly basis – only on Saturday. The reason that we have been increasing our CSA and have expanded into the fall has been to generate more income to purchase additional land, which we have been renting from my mother. This has been made possible by the support of my mother and siblings, who want the land to stay in the family and be owned by the farmers who farm it and by all of our CSA members who have given us an income to afford to purchase the land. I was very close to my grandmother and father, who loved this farm and used teams of horses to farm it. It is with a keen sense of stewardship and responsibility that we take on the care of the land which we love and into which my roots run deep.

Greenhouse Foundation Under Construction

We have finally had time to start on the greenhouse construction again. The walls for the foundation are made out of dry laid cement block. They will have cement poured into the core and be plastered on the outsides for reinforcement. It is a building method Ken has read about and is interested to try. It ends up being like a poured cement wall, but doesn’t require cement forms. The basement of the north room will be filled with rocks to act as a heat sink for the heat that is generated when the sun shines.

Good bye Black Walnuts

Our green house construction is currently on hold for black walnut tree cutting.  We have lost three horses to colic within the last year and Ken has been mulling it over in his brain and trying to sort out why. The end result is a strong suspicion that it is black walnut that is the culprit. As I write, he is cutting down the trees along the south edge of the winter paddock area. There are different symptoms of poisoning from juglone, which is in the black walnut bark, leaves, nuts and pollen. They include skin irritation, hair loss, colic, respiratory problems all of which we have seen to greater or lesser extent in our horses. The problem is that laminitis is one the main symptoms often sited and we didn’t really see that, so it threw us off.  Apparently, horses that are exposed for years can sometimes develop a problem all of a sudden. It seems crazy. We have lots of walnuts bordering our pasture fields.  I expect this winter we will be cutting a lot of walnut trees! Some of them are on the fence row with our neighbors, so we will have to speak to them and apply for permits to cut trees as well.  Ken is now wondering if Jethro’s dropped soles, our first stallion, were related to walnuts – not over feeding… He is a disappointed with our vets, because in all the years they have been coming here they haven’t pointed out any potential problem.  Sam had severe skin irritation this spring. He also grabbed a branch of walnut as he was walking by a tree when we were digging potatoes.  I ripped the branch out of his mouth in the morning and that evening he had a gas attack.  He recovered that time, but not the next time two weeks later. Chester was in fields near the house with walnuts in both… His condition deteriorated for unknown reasons. When he really got sick we had just put him out in the area to the south of the quonset and thinking back it was probably walnut pollen time and there are a lot of walnuts in the trees right there… apparently even small amounts of pollen can sometimes cause big reactions.  Both Gena and Gewn have suffered from strange unexplained respiratory problems. If it is the problem and we can remove black walnut from the pastures and paddock areas we hope to see a positive jump in overall herd health. Here’s hoping.

"Mater" Our New Replacement Horse

We have a new replacement nine year old gelding. “Mater” has been retired from the horse pulling circuit. We suspect that he has some Suffolk  blood although he isn’t registered. He probably came east as a young foal from one of the PMU farms in western Canada where they had some Suffolk horses.

Please remember the last pick-up days for the 2011 are:
Tuesday, October 4
Saturday October 8

Martha gave me, Lisa the apprentice, the honor of writing the CSA newsletter and blog this month.  Yesterday afternoon I discovered a wasp nest in the woodpile when I was stung by an unhappily disturbed wasp; the swelling of my hand and wrist makes hard outdoor work a little difficult, so I am instead exercising my brain by reflecting back on the joys of late summer while the rest of the Orchard Hill Farm staff continue on the work to prepare for the new greenhouse building.
Green Thumbs and Fingers Too - After Suckering Tomatoes!

The cool nights and the end of melons and sweetcorn–produce which particularly earmarks the height of summer–has reminded me that the advent of autumn is nearly upon us.  In many ways this is my favorite time of year, when the mornings are cold enough to keep a hoodie on, and the heat of the day feels pleasant rather than overwhelming.  The bounty of crops continues.  Our melon season ends, and we are grateful for all of those stifling hot summer days which allowed for the abundance of ripe and sweet melons.  After our last sweet corn harvest on Tuesday morning, we took down the raccoon fence which had so carefully protected our crop, and Ken bushhogged the tall and empty stalks.  We now have fall bearing raspberries to enjoy, which are producing enough to be open for pick-your-own on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11-7, during CSA pick-up hours only, please.  The bright red and green zebra tomatoes in the hoophouse continue to grow and ripen, and the paste, heirloom, and sun-gold cherry tomatoes of the field each have a unique sweetness and flavor–as long as we can harvest them before the multifarious pests who also want their share.  We hope you are enjoying making up your own boxes of tomatoes so that you can sample the many varieties our fields have to offer.  Other delicacies of fall–winter squash, leeks, and potatoes–will soon be coming.

Last week we harvested all of the onions which were then transported to the hoop houses where they will dry out and cure in the hot, dry air, to allow them to be stored into the fall and winter.  We also plowed up the land where we will plant garlic in a few weeks.  Each year Ken and Martha save their own garlic seed, which is then planted in the fall, overwinters in the ground, and harvested the following summer.
Washing Rocks for Greenhouse Heat Sink

A few days of warm and dry weather allowed for us to bring in the last of the second-cut hay early this week.  The barn is full almost to the ceiling, and we feel confident that the horses will have enough feed to last through the winter.  Getting in the last of the hay and catching up on work in the garden now allows us enough extra time to begin construction on the new greenhouse.  Today is the third day in a row where the OHF crew has been faithfully and mostly-joyfully sifting through the pile of dirty rocks to wash off pebbles and mud.  We need enough rocks to fill in the space below the floor of the greenhouse 3-feet high.  The rocks will provide mass to store heat, however we need them to be clean to allow for air to circulate between and around rocks.  Dance music and stimulating conversation has helped us to keep our energy high during this somewhat arduous task.  Plus, we are all thrilled to be able to be a part of this building project–both to learn about greenhouse design and to help Ken and Martha complete construction before the cold of winter hits.

Please mark your calendars for the 2011 CSA Potluck which will be here at Orchard Hill on Sunday, September 25th from 2-4 p.m.  Please bring a dish to share, lawn chairs, and plates, cups, and cutlery for you and your family.  We will have horse-drawn wagon rides.  We look forward to socializing and sharing a meal with you in celebration of all of this wonderful produce and the OHF community.
Working Shares Making Up Tomato Boxes for CSA

Please note that the last CSA pick-up days for the season are Tuesday October 4th, and Saturday, October 8th.  If you are a working share and have not yet participated in your 5-hours of work for the season, please sign-up on the calendar in the pick-up room.  We have many slots open and always look forward to your help harvesting and washing vegetables.

Thanks again for your continued support,
Lisa and the Orchard Hill Farmers

All season I have asked for recipes and they are now rolling in.  Here are two more recipes contributed by CSA members.

Hi Martha,

Today’s pick-up had all the ingredients for one of my favourite salads ever, so I thought I would share the recipe.   Bread salad may sound strange but it is so good!


1 baguette, a dense artisan style loaf works best

1/2 cup olive oil

3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tsp sugar

salt and pepper to taste

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, peeled, halved (seeded if necessary) and cut into bite sized pieces.

3 cups tomato, chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped.

Whisk oil, vinegar, sugar salt and pepper together in a large salad bowl.

Add onion to dressing and let sit while you prepare the rest of the salad. … it softens the bite of onion and adds a nice taste to the dressing.

Slice baguette lengthwise into quarters (you should have 4 long pieces), brush with oil an grill until toasted on all sides.  Remove, cool, cut into bite-sized chunks.

Add tomato, cucumber, basil and bread.  Toss and serve.

* We usually serve with grilled boneless skinless chicken breast that have marinated for about 2 hours  in …. 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 white wine, 2 Tbsp each fresh rosemary and thyme, 1 minced clove of garlic, 2 tsp mustard, 2 tsp sugar.



Hi Ken and Martha;

Martha today I was telling you about my recipe for kale chips. My friend Susan Varro modified a recipe she had into this, so I pass on credit to her. It’s absolutely fabulous – my children go nuts for these, so if they pass the kid test, they are a-ok! It’s called Cashew “Cheese” because the nutritional yeast and cashews, along with the salt, create a great flavour that sort of mimics a cheese taste – which is great for ‘chips’!
Cashew “Cheese” for Kale Chips:
1 red bell pepper, roasted and skin removed.

1 cup unsalted cashews, soaked for at least 1 hour

1 lemon, juiced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp sea salt or to taste.

Blend until consistency of yogourt. Massage onto kale leaves.  It should be covered like a light salad dressing.  Bake at 175 degrees for approx 3 hours, until crispy.

When cool, keep in an airtight container for up to a few days.


The paste recipe is easily doubled, and can keep in the fridge for a few days. It also freezes well. It is a great idea to double the batch and freeze the leftovers so that the next time you have kale, you have the paste easily available – just defrost and spread. 🙂

Give it a try! I will attempt to bring some for you next time I come down to the farm (in a few weeks).


Brianne Curry