We have received two recipes from CSA members to be shared.  The first is from Vicci Coughlin:

Hi Martha:

This is a recipe I made today after picking up at the farm.  It was actually the fresh thyme that inspired me and the tomatoes of course.
Fresh Tomato Tart:
(The same filling can be used to top a pizza crust.)
I use pie pastry for this, but the original recipe calls for a short crust with butter.
1 cup plain all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup chilled butter cut into 1/2 inch chunks.
3 tablespoons ice water.
6 oz. goat cheese plus 2 tablespoons cream or milk.
2 CSA tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1 tsp good olive oil.
To make the pastry, stir together the flour and salt and cut the butter into the flour until butter is the size of a pea.  Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time turning after each addition. Gather crumbly dough into a ball wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 F.
On floured board, roll dough into a round and transfer to 9 inch pie plate.
In a small bowl, using a fork, mash the cheese together with the milk or cream and spread mixture evenly over bottom of pastry.
Cover with tomato slices in a tightly packed single layer. Sprinkle with pepper, thyme and olive oil.Bake until creust is lightly golden and the tomatoes have collapsed, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let stand for 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The second recipe is from Jason and Bonnie Wietzel:

BBQ Corn with Herb Butter

Serves 4-6

1/3 cup Orchard Hill Farm fresh basil, rosemary, chives & oregano, chop finely

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon himalayan salt or table salt

8 ears of Orchard Hill Farm fresh corn on the cob

– Mix the herbs, butter & salt by hand or in a food processor

– Take the ears of corn, remove a couple outside layers of husks on each cob, fold back the remaining husks and remove the corn silk

– Spread the butter mixture over the corn kernels and rewrap the husks around the cob

– To BBQ – put on med heat, grill till husks are a bit charred and the kernels are tender, turn often for about 15-20 min

Lisa Foal Sitting

The summer is flying by! We are grateful for the rain last night – it will save us another round of irrigation. The hot weather is bringing on our heat loving crops like eggplant, tomatoes and sweet corn. Unfortunately, the raccoons have been making a mess in the corn patch, despite the electric fence barrier. Ken put up our heavy duty fencer last night and we hope that will discourage them! We harvested our garlic this week and it is hanging up to cure. Yesterday Ken took off our early planted oats – the horses will be happy about that throughout the year. Our two foals Eli and Wendell are doing well. Their mothers went back to work this week so that we could have two teams of three horses working to plow the 2012 garden area. Lisa was employed foal sitting in a little improvised outdoor stall – the ‘playpen’ – near the field so the mothers could nurse the foals without having to come all the way up to the barn. It would take a full time photographer to keep up with all the photographs we could take every day. Let alone getting it together to share them with everyone! We’re a small farm, but a busy one that feeds many.

I have been very pleased with the cucumbers that we have been harvesting from our hoop houses. We moved the slicing cucumber plants into the hoop houses this year because so many years the slicing cucumbers that we planted outside died off early from Downy Mildew. The hoophouses protect the plants from infection and keeps the plants bearing longer. Last year we tried a few varieties and chose “Tasty Green” as the one that did the best under our conditions.
Lisa and Grahame Riding up from the Field

We continue to appreciate the efforts of our apprentices. Ryan Brennen has finished his sojourn here at Orchard Hill and Tara Smedbol will be joining us later this week for the remainder of the season. We have just had a visit from Ava Richardson, who was an apprentice here in 2003. She was visiting with her husband from Japan. Ava has been working in Japan teaching for the past three years and is hoping to return to Canada with her husband and take up farming again. We received a letter this week from Anna McFaul, who was an apprentice here in 2008 and 2009. Anna is travelling for a year and is in New Zealand enjoying all the fruit that they grow there. We regularly receive emails from past apprentices who are fondly remembering their time here, a high number of whom are now farming themselves. It’s curious to have so many fledglings fly out of our ‘nest’ here on the farm. When we see them years later, I want to know if they’re eating properly, looking healthy, found a good mate…we have a vibrant family of past apprentices.

Three Generations in the Kitchen

Our daughter, Ellen, is visiting from Portland, Oregon until the end of August and we are extremely happy to have her home for a longer visit than usual. Her husband will be joining her for a week on Saturday. They are thinking of possibly moving to Ontario next year. Ellen has been busy in the kitchen doing preserving and helping to feed the crowd that gathers around our table for meals. It’s also great to have her experienced hand in the field…she and I started the CSA on our farm in 1997 to help fund her university education!

Ryan with Wendell and Gwen

Gwen had her Suffolk Punch foal ready to greet us on Tuesday morning! A beautiful stud colt with a white diamond on his forehead. Ryan will be leaving our farm this week and was hoping the foal would be born before he departed.  Ryan is off to start medical school and has enjoyed being part of our farm team getting in on the ground level of good health which begins with healthy food produced in a sustainable manor.  We wish him well and although we will miss him we are sure that he will be an excellent doctor.

Andy with Wendell and Gwen

The heat and dry weather have been a challenge and we are irrigating the main garden for the second time this week.  It is interesting how things balance out. Ken says that the average rain fall over the year remains fairly constant so that when we have a very wet spring we are likely to have a dry spell in the summer to balance it out…We hope it doesn’t last too long, but are glad that we have the ability to irrigate the garden.

We have new Tamworth pigs to help jump start the composting of the horse manure. They also enjoy the extra produce on CSA pick up days.

Tamworth Composting Pigs

Getting Combine Ready for Wheat Harvest

Gena and Foal

Gena had a beautiful Suffolk Punch stud colt on Monday morning. We are all enjoying having a foal around again after a break of a few years.  He seems healthy and strong. In the picture he is less than a day old and already “up and at ’em”!


We have had a bumper crop of strawberries. The CSA members have enjoyed picking extra berries on pick-up days. We dug our first carrots today and hope to have broccoli soon. It is nice to have the garden growing well and savor the flavours of the season as they change.

Last week we did manage to get the footings poured for the new greenhouse thanks to the efforts of the apprentices and our son, Grayden, and his friend, Race, who came for the week to jump start the project. Now even if we don’t have time to work on it again until fall the frost sensitive work is done!

Future Greenhouse Construction Begins!



Transplants Waiting to be Planted

We are into our second week of our CSA pick-ups.  It is always a big push to get set up for the season.  Now we are changing the rhythm of our work week to include harvest and pick-ups twice a week.  Working Shares are signing up to come out and help with the harvest and we are getting to know new members and renewing our ties with others.  It has been a challenging spring with the cold and wet weather.  We continue to plant and transplant between rains and are now waiting for the ground to dry out yet again, before we can plant the peppers, melons, eggplant and tomatoes transplants in the main garden.

Last week the resident stallion, Chester, died due to some sort of internal problem that the vet couldn’t cure or clearly identify.  We are sad  and reminded again how fragile life can be.  We shared ownership of Chester with another Suffolk breeder and who just had a filly foal sired by Chester.  Two of our mares are due to foal in June and July so Chester will live on through his offspring.

Rhubarb Patch

Rhubarb is a main stay of our early CSA pick-ups. Go to pommeroyale.com (Ellen’s blog) from “Links We Like” in the side bar for a recipe for Rhubarb Compote with Wee Almond Cakes to accompany it. I guess almonds go with rhubarb because CSA member Bonnie Wietzel has also sent her husband’s gluten free Rhubarb/ Almond recipe:

Jason’s Delicious Dessert – Organic Rhubarb Honey Almond Crunch

Dessert base ingredients:

5 cups              Chopped organic rhubarb

1/3 cup            Liquid honey

1 tbsp               Bob’s Red Mill (Gluten Free) Almond Meal

1 tsp                  Organic cinnamon

1/2 tsp             Ground ginger

Topping ingredients:

1 1/2 cup        Sliced raw almond, crumbled by hand

1/4 cup           Coco Natura Organic coconut sweetener

1/4 cup           Liquid honey

1/4 cup           Unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp                 Cinnamon

1/4 cup          Nature’s Cargo fine Himalayan salt

In a mixing bowl, stir together rhubarb, honey, almond meal, cinnamon and ginger until well mixed.  Spoon into greased 8 cup baking dish.

Add topping:

In same mixing bowl that you just emptied out, stir together all topping ingredients.  Then sprinkle topping ingredients over the rhubarb mixture.

Bake in 375 degree fahrenheit oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender and your topping is brown.

Should serve 4 to 6 people.


We are looking forward to our first CSA pick-up tomorrow. Just when we thought the weather was warming up we have gotten another cold wet series of days that has brought the asparagus growing to a halt!  We are taking a leap of faith and starting regardless of the weather. Speaking of asparagus, our daughter, Ellen, has posted an Asparagus/ Bean Salad recipe on her pommeroyale.com blog (see “Links We Like”).

Soils Puppet Show at CRAFT DAY

Last Wednesday we hosted a CRAFT DAY at our farm for the network of apprentice farms that we are part of. (See CRAFT ontario on the “Links We Like” for more info.) About 70 people participated for the day. Ken led a workshop on Soils and our apprentices were the “stage crew” holding up different puppet soil components to demonstrate their interactions in the soil. We enjoyed a great pot luck lunch, farm tour and a work bee where we mulched our half acer squash and pumpkin field in 20 minutes! Many hands really do make light work!

Molly, Queen and Caesar Supervising the Potato Planting
Potato Planting

We have been very busy planting between the rains. Our 2012 strawberry plants are in and the potatoes for this year as well. We also have a 20 year old team of Belgian mares leased for the summer. We are really missing Jasmin, our Suffolk mare we lost to colic in December. Our apprentices need to have well trained horses to drive. We also purchased a Belgian mare, Princess. Suffolks are a rare breed of horse and it is not always easy to find replacements. It goes to show what a great horse Jasmin was that we need three horses to replace her!


Lots of transplanting has also been going on onions, leeks, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, pac choi, kohlrabi, fennel, celery, celeriac, head lettuce and radicchio have all been transplanted outside. The west side of the garden, that was previously too wet to even plow, has been plowed and our greenhouse of tomato transplants have also gone in. So….we have been very busy. Today we worked in the greenhouse and are getting the pick-up room ready for our big start tomorrow.

We have been challenged this season to choose our start date. I can’t remember a spring when it has been so cool that we haven’t enjoyed our first asparagus by this time in the season. We did manage to squeak in a second seeding of early vegetables yesterday and uncovered our first planting. Lisa introduced us to a method of gathering up the row cover like a big crocheted braid. It will hopefully make the relaying easier. I was delighted to see a good germination of peas, spinach, carrots, beets, radish and mesclun. The row cover really makes a difference. Ken was even able to cultivate with the draft horses and his riding single row cultivator. It rained again last night so it is good to have the second batch of early seeding done! We are later than usual with our strawberry and potato planting, but hopefully we will be able plant strawberries tomorrow and potatoes the beginning of next week.



Transplanting head lettuce and Pac Choi into hoop house
Cultivating the garden with four Suffolk Punches

Welcome to Ryan, our fourth apprentice, who arrived at the beginning of the week.  Monday morning we woke to the sound of flapping plastic and realized that our fourth hoop house, that we had just covered with plastic, had come loose in the wind and ripped off during the night!  What a disappointment.   While Ken and Andy were busy getting ground worked up to plant the early seeds in the outside garden and the oat ground ready to plant, the other apprentices retro fitted the hoop house for plastic reassembly. They put a bottom board down and used U-Bolts to attach it to the hoops then moved one of the ends in by one hoop width. Now we can have enough plastic to re-attach it to the ends and use battens to wrap the side plastic and screw them to  the wooden bottom boards.  Our CSA members can think of  all this effort when they eat their first mesclun – grown in the hoop house.

This week we also took one of our big pigs to be butchered and made into sausage to sell to CSA members. The hens are cranking out about 70 eggs a day so if anyone wants to make the pilgrimage to the farm they can stock up on eggs and sausage for Easter.

We also managed to get the early garden planted and covered with row cover and three of our four oat fields worked up and planted. Now all we need is some warm weather!

On Thursday, we started our three day April Draft Horse Workshop. Participants from Ontario and Quebec as well as three of our new apprentices took the course together. To begin they do some line exercises driving “George the Trike”. Caesar takes on a supervisory job during the workshops and especially enjoys accompanying on the wagon rides.  So life continues to be full and busy here at Orchard Hill. As we gear up for the season ahead.

Driving George the trike
Ryan Hanging up the Trace
Shannon Driving Gwen
Richard Driving Gena

Ken Plowing

Spring plowing has begun again. Ken and our Suffolk Punch draft horses got a false start in March before the last snow storm and freeze up. Now they are back at it and getting ready to plant oats as soon as possible. We will also be planting the early CSA garden as soon as we can work up our early garden area.  We did manage to plant one of our hoop houses this week to have greens for our first CSA pick-ups.

Lisa Unloading Oat Seed
Grahame Servicing Mower
Andy Plowing

Our full season apprentices have arrived. Andy, from New Zealand, has returned to fill our Senior Apprentice position. It has already been a great help to have a trained teamster to work with the draft horses. He has jumped right in doing some of the spring plowing. Lisa, from Maryland, and Grahame, from B.C., have come to become teamsters and hone their farming skills. We feel privileged to work with such fine young people as we pass on what we have learned over the past 30 plus years farming and look forward to working with them this season.

Arthur Ford Public School Planting Bean Seed

Earlier this week we had a grade two class from Arthur Ford Public School in London come to the farm for a field trip. One of the students is a CSA member and we agreed for the class to come. They enjoyed a wagon ride, egg collecting and bean planting. Normally we are too busy to host school field trips, but we squeezed it in early and were fortunate to have good weather. I am hopeful that it will stir a horticultural bent in some of the students…

Morning Emergence of Free Range Hens From Chicken Coop

The Laying Hens are very happy to have the land free of snow! They are laying again with the longer day length and we have eggs for sale at the farm. (Available in the breezeway of the house if we aren’t around.)

Big Pigs that Escaped!

Last week our two big “composting pigs” escaped! We had just mucked out the horse stalls and put the manure in one of our three composting areas. Two “Free Range” hens had made there way into the pen and we left the door open so they could get out. What we didn’t realize was that the door to the pen next door, where the pigs were, wasn’t nailed shut! While we were eating lunch and I was anticipating my afternoon nap with pleasure I looked out the window and saw two 500 lb. pigs rooting around in the horse paddock! Ken and I spent the next 1 1/2 hours chasing pigs before we got them back into their pens. They were out in the woods, in with Mable and finding nuts and grass roots to chew on – having a grand time!

Hoophouse Conversion to Greenhouse

On a good note we have our retrofitted hoophouse/greenhouse up and running with a wood stove installed. The little plants are looking happy. I have more sweet potatoes getting ready to send out shoots that we can plant as slips. Leeks, onions, and early lettuce and Pak Choi growing.

The end of February I visited our daughter, Ellen, in Portland, Oregon and enjoyed attending her graduation from a Chef’s Studio. She has written a blog http://pommeroyale.com/where she writes about her experience and adds recipes. I hope she can post some good ideas for using our produce when the CSA season begins. I also brought back a recipe book written by Robert Renolds, the chef she studied with, From a Breton Garden. I plan to share some of the recipes from it over the season as well.