Eric and Anne Nordell's Weed Free Garden

Ken and I went on a field trip the end of last week organized by the Ecological Farmers of Ontario. We are very grateful to our apprentices and working shares who were here to gather together a lovely array of produce for Saturday’s pick-up. We saw a number of other farms and visited the Rodale Institute for their field day. One of the farms we visited was Eric and Anne Nordell’s in Pennsylvania. They are a model farm for weed control with the use of draft horses. It is interesting for us to be able to leave the farm to see other farms during the growing season.

This time of year we have lots of produce coming in and we welcome recipes from our CSA members. Colleen Burns has supplied us with a Cold Cucumber Soup recipe that she has been enjoying.

Cold Cucumber Soup

3 T. Butter or marg.

1 cup chopped onions

4 large garlic cloves – minced

3 cups chicken or veggie broth

4 cups seeded diced, unpeeled cucumber (2 medium)

1 cup swiss chard or spinach

1 cup sliced, peeled potatoes

1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 T lemon

1 cup table cream

In a large saucepan heat butter and saute onions and garlic until soft. Add broth cucumber, spinach, potatoes, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Simmer covered until potatoes are tender (10 min.) Tansfer mixture in batches to blender or food processor to puree (Blender makes soup smoother)

Transfer to large bowl. Stir in cream. Let soup cool. Then chill overnight or for several hours. Serve in chilled bowls. Can garnish with thin slices of cucumber.




Wheat Harvest at Orchard Hill Farm

Harvest time is coming early this year with the warm spring and hot weather that we have been experiencing. Usually we don’t harvest wheat and oats until later in the summer, but our wheat is all off and the straw is in the barn. The oats are half harvested, one of our fiels isn’t ready yet. Our old combine has held together so far, but Ken says there is a vibration that is starting to concern him…fingers crossed that it all holds together for another season. We are selling our old thrashing machine today so we can’t use that as our fall back position.

Amanda, Eli, Elizabeth and Bill - Garlic Harvesters

The garlic was also harvested earlier than usual this week. It came out of the field as a bumper crop!  We dug it all in one afternoon Ken and Bill ploughed it out with Gena and Buttons, two of our Suffolk Punch horses, and a walking plough. Then we gathered it up and tied two bunches of ten together on either end of a length of twine, loaded it onto a wagon that the horses pulled up to the barn and it is all nicely hanging to dry.

We have been irrigating the garden  because of  the dry weather and are thankful that we have a pond and equipment to do so. It does add to the work load and it isn’t the same as rain, but it helps keep the garden growing! We are hoping for rain soon to help our hay and pasture fields to grow.

Cauliflower, Fennel, Eggplant and Lettuce CSA offering
Wagon Full of Garlic Waiting to be Hung Up to Dry
CSA Share Baskets Being Collected

The CSA pick-ups keep rolling around twice a week and we are harvesting beautiful produce to give to our CSA members. Our early carrots have been the most disappointing, because of the wire worm damage early in the spring. We are hoping that the later plantings will come along better. The taste of the carrots that we have harvested is very good despite the lower yield. Because of the wire worm we have decided to move our garden plot for the 2013 season to a different location. We had the area where we thought we were going to have the garden all ploughed in the spring and thought we were going to avoid summer ploughing in the hot dry weather. Now we are in the midst of ploughing the new area and it is hard on the horses and the teamsters. The ground is so hard that it is difficult to keep a plough in the ground. The apprentices are also working at preparing other plots for our 2013 potatoes, squash and new asparagus planting. Each of them have a field that they are responsible for and are doing all the tillage with the draft horses to prepare the ground. Some of the cover crops have been planted and the other fields are almost ready to be seeded.

We are happy that Princess,the belgian mare we had for sale will be going to Edencrest, another CSA farm in Ontario north west of Barrie. Mater is still for sale.

It’s Pesto time with fresh garlic and basil! Here is a recipe from Our Mothers’ Kitchens by Anita Stewart that I use:


3 garlic cloves

2 cups packed leaves

1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

3/4 cup olive oil

In blender or food processor process garlic, basil, pine nuts, salt and pepper until finely chopped. With machine still running, gradually pour in oil and puree. Scrape into freezer container. Seal and freeze for up to 6 months. Makes 1 cup.




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