Perhaps you are part of our CSA [community shared agriculture] garden already or are considering joining us this season but are wondering what it is special about our farm. We are a small farm by today’s standards at 93 acres but that allows us to better manage the many complex details involved in producing wholesome nutritious food and caring for the land we steward.
One of the most important aspects of growing nutritious food is having a healthy soil. Healthy soils grow healthy crops for humans to eat and results in healthy people and ultimately less health care costs for society to bear. This is a responsibility we take very seriously at Orchard Hill Farm. So what do we do differently?

One thing that really sets us apart is that we do most of our fieldwork with draft horses. They allow us to work the fields and harvest vegetables while reducing our dependence on petroleum fuels and represent one of our ways of tackling climate change right here on the farm. Granted, we are not purists, so we do use a tractor for a few jobs like loader work and baling hay and a rototiller for small plots that are difficult to work with horses. These working horses are fed pasture, hay and grain we grow on our fields as part of our diverse crop rotation which keeps the bugs and weeds guessing as to what is coming next. In the winter months, we collect the horse manure and straw bedding (from the grain we grow for feed and flour) and start the composting process, which results in a soil amendment rich in plant nutrients and organic matter which is then returned to our vegetable and grain fields to help supply the many nutrients essential to plant health.
A big part of creating healthy soils is promoting all the biology [bacteria, fungi, etc.] living below ground. We encourage this biology by crop rotation, cover crops, compost applications, minimizing tillage and even developing organic no-till methods. Every time the soil is disturbed, it also disturbs the bacteria and fungi – they play a critical role in providing plants with nutrients, and impact the water holding and drainage capacity of the soil – so we want them as abundant and happy as possible.
Another aspect of healthy soils is avoiding compaction, which squeezes the soil particles together – eliminating pore space where air and water are stored in the soil for use by microbes and plants. The use of horses helps us avoid compaction caused by using heavy tractors in the field.
This year we are beginning a trial of a “permanent bed system” that if successful will eliminate field wide tillage for most of our annual vegetable crops. This is a big change initiated by the next generation of farmers at OHF – Ellen and Aaron – and a big challenge for Ken to develop new field and equipment designs to make it possible.

So join us for an exciting season of progress and good food at Orchard Hill Farm CSA.

All the animals can feel it. Yesterday Florence, the cow (she’s pregnant – due in June) was hopping and tossing her head when I forking straw into her pen, and the horses came trotting into the barn wildly when I let them in for their dinner. The days are noticeably longer! It’s about time! I’m putting the finishing touches on the greenhouse plan, and we are ready to fire it up in two weeks for the longest maturing crops – onions, some of the cutting flowers and herbs.
Ken is finishing up kitchen cabinets and counters for the bunkhouse so that he can start training the two youngest horses in March. Martha has been helping with the cabinetry, weaving and is now re-upholstering a chair!
As I’ve been planning the garden, I’ve added A LOT more flowers to the mix – I’m planting rows of different flowers (zinnias, calendula, borage, nasturtiums and marigolds) within the garden and to divide different varieties, to attract beneficial insects and to help support natural pollinators. Hopefully it will provide more pollination for our fruiting plants, and maybe attract insects that eat the non-beneficial insects. And if nothing else, it will be beautiful!
It’s time to sign up for the CSA! If you know anyone who might like it, send them our way!!

Digging the last of the (delicious frosted) carrots

The pace of winter life on the farm is critical part of the whole. The speed and pressure of the spring and summer season is balanced by the introspective and intellectual focus of the fall and winter. This year has been especially slowed by the lack of Fall CSA – we were able to close up the garden particularly early and get the cover crop (rye) planted in October so that it would have a chance to get some roots established over the winter. Even if there isn’t much visible above ground growth, there are a lot of small roots that extend into the soil and help build up the soil’s resiliency during the cold season. This year we are experimenting with a plot of daikon radish as a cover crop in the section of the garden that we would like to plant to the earliest chard, carrots and beets. The daikon was planted in August and grew vigorously until the first frost. It winter kills and breaks down quickly so hopefully it will be easy to (gently) work up the ground in the spring for the first planting. We are always struggling to get the cover crop killed, worked in and planted when it first warms in the spring – and hopefully having a section with this already dead daikon will speed things up!

Mulched strawberries

As always, one of the last field jobs was to mulch the strawberries – they like to be good and frozen before being mulched in the fall, and a lot of times that takes until December.
We have also been taking care of construction projects that seem to take too much mental focus in the summer – even if we have time, we don’t have the mental capacity! We dug a hole 5 feet down (before it froze!) to expose a leaking water faucet in the barn and replaced it. We’ve got three new pigs in the barn – Della has named them Sprinkles, Cream Cheese and Greenie. Florence, the calf born the summer before last, is pregnant and due to calve in June! We haven’t decided whether or not to milk her (for our own use) – it’s so much milk! So many dishes…

Two of the new piggies

This year we will be training two new work horses – Flynn and Sadie. They’re now not 3 1/2 and ready to train to work! All the rest of the workers are 15-18 years old. Flynn is a character – he regularly hops up into his manger, or onto the sleigh in the paddock.
I am in the thick of garden planning right now – mapping the garden, planning a planting guide for the field and for the greenhouse. We will be experimenting this year with some permanent raised beds, and some intercropping of flowers in the vegetable garden – to help attract predators for pests as well as pollinators! Somehow the kids don’t have school and/or daycare for most of January, so I’m trying to get all my important tasks done before the end of the week! The first week of February I will be in Colombia visiting friends, and then it’ll be time to fire up the greenhouse!!
Have a healthy and happy holiday –

Order now and pick up any of the next three Fridays before Christmas – a big bundle of vegetables – potatoes, carrots, leeks, beets, rutabaga, parsnips, kohlrabi, winter squash, winter radish and garlic! We also have a lot of eggs if you need some rich yellow yolks for that holiday baking, for only $5/dozen – all organically fed and pastured.

Here’s the Order Form – or just send an email to and tell me what you’d like!

It would make a great gift, help you with all of that holiday cooking – and we all know that lovingly raised, local food tastes better, right? Happy holidays!!



AKA middle eastern pesto (or skoug or zchoug – there are about 15 different names and spellings for it because it’s eaten in so many different places throughout the middle east). It’s often slathered all over falafel, or sandwiches with eggplant and tahini sauce. In the summertime, I like to make it just to have in the fridge (it’s good for 5-6 days) – so I can put it on sandwiches (great with tomatoes and peppers), or toss with any kind of grilled vegetable or steak. If you like to take it easy on the spicy side, substitute a green pepper for the hot ones. You can also add a chopped tomato at the end of blending (keep it chunky). Enjoy!

2 C cilantro

1 C flat leaf parsley

2 hot green peppers (jalapeno, serrano or Hungarian wax, seeds removed)

1 tsp coriander seeds, ground

1 tsp cumin seed – whole or ground

¼ tsp cardamom (optional)

¼ tsp ground cloves (optional)

½ tsp salt

2 cloves garlic

½ C olive oil

2 Tbsp water

2 Tbsp lemon juice


Toss in food processor or blender and blend until smooth! You’ll want to scrape down the sides of the machine a few times to make sure it’s evenly blended.

Eggplant Dip (Babaganoush)

Great alternative to dairy-based dips – delicious with bread, pita or vegetables. Or make it into a salad by adding a handful of cherry tomatoes and some chopped cucumber!

1 large eggplant (or 2 small)

1/3 C tahini

2 Tbsp water

1-2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed (or more if you like)

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

First you need to blacken the eggplant- leave it whole and you can do it in the oven at 450˚, on the grill, or even on a gas burner on top of the stove. Blackening the skin on the outside really imparts a lovely smoky flavor to the dish, so don’t be afraid to really go for it. Another key element is getting the flesh inside the eggplant totally cooked and collapsed. So if you blacken the outside and it still seems as though the inside is raw, throw it in the oven to completely cook it. When the eggplant is totally soft and collapsed, cut a slit in the skin and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. Mix it with the rest of the ingredients. If it seems too lumpy and goopy for your tastes, put it in a food processor and give it a blitz.

Options –

  • Add 3 Tbsp chopped parsley or cilantro (or both!)
  • substitute yogurt or sour cream for the tahini
  • add 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (sweet-sour flavor)

IMG_9963If I’m being honest, I know that it’s August if I’ve had ratatouille and a good cry. Most of my resilience is used up by August and I don’t have much in reserve. I’m ready for a season change. It’s time to harvest so many things – which I love – no one who cooks or preserves can say that they don’t love a good bounty. But at the same time – it’s hot, everything needs to be picked and pickled, plucked and preserved all at the same time, and you’re trying to make sure that you have enough of everything else still growing to get through till frost. Oh, and there’s usually irrigation pipe to move, hay to cut (do I want it to rain or not to rain?) and 2 or 3 years of your life and fields to plan and prep for cover crops. So I usually have a good cry and get it all done and then in February look at photos and think how beautiful it all is!

However – there are so many wonderful things that I love about this time of year – the peppers (the red ones are just coming on now), eggplant, melons and tomatoes! Hot days and cool nights. Lots of pasture for the animals. Starting to clean the slate by taking out crops that are done and tucking in cover crops to grow before the end of the sunlight – keeping roots in the soil so that all the microbes will be happy and help us produce beautiful veg next year. Also – so many events!!

FRESH FEST – This Thursday, Seed Confections in St Thomas (a one woman shop, really gorgeous and tasty chocolates and macarons) will be using our beets, sumac and raspberries in her offering for Fresh Fest, the local food event in St Thomas – get tickets ahead or at the door, and then sample from local food vendors (and the farms behind them!).

VEGAN FARM DINNER AT WILDFLOWERS – On Saturday, September 16th, Wildflowers Farm (just down the road on Fruit Ridge – the owners of the bee hives on our farm) will be having a plant-based dinner on their farm – $50 per ticket. I will be making the soup course, and Seth of La Houlette de Vie will be supplying bread. There will also be wine and live music!

ORCHARD HILL FARM DINNER – Our farm dinner will be on Saturday, September 23rd 5:30-8 – four courses and wine pairing by Quai du Vin for $75 per ticket. We will be featuring lots of vegetables from the farm and pastured duck from Three Ridges Farm. There are only a few tickets left, and I will be publishing a menu soon.

RECIPES – There’s a wealth of recipes in the archives of this blog, and most of them are well labelled, so if you search ‘zucchini’ you’ll come up with a bunch of recipes! Here are a few of the hits for this season:

Kale Chips
Ok – so it’s not very seasonal (there are so many other things to eat this time of year, anyway), but I heard someone talking about them last week and they’re so good!
Flavour Paste:
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 yogurt. Massage onto kale leaves that have had the stem removed and ripped into chip-sized pieces.  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.

Panzanella (aka Bread Salad)

1 baguette, a dense artisan style loaf works best – Seth’s would be great

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.

* can be served 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.

Baby Zucchini Pasta

This is a light, fragrant and very quickly made pasta dish using very firm baby zucchini, which hardly needs to be cooked at all.  The idea is to slice them as thinly as possible in an irregular fashion.  The big fat zucchini that are fluffy inside, won’t do for this recipe.

Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil

1 clove finely chopped garlic

8-10 small very firm zucchini

juice of 1 lemon

1 good handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

1 pound of pasta

salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 1/2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated.

Put the olive oil and garlic into a thick bottomed pan and set over medium-high heat and fry for about 30 seconds without colouring, then add your baby zucchini and toss gently.  After about 2 minutes squeeze in the juice of the lemon, add the basil and cook a little longer.

Meanwhile cook the past in boiling salted water until al dente.  Toss it with the zucchini to mix the flavours, season to taste and add the Parmesan to round all the flavours together- you may need a little extra olive oil to loosen it.  Serve with some torn basil and a sprinkling of Parmesan on top.IMG_0002


0P5A9289-edit When I was a kid I thought everyone knew that the first line of defense for a toad is to pee. Toad pee was a part of my life, because I loved to catch toads. Just like I knew that you can’t eat rhubarb leaves because they’re poisonous (but toads love the moist mulch and cool shade of their leaves), and that if you had a bee sting and were out in the field, you could chew the leaf of a plantain and put the pulp on the welt to take the sting away. These are the lessons that I see my children learning on the farm, from people and from nature – the same lessons that I learned as a child here. I tried to explain to my husband recently that although I was open to talk of moving to another place, or to travel, and although we lived together in Portland, Oregon for 12 years – there would never be another place that was home because this land – the taste of the last tiny ripe strawberry, the smell of hay drying, the weight of the wind in August, the itch of peach fuzz – it has been such a tangible part of me that I can’t imagine having that relationship with any other place in the world.

For two years, I’ve been anticipating having a farm dinner – a semi formal affair, hosted on a part of the farm that’s romantic, relatively fly-free, away from the barn, slightly tarnished mostly matching vintage silver plated flatware (I feel like it’s an analogy for the farm), and extremely localized food. The kind of food, that as a chef, I think about making when I’m harvesting at 8am – it’s the most inspiring thing, to walk around a garden, thinking about what I could make with these tiny perfect leeks that you can never buy in the store because they’re usually harvested 2 months later. Or how much more elegant I could make a plate of pasta with this purple basil.

But I’m a farmer! We have a 100 member CSA, which means that we’re growing the vegetables for 100 families. They come to the farm to pick up the vegetables, and we have relationships with all of these people that are passionate enough about farm life, or fresh food, or organic vegetables, that they drive sometimes 45 minutes once a week to see us. So I have crops to plant and harvest and weed – and not a lot of time to plan a party. But I designed the CSA pick ups and schedule this year so that I would have time to have 2 dinners – one in July, and one in September (one before and one after the flies). I collected vintage silver plated flatware. I scoured the local Bibles for Missions for vintage stemware. I made a light fixture out of wild grape wines to hang in the tree above the single long table. I borrowed 3 tablecloths from my grandmother and 3 from my mother.

And I made hay and honey panna cotta – to capture for the diners that intoxicating aroma of a freshly cut field of hay. I steeped together alfalfa, clover and pineapple weed with milk, sweetened with honey (from hives beside the hay field), and served it with wild mulberries, blackcaps, raspberries and whipped cream. Because I want people to taste this place like I do.


We will be cooking some food from the farm this Sunday 2-6pm at Wildflowers Solstice Party! It’s only $10 (advance tickets) and $15 at the door – chock full of fun music, local food and artisan vendors. Come say hi – and eat some black bean and roasted carrot salad, or an ancho chile pulled pork sando on a Houlette de Vie bun!

It’s been a busy month on the farm! I went to Italy for a week and a half – helping my old boss and friend teach a cooking class at a villa in Tuscany – a lovely place, an organic farm with olives, a vegetable garden and some livestock.

IMG_9872The first day there we made coq au vin with 3 roosters that the grandmother deemed ‘no good’ (the younger generation still hasn’t worked out what exactly puts a rooster in this category). It was a lovely week and I came back refreshed and newly appreciative of the support that I have here to make it all possible. Maybe a little guilty, too, because it was a doozy of a week – the strawberries are ready, they baled hay in the first round of really hot weather, there were birthdays to celebrate, and the zucchini started! And of course, they got the second flat tire on the tractor in a week, the squash all had to be weeded and mulched and all the fall seeds were ready to go in the ground. But what a team! They did it! I am extremely grateful, too, that I have a husband that can wrangle a 10-kid 5 year old birthday party (and deal with the fall out the next day).

And when I came back – summer had sprung! It’s so inspiring to have a new ingredient to work with each week – when I was planning for this year, I thought a lot about what I would be excited about at the farmers market in Portland, and I was always excited to get the first zucchini – I know, I know – zucchini gets a bad rap because everyone gets sick of it by the end of the season – but I made an effort this year to have EARLY zucchini, because that’s when I’m the most excited to see it (a grill-able vegetable when it’s first time to grill! Something that tastes great smothered with the herbs that are just starting to come on – i.e. parsley and basil!). So we planted the zucchini in April in the hoophouse and after a rough start – it was overly mature when it first went in the ground because I thought we would move and plant the hoophouse even earlier, so it was flowering when we finally got it in there and then it frosted hard for two nights in a row! So they were hating it and I was kicking myself for making such a big production for zucchini….but now, after some fertilization and some TLC, they look great! The other thing about zucchini is that it often poops out (gets diseased/weird and we stop picking it) before the glut of the peppers and tomatoes and eggplant are ready, and so all of the ratatouille dreams I have shrivel up like the diseased plants. So this year there will be a late planting too – for ratatouille! Ha! We will now refer to this summer as ‘2017, the year Ellen went nuts with the zucchini’.

Recent favourite zucchini recipes –

  • blacken them on the grill to eat as is  – slice them thick – 3/4-1″ thick, brush with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, throw them on a hot grill until charred well – either on one side, or two.
  • pasta sauce/dip – blend up blackened slices in a food processor or blender with some garlic scapes (I know you have some of those), toasted nuts, salt, pepper, a handful of parsley and/or basil and then add olive oil slowly while it’s running. Toss with hot pasta, or chick peas for a fast, veggie dinner.

IMG_9917In other garden news – there are still strawberries out there to pick! Both varieties are ready now (Annapolis and Jewel). The winter squash plants look great – last year we had a tough season for the squash, but this year they’re off to a great start. We gave them a heavy dose of nutrients when we planted them, covered them with row cover to protect them from the cucumber beetles and now have uncovered them (they can handle some beetles when they get a little bigger and stronger), mulched them with hay from barn and now they’re growing like gangbusters. IMG_9921


One of the first things we have this year is Hakurei (HACK-er-eye), a Japanese salad turnip. It’s crunchy and sweet, and best fresh or barely cooked. You can sauté it briefly, or add it to a soup, but really it’s best eaten the way it is, or with some hummus or your favourite dip. IMG_9201Don’t throw out those greens, either! They’re highly nutritious and really lovely added to a soup at the last moment – they have a peppery flavour that really livens up a root vegetable soup, or a chicken noodle soup.   The greens are an excellent source of antioxidants such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C, carotenoid, xanthin, vitamin-K and lutein.

Rhubarb Lemonade

Sometimes it’s overwhelming to have a pile of rhubarb if you’re not a big baker – but it’s really easy to make rhubarb lemonade – just roughly chop the rhubarb and throw it in a pot with just an inch of water in the bottom. Put a lid on it and cook it over medium heat until the rhubarb has collapsed. Use a colander over a bowl to strain the rhubarb from the juice. Toss the rhubarb out, and put the juice back in the pot. Add a healthy handful of sugar and heat to dissolve the sugar. Taste and add more sugar until it’s as sweet as you like! Depending on how much rhubarb you start with, it may be very concentrated – keep it as a concentrate in the fridge (it will keep for a couple of weeks), and add water (or sparkling water!) to taste. Also good with vodka 😉