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.





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





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

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.