Monday, November 5, 2012

Falling Leaves

Well whoops a month has actually flown by since our last update at Thanks Giving and so all those beautiful pictures we took of autumn colours and bright leaves are now totally insignificant because as far as leaf coverage goes, it's now looking pretty bare out there.

Thanks to a frost in the 2nd week of October the flower growing season is officially over at Oliver Farm and although that is a huge relief to us workwise - it's amazing how much tidying up and prep work remains to be done before we settle in for the winter. So there is no putting up our feet just yet.
However, at the first whiff of garlic planting season I made my annual escape to Europe where I enjoyed an indulgent week in Rioja and Ribera del Duero with a wonderful group of clients, some outstanding wine and the fabulous MW Derek Smedley, if you ever want the heads up on wine then check out his website.

My absence meant that Jamie and the dogs were left to their own devices for 2 weeks and faced with planting all that garlic himself for the 2nd year in a row, this year Jamie developed a cunning garlic clove-sized hole-making tool. Think it would have worked excellently if our dopey doggies hadn't decided that digging in the dirt was their favourite activity also.

Now that I'm back and the garlic is planted, with the weather turning cooler, we have turned our attention to our loose leaf tea business. Many of our herbs are dry so are being blended into all sorts of tasty infusions. I have also been busy grinding up a wonderful concoction of spices for both our black tea and Rooibos Chai blends. We spent a long and enjoyable day at the Valley Tea Festival on Saturday and they were a great success so all that grinding was worth it. For me it's not quite the same as tasting wine but it's the next best thing!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A final flourish

Hurray we reached Thanks Giving without a! And thanks to the inches of rain and hot weather we have experienced over recent weeks this meant we had a wonderful spread of flowers, decorated pumpkins and ridiculously shaped gourds to display at the market last Saturday and it turned out to be Jamie's best day ever. This was our last Saturday at the Seaport Market in Halifax (or so we thought!).

 For those of you who haven't looked at the Oliver Farm FaceBook page then I suggest you check out the Oh My Gourd album for a laugh at the brightly coloured funny shaped goblin eggs and the like that our land produced. We are still gathering in beans, tomatoes, potatoes etc. anything that we can salvage before a frost descends. I am digging a few herbal roots to produce muddy-looking decoction type things. We have both enjoyed some gorgeously warm, sunny and blissful bug-free days and it's come as a shock to us to suddenly have to put on the heating (or attempt to) and find a sweater. Would love to say that the to-do list was getting shorter now that summer has most definitely ended but am not convinced that we will get to put up our feet for a while since we have a schedule of Christmasy type markets on the agenda and garlic to plant on an incredibly soggy looking field.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

You know it's fall when...

So, kids have gone back to school, Tata has flaunted her annual Labour Day parade, we celebrated my birthday, nights have turned cool and we've had to hunt out where on earth we put our socks for the last few months, so it feels like fall is definitely on it's way. Oh yes and sunflowers....lots of them, looking wonderful despite the winds and heavy rain brought along by hurricane what's her name down south.(The first of many I fear).

Plants are loving the rain and we are hoping this will give the farm it's final florish before we throw in the trowel at Thanks Giving. Or maybe I should re-phrase that, the only tools we might be giving up in October are the secateurs, we will still have garlic to plant and lots of farmy stuff to rest for the humble land steward.

Pocket sized cantaloupe and over-sized aubergine

Not sure what we've let ourselves in for, this Sunday the farm will be officially open for visitors for the annual provinicial Open Farm Day, an opportunity for everyone to meet their farmer and in our case, stare at weedy fields where flowers once grew. We have a feeling that our crazy purple van from Berlin and pocket-sized Massey Ferguson will be the focus of attention for most people. Wish us luck!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer flying by

The fact that it's been a month since our last post surely reflects the general state of play for us and all farmers at this time of year...busy? - doesn't even come close to describing the frenzy of flower picking and selling. We are fortunate that despite the desperate drought, we still have a harvest, albeit slightly stunted and perhaps less abundant than last year. There are some disappointments but it's all ticking along as well as can be expected.

We've had a few volunteers staying, by far the most helpful and hard-working was Zophia, who produced home-made soups and bread while still managing to assist with harvesting, weeding and farm projects. She was particularly fond of the dogs who are now nicknamed Bertuska and Edzio and she did an incredible paint-job on our (very rusty) yard art. We will miss her!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rain, rain come again

So the rain dance worked (well actually it was a drumming and we only got a sprinkle) but at least it has perked our flowers up a little and we are at last seeing more blooms. The lilies were lovely while they lasted, we have received a beautiful thank you note from a very happy bride who was delighted with last week's flowers, so some things are going well. Don't be fooled, Jamie is putting on a very brave face but battling with all sorts as per usual. We are so very annoyed that some of this year's glads seem to be infested with thrips so armed with insecticidal soap we begin the defence strategy but many are ruined. No sooner are we done with scaping our garlic, are we now beginning the harvest, cleaning and curing process of all the bulbs. Kind of ironic that when we need dry weather to leave the garlic in the field to cure, we get rain, but we are not complaining! Anyway this year's garlic rocks,Yahoo!
(Forgot to mention last time that we now have a Facebook page for Oliver Farm Botanicals to help us easily post piccies of check us out if you haven't already.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Making Hay

Well, while the sun shines and all that...must be years since the front field was last cut for hay, makes it feel like a proper farm. All  we need now are some cows to feed (or not!). Oh and what else do we need desperately...RAIN! Sorry to all you folks in the UK who are really feeling damp and cold, our flowers could really do with some of that water over here. We are resisting irrigation so who knows what will happen, so far so good. Lilies have bloomed, holly hocks are looking imperial and sweet peas are smelling so sweet. Life is good.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Strawberries, Scapes and Weddings

The summer rhythm is starting to find its swing. We've managed flowers for two weddings already and Jamie has been at the Halifax Seaport Market for the last 2 weeks but we're not yet even close to what we feel is "proper harvesting". Which is good, because right now we are drowning under a mountain of garlic scapes. Some of our scape recipes were published in Saltscapes Magazine and if I was more savvy I would know how to beam that to you all instantly, but sadly I am not. Scapes seem to be very on trend over here this year, so I am told, so for those of you who don't include them on your grocery list then maybe you might want to try them. Or better still, grow your own garlic so you don't have to buy the stuff which is bleached and shipped from China all sparkly white, clean and toxic. Anyway, the scape is the green shoot that the garlic bulb sends up as it grows and we cut it just as it curls over like a pig's tail before it flowers. With the scape you can chop it up and use it like garlic. It freezes very well and makes great pesto.
It's also the time of year for strawberries and Quahogs. This year the pickings were so easy that we filled an entire cool box full of strawberries so I have been busy making as much jam as we have jars for. As for Quahogs, well that's Jamie's thing (any excuse to paddle around on the beach digging!).
Time now to get back to harvesting, enjoy the pics!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Polytunnel...better late than never!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the many extra pairs of hands helping us over the last few weeks. The transplants are gradually making their way to the field and there is still more seeding to be done but finally this week (on what felt like the hottest day of the year) we got round to erecting the polytunnel! Jamie and Jason seemed to effortlessly construct the 80ft structure over the course of the morning and by afternoon, if we hadn't been so flattened by the heat, we could have been out there transplanting. It's all a bit of an experiment for us to help us extend our season especially to protect the flowers when those sneaky snow storms hit in October, so we shall see which flowers like it and what we have energy for! Though if this hot weather continues we may have to seriously consider putting a swimming pool in it.
We had our first harvest this week of dianthus and fox glove, so the cool room is glowing a wonderful shade of pink and smells pretty good too. There also seems to be many wild strawberries around this year so they are most certainly worth bush cutting for. Weeds are growing like crazy, flowers are starting to bloom so the feeling post-solstice is a buzz of excitement as the summer season makes its debut. We've got this far, so bring it on!

Monday, May 28, 2012

All sun and no rain

It's not often that you simply cannot remember the last time it rained and we don't like to complain, but our little transplants are thirsty and fading! Plus, with the risk of frost hanging over us (since we are still only in Spring after all), this month at the farm, as well as physically exhausting seems to be mentally tiresome with the much do we gamble? Risk seeding (with no prospect of rain), risk putting plants out (with chance of frost) or leave it all in the greenhouse (spend hours watering and risk being behind if the season comes early)....The one sure thing is that the damn grass needs cutting and of course, that loathsome lawn tractor is out of action once again.
However, we've actually been exploring other exciting options such as jetting off to New York City for a fabulous weekend to enjoy a lifestyle we can no longer keep up with! I have also been delving into the wierd and wonderful realm of plant spirit medicine (ie. talking to plants and listening to what they have to share).see more here
We've finally got the tea blends with petals and herbs a little more organised and they seem to be going down well at the market. The dandelion beer tastes awesome, so much so that I now plan to make a whole keg - though did have one bottle explode which was quite a frightening (not to mention very sticky) event. Lilacs are in bloom, mint has overtaken the herb garden, perennials are battling with the weeds and lupins are starting to appear. Bring on the rain so we can start feeling like a flower farm!