Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas goodies, oh and snow of course...lots of it

We haven't harvested any flowers since our Thanks Giving finale but that doesn't mean to say we haven't been creative so now we are enjoying putting our feet up. Though clearly Jamie is doing slightly more of this than I am (he has broken his foot and is on crutches).

As you know Farmer's don't really ever stop producing... so after a brief pause we faithfully returned to the markets and craft fairs with our teas, herbal salves, culinary seasoning, tinctures, flower essences and new this year - Massage Candles. Jamie's wooden ornaments and awesome dried flower baubles were the first to sell out. It was great to have so many customers returning for their favourite things.
Christmas has been a snowy affair. Not so great for someone on crutches (Jamie) guess who is doing the shovelling (Fay). It's all a lovely winter wonderland, the snow covers a multitude of sins (jobs that never got finished, yards that didn't get cleared, fields overgrown with weeds etc..). It's definitely time to take a break as another great year comes to an end.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New look for the van...

The balmy temperatures of the autumn gave us a wonderful false sense of time-security.. ie. we weren't necessarily rushing to clean up the farm and tie up all the loose and broken ends remaining after the summer madness because it felt like the warmth would last forever. Jamie however, stepped up to one of the challenges that had been hanging over our heads all summer. Working with a friend, they succeeding in patching up the body work on our Mystery Machine and generally getting it road-worthy and more comfortable once again. So now, it resembles more of an A Team type van rather than the Scooby Doo mobile that we are so famous for. It's a shadow of its former self, but who are we kidding, still totally recognisable and obviously us! Needless to say Jamie has had his fill of old rusty vehicles for a while.

Will add a picture of it in its full newly sprayed glory soon..

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Summer flies by

In a blur of colour, hazy summer heat and incredible blooms, our Nova Scotia summer has flown by. The growing season has been great and fingers crossed we can continue this third season of production up untilThanks Giving Weekend (providing there is no frost).

August was most definitely a month for weddings and we've even got a few this autumn (seriously we do have our fingers crossed). Our flowers have been spreading joy across Nova Scotia in the South Shore, the Valley, Halifax, Pictou, New Glasgow and of course locally in Tatamagouche.

Despite all the busy harvesting and flower arranging, we did manage to take a long weekend break to St Andrews in New Brunswick camping in the attention grabbing purple and white van. This involved lots of seafood, sunbathing, swimming, whale watching and wine and was only slightly dampened by Bertie's encounter with a skunk on the first night...We both had total sense of humour failure but soon grew accustomed to the whiff, doubt we were at all popular with other campers though.

Updating the blog or taking photos cease to be a priority when harvest is in full swing but the Oliver Farm Botanicals Facebook page usually has a few up to date photos on it. The ones here are some August highlights...though suddenly realised we are mid-way through September and fall is in the did that happen?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hot summer colour ... the daily grind

So it goes something like this... up at 6am...stretch and groan...lather up with sun cream...go pick down in the river, squash cucumber beetles with ferocity, back to farm house for hot tea and breakfast... mull over the plan for the day (an excuse to be inside in the cool) .... go weed something...then go transplant something ... water greenhouse...laugh at dogs being idiotic ...retreat to cool for lunch and rehydrate .. check email ... get annoyed about something on email / facebook / the internet in general ... fiddle around with rusty machinery... weed something else, panic harvest some blooms that didn't seem ready this morning but have now exploded, retreat to the cooler and organise buckets of flowers, wash buckets (getting as wet as possible to cool down), swat a few horse flies, check out the devastation by those pesky deer, root around in the veggie garden for something green and odd shaped for supper, munch on a few peas, maybe even a tomato, chat to neighbours, grumble at those on dirt-bikes... fiddle around with the poly tunnel until satisfied, cool down and clean up in the river (again), have supper, find a cold beer, put feet up, apply Fay's herbal potions to bites, stings, sun burn, splinters and aching muscles...write to-do-urgent list... fall asleep...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June Blooms

It's warm and sunny (and buggy of course) and hard not to get excited (and exhausted) about getting the garden in. For the last week or so Jeanne from Quebec has been staying with us helping Jamie transplant out our flowers, lay mulch, direct seed and weed our lovely perennial flowers, raspberries and blackberries.
It's a joy to be stopped in our tracks by the heady scent of lilac and quite beautiful to see apples and our wondrous hawthorn trees in bloom.

Blooming gorgeous is an under-statement!
The rare red lupins which we seeded last year are just about coming into bloom, they seem to be earlier than the blue/pink/purple ones which you usually see here at the end of June, the yellow ones (also unusual) are not long behind them.

I've started making flower essences and finishing blending some herbal extracts so they will be available for sale soon. (Well that is my excuse for buying decent brandy!)
We've even managed to make time and shift the gigantic pile of soil which was dumped outside the kitchen window for the last 2 years!!

We're feeling a bit sun-kissed and bug bitten but morale is high!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May sunshine

We've just said goodbye to our first volunteer wwoofers of the season, Anna and Franz. It was great to have the extra pairs of hands to help out as we begin to tackle the long list of spring tasks ahead of us and thanks to them I now have one new raised bed (it only took 3 years!)
Thankfully we got hold of a load of good sh*t, it's dark and dirty and our plants are going to love it! (Worm castings from Growing green earthworm castings will be delivered soon).
Over the last two weeks, Jamie has tilled, we've mulched, spread muck, transplanted a few hardy kales and veggies, sown some grains and whatever else we felt like risking. I've been weeding our perennial beds and it's good to see Echinops, Eryngium, Phlox, Veronicas, Peonies, Achillea, Motherwort, Catnip, Vervain, Lavendars and other herbs beginning to grow once more. I've put the dandelions to good use and have a batch of home brew bottled and wine in the making.

The polytunnel is almost behaving itself and is full with snaps, stocks, clarkia and larkspur.

Our transplants are simply desperate to get out of the greenhouse and into the field so as soon as we've got past this cold spell we will be transplanting as fast as we can.

General feeling is good, and grass is growing like crazy, trees actually have leaves on and we've even got some blossom.

Bertie is the only one sulking since Franz was a rather impressive thrower of sticks and she is missing him like mad.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Green and growing

Amazing how time can fly when the sun is shining, the grass is green and the leaves have just about appeared on the trees. Our list of jobs to do just gets longer and longer, luckily so do the days and we are falling into bed tired out with a few items ticked off the list.
The garlic is growing up through its cosy bed of winter mulch, as is the asparagus, the daffodils, hyacinth and muscari are in bloom and we have given our raspberries a little prune in the hope that this year we will have berries!
Our little green house is almost over-flowing with flower seedlings that are desperate to be transplanted, however we are not fooled by this wave of warm weather, we are holding off a little longer just in case night temperatures plummet once more.
A week ago Jamie was able to finally till up some beds which was a great relief so has begun spreading compost and direct seeding. This of course means the chickens are back behind bars much to their disgust and are serenading us with their chorus of disapproval.
Yesterday, following several unsuccessful attempts over the last few weeks, Jamie managed to get the plastic back over the poly tunnel, so fingers crossed it will stay put this time.
All in all, green is good and it feels exciting to get our hands in the dirt once more.

Drumming by our Beltaine fire

Jamie's very delicious, very chocolatey birthday cake


Friday, April 12, 2013

The Passage of time

Now that the river has thawed out and most of the snow disappeared we can walk along the banks and see the latest changes in the river: some meanders have been widened , new swimming holes dugout and old ones filled in (think we'll wait before we jump in and find out where..) and the cliffs a little more eroded, no doubt leaving behind some more fossils.

Trees desperately hanging on.
A generation ago the field was a beautiful pasture for grazing cattle, and there is still find some barbed wire fencing alongside the river. The wire is now only held up where it has grown into tree trunks, and much of the fencing has long ago disappeared over the cliff edge into the river or been buried by the undergrowth.

Barbed wire growing through the tree

The field was then left to regenerate with spruce and pine trees.  Where one generation broke its back to turn a forest into a pasture, another wished to turn the grassland back into forest to make up for deforestation elsewhere. We then arrive and decide to clear much of it in order to turn it back to farmland, this time for raspberry and cut-flower production.
Clearing the field in May 2010
Today: Rows of raspberries & blackberries

Meanwhile the wildlife just carries on adapting as us humans try to make up our minds as to what to do with the land that we have taken on as custodians.  So the eagles soar above, coyotes and bears watch from the woods (most of the time..), and the deer just keep on helping themselves to whatever we grow.
Coyote scat

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring has arrived.... properly this time.

With the advent of some sun, we can now actually believe that spring has arrived in reality and not just in theory. The first day of real sunshine meant some serious spring cleaning of both the sunroom and the greenhouse, so both have been put to good use already:

Bertie would actually much rather be out chasing the chickens...
The arrival of some sun has meant we can start using the greenhouse:
Hot bed number 2
Hotbed covered at night as its been dropping to -6 degrees C
I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed the sun, but now that the bears are out of hibernation, the deer are moving about and the sun is shining I actually feel like I’m also ready for the new season.
The chickens are happy too....

This season we're planning to ‘work smarter, not harder’.  We’ve been putting that into practice with the maple syrup processing:  using a cleaned out backpack fertiliser sprayer to collect and haul the sap rather than lugging buckets around – much easier; waiting till the morning to collect the sap so that I can throw out the outer layer of ice which has a much lower sugar content – saving time and wood during the boiling process; and using the stove in the sunroom (with both doors open for ventilation) so that we're not only boiling sap but heating an area we can also use for seeding.
Time to head off now to make hay while the sun shines....



Monday, March 25, 2013

Our indoor seed bed

Since we don't have a heated greenhouse, at this time of year when the weather is still chilly and very temperamental, we start all our seedlings inside (the house!).

Our initial seed bed is literally a bed with mattress removed and replaced with a layer of plastic,  insulating bubble wrap, sand and our heating cable/mat.

This bed holds only about 9 seed trays but that is still 2,700 seedlings at one time (over 30,000 flowers)....When it starts getting a little warmer, we also make a similar seed bed outside in the propagation greenhouse..
Some of the first flower seedlings are ready for the next stage; transplanting into larger soil-blocks. This is when we really start using a lot of space as each of the 300 mini-blocks in the initial trays is transplanted into trays of just 36 larger soil-blocks... so 1 tray turns into 8.....
Best get making those soil-blocks.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tapping time...delicious!

The skies are blue, the sap has been running, so Jamie has started his annual workout (ie. hauling buckets of sap from the bottom field up to the house for boiling). The stove is cranked up and fingers crossed we will have some delicious syrup soon.

Just testing....

stove cranked up

slowly boiling down!!