This is our first spring on the farm. Pea shoots are starting to rear their heads, the garlic is up, and our first harvest of the season is in. Stinging nettles.
This was one of those, “we hope the internet is right” moments. The nutritional benefits of nettles are widely accepted but after you have been stung it is hard to imagine touching them with your tongue. Good news! The internet did not fail us on this one. Just a few minutes of steaming and there were no problems. In fact, they were tastier than the spinach we typically use in our tofu, spinach, peanut stirfry. YUM! The kids were about as impressed with them as cooked spinach. One scarfed them down, one wailed at the idea of having to eat with us, and the other begrudgingly tried some. So the usual, lol.
Scroll through the gallery to see the harvest, preparation, and cooking process. This will be a springtime treat for years to come! I will finally see stinging nettle and get excited instead of annoyed. I was grateful to go out on a limb and learn to appreciate these delightful treats.
I think we are all looking to keep the doctor away lately. What an apropos time for our apples to arrive. Saltspring Apple Company delivered twenty beautiful apple trees today. We are so grateful for their knowledge, vision, and dedication to growing heritage varieties as well as modern, naturally disease-resistant varieties of certified organic apple trees.
To our orchard, we have welcomed what we think is the perfect balance of well-loved heritage varieties and modern, university-bred, drought and disease-resistant varieties to give our it diversity and longevity in our ever-changing environment.
Among our heritage varieties we have:
Gravenstein (1669) – we already had one, but one is never enough!
King of Tompkins County aka King (1750)
Belle de Boskoop (1856)
Egremont Russet (1872)
Winter Banana (1876)
Our modern varieties are represented by:
Airlie Red Flesh (1960)
Karmjin de Sonnaville (1971)
Sweet sixteen (1974)
Williams pride (1987)
For more details about each apple, you can check out our produce page.
More pictures to come as we get these trees in the ground!
Here’s what we’re hoping it will look like. Each semi-dwarf tree is 8’ from the fence and they are 15’ apart.
Spring is just around the corner and things are starting to pick up here. Everyone is enjoying the longer days. We can get more done and everything around here is becoming more productive. Mike is a pro gardener now. He spent last weekend grafting a patch onto our girdled mulberry tree and time will tell how well he did. Those little voles were tenacious and did quite a number on the trunk over the winter. Mike’s new skills will be handy for propagating more fruit trees over the next few years.
Planting and grafting!
The pigs were in good spirits this morning. It is common to see them lounging and spooning up a storm in the sunshine. I caught a quick video today of calling the girls up for breakfast. Listening to their daily oinks is still a highlight of our day around here. While the ladies had breakfast, the boys explored a new field full of yummy spring grass.
Breakfast! Nobody comes late for breakfast around here!
As for the figs, we went to plant them today and found that over the last week all their leaves had come out and that there is a 1.25” fig on the Vern’s fig tree already. A fig!!! In February! This whole indoor solarium idea is something we might play with for a few of the plants. Who knows, we might get one of those elusive second crops of figs that we hear about further south. A fig tree or two can keep our limes and lemons company. Space is limited though and our climate is forgiving, so most of the figs will be destined for transplant this March.
This is our first official big snow since starting this adventure in the summer. Fortunately for us the fences are holding, the shelters are strong, and the pigs are hardy! These particular piggies have brothers and sisters who scoff at -18 weather so they are no stranger to Canadian winters. We are pretty spoiled here on the island and can’t complain too much at a week of -5 every now and then. We are grateful the air doesn’t hurt our faces at this temperature, but it is still enough to cause infrastructure havoc everywhere.
A nest suited for Big Bird! These little piggies know how to build with straw!
The pigs cope by nesting to stay warm – we are talking big bird proportioned nests – and by eating some alfalfa hay instead of foraging through the day.
The ladies and barrows were sensible this morning and took a hard pass on getting their undercarriages cold in the snow. They waited more patiently than I have ever seen them as I poured all their dishes.
The boars were less bothered by the snow and cared a lot more about making sure I didn’t forget I was there to feed them. Those stinkers always toss a couple of feed pans into the field for me to hunt down in the morning and today it cost them in time. We found one pan quickly and I took a video of us on the prowl for the third… which eventually showed up tucked in their nest in the back of the shelter, ha!
I wanted to take a second to introduce our two of our lovely gilts (at the time of these photos) and boar, Cedar, Willow, and Forrest. For breeding reference and herd improvements, I find it super useful to visualize each animal as they grow out as well as the phenotypes of their parents. This dynamic post is something I will refer to over and over again over the years.
WN Jenny AKPR 12244 (Mahia Love/Jenny x Te Whangi /Rona) at 10 months
Rainbow Te Whangi 1+ x USA Rona 1
USA Mahia Love 63 x USA Jenny 133
WN Wilsons Gina AKPR 11033 (Andrew/Kereopa x Te Whangi/Wilsons Gina) at 10 months
BVF Andrew 32 x SHF Kereopa 5
Rainbow Te Whangi 3 x USA Wilsons Gina 6
WN Boris AKPR 14440 (Boris/Aria Giana x Andrew/Kereopa)at 8 months
Waiting in the rain for the MASSIVE double-decker transport semi to arrive.
Monday afternoon was an exciting time for us. My whole body was full of adrenaline wondering how we would complete the unloading portion of this journey. Five little piggies travelled from as far as Quinte West, ON and Carstairs, AB to arrive at our farm. These beautifully and mindfully selected pigs have been raised for growth and pork quality. They will be the foundation of our breeding program and we are so in love! What sweethearts. A huge thank you to Kelly at Whispering Winds for making this dream a reality!
My family were rock stars and helped managed doors and load pigs. It was efficient, safe, and a huge relief! Everyone had a safe night and were dry in the barns and are now out grazing this morning. Life is good. The gilts deked me out once and hid in the barn while I looked for them in the lower field to show them where the barn was – in a panic! When I got back up top I’m sure they all had a good laugh at how silly their new human is. They had no problem navigating an acre and finding the barn and water on their own, thank you very much.
Among our ranks, we have a Jenny x Te Whangi gilt, a Wilsons Gina x Andrew gilt, and a Boris x Kereopa boar. There are two sweet little piglets that came to keep our boar company while they grow out. All five of these little piggies are without names still, so if you have an idea, let us know. We have a special place in our hearts for Maori names as a nod to their heritage.
From back to front, Pango, Pai and their new little friend (WN Boris boar line)
Here we have from left to right, a WN Wilsons Gina gilt, WN Jenny gilt and two WN Ru barrows.
A few years ago the farm planted 300 various blueberry plants. When we moved in they were completely overgrown in grass taller than me – for those of you who know me. This is a big accomplishment! The pigs rototilled the field and a couple of months ago while they still had some leaves, I was able to flag 18 plants that had survived. Those plucky little plants are drought resistant and have been naturally neglected, uh, selected to be low maintenance. While these plants are fighters, we are tagging them out and going to make life a little easier for them.
For reference, I am 6’ tall. Those Canadian thistles are HUGE!
This Saturday (a sunny day!) we moved all of the flagged dormant plants to the driveway along the top pasture. It was a good thing they were flagged because without leaves it would have been tricky to pick the right ones out of the 300. Thank you “past us” for making a choice to help “future us”. We reaped the benefits of that choice for sure.
The plants are “precisely” one shovel length from the fence. They should certainly make this an imperial measurement if it isn’t already. It came in super handy and I think Mike did a good job making a straight line. We had 4 bushes at our last place which was enough for us. That means if the birds and kids don’t beat us to them, we will have enough to share. Summer, here we come!
Branding… it isn’t something I ever really think of until I received my first order of swag from Vistaprint. I love swag and it is even better when it is something you created.
I love everything about our farm logo. It is lime green, it is simple, it is easy to craft with (not tons of detail!), the font is fresh but not too out there. It was perfect… until I went to edit our location to it! What font did I use?!? How will people know that “Local” is Cobble Hill and I am not just toting around a sweet bag I picked up somewhere else?!
It became a bit of a hunt. I found a paper trail and saw that I purchased the logo from Vectorstock, but then knew I would have edited our farm name onto it in a free online editing program. A program I could not remember. I completely forgot what I used. Without finding that program I was on my own to sift through millions of fonts to find ours. After looking up the image dates, scouring my search history and giving up on what free photo editor I might have used back in August, I thought to look at the file extension types on the logo. One was pxl.jpg. PXL! It turns out the original online editor I used was pixlr.com. Success! When I pulled up the window, I was already logged in and it showed the logo I had last edited 94 days ago. I can’t tell you how good that felt.
I won’t forget this time! I looked up and downloaded the fonts so I can have them forever. Then I emailed copies to Mike to make sure I could hunt them down. As the final piece of the puzzle, I am blogging them here too. We have used “Loverstruck” for our name and location, and “Roundaries” for our tagline. Success feels good! Probably because I had to work hard at it!
Mouth noise, it does nothing for me. Like a nail on a chalkboard the sound usually sends me packing. Not when it comes from these delightful little piggies though. I could listen to them crunch and munch all day.
This week I took a few videos to immortalize these piggy little moments. Pumpkins are in season and we carved six with the kids this week, as a result, we have some pigs hopping on the pumpkin spice bandwagon. Not to mention they have also been enjoying the 50lb bag of carrots we picked up from the laughing llama a few weeks ago. At $9.99 a bag, it was hard not to want to spoil them. You can see here that they think fall is a pretty good time of the year.
The next couple of videos capture our morning feed routine. If I don’t catch them early enough they head down to the lower berry field for the day to get about their piggy business. The grass is so tall that I need to get pretty close to get their attention, but when I do, they come running!
They are building stamina for the round. Pai (brown and white) can sometimes still be pretty winded by the top. He is akin to the gasping wolf from Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone”, but that doesn’t stop him. On this particular day, I made it extra worth their while and had some pumpkin waiting for them at the top of a hill. They dug right in! It was very well deserved!
This is our first year starting out and I couldn’t find any established squashes on the property. So, that means we needed to outsource some this year. One thing I love about these guys is that they are true to seed. That means we will have lots next year. Plans include carving pumpkins, sugar pumpkins (for pies and soup!), and butternut squash. The seeds are drying for us to enjoy next year, the piggies will love the leftovers for dinner tonight, and delicious soup and pie will be had this weekend.