May 25th, 2015 by Cedar Isle Farm
May 25th, 2015 by Cedar Isle Farm
May 10, 2015
We talk of four seasons to a year, and yet I am struck by the seasons within the seasons. This is my second year in Agassiz, and I am learning newly about spring. The fall rye celebrates its spring in the fall. The garlic settles into the soil in late fall and starts to grow. And now, with the rye going to seed as the oats and the wheat can almost wave in a light breeze, part of the landscape is verdant and lush. Grain production is in full-swing, and Jim can revel in the fact that it has all happened earlier this year. The spring mix of dry and wet has been ideal.
The sections of the farm relegated to hay fields have already been subjected to the first harvest of the year, with the waist high grasses mown and then collected and moved to the silos within a 48 hour period. The fields now look like the prairies, the stubble yellowed and bleak-looking for the first few days, winter-like alongside the green of rye, oats and wheat. But the air has been thick and rich with the spring smell of freshly mown grass. Cedar Isle Farm provides fodder for the two dairy farms down the road and for a herd of goats in Abbotsford as well.
The robins enjoy an early spring: they have already had their young and the nest on the back deck is empty. The swallows have long deliberated over the perfect nesting spot, and are starting to collect bits of mud and dampness to paste together a family home. In the middle of the night, I spotted two in the carport, sitting side by side along a wire. The spattering of guano on the concrete floor made me look up. I retain an image of their conjugal bliss. Their life together is about more than propagating the species, I am sure. Their companionship, side by side, in the dead of night, is poetic.
A person might think that a grain farmer might now be sleeping in, sitting back, putting his feet up, chewing on stalks of grass. There are actually other things to do than seed and harvest on Cedar Isle Farm. New chicks grown to teenaged size needed a new roost, and the other chicken incubation room needed a thorough cleaning. The new roosts have been routered so that the chickens have some purchase on the 2x4s. And a chicken-sized door has magically appeared, with the mechanics to open and close by pull cord from the other side of the building. There will be no slinking past squawking chickens to open the door with Jim on the job.
And Jim is the proud owner of a new-to-him seeder, having borrowed seeders in previous years. A neighbour who knew Jim might like a seeder of his own purchased one at a local farm equipment auction. He stopped bidding after $2400 on the supermodel, and bought the poor cousin for a mere $100. He delivered it too. Jim is delighted. The new hydraulic system cost more than the entire unit, it must be told, but a relic is thus springing back to life. And Jim cleaned up the acre counter. I have no other name for it. It is a series of cogs that measures the amount of land covered and seed dispersed. Recall that Jim contorted his brain with mathematical sums to calculate the coverage per acre with the borrowed seeder. This seeder is at least 45 years old, of a time when simple mechanics were revered. We have included a photo. A close look allows you to read the dials.
For years I drove the highway between Hope and Metro Vancouver with eyes on the road, an ordeal to endure. Now happily rooted on Cedar Isle Farm, nestled between mountains and valley, I marvel at the dynamic landscape and lifestyle, of a rapturous beauty, the seasons fluid.
April 27th, 2015 by Cedar Isle Farm
On the farm the rain has actually been welcomed – Jim worked like the dickens to get all the spring wheat seeded before the deluge and he succ(s)eeded! And thus the kernels of spring wheat are soaking up the moisture and readying to burst into plants.
The knack of planting does not come without a knack for troubleshooting, so lest you think the life of a farmer is only dampened by premature rains or hungry ducks, we include a picture of Jim wrestling with the seeder. A person needs to calibrate the machine, to control the amount of seed per row per spread of the spigots on the seeder. Personally I have used a yardstick, a tape measure, or a length of wood, but I am planting one seed and one row at a time in the vegetable patch! The seeder saves a person that amount of effort, but mathematical calculations on distance between rows and kernels, over the span of the seeder and the length of the rows, calls for a bit of head scratching, scribbling on paper, and then a sample weight of seed dispersed into a bucket by manual rotation of the cog, to make sure the planting is optimal. A mere few hours later, Jim is back in the driver’s seat and studding the field with kernels of wheat.
Our second image on this rainy day blog is of the fall rye on a glorious day earlier last week, planted in the fall and now thigh high and a luscious green – Mount Cheam looms in the background, our mountainous touchstone and companion in all we undertake in this part of the valley. And a shot of Yoshi’s garlic, readying for harvest in July. His potato starts are still thinking about things.
And then we include a big hello from a bear. We walked, Yoshi, Diane and myself, as well as Bella and Axle the Dogs, around the circumference of the farm of an evening, and the next late afternoon, I discovered that the bear(s) were back. We delight in sharing the farm, with ducks, swallows, bears and beavers, owls, the occasional skunk, and of course the frogs. The bears are of special stature, and we appreciate their calling cards. They leave wet paw prints on the road, crushed patches of grass where they too like a good roll, bits of fur on the barbed wire, and stool samples, black and showing evidence of a diet of grasses at this time of year.
Stay dry – the week ahead promises some sun!
April 22nd, 2015 by Cedar Isle Farm
Happy spring greetings and welcome back to Urban Grains!
The new season is definitely here on the farm and change is in the air…
When Urban Grains CSA was formed in 2009, it was run by Martin and Ayla in Vancouver and Cedar Isle Farm was the sole grain supplier. Over the years, the management of the program has shifted to the farm. After some thought, we have decided to change the name of the CSA to reflect the fact that the program now comes under the umbrella of Cedar Isle Farm.
As well as the new name, the CSA will have some new options. We will still be offering 20kg shares of flour or kernels, as before, but we will also offer 10kg half shares for those who find the smaller quantity more manageable.
This year we are also growing some new crops on the farm which you can order as ‘add-ons’ to your grain share. We will have oat kernels available as well as certified organic garlic and potatoes. If you order any of these products, we will bring them to Vancouver along with your share of the grain harvest.
Finally, we have a new face to welcome. In addition to Jim, Diane and Yoshi, Henrie deBoer joins us this season. Henrie is a marvel around the farm and has agreed to write blog posts as the year unfolds. You can read her first one below to give you a sense of life on the farm in early April.
So stay tuned! We are excited about the upcoming changes and hope you will enjoy them too!
Diane and Jim in Agassiz
Yoshi in Vancouver
Here is Henrie’s first post.
A fine harbinger of spring on Cedar Isle Farm is the two-toned call of the red winged blackbird sounding across the pond. A person can then find hints of yellow on the forsythia, and the cover crops on the field slowly ‘fatten up’. The blades look fuller, greener, and it grows. Shortly after the blackbirds start calling their spring song, the frogs come to life, filling the night with frog song. The Italian honey bees leave the hives and fill the early flowering fruit trees with a buzz of activity. Other birds return year after year – the flocks of swallows that suddenly swoop and swirl in celebration, or tumble all of a line off the hydro wires fill the heart with joy. We might doubt, in the gloom of sodden skies and days of rain, that the season will change, but the exuberance of the swallows in their communal flight and flurry makes it official.
The first real scent of spring on the farm is the manure being spread on the fields. It does not sound romantic, and those with little connection to life on the farm might find the smell offensive, heady. The tractors and their honey wagons slow traffic as they make their way from barns to fields. They make the slow circles with the spray providing a happy boost to grasses grown for fodder, and to fallow fields waiting for their spring seeding.
Jim gets antsy in the spring. He works through his daily chores with an eye to the weather and ground conditions outside. His tractor gets a once-over. He looks for his thermos and his hat. The first task is to plough the fields, turning in the cover crops. The cover crops serve a few functions – they keep the winter winds from stripping off the top layer, and they provide some nutrition to the soil, putting back instead of just taking. We replenish our bodies with food after a day of work and activity; the fields require the same care and attention after a season of growth and harvest.
After the fields have been ploughed, they get a disking, whereby the big clods are rendered much finer. This year the weather provided a fine stretch of dry. Ploughing and disking takes days of endless circles and runs on the tractor, and the seeding must then follow. The oats have been sown in the near field. The field looks like a blank canvas. With the rains of last night, it won’t be long before the oats have sprouted and show green. Spring has arrived on Cedar Isle Farm.
October 22nd, 2014 by Cedar Isle Farm
As the greyness becomes dominant in weather forecast, Cedar Isle Farm is in a hurry getting winter grain in the ground. The seeds are sown with our optimism for next season and encouragement of your support for us! Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a productive year ahead.
October 3rd, 2014 by Cedar Isle Farm
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September 26th, 2014 by Cedar Isle Farm
Happy September! The sky is clearer, nights are cooler, and stars are brighter. We’re welcoming the change of season here at Cedar Isle Farm, and making the most of a good stretch of sunny days.
In non-grain news, the mama cat has had a second batch of kittens (free to good homes) and the ducks have done their best to eat every slug on the farm. The sparrows have eaten well, the swallows have hatched more young than we can count, and we hear the young barn owls from time to time instead of every night.
Meanwhile, all of the grains have been harvested and the fields are in the midst of being ploughed and seeded: plans for the coming year have been drawn up and we even passed, with flying colours, our annual inspection from BCARA (our organic certifier). It’s been a great season for the farm, and we’re looking forward to sharing our stories and crops with you!
Despite weedy patches in some of the fields and a few lodged (fallen over) crops, the warm and dry weather in August allowed us to harvest some mighty-fine grain. Everything has been cleaned to remove weed seeds and has been nicely dried. Most of it is waiting patiently, though with some anticipation (as are we, to be honest), to be sent to Anita’s Organic Mill for milling and packaging. The distribution date will be announced soon!
Our farm grew a new crop this season: hull-less oats. This variety of oats was developed in Canada and marketed as “Rice of Prairies” due to a culinary character similar to rice (more information about the oats in this article from Georgia Straight). You can look forward to hearing more about these oats in the future… for now, let us just say: they’re delicious!
Want to bake, but no time?
Allow us to introduce you to Anne, one of our Vancouver-based CSA members, who’s starting a micro-bakery.
Hi! I’m Anne, baker and owner of Companion BakeHouse, a community supported MicroBakery in North Burnaby. Recently I started using Cedar Isle Farm wheat and rye in my breads and my customers and I are loving it. My bread is Real Bread – it contains no processing aids, dough improvers, artificial flavours or other chemical additives. I use a starter culture, so I don’t even use commercial yeast. This is the bread you’d be making for yourself and your family if you had the time to do so. Some of my customers call it “better than bakery quality” bread.
I am hoping to help support Cedar Isle Farm by selling bread made with their grains. If you appreciate the flavour and nutrients that are produced when locally grown ingredients are combined with traditional slow dough development methods, and if you’d like to develop a relationship with your baker in the same way you’ve developed a relationship with your farmer, then contact me at www.facebook.com/companionbakehouse
June 12th, 2014 by Jim
May 19th, 2014 by Jim
And welcome to the 2014 season of Urban Grains CSA!
Welcome new members! Welcome back previous members! We hope you have enjoyed your winter and early spring baking, and that you’re looking forward to the year ahead.
Another great season has begun!
So far it’s been a decent spring. Long stretches of cool wet weather were punctuated by warm and dry stretches in March, early April, and again in late April. These allowed us sufficient time to manure and prepare the fields and get the spring crops sown. While later than usual, the crops germinated well and now look quite good. They should grow vigorously once the steady warm sunny weather arrives. Together, we can be optimistic for the year ahead.
It’s a delicious time of year. Tree swallows swoop and turn over the slough. Newly-arrived barn swallows are busy building nests. A female wood duck has taken up in the box across the road, and we think the barn owls are nurturing young in the barn. When the sun shines brightly on a profusion of Fraser Valley foliage, the whole world appears to vibrate with green, and the grain could scarcely be happier.
What’s growing this year?
Hard red spring wheat. As in previous years, this will be our main crop. We planted some in mid-April (see above photo), and more at the very end of April, using mostly seed saved from previous years (variety: CDC Go). We’re hoping that higher soil nutrient levels and a good season will lead to higher yields of this excellent bread wheat.
Soft white spring wheat. Members will still be able to choose soft white spring wheat as an option in their 2014 share on a first-come-first-served basis. The 2013 crop was so good that we reserved some kernels for milling this autumn, allowing us the flexibility to try out some new crops for the CSA. We’ve really been enjoying this stored grain (variety: AC Andrew) in our own home baking, and we’ll be sure to plant it again in 2015.
Rye! Many of you have been politely asking about rye – for use in sourdoughs, as a flavor enhancer for your breads and for other baking. Fortunately, good weather followed the harvest last year, so there was time to plant rye in late September. After hunkering down as seedlings, the rye is now flourishing, and we’re hoping for an excellent crop.
Hulless oats? We’re delighted to finally have been able to obtain hulless oat seed for Urban Grains CSA … from Ontario and Quebec. A unique product of Canadian traditional plant breeding, this oat doesn’t need to be dehulled before cooking (like rice), flattening (for rolled oats), or milling (as flour). We won’t have large amounts available this experimental year, but it’s growing well and we hope to offer at least a sample for you to try. We’ll send more info about the development and use of this new crop soon.
Specialty crops. Thanks to your continuing interest and encouragement, we’re continuing to multiply our stocks of heritage grain, and are also experimenting with some new types. We’re excited about these and look forward to showing them to you during the farm visit!
2014 Memberships? We will be posting and sending you a 2014 registration form very soon. Please keep an eye out for it.
Thank you again for your interest and participation in Urban Grains CSA.
You help make this wonderful co-operative venture possible.
From all of us at Urban Grains, Happy Spring!
October 4th, 2013 by Cedar Isle Farm
The soft white spring wheat flourished during a wonderful summer and was harvested in late August. Hannah operates the combine beside a field of golden straw from newly-harvested oats.
Two years ago, the Gentry family kindly donated a combine that had been parked for 20 years to Urban Grains CSA. Agassiz-based artist Mike Edwards (http://mikeedwardsart.com) spent many hours getting it back into working condition, and here it is – at long last – working in a field of hard red spring wheat. It’s an excellent machine, but some glitches persisted throughout the harvest, bringing new surprises each day. (As a result, we regret that despite our initial plans, this harvest season wasn’t the proper (ahem) atmosphere for visitors…) We’re confident that it’ll work like new next year (knock on wood)!