Can’t wait to get dirt under my fingernails!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen it described better:

The farmer is relieved of the burden of marketing produce at just the time when the energy needed to grow the crops is greatest. CSA farmers concentrate on farming, on what they do best.

Members of the farm receive both concrete and subtle benefits. While spending hundreds of dollars in advance for vegetables which are not even planted yet is difficult for some (both financially and emotionally), membership is generally a bargain in the long run. Each week during the harvest season members receive an interesting variety of the freshest possible produce. Almost all CSA farms are using organic farming techniques, so concerns over toxic residues on the food are alleviated. Membership in a community farm provides a link to the production of food impossible for the supermarket or even the farm stand shopper to achieve. Members see their veggies growing, watch them form and ripen, fret over difficult weather, even get dirt under their fingernails.

I really want Our Farm to be a link between the community and the food supply.


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From beans to turnips, and everything in between

So we’ve placed our seed order and put up a list on the Vegetable Selection page. I’ve got to share, since it’s not fair if I’m the only one drooling over the yummy visions of fresh summer produce that are dancing in my head!

We picked up more seed-starting trays at Home Hardware yesterday, and Mat will be going to the TSC store in Arnprior this afternoon to get the last of the shop light fixtures and fluorescent tubes for the seedling racks. Next on the to-do list is ordering kilos and kilos of organic potting soil from the Kinburn Farm Supply, and we’ll be all set!

Have I ever mentioned that I have dreams of a lovely big greenhouse? Because I do!


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Veggies, veggies and more veggies!

Time for a quick update, folks.

Space is filling up fast for 2011 shares, so please remember to send in your contracts and ensure your space in this year’s CSA.

We’re just about finished sorting through our seed selections and will be posting lists as well as a tentative production schedule soon. Hopefully that will be finalized by the end of this week. Let me tell you, those gorgeous pictures in the seed catalogues make my mouth water for fresh summer produce!

The responses to the polls have been wonderful, and – alpaca furs (?!) notwithstanding – very helpful. We’re aiming to accommodate as many requests as possible. It’s certainly going to be fun to expand our growing horizons this year, and we look forward to sharing the process with you.

In the meantime, please feel free to share any recipes in the comments that could be passed along to Our Farm CSA members.


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Seedling racks – Part 2

I made very good progress yesterday. If you want to build a seedling rack of your own, feel free to ask me questions; I would be pleased to provide any answers I can. I will drop a few details and a few tips into this post just in case anyone feels like taking on a mini construction project.

I started by cutting all the lumber and plywood for all four racks. I made 16 five foot lengths with 2×4’s for the vertical posts, 24 two foot lengths with 2×4’s for the top and bottom beams and 24 four foot lengths with 2×3’s for the shelf support beams. I also cut three 4’x8′ plywood sheets of 1/2′ thickness into 12 2’x4′ shelves.

Finished cutting the lumber

Finished cutting the lumber

Finished cutting the plywood into 12 2'x4' shelves

Finished cutting the plywood into 12 2'x4' shelves

Tip:  Make sure you wear eye protection while operating any power tools!

Finished assembling the end frames - Notice the "C" shape

Finished assembling the end frames - Notice the "C" shape

I  assembled all eight end frames, each using two 5′ vertical posts and two 2′ top/bottom beams using a pair of 2.5″ wood screws (#10) per joint to create a “C” shape.

Tip:  Always drill a hole before you put a screw.  If you don’t drill holes, the wood will crack.

I attached two end frames using six 4′ shelf support beams starting from the bottom.  This assembly step requires an extra pair of hands or a lot of creativity and flexibility 😉

Attaching the two end frames starting from the bottom while adding an extra 2' beam for the casters -  Notice the two "C" are facing each other

Attaching the two end frames starting from the bottom while adding an extra 2' beam for the casters - Notice the two "C" are facing each other

Since certain vegetable seedlings get taller than others, I located the shelf support beams at different heights. The middle support beams are located 22.5″ above the bottom support beams. The top support beams are located 20″ above the middle support beams. This way, the taller seedlings will be placed on the bottom shelf, and the smaller plants will be placed on the top shelf. I don’t know if this configuration is going to fit our needs, but it’s always possible to modify the height later.

Afterward, I flipped the rack on one side to install the four casters at each corners, and I added a second  2′ beam beside each bottom cross-beam to create more surface on each corner for the casters.

Closer view of a caster with the second 2' beam

Closer view of a caster with the second 2' beam

Note that two of the four casters have built-in brakes to prevent the racks from rolling away. After the casters were installed, I performed some “rack surfing” within the limited space of our basement to test the caster’s performance – that was fun!  😉

I put on the plywood shelves onto the support beams. They fit nicely, but I didn’t bother securing them on the support beams because I want to have the flexibility to grow taller plants. Taking the top shelf out to give plants on the middle shelf more room could be very useful, because tomato and eggplant starts can get quite tall before it’s hot enough outside for them to be transplanted.

Once the racks were built, it was time to get started on hanging the lamps. Using an angular grinder with a regular cutting wheel, I cut the chain and secured two lengths on each end of the rack with screws. The ideal tool for this task would have been a bolt cutter but I don’t have one. Determination and imaginative substitution can work wonders!

Chain secured with a screw

Chain secured with a screw

Tip: If you are using a grinder or any handheld high-speed rotary tool (e.g. Dremel) to cut a link of a chain, make sure you sweep the floor before cutting the chain.  Metal sparks can ignite the saw dust under your feet!

I hammered 3″ flat head nails on each end of three 3/4″ dowels measuring 4′ long, and attached three 48″ T8 lamp fixtures on each dowel. I finally hung the three dowel/lamp combos on the rack with the nail heads through chain links.

Hanging lamp on chain

Hanging lamp on chain

Power Bar with built-in timer

Power Bar with built-in timer

I installed a power bar with a built-in timer  on the outside of one of the vertical posts. Half of the outlets on the power bar use the timer so we can turn the lamps on and off for ten or eight our periods. We can use the non-timed outlets for heating mats because the continuous heat will help our seeds germinate.

So far, I almost completely finished one rack.  It only needs more light bulbs (we only had one set of T8s that we bought to test our setup).

Finished rack 1 of 4

Finished rack 1 of 4

Stay tuned! At this rate, it won’t be long before we’ve got peppers and onions and lots more germinating with the help of this awesome mini-construction project! 😉


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Even the geniuses are farming!

If you’re ever looking for an interesting new site to read up on, maybe you’d be interested in The Ethicurean. One of their writers recently interviewed a new CSA farmer named Michael Gallagher who’s got a very interesting story:

“… that individual is Michael Gallagher. A dozen years after he left campus, the rumors about him — that his math advanced four grade-levels in a matter of weeks, that he was earning As in calculus by fifth grade — still linger. Some of these rumors are flat-out myths (he didn’t take calculus until high school, sorry), but even the most level-headed agree that he was, in the words of one teacher, “an incredibly smart kid, a very deep thinker,” and — in the words of another — “one of the brightest math students to go through our doors in decades.” Later, Gallagher would graduate from the #1 ranked liberal arts college in the nation, just two courses shy of a triple major in math, Russian, and biology. (Alas, he took what he calls “the easy way,” settling simply for the Russian-biology double-major.)

Plenty of people figured that a guy with all options open might go to work for McKinsey & Company, or Wall Street, or maybe some start-up company destined to make billions. After all, isn’t that what the Smartest Guys in the Room always do?

Not necessarily. You won’t find Gallagher in Brooks Brothers suits, or zipping through airports on his way from one meeting to the next, or motivating crowds of conference-goers in a hotel ballroom before their rubber-chicken lunch. Nah, this smart kid chose a different path — one that involves soil-stained T-shirts and mud-encrusted boots. He became a farmer.”

Located in Pittsfield, Massachusets, Gallagher’s Square Roots Farm operates a vegetable CSA, as well as providing pastured chickens, turkeys and pork. The farm operates on leased land, in partnership with a local organization that subsidizes the CSA shares of low-income members which is much like Ottawa’s own Just Food in principle.

It’s nice to hear stories of others making a go of it in the farming world. Even more, it’s interesting to read about the different paths that people can take to get to where they are, and fascinating to learn what influenced them along the way.


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Our Farm is now on Google Maps

In case you didn’t know you can list your business on Google Maps free of charge, and it is easy!  All you need to do is to go to http://www.google.ca/local/add/, and then create a listing for your business.  Once you are done filling the forms and completing the listing, they will ask you to enter a PIN number to activate the listing.

Letter from Google. Cool!

Letter from Google. Cool!

For security reasons, Google needs you to prove that you exist and that you are located where you claim to be located.  They will send you a PIN number by mail to the mailing address that you have entered for your business listing (They won’t send it to any other mailing address).  It took around 3 weeks to receive our PIN.  Let me tell you that it was pretty exciting to receive a letter from California :-)

Unfortunately, It looks like Our Farm is still not available through Google Maps search after entering the PIN to activate our listing.  Apparently, it could take up to 6 weeks to become available. I guess we need to be a little patient :-) For now, it works when we enter our web site domain name (‘ourfarmcsa.ca’) into the search bar. Here is the result:

View Larger Map

Thank you Google! :-)


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Seedling racks – Part 1

Hi readers and eaters.  This is my very first post on the Our Farm blog!  So far, Katie has taken care of writing the blog posts, but this time I’d like to be the one sharing the news about Our Farm.

First, we’d like to extend our best wishes for 2011 to everyone.  May the year 2011 bring all of you success, peace and especially good health.  A good way to stay healthy is to stay away from processed food as much as possible and eat more vegetables.  Do not neglect the food that you put in your mouth.  It is one of the most important investment that you can make to stay healthy.

Winter has provided quite a nice rest from hard physical labor at Our Farm, but a lot of work is waiting ahead of us, and we have to get our crops going very soon. Today, I would like to share with you my plans and progress in building our seedling racks that will allow us to start planting our sustainable, organically-grown crops in advance of the 2011 season.

My plan for this week is to build seedling racks similar to the ones at Tiny Farm Blog.  The main reason that made this model of seedling racks very attractive to us was the efficient and inexpensive adjustable lamp height.  At first, we will have the lamps as low as possible.  As the plants grow, we can raise the lamp fixtures.  By the time the plants are going to be too big for the seedling racks, they will be ready for transplanting to our vegetable garden. For the size of our garden, we figured out that we will need a minimum of 12 shelves meaning four racks total.

Lumber purchase for the framing of the seedling racks

Lumber purchase for the framing of the seedling racks

Fortunately for us, the 2×4 and 2×3 lumber was on sale at Home Depot this week.  Katie and I quickly grabbed the van, purchased and brought back the necessary lumber yesterday.

I just came back from at trip to Deka to get the rest of the necessary building components:  sheets of ply wood, wood screws, chains, casters, dowels, etc.  We are still missing a few casters and dowels, but I got a call this evening that the missing components will be ready for pickup tomorrow.  I have enough to completely finish at least two seedling rack units right now, but they’ll all be done by the end of the week.

Ready to start

Ready to start

The store manager seemed very intrigued and asked me what I was trying to build.  Not even thinking, I explained to him that I was planning to build seedling racks, with the adjustable lamp fixtures…  You should have seen the look on his face!  It was hilarious!  Realizing that he got the wrong idea, I had to explain that my wife and I were operating a legitimate, and perfectly legal small organic market garden farm.  We really should get business cards with our blog web site on it to prevent embarrassing moments like this.  :-)

Now I need to get started.  Will take a few more pictures to show you the progress.

See you soon!


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