What the Heck is Lambing Season?1 Comment
Every January on Willowtree Farm, lambing season begins. Lambing season means that the ewes give birth to all the baby lambs. With 40 ewes, you never know how it’s all going to go down. We all bet on which ewe is going to be the first mom of the year. It’s pretty exciting and the waiting and watching for the first baby is excruciating! I am not a patient person.
And then it all begins with a flourish. Babies start arriving every day. We have stalls set up for the new moms and their babies. The moms are so adorable when they are protective over their lambs, by stomping their front hooves at the dogs. Some lambs are really small and we have to set up a heat lamp for them to stay warm on really cold days. The tiny, little lambs are so small and fragile. You worry about how they can survive looking so tiny and meek. But amazingly, they do! These times bring about sleepless nights as we go and check on the moms all throughout the night. Some moms need extra help delivering and we need to be there to help them.
Then, the lambs start to grow and gain personality. The little lambs run and do funny jumping leaps together. There is nothing on TV that can beat watching these little lambs play and interact together. The moms put up with their antics, even though you can tell they are a little annoyed.
I am making this time sound so beautiful and simple. It IS beautiful but nothing about lambing season is simple. The time spent helping with lamb deliveries, tending to sick ewes, complicated deliveries, feeding all the sheep twice a day, bottle feeding the lambs 4 times a day, and the list goes on. We are a family of five and someone is always working with the lambs and ewes.
As a person who did not grow up on a farm, the hardest lesson for me is when we try our hardest to keep the weak lambs alive. And our hardest isn’t good enough. Death on the farm is such a natural part of life. But it is such a struggle for me to get through the pain and sadness of this part of the process.
I was thinking today about whether the joy of caring for the animals is worth the pain of feeling the loss. And yes, I am here to say that the pure JOY I get from going to say “good morning” to all the animals in the barn, feeding them, and giving them love is worth any pain associated with loss. “Chore time”, as our family calls it, are my favorite times of the day. All the animals are there to give you love, attitude, spunk, and most of all, they give you laughter and smiles.
Lambing season is where you get to see Mother Nature in all it’s glory. It’s not glamorous, it’s a lot of hard work, but it is watching daily miracles occur in front of your eyes. And there’s nothing else quite like it.
Mushroom Compost2 Comments
This year we have started to use a new means of natural fertilizer for the soil. Spent mushroom compost; from the big mushroom farm that was put up just behind the back of our farm on the 6th concession. Spent mushroom compost is the left over substrate that the mushrooms are grown in. On this mushroom farm they are growing white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) on composted straw bales. Once the spawn is exhausted they can no longer use the substrate and replace it. For us however this substrate is a rich compost that can be spread on our fields as a natural source of fertilizer. Basically it comes a full circle, because the wheat is grown in the field then the stalks are baled for straw, mushroom are then grown in the straw and then we spread the compost back on the field to grow more crops. Not much is wasted around here.
Mushroom compost is a great way to add organic matter back to the soil, well increasing the nutrient levels as well. The spent mushroom compost is also great for retaining water in the soil. Although this does not seem necessary at this particular point in time after all this rain. It is beneficial in dry spells.
An additional benefit is the mushrooms we find growing in the field after we spread. We have found tons of mushroom growing out of the compost. Last Sunday we went out after the rain and harvested bags of button and Portobello mushrooms from the field we had spread the compost in. Random fact that most people do not know is that the white button mushroom, and Portobello mushroom are all the exact same mushroom Agaricus bisporus. Most people are under the impression that these are all different types of mushrooms. Portobello mushrooms are just mature, but they are all the exact same. In fact Portobello mushroom are just a marketing idea, back in the day they were considered waste. Similar to baby potatoes and chicken wings, they used to be thrown out. Until someone decide to market them as a higher end product, Funny how this works out some times. Either way we were excited to find all these mushrooms growing in the field. We spent Sunday BBQing up big Portobello mushroom steaks. Delicious!!
We often find different wild mushrooms on the farm to eat. Wild mushrooms are a wonderful treat from our bush. Right now we are in Giant puffball season. These puffballs are delicious when they are young and haven’t developed spores yet. In the last couple of days we have had two. On Friday Marlene was absolutely delighted to see that I had found one and she told me as a kid her father would find them and it would be the best treat for her family. We have also been finding lots of boletus spp., which are a meaty nutty flavour mushroom. Even though we don’t really use our bush much beyond being a green space, we always get delicious rewards from it. Maple syrup, mushrooms, wild leeks, fiddleheads and great nature walks with many wildlife sightings.
Become a Willowtree CSA Member2 Comments
Dear Willowtree Farm Friends
We hope that you have all enjoyed this winter. It was so great to have so much snow. But we are happy to see the snow go, as we are looking forward to the spring and getting into the fields. Here on the farm we just finished lambing and have had about 175 lambs born. It is such a fun and busy time with so many baby lambs running around. They love to run around outside and play. We are also tapping our maple bush and getting lots of sap, which we are busy boiling down into maple syrup.
With spring just ahead of us we have started to plant our seedlings in the greenhouse and have begun planning our crops for the upcoming season. Then soon enough we will be picking asparagus, and fiddleheads. We are also growing a few new crops this year. We are growing potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, Swiss chard and beets for the first time.
As spring is quickly approaching we would like to invite you to our CSA program. As a member of our CSA program you would receive a weekly basket full of our fresh fruits and veggies. As a member of the CSA program you also get to come to tour the farm and see how we grow your food and get to know us. CSA shares are a great way to eat through the season, as your share will change as the fruits and veggies come in and out of season. It is a great way for you family to get involved in how your food is grown and get to know where it comes from.
If you are interested I have attached the application form for this year to the email or it can be downloaded from our website. Check out our website we have posted sample weeks of what could be expected in the shares and we posted new photos in the gallery. If you have any questions or please feel free to contact us.
Have a great spring,
It is CSA Registration timeLeave a Comment
Dear CSA Members
We hope that you have all enjoyed this winter. It was so great to have so much snow. But we are happy to see the snow as we are looking forward to the spring . Here on the farm we are lambing right now and have had about 175 lambs born so far. It is such a fun and busy time with so many baby lambs running around. They love to run around outside and play in the snow. We are also tapping our maple bush and getting lots of sap, which we are busy boiling down into maple syrup.
With spring just ahead of us we are starting to begin planting our seedlings in the greenhouse and planning our crops for the upcoming season. Then soon enough we will be picking asparagus, and fiddleheads. As spring is quickly approaching we would like to invite you back to our CSA program for another season of fresh fruits and veggies. We have a few new crops we are offering this year. We are and growing potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, Swiss chard and beets for the first time, which we will be sure to include in your shares.
I have attached the application form for this year to the email or it can be downloaded from our website. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us.
The application can be filled out and then mailed to us at:
975 Durham Rd 21
Port Perry, Ont
Hope you will all be joining us for another season of CSA
Final CSA SharesLeave a Comment
Hey CSA members
Can you believe another season has come and gone? These last 6 months have flown by and things are starting to slow down around here again. We only have 2 weeks left of our CSA program and the farmers markets. The last CSA shares day is Tuesday October 30th and our market closes on Wednesday October 31 so make sure to come in and get your final shares. Your final meat shares are ready and available for pick up in the market.
We hope that you have enjoyed the season of our fresh fruits and veggies and being part of the farm. At this point we are still picking broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and squash. Aside from that all the rest of our crops have all been picked off and we are now starting to clean up the fields and get them ready for a long winter. We are planting garlic now for next year. This is a great time to plant garlic in your own gardens for next year. You plant the garlic cloves pointy part up, about a 1 ½” deep and then cover it with a mulch (straw or leaves) for some insulation for the winter. In the spring you will see green leave emerging quite early.
Right now our fall herd of cows are calving. We have 9 new calves so far and our bull is in with the spring herd. We have also put in our rams with our ewes, so we expect to be lambing in early March. This year we are expecting many more lambs too, because we increased our herd size to over 100 ewes. We also have some new ideas for next year. We are planning on growing potatoes and sweet potatoes for the first time. We did a small trial of sweet potatoes for ourselves and they turned out great. We also will be growing more melons as well as doing a lot more maple syrup this spring. You can keep up to date on farm life over the winter on Facebook. I will be sure to post pictures over the winter, especially during lambing.
We hope that you have enjoyed being part of Willowtree Farm CSA program this season. We truly appreciate all the support and enjoy having everyone involved in the farm. It is so nice to see how many people are passionate about supporting local farmers. So thank you for supporting Willowtree Farm and we hope that you all have a great winter season. Hope to see you back next season for another great year.
Early EverythingLeave a Comment
This year has been an exceptionally hot spring and summer as I’m sure everyone has noticed. Since March almost everyday has been warm and sunny, which has meant a lot of growing degree days for our crops. Our crops require a certain soil temperature to germinate and then grow this being particularly important in the early spring. These temperatures were achieved extremely early this year giving our spring crops a huge head start. The crops that over wintered in the ground like the garlic and winter wheat grew extremely quickly in the spring because of heat.
All of this warm weather has increased the growth and development of the plants and all the crops are ready earlier, by about 2 weeks this year. We began picking strawberries this year on June 9th instead of the typical June 18th. Broccoli was ready to pick by mid June the earliest ever. Sweet corn had now been picked in southern Ontario for over two weeks now the earliest ever in history. We hope to be picking our own by next week. We already have small cobs, we are just waiting for them to size up. Saturday’s rain will really help them along. The saying for grain corn “knee high for the first of July” has been blown out of the water with corn being taller than a person before the first of July. Our tomato plants are loaded with green tomatoes and our melons are just a few weeks off from picking, many are already the size of footballs. This week we are beginning to pick our Spanish onions and our raspberry canes are loaded with berries, ready for everyone to come out and pick.
Our “veggie patch” which we grow on the black plastic mulch layer is particularly thriving and early. The black plastic absorbs the suns energy and warms the soil which is particularly desired by the cucurbits, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil. The veggie patch looks more like the August than they begin of July. All the plants are full size and we are picking a lot of crops already. The plastic-culture is a great way of growing our vegetable crops because it allow us reduce water loss, directly irrigate the plant roots, control the roots and increase the soil temperature.
The fall wheat has already turned yellow and has begun to dry out. Which means the combines will be in the fields sooner than later, harvesting the wheat for the grain elevators. And baling the stalks for stalk for the strawberries and bedding for our animals. No part of the wheat is unused around here. We even plant clover under the wheat so once the wheat is combined of the clover grows up and flowers which our bees love and clover is a nitrogen fix plant. Which is great
CSA OPEN HOUSELeave a Comment
Hey CSA Members,
I hope everyone is enjoying their fruits and veggies so far. Next week we will have Spanish onions and hopefully some raspberries too.
I just wanted to reminded everyone about the CSA Open House and Field Tour this Sunday. If everyone wants to meet at the market at 1 p.m. that would be great and we will continue on from there.
I know that a lot of you have R.S.V.P either by telling someone when you pick up your box or through email. But unfortunately this has resulted in me have uncertain numbers. So if you are planning on coming if you could please reply to this email with numbers that would be fabulous. It would be very helpful to me for getting stuff ready for the BBQ. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Hope to see you all Sunday
First CSA share tomorrow!!Leave a Comment
Hey CSA Members
Just a quick email to remind everyone tomorrow June 19th is our first CSA day!!! This means your baskets will be ready for pick up after 4 p.m. in the market. If you are picking up your basket at one of the farmers markets please remember to come before 2 p.m. because after that we head back to the farm. Anyone picking up baskets at a farmer’s market, the baskets will be ready for you at our stand the day of the market (ie. Tuesday for East York and Downtown Oshawa Market, Friday for Oshawa Shopping Centre and Saturday for New Market).
Your first meat shares will be this week and there after the first Tuesday of every month (July 3rd will be the second meat share pick up). For those of you who have ordered mixed shares, this month will be a mix between our beef and lamb, as our chickens are not ready yet. Hopefully our chickens will be ready for the second share.
Please remember to return your boxes and containers the following week, so we can reuse them. We try to recycle as much as possible to reduce waste made by the farm. Your participation would be greatly appreciated.
Lastly I just wanted to remind everyone of the farm open house and tour on Sunday July 8th from 1-4 p.m. Also you can keep up to date with things happening on the farm and what you can expect in your CSA box on Willowtree Facebook page. I will also be posting recipe ideas for things I put in the box, but please feel free to post your own recipe ideas too.
Hope everyone is excited for their first CSA basket tomorrow!!!
Spring FirstsLeave a Comment
Spring has to be the most exciting time on the farm. It is an energizing start to a new season, as things on the farm come alive again. Once the weather starts to change we start to get to work on preparing for the new season. To me the best part of spring and what makes it so exciting is all the firsts. Taking note of all the changes as the farm awakens. The first sprig of asparagus found, first crop in the ground, first harvest, first planting, first meal with our own veggies, first market day and the first handful of our own strawberries. As we are working each day in the spring we make note of these exciting firsts and when we regroup at meals or at the shop we share the exciting new things we discovered that day. My absolute favourite first of spring is watching a newborn calf trying out their “new legs”. It is so cool how it happens. First there are a few attempts to stand, once that is conquered, it is a few wobbles before they can stand and then not long after that they are running and kicking with sheer joy at this awesome new discovery.
Picking the first few crops is real pleasure too!! This spring we started eating our own food early. We had several meals of asparagus in early April and not to long after that we had the fiddleheads poking out. At the first sight of a rhubarb stalk emerging Marlene was asking if the plants were big enough yet so she could make Rod a rhubarb pie. After a long winter without having a backyard full of all the fruits and veggies you would ever want, we are all chomping at the bit to get out there and pick our own food. Totally spoiled I know. This year has been great for that; everything is about 2 weeks earlier than other years. We are now picking asparagus, rhubarb, spinach, green garlic and soon strawberries and peas too. We have been finding handfuls of red ones in last year’s day-neutrals and our June berries have lots of green fruit and bloom and even a few red ones in the Annapolis.
This year we also for the first time have a new crop to try. Our haskap (also known as honeyberry) flowered and have some fruit developing right now. We planted these plants 3 years ago and this is the first year for fruit. Haskap are an amazingly hardy, fast growing, high yielding, great tasting berry bush that is relatively new to North America. Apparently they are super popular in Japan because of all there health benefits. Haskaps are an edible honeysuckle that originates from Siberia. I don’t really know about the name haskap though it sounds more like a type of punctuation mark than a fruit to me. Honeyberry sounds much tastier.
So far we have only found a few berries. They look like oblong blueberries. Basically you can eat them the same way you do blueberries; eat them fresh, in baking, as jams & jellies, frozen, or whatever else you may think of, get creative with this new fruit. As we get more I will be sure to update you on my opinion and uses for them and hopefully we will get enough to bring some to market for others to try. New things are always exciting to try especially when they are good for you too. Honeyberries are high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Honey berries are said to be a useful addition in the prevention of a number of chronic conditions, e.g., cancer, diabetes mellitus, tumor growth, and cardiovascular diseases.
It is hard to believe how quick the spring has gone. It is June 1st today. I guess all the days have gone by planting this year’s crops but it seems hard to believe that it is June and full swing markets and picking are just ahead of us. Time flies when you are having fun I guess!!
CSA Welcome and Info1 Comment
Dear CSA Members,
Thank-you for choosing the CSA program at Willowtree Farm. We hope you are as excited about this seasons CSA as we are. The first day for the CSA baskets of fresh fruit and veggies will be Tuesday, June 19th. If you are having the basket delivered to your house you can expect to see them between 12:00 and 7:00 p.m. If for any reason you will not be home when the deliveries are being made, please feel free to leave a cooler and ice-pack on your front step and we will gladly pack your food in it for you, so it stays fresh. For those of you picking up your baskets, feel free to come to our Farm Market any time after 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday night or all-day Wednesday. If you are picking up the basket from a farmer’s markets come visit our table and we will have it ready for you. Please remember to return your box so we can fill it again the following week. We try to reuse the boxes to reduce waste. For deliveries just place the box somewhere we can see it. If you have any questions about your delivery or pick up, don’t hesitate to ask.
For the first week of the baskets (weather depending) we are hoping to have fresh garlic, asparagus, rhubarb, spinach, hothouse tomatoes and lettuce and maybe even a few strawberries (keep your fingers crossed).
I will be posting recipe ideas, what’s happening on the farm and what you can expect in each weeks box on our Facebook page
Mark your calendars, the CSA Open House/ Farm Tour will be on Sunday July 8th from 1-4 p.m. We welcome you to bring family and friends to come tour the farm to see where your food comes from and learn about how it is grown. You will have a chance to meet the farmers, tour the fields and then enjoy some refreshment and a BBQ. Hope to see you all here! Please R.S.V.P.
For our CSA Meat Shares this year we would like to offer you the option of a mixed meat share. New this year we are now raising sheep as well as we have our chickens. If you would like us to pack your share with a mixture of beef, lamb and chicken, just let me know and I can do that for you. Just like our cattle the sheep and chicken is raised hormone and anti-biotic free.
It would be greatly appreciated if you would send us an e-mail back, letting us know you received this message so we know that all of your information is correct. If you would like a receipt for you CSA basket, let us know and we will email you an invoice.
Once again, thank you for choosing Willowtree Farm. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions, concerns or comments.