Monday, July 16, 2018

Harvest 2018

I am living the dream of a crazy garlic farmer!! It is harvest time! The crop looks amazing this year! We are on day 4 with over 3000 already dug out. We have a steady supply of helpers and volunteers to make the job easier. Pulling the garlic out from the field is probably the toughest part of the harvest for two reasons. The soil is very dry and hard and the roots of the garlic need to be loosen sometimes with a garden fork before pulling. And it is darn Hot at over 30C ! We got 27 mm of rain on Monday evening, hopefully that will help to loosen the sandy soil. 

We will be posting in the next few weeks what will be available this year on the garlic catalogue page. Prices will be added to each kind of garlic available. There might even be some new kinds on offer!! We will also add an tab at the top to explain how the ordering is done since we don't use on-line shopping cart.

Any of you who already grow garlic from Railway Creek Farm, we hope yours is doing as well as ours. Any questions, please feel free to email me. Also follow us on Facebook and instagram.

Happy garlic harvest.

Elly
Mum at 83 and still helping out with garlic harvest.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Spring 2018

Wow! Spring is just around the corner again, and maybe for good this time! I've been thinking about garlic.   I am so happy to announce that there are over 10,000 garlic cloves snugged deep in the ground. The Mulch was removed by April 23rd , and tips are just showing above ground now. A side note: by April 1 in 2017 the garlic was up above the ground by 2 inches!! I am increasing the production of healthy garlic planting stock once again to the amounts that I used grow on the farm, approximately 23,000.  It was nice to scale down for a season to get caught up with many projects that needed to be finished.  Sadly, as a farmer, I did not achieve complete success !  Some projects simply expanded into bigger ones!  Inadvertently,  I created many new projects along the way for 2018!  

I am now experimenting with 25 strains of garlic within the three varieties; porcelain, rocambole and purple stripes. Some new garlic I bought in 2017 will be kept in trials for 3 years until I am sure the planting stock is healthy and will perform well in our Canadian gardens. Many test samples will be sent to the Guelph Agriculture and Food Laboratory to test for any diseases that may develop in the garlic patch or in storage. I am striving to grow a healthy garlic crop that I can confidently ship out to my customers for their pleasure to grow. 

I will not be attending any garlic festivals this year. I will have the catalogue updated with descriptions of each garlic and their prices on the website by September 1, 2018. There will also be an instructions tab on how to order and how to pay. (nope, I still don't have an online shopping cart!)
I am, but one woman in her late 40's determined to grow garlic , chickens and a large vegetable garden! There is nothing more satisfying than spending the day out of doors enjoying the warmth of the sun and working on several jobs at the same time in the hopes of achieving some kind of success at the end of the day. I take pride in what I have accomplish here on the farm in the past 25 years. I am grateful for the wonderful help and dedication my mother, Jean put into growing the gardens with me. I am thankful for my friends who volunteer over the years at garlic harvest time. I am grateful for the piece of land in Hastings County that I am borrowing from the future generation to raise good food for my family, neighbors , garlic aficionados and for the local food bank. I believe in food security for everyone and I therefore grow a row or more of root veggies to donate for our local Food Bank at Central Hasting Support Network. I share food because I can.


One exciting project on the farm this year will be the raising meat birds, only 20 for personal consumption until i worked out my new system. Its been 4 years since I raised chickens and I do miss the flavour of an organic free range roasted chicken! So, I built a moveable chicken coop 4 feet by 10 feet to house the birds. Attached to one end will be a 40 foot run closed in with chicken wire. The coop will be placed at the end of one of the unused garden beds, with a young crop of barley, sorghum, mustard and other plants for the birds to eat. This technique of using a moveable coop on a garden bed is an experiment for me. I did not see the point of building a large structure somewhere in the back yard that will only be used for 10 weeks or less and taking up unnecessary space. I felt that utilizing a garden bed with growing bird-specific plants right where they are housed would be by far an easier and healthier way to raise free range chickens. To find out more of the success, please follow me on instagram and facebook.
Another project I am working on is soil building and soil microbiology preservation. Most everything I learned about soil management in College is almost obsolete. We are destroying the soil food web by over cultivating causing a break down of the interaction between bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes and insects. These are the creatures that essentially make available the nutrients the plants will take up. The plants are healthier and much better at warding off diseases when they are properly nourished. Two main components of building soil are, first to cause as little disturbance to the root zone as possible, and two , always, always keep something growing in the soil. The latter part is where it gets really interesting because I am striving to grow green manures, green cover crops, interplanting all the while growing a harvestable crop! Not the easiest management plan to come up with.

Thats it for now as I need to get back to the gardens. I hope you all do well with your gardens this year and I look forward to hearing about your adventures of growing garlic in your back yard. Please share with me either in email, or post on the face book page any thing you would like about garlic, chickens or veggies or food security, or ask me a question. I will touch base with you in the fall.

Cheers, Elly






Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Its getting warmer.......The spring edition news.

The snow is gone, snow drops are blooming, and there are buds on the trees. There are early greens for our enjoyment growing in the greenhouse and in the cold frames. Spring is here and so the work begins. Yard cleanup, compost piles to turn and horse poop to clean out from paddock. I always believe if I can get started early enough in the spring, and actually get all the chores done before planting, I will never be playing 'catching up' for the rest of the summer. Its another year to try to prove that it can be done!
Falcon and Annie enjoying the warmth.

For those who have been following us will know that we have made many changes over the last 10 years. And so once again Railway Creek Farm is morphing into something new. The veggie production for markets and wholesale will be put on the back burner while the garlic business is redefined, improved and expanded.

I am excited to put all my energy into producing amazing garlic. Several new kinds are in trial and are been tested in our growing conditions and climate and will be available within the next few years if all goes well . We put all new garlic planting stock in a 4-5 year trial before sharing them with you. We want to be sure they are hardy for our region (zone 3), they produce healthy bulbs and they are tasty with a good bulb size. Many factors play into how a garlic will grow each year, and these need to be considered, for examples, drought like last year reduces the size of the bulb and if irrigation is used, there is a potential risk of spreading diseases.

Our most popular kind of porcelain garlic.



The two biggest changes on the farm are the purchases of small equipment and introducing a 5 year crop rotation using 5 half acre plots. Having a tractor on the farm has been a life savior!! I can build a compost pile properly with cow, horse and garden debris as big as I want it to be and turn it as required.
A view of garlic fields and a horse poop pile. 

The first item on the shopping list is a 80 BMO Aggregate Bond Index ETFbushel manure spreader. One that will only spread across a 3 foot wide garlic bed and not waste any precious compost on pathways. The second item is a flail mower to mow the green manures down before I incorporate it into the soil. A flail mower will chop the green stuff into small pieces that will decompose faster as oppose to bush hogs or sickle bar mowers that leave long pieces of green crop to wrap themselves around the tines of the tiller.

The challenge in developing a rotation is what species of plants to sow ! I have short term and long term plans for a 5 year crop rotation. There is the need to build soil, add nitrogen and protect the microscopic ecosystems. Legumes, grains and broadleaves will be used in different combinations incorporating several species in an intercropping system. Its not easy to come up with the right combination of species based on planting time, growth habit, knock down time and decomposition time as each species has its own particular required conditions to thrive in. I think this will be an ongoing experiment.


This summer is not going to look like a typical  summer from the past, it will be one full of challenges,  new ventures and lots of hard work. Anyone interested in hanging out on weekends, please contact me.