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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The winter that wasn't

As a stiff very mild wind blows in, the scant snow cover is melting away fast. What happened to winter this year? We went away for a delicious three weeks on Costa Rica’s wild Pacific coast and came back to pools of ice following not snow but rain. The mean daytime temperature in January was several degrees above freezing. No wonder then that the ground in the hoophouses did not even properly freeze all winter, when we are accustomed to two to three months of freeze-up. Though crops would have barely grown, we could have enjoyed greens all winter long; we made do with a tasty supply of arugula left in one bed from the fall.

In line with the wacky weather, Nature is ahead of schedule. With the ground thawing, the robins were back in early February, and the goldfinches, blue jays, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees have been busy at the sunflower seed feeder. The deer are venturing out from the woods and feeding on morcels of green and fallen mushy apples revealed by the retreating snow. Wild turkeys too scratch the surface and gobble up seeds, shoots, and dirt. Bear prints are noted in the snow of our lower field, and a dazed raccoon forages in the compost heap before waddling off into the bushes. It is time for me too to venture out from semi-hibernatory mode to get to work, working in manure by digging over the soil in the hoophouses ready for the first plantings of spring. This week, second week in March as always, I’ll start some seeds in trays – parsley, chervil, kales, then plant beds of arugula, spinach, kale, chard, mixed and spicy greens. This will be followed by succession seedings and plantings through the rest of March and April, so that we have the first spring salad greens ready for market in mid-April, which is not far off. Spring really is just around the corner.

We’ve already started back at the Evergreen Brickworks farmers market on Saturdays. We won’t be going every week until mid-April, but it was nice to be greeted back by staff, vendors, and customers last Saturday. We’re keen to get our new fresh batch of Seville Orange Marmalade out there, having doubled production after strong sales last year. It is a wonderfully tangy fruity mix of oranges and lemons, some made with raw organic sugar, and some with an added splash of Scotch whisky for a smooth and decadent finish. Also available are Chris’s wonderful lemon and garlic olive oils, and maple bourbon and orange brandy cranberry sauces to go with chicken, turkey, strong cheeses. In the coming weeks we are offering grass-fed and grass-finished beef (ground, stewing, roasts, sausages) and steaks will be back on the menu in April. We take in one animal at a time to the local processor and sell the highly-nutritious beef exclusively at Brickworks farmers market.