Spring update!

So it’s spring. The spring peepers, robins, and blackflies have all made this abundantly clear here for some time now. It’s been a nice spring up here on the mountain. Rather cool but not overly wet. So long as there’s sunshine, the greenhouses and solar panels could hardly care less about the temperature.

And by gods, the greenhouses sure have been pumping out some badass greens lately:

SpinachSpinach and other greens

More salad greens

Salad greensRed oakleaf lettuce

Radish, too. But you’ll have to come to the Annapolis Royal Winter Market tomorrow to see (and hopefully buy) those brightly coloured jewels. Tomorrow is the last Winter Market of the season, as next week – the 21st – we return to our spot at the Summer Market!

The outside gardens are also growing quite happily, with many of our beds in cold frames. The garlic is all doing great, and we’ve got carrots, beets, parsnips, peas, beans, kale, chard, potatoes, and more salad greens, spinach, and radish planted.

Garlic in full swing

And thanks to Laire’s maniacal efforts last fall, he and I have lots of tulips and daffodils in bloom all around our front yard! Such a wicked landscaper, that one.

Tulips abloomDaffodils littering the paths

Daffodils abloom along brook

You might be wondering what we’ve been up to lately. Well, unfortunately, we didn’t end up getting any new baby goats that we were all counting on here. We basically built a new barn for them, perhaps you’ve seen it? But then the goat kids just decided to not exist. That is, our billygoat turned out to be shooting blanks. None of our goats had actually been bred, as much as we managed to convince ourselves otherwise over the winter. This was a bit of a disappointment, mostly because baby goats are super cute and we were all planning on spending all spring cuddling with them for days on end.

No, actually, because it would have been great to get all that extra milk to make some hard cheeses and such. I even spent the winter getting rather obsessed with a certain style of raw milk cheesemaking through a wonderful book, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking. I’ve been practicing over the winter and become rather good at making various styles of fresh chèvre using a kefir starter culture. We still have enough milk on the go for me to keep that up – Mocha and Notch continue to yield milk since they gave birth last year – but it’ll be harder to squeeze a wheel of alpine or cheddar out of those old girls.

But we did end up with surprise kittens! And who doesn’t like kittens? Well, apparently they don’t like us. The kittens were born in the barn loft by our new feral barn cat, Lucky. Hopefully one day soon Lucky will be away hunting and we can sneak in some playtime with her babies!

We went for our first picking of fiddleheads yesterday. ‘Tis the season to forage for fiddleheads on the forest floor. We’ll go back next week when more of them have emerged, but we still did quite well. It’s lovely little spot we like to go picking at. There’s bloodroot in bloom everywhere.

Foraging for fiddleheads in the forestBloodroot in bloom

We’ll have lots of fiddleheads at the market tomorrow!

So really, why wouldn’t you come to market tomorrow? I mean, besides the thunderstorms? See you tomorrow!

A springtime hike around Snow Lake Keep

It’s been almost three months since Laire and I moved to the community, and aside from the hike we went on during our first visit last fall, we still hadn’t got a full tour of this huge property. There’s just always too many projects to do when you’re a homesteader and market gardener, aren’t there?

Well, Deryk has been meaning to take us on a hike during springtime—when there’s enough greenery to get a sense for what’s growing where, but still early enough in the season that you can get a sense of the landscape without a thick canopy blocking your view. Today was a gorgeous spring day (save for the black flies, which I guess I’m getting used to by now), and we took advantage of the warmth, the sunshine, and the breeze to walk most of the acreage’s perimeter.

Twisted old trunk, probably home to an owl
Twisted old trunk, probably home to an owl

Lots of fungi around here
Lots of fungi around here

Amazing how trees regrow after wind storms
Another funny-looking trunk
Another funny-looking trunk
Amazing how trees regrow after wind storms

As soon as you leave the farmyard, it really does feel like you’re hiking the backcountry in a remote park. In the old-growth forest, there are virtually no signs of human interference. Instead you see a plethora of natural abundance: the forest floor thick with spring wildflowers, unfurling fiddleheads, and heaps of spongy mosses; saplings and shrubs bursting with new spring growth; and ancient trees, twisted full revolutions by the prevailing winds, sometimes delimbed in a storm but growing forth nonetheless.

We followed no defined trail, so finding our path demanded an acute sense of our surroundings. The diversity of local flora is just breathtaking. If you take a really close look at the forest floor, as we had to with almost every step, you quickly realize that there’s a whole lot going on down there!

Wintergreen berries - a fresh forest floor snack!
Wintergreen berries – a fresh forest floor snack!
Delicate goldthread flowers in bloom
Delicate goldthread flowers in bloom

Occasionally, you do come across one of the now-overgrown ruts left behind by a logging operation of the past—a reminder that this property was at one time considered just another woodlot by a forestry corporation. The change from old-growth to old clearcut is usually obvious: the difference between a high canopy with relatively walkable terrain, and an impenetrable thicket no more than two storeys tall. In the most accessible clearcuts, Deryk has undertaken as much silvicultural work as he’s had time for during the last eight years to help maintain and improve forest health. His efforts have paid off: Those areas he’s paid the most attention to have given rise to taller and stronger trees, and encouraged the growth of the more desirable species – both for the local ecology as well as for the community’s needs.

It’s really exciting to know that your own backyard is as beautiful and diverse as any of Canada’s great parks. I’m looking forward to doing more of these backyard treks as the season evolves.

—Farmer Paul

Burbling Snow Brook
Burbling Snow Brook