Finally, we have managed to update! Find below our yearly gardening letter.
Wishing you all the best this growing season!
The 2017 growing season went quite well here at the farm. The season started off early, and the fall was beautifully long and dry, perfect for seed harvesting. I (Rachelle) attempted to be slightly less ambitious in how many different things I grew this season, trying to keep in mind all of the other things we need to organize in setting up our home, lives, and the seed collection back here at the farm.
There are always various experiments to keep things new and exciting. This year I successfully grew Teff (traditional Ethiopian grain used to make injera) outdoors (we have grown it a couple times in a high tunnel successfully) and gathered mature seed. I happily harvested good quantities of caraway (a biennial) seed and Perennial Yellow Flax seed this year both of which I started as bedding plants in 2016. I grew a new wonderfully leafy cilantro that was slow to bolt, and an edamame type soy bean, and both of these produced lovely seed. We also brought back a patty pan/scallopini squash that we used to offer, Benning’s Green Tint, and I got an excellent crop of these. My favourite flower of the season was the gorgeous Four O’Clocks I grew for the first time! Of course, there are always a few experiments that don’t succeed, like the Taiwan Leaf Quinoa which I have now tried to grow for seed the last two growing seasons. It just doesn’t quite manage to mature in our season, but I’m not giving up just yet!
The usual things from our collection are also always exciting. The return of one of my favourites, Lemon Cucumber, had an amazing yield in our garden closest to the lake. This garden has a lovely microclimate: both warmer, and with a slightly a longer growing season. We also had a good yield of Sugar Baby watermelons in that garden, although the flavor didn’t develop as well as it sometimes does, maybe not enough heat at the right time. Also, almost half of this garden was dedicated to our Simonet corn crop to ensure good seed production, and we have a bumper crop of seed! The grains were beautiful once again, a joy to grow, observe, and even harvest, but the hand processing really bogs me down (I still have many that are not yet threshed and cleaned)! This is an art of skill, patience, and time that I think only my father has…I haven’t figured out how to solve this problem. I hope he continues processing grains for many years! I would incorporate some mechanical assistance but have to find the right tools for the job that are within the budget of a small-scale operation like ours.
Most of our peas and beans for seed are grown by our neighbours, Largo Farm. The harvest of these was excellent this year although the yield was down on all varieties because we experienced drought again this summer. Also, we had three bouts of hail within a week or so in late July/early August which really cut into some of the pea seed as they were ripening nicely at that time so a lot of seed shelled out onto the ground.
The bedding plants were a bit numerous for me this spring and I didn’t get around to transplanting everything in time. This resulted in a few of our tomato varieties being late and producing poorly. The other frustration this year was beet seed, the plants are so indeterminate that they were still over half green even after our long fall which I thought should have given them plenty of time to ripen. I covered some of them when frost was predicted, and I simply cut the seed as late as I could, but I have yet to process it (all hand processing and probably one of the most labour-intensive crops for us in terms of processing) and am not sure of the quality so will have to do multiple germ tests. The two beets I grew for seed this year were Albina Vereduna and Detroit. I hope we can process and test some seed of this seed in the next month as we are otherwise out of Detroit seed. Overall it was a positive season for seed production!
Please continue to bear with us over the next few years as I move our seed operation from Humboldt to the farm (3 hours one way between these two locations). We hope to do it without too many hiccups but inevitably there will be some and we ask for your patience. One job we removed for this year was doing a new print catalogue so last year’s catalogue represents our collection for this year as well. Changes for next year will probably include an address change, packet price changes and shipping rate changes.
As we invite more people to be involved with our seed growing at the farm, we hope to have more people present with various gifts, to contribute to the maintenance, documentation, and distribution of this seed collection.
Big projects continue to come together, like putting a new metal roof on one of the quonset buildings this summer. It is a large unheated indoor space where we hope to do more seed processing work in the future Thanks to the crew that helped Russell and I with this big project in various ways: Johnny, Judy, Tom, Dylan, Maritza, Chabelo, Edgar, Jorge, Moises, Reina, Josephine, Brody, Shawn, Janice, Christopher, Rowan, and the kids Robin, Maria, Arlee, Fidelina and Kimberly! We had such a fun weekend of hard work and fellowship.
There are a number of seed producers and plant breeders we really like and support, some of whose seed we offer in our catalogue (indicated in the listing). We would like to work on the resources area on our website in order to have a better list for you to easily browse and navigate but we haven’t gotten to it for a while. However, I do have new and enthusiastic help with our website and so we may get to updating this area sometime in 2018! There are so many dedicated seed savers out there who are all part of the intricate network of people and communities working to grow our seed resilience, and we are so happy to be a part of these efforts here in Saskatchewan.
We continue to garden without agricultural chemicals and always will. A number of friends and relatives, and small growers, provide us with some seed, and we are always ready to talk to fellow gardeners who would like to help steward this collection. All of our seeds are open-pollinated and none of the seeds are treated. Some items have been sourced from commercial suppliers which means they may have been grown using agricultural chemicals. We have indicated this by placing a (C) (for commercial seed) after the variety name.
Rachelle and Russell are getting more settled on the farm all the time, living there for their second winter now. The operation of Prairie Garden Seeds winter work is moving to the farm this year and so will be rather stressful for many reasons. We will do our best to keep up with our service to you but we again ask for your patience and understanding in this process.
Thanks to my (Rachelle’s) amazing partner Russell and our wonderful neighbours out at the farm (Judy, Tom, Johnny, Betty, Janice, Shawn, Christopher, Rowan, Robin, and all the animals!) who are an immense support in many ways! And also of course, to my wonderful parents Jim and Marie-Louise, who also give a lot to make this whole project possible.
Looking forward to serving you,
Rachelle (and Jim)
2017 Letter from the Garden
2016 Letter from the Garden
2015 Letter from the Garden
2014 Letter from the Garden