Monday, April 16, 2012

We've moved

Great news - we have set up a new web address for our farm. You can now find us at!

This is good news and bad news... the good news is we have a nice new website. The bad news is that we are leaving this current site. But, we have migrated all of our blog content and your comments (except one) so that everything is in one place.

So, please update your address books and come visit us at

Talk soon,

Ron & Lorie Thiessen

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring Questions

1. What is the first fruit tree to blossom in spring?

Apricots are the first fruit trees to blossom.
This year they were in full bloom by the end of March - approx. 1 month ahead of the average. There was even snow on the ground during bloom!
Because apricots bloom so early they often get hit by a frost which reduces the crop.

2. Identify the following blossoms...

...from top to bottom - apricots, peaches, peaches and plums

3. Are the blossoms harmed by the frosty nights we've been having?

The cold night temperatures that we have had lately can definitely harm the blossoms.
Blossoms just about to open, and open blooms are the most susceptible to damage. At a temperature of -2.2 C  buds can be killed on many fruits. Once the lows reach -3.9 there can be significant bud kill. Sweet cherries are the most sensitive to cold.
Of course it is not as staightforward as a certain temperature. Other factors that work along with temperature include the duration of the cold temperatures, how warm the days have been, soil moisture levels, ground cover (grass, bare soil, mulch ...) etc.

Right now we are not seeing significant damage to our blossoms. For this we are thankful! However it is early in the season and cold temperatures can still be expected.

Peaches, nectarines and red & yellow plums are all in blossom now, and thus the most vulnerable.
 -some weeds are also in flower and look pretty good with the booming peaches!

Sweet cherries are just beginning to open.

 Pears (above) and blue plums (below) are probably about a week away. The white blooms here are wild plums that we allow to grow to help pollinate our trees.

4. How many blossoms need to set or become fruit to have a decent crop?

With peaches - even if 10% of the blossoms set and become fruit, that can still be a full crop.

5. What else is happening on the farm right now?

-pruning sweet cherries

-peas are coming up (this picture was taken on a frosty morning recently)

-daffodils are blooming

 -seedlings are growing in the greenhouse

-raspberries are pruned, tucked into the wires and starting to show green

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Knotty Vampires!

They're gone ...

No more vampires on our farm!

I got rid of them yesterday.

Of course I'm talking about Vampire plum trees - what did you think?

Vampires are a dark red, round plum. What makes them unique is their flesh - a blood red colour, instead of the usual yellow flesh of most red plums. Hence their name!

Vampires are a fairly new variety of plum. When they first became available we planted only a few trees, to see what they would be like.
I have been ambivalent about them. The colour is somewhat dull & dark, they're a little soft, the skin splits too easily, and the taste is only average. But they are juicy and with that amazing colour inside ...

It is fun to sell Vampires.  We refer to them as the "twilight" plums and when customers ask for an explanation we break one open so the "blood" can flow out. Marketing geniuses we are!

But now they are gone. No more Vampires on our farm.

Black knot is what did them in.
Black knot is a fungal disease that affects the woody parts of plum trees - not leaves or fruit. It appears as an ugly, black, misshapen growth on the branches. It spreads by spores especially during a cool & wet spring. Left unchecked it can spread and weaken and eventually kill a tree.

During winter or early spring we cut off infected branches and burn them. In spring, fungicides can be applied to help control this disease.

Our Vampire trees had so much black knot that we could not cut it out. We had to cut down the whole tree - all the trees.

Fortunately there are still 4 other varieties of red plums on our farm - all redder, sweeter, better flavour ...
But not Vampires!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


How about this weather, eh!

Spring has arrived, and in a most definite manner - lots of sunshine & very warm temperatures. Certainly a joy to work in, but a cause for some panic among farmers trying to stay ahead of the weather.

The sound of orchard sprayers can be heard throughout our neighbourhood.
Certain sprays have to be applied before the trees break their dormancy - the most immediate being for peach leaf curl. This is a serious fungal disease that causes the new peach leaves (in May/June) to turn a reddish colour, become thick & then curl up and eventually dry and fall off. A few infected leaves don't really matter, but too many on a tree can affect the crop & the health of the peach tree. While a timely dormant spray can control leaf curl, the warm weather has caused us all to scramble to get it on in time.

Here is an example of peach leaf curl on some young peaches in June 2011.

Eventually most of the leaves fell off & I thought the trees would die.
While new leaves did appear, essentially these trees lost a year of growth.

Oil sprays also have to be applied soon. These work by coating the tree branches and smothering the pests. Timing depends on what diseases or insects we are trying to control. Often we might only have a day or two to spray for optimum effect, and hopefully weather conditions allow us to spray then. These dormant or early spring sprays, when applied properly can save many pest problems later in the season when control is more difficult and expensive.

Pruning continues as well.
On our farm the pears & European plums (the blue/purple ones) are pruned. I should get at the cherries this week. Raspberries are also pushing to get done. Peaches will wait until May.
Blackberries are almost half finished being pruned & tied.

Daily changes can be seen on the fruit trees.

Plums are the most advanced - already showing green.
Sweet cherry buds getting  fatter each day!
Peach buds just starting to swell.

Yesterday I seeded some snow peas and spinach.

The spinach & lettuce that overwintered under row cover (which blew off during those strong winds the previous week) have begun to grow as well.

Other signs of spring ...

Canada geese at the neighbour`s pond. Sure hope they are in transit & not settling in!

And Oliver - always a good reminder
that it`s not all about work. 
We all need to take the time to enjoy the sunshine!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Ugly

It's not the most beautiful time of year.

There's no carpet of snow to cover the ground and make everything clean & white.
The fresh, vibrant colours of spring are still some time away.

But there is still some beauty - just a bit more subtle perhaps.
And it's amazing how the camera can make things look good ...

... like our pond

... and the overgrown pussy willow bush along the train tracks.

Of course I want the pictures of our farm that we post on this blog to look good - really good!

But in the interests of honesty, transparency and keepin' it real ... I have decided to show the ugly - the parts of the farm that the camera avoids - the parts of the farm we never show.
Caution - it's not pretty!

The brush pile where we burn the branches we prune from the trees, roots, stumps etc.
Burning is not the most environmentally sound practise, and someday we hope to have a brush chopper - which would chew up the branches and leave them in the orchard to decompose.

The rock pile which is waiting to be recreated into a beautiful rock garden or maybe a rock wall. Believe it or not, our farm has no rocks and we brought these over from a friends. There are also some concrete blocks because - where do you dispose of concrete blocks?
The diesel tank behind isn't much to look at either, but at least there are evergreens to hide it.

The post pile - home to steel & wood posts that we use each summer to stake the tomatoes. Also home to a really fat groundhog. 

Abandoned equipment that we keep for spare parts. In summer the weeds will be taller & greener which will help camouflage things and make it look more presentable.

Spare pieces of steel barn siding held down by spare tires.
An old wheelbarrow - too broken up to use - too good to throw away.
Rolls of fencing ready for growing climbing beans and long cucumbers on.
And it's all resting in that greenhouse frame that never seems to get finished.

A late planting of kale - it lasted through much of the winter and will soon be removed.

Yucca plants & more - waiting to be planted in the garden - and waiting & waiting. Some daylilies in the back have now been waiting for 3 years! And still they grow and bloom.

And Oliver - relaxing in the sunshine.
Certainly not ugly (though he managed to make it into several of the ugly pictures) but definitely lazy!