The summer vegetables start in the shares! This is an exciting transition for many people as the shares start to be filled with more familiar and favourite vegetables. We start with zucchini, broccoli, and snap peas this week. And in about 2 weeks we will have exciting additions of cucumbers, beans, and new potatoes.
For today, I wanted to tell you a little bit about one of our farm certifications: Bee Friendly Farm. There is much overlap between the requirements of organic certification and the practices on bee friendly farms. Some of the practices that we follow on our farm include:
1. We plant a great diversity of pollinator friendly flowers, trees, and shrubs so that there are continual blooms throughout the entire foraging season.
2. We do not mow ditches and leave many unmowed areas of our property to provide food and habitat to pollinators.
3. We do not use any insecticides or other sprays that are harmful to insects. For us, this also means we avoid all organic-approved insecticides.
4. We provide water sources throughout the farm. In addition to a pond we dug, we also put out water for the bees at very dry times of the year.
Later this summer, I plan to make both a bumblebee house and a mason bee house to encourage these native pollinators. If you are interested in adding either of these features to your home gardens, you should check out the book: The BEES in Your Backyard by Wilson and Messinger Carril. This fascinating and beautiful book provides detailed photos and information regarding bees in North America and also includes plans for making the above-mentioned pollinator houses.
What I have found most fascinating in our time here on the farm is that as we focus on increasing the biodiversity of one group of species (pollinators), many other species of birds, animals, and others also increase. Every year we see more toads, frogs, song birds, and snakes, in addition to many native pollinators. It just shows that if we give nature what it needs, it will respond with greater diversity and health.
Some of you may have heard on the CBC that our native barn swallow population is becoming dangerously low in Ontario. To learn more, you can read the article here. Each season, we have more barn swallows that call our farm home. We have had the same pair of swallows using a nest they built on the light over our back porch for at least the last four years. And we were excited to see that this year we also had several nests being built in the driveshed. Not long ago, four young barn swallows hatched in the nest on our porch. Now, when we go outside at dawn and dusk in particular, there will be a family of swallows swooping and diving around our heads.
Napa Cabbage is a quick maturing cabbage that is perfect for summer slaws or stir-fries. Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, Napa cabbage will last for many weeks in the fridge. But at this time of year we enjoy eating it as fresh as possible. Our preferred way to eat it is thinly sliced and tossed with grated carrots and sliced green onions, and drizzled with toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. If adding to a stir-fry, add at the very end of cooking as it is best when still a little crisp. For other ways to use this versatile vegetable, try one of these recipes:
Shredded Napa Cabbage Salad with Radishes, Golden Raisins, and Dijon Dressing
Sweet and Sour Roasted Napa Cabbage Wedges