12147 Corey Lake Road, Three Rivers, Michigan (269) 244-5690

Monthly Archive: April 2015

Opening Saturday, May 2nd for the 2015 season!

We will officially open on Saturday, May 2nd, for the 2015 season. As always, we will be open 8am to 6pm, seven days a week! Everyone is looking forward to another season!

Asparagus: The cool nights have really been a problem. We hope to pick Friday afternoon or Saturday morning to have some for the weekend as we know everyone is anxious for their first taste of the year.   However…we won’t know for sure until we actually pick. It will take some days of nice warm weather before we have any large harvests to fill any big orders. So as always at the beginning of the season, it is best to call ahead and make sure we have what you want or to place an order. That way we can call you when your order is in! 269-244-5690.

Bedding plants: We are starting to bring in “cold crop” plants, which you can plant in your garden now. These include: cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, various lettuce varieties, broccoli, swiss chard, herbs and onion sets. We also have some red seed potatoes.  When it gets warmer, we will start bringing in the other vegetables and tomato plants.  It really is too early to put any thing like cucumbers, peppers or tomatoes in yet–they are heat loving and very susceptible to frost.

Hanging Baskets:  We will have some hanging baskets this weekend but will be getting a lot more over the next few weeks as the night time temperatures warm up.

Kale: Becca will have Kale from her yarden, the last of last year’s crop which she overwintered. It is exceptionally sweet and tender.

Bakery Update: Our bakery will open on Saturday as well with a smaller selection of items for the first week. This weekend the pie flavors will be: cherry, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb and apple. Cookies: lemon ice and monster cookies. Also available: cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns, cinnamon bread and 12-grain bread. Many of you have been awaiting our donuts, we will not start making donuts until June. (Sorry!)

Beginning Saturday, May 9th, we will expand our bakery item selections to include muffins, brownies, additional cookie varieties and more breads. In addition, our local meat suppliers will be stocking for that weekend, we will have the same pork as last year but are adding beef this year as well.

Brandy: Brandy will be available: apple (oak aged and glass-aged), cherry, pear, Niagara grape, and Concord grape. We expect to open our Saturday tastings and tours a bit later in the season.

Mother’s Day ideas: 

  •  This year, consider some of our special Mother’s Day items we are putting together. Many of our local vendors will have their items on the market on Mother’s Day Weekend, including local honey, cards, art and Ruth’s famous pecan and cashew brittle. We will also have a nice variety of flower pots and hanging baskets.
  • Why not buy Mom a “living” salad?  We will have large tomato plants for the patio or to set outside—they are already blooming, staked and some have little tomatoes on them. Pair these with one of our lettuce bowls. They’re planted with cold-tolerant greens that can be put outside now, and the lettuce can be picked and it grows back! Grab a basil plant in one of our colored pots, then add a bottle of your Mom’s favorite salad dressing and you have a healthy gift she can continue to enjoy.

    Salad bowls and tomato plants.

  • An arranged flower container for the patio or door step for Mom. Once again we will be making up special containers with flowers and herbs. Come see the many unique containers available for sale at all price ranges. If you have a container you would like us to plant, bring it over and tell us what you would like in it.

Happenings on the farm: It’s been another worrisome week with several nights getting at the freezing level. David has pulled the night duty on watching the temperature then irrigating the strawberries to keep them from freezing and we thank him for this! Our orchards are in various stages of buds and bloom, and so far, nothing has been hurt except the peaches–which just couldn’t take some of the extreme winter temperatures we had.

We have gotten a first planting of cold crops in the ground, including planting seven different varieties of cauliflower which will be a first for me. My parents grew it years ago and it was beautiful–I’ll try to remember what I learned from them! Today we replanted the 2nd half of the new U-Pick apple orchard. (We lost all of the new trees we’d planted in the severe 2013/14 winter). This has been my legacy apple orchard project and it was very gratifying to finally see all of the rows with trees–it is planted with a mixture of apple favorites from years gone by plus many new “fun” kinds. Our first planting of sweet corn and green beans is going in tonight. So, things are happening here on the farm!

From Becca: I planted basil and peppers in the hoophouse this week, which means it’s now planted for the season. The tomatoes are getting their first flowers and looking great. We should be ready to harvest kohlrabi and lettuce from the hoophouse very soon, as well as spinach and some other things from the schoolhouse garden.

"Making ice" while protecting the strawberry plants this week

“Making ice” while protecting the strawberry plants this week

 

A truckload of new apple trees to complete the orchard.

A truckload of new apple trees to complete the orchard.

 

One of the happiest sights I have seen this year:  cherry blossoms that survived the frost and being pollinated!

One of the happiest sights I have seen this year: cherry blossoms that survived the frost being pollinated! (this might be the closest I have ever gotten to a bee on purpose!)

If you are by the farm this weekend, stop and look at the cherry orchard across from the market in full bloom. It is simply breathtaking with the lake in the background and perfect for photo opportunities!

Everyone at Corey Lake Orchards is looking forward to seeing all of our customers back for the year! We thank you for buying local!

Asparagus Updates and a Visit from Winter

None of us really thought we were through with winter, did we? Those beautiful warm spring days of last weekend were just a teaser–then reality hit with this week’s cold weather to remind us that we are still in Michigan, where spring is always a mystery and full of abrupt weather changes. Mother Nature once again played with our orchards, vineyards and vegetable crops–lured them out of their winter dormancy and then put them back on hold.

So when are we opening? Tentatively, May 1st. Please keep checking here or call us because it’ll be May 1st give or take a day, depending on asparagus. We know we need to open soon so you can get bedding plants in the garden!

Asparagus:  We had one picking of asparagus and we are now waiting for warm weather to resume picking, probably about a week from now. We are happy to take your orders and can call you when we can fill them. Asparagus will be $2.25 a pound or $2/pound for ten pounds or more. Call 269-244-5690 and leave your name, how many pounds you would like, and a phone number.

Other produce: We also have kale for sale from Becca’s garden that she overwintered. Kale can survive below freezing temperatures and after doing so becomes sweet and incredibly tender. $3/large bag, self-serve on the market while it lasts. We also have some spring onions available.

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Fresh kale!

We are getting the bakery ready! This week we installed another oven so we can bake more items. We can’t wait to start into some of the new cookies, brownies, muffins and breads we have planned.

Bedding plants: As soon as it gets warm enough to bring them onto the market, we will have all kinds of vegetables, flowers and and herbs for you to get for your own yards and gardens. We will keep bringing them in through the month of May. Becca will be doing a garden planning workshop. Sit tight for news on that!

Planting: We were able to get into the fields this week before the big rain, so the potatoes are planted along with most of the onions. If you drive by the onions planted on AL Jones Road in the black plastic, you will see they are not too happy with this harsh wind! But we expect a full recovery.

Grape Pruning: Hooray! We are finally finished with all of our winter work on the grape vineyards.  We have been at this since November and it feels good to have it done so new growth can begin.

From Becca: I’ve been seeding and transplanting at the schoolhouse all week. Should be harvesting lettuce within the next few weeks, as well as radishes and turnips.

In the hoophouse, I’ve been covering the tomato plants with baskets to keep them warm at night. In these times, I remember my grandpa and his commitment to planting tomatoes in the field in April – he (and every family member he could drag along) would go out on cold nights and cover every plant with a bushel, even shoveling dirt on top of each one on windy nights. And often, they lived! (Other times, he made us all go replant them.) There’s no wind in the hoophouse and it’s warmer to begin with, so hopefully they’re fine in the temperatures tonight. And hopefully this the last night I have to worry about it.

I’m harvesting the last of last year’s kale out of the yarden, which has been turned into a large herb garden for this year! I think it will be both nice to look at and a pleasant place to sit.

Tomatoes covered up in the hoophouse.

Tomatoes covered up in the hoophouse.

The beginning of our new, expanded herb garden.

The beginning of our new, expanded herb garden.

Green, and the Long Spring To-Do List…

Straw for sale: We didn’t use all of our straw in the strawberry fields this year, so we are selling what is left if you need any. $6/bale, 4 bales/$20 dollars. Call us at 269-244-5690 and make an appointment.

Around the farm: We can smell the color green now here at the farm and you may be smelling it too. The smell of green is both intense and simple, a fresh combination of earth and sky. As we pull winter mulch off perennials and plantings, we can smell it before we even see those bright sprouts. The scent is so strong in the greenhouse now that when anyone walks in, it is the first thing they sense. The calendar page turning over to April has put us into a higher gear and we are into the long list of spring tasks.

Yes....we have baby tomatoes coming!

Yes….we have baby tomatoes coming!

Readying plants for us and you:  Just a reminder, you can get your garden and bedding plants here soon. While we know these sunny days has everyone ready to plant a garden, it really is too early to be planting most things with the chance of frost. We have seeded extra vegetables, tomatoes, flowers and herbs. Our onion sets arrived this week and we will sell those as well. Next week we will put out a list of what will be available as you work up your garden plans. Last year we had a wide variety of flowers and herbs, as well as cauliflower, kohlrabi, lettuce, kale, spinach, melons, peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetables. This year should be similar.

Aunt Marie helping me open the onion bundles and lay them out to keep dry for planting.  Yes, this is what 45,000 onion sets looks like.

Aunt Marie helping me open the onion bundles and lay them out to keep dry for planting. Yes, this is what 45,000 onion sets looks like.

Mother’s Day:  Our greenhouse is bursting at the seams right now with everything we have planted to be ready for Mother’s Day. Once again, we will feature our lettuce bowls (seeded lettuce pots which can be picked and grows back for your weekly salads), specialty tomato plants for your patio (cherry, yellow-pear, tomato-berry, grape, and others) and basil plants. A combination of all three of these and some salad dressing and you have the perfect gift.

Tyler filling pots for the special tomato plants

Tyler filling pots for the special tomato plants

Cathy planting lettuce bowls in the greenhouse that will be ready by Mother's Day!

Cathy planting lettuce bowls in the greenhouse that will be ready by Mother’s Day!

Asparagus and Bakery Opening: When asked when we will open for the year, our answer is when asparagus is ready. The answer to that lies in the weather forecast for the next few weeks.  It is looking like the end of April. We are as anxious for this special spring vegetable as you are since it has been one long year since any of us had fresh asparagus on our plates. And, for those of you who have been awaiting a Corey Lake Orchard’s donut, pie, cookie or bread, the bakery will open when we officially open for the season.

David lightly disking the asparagus to loosen the soil.

David lightly disking the asparagus to loosen the soil.

From Becca: The hoop house construction is finally done. This has raised a new FAQ, “How is this structure different than the greenhouse you already have?”

1. We haven’t put a heater in and are depending on solar energy exclusively for heating.

2. We are planting straight into the ground, which will allow us to plant kale, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, bok choi, and more to harvest greens all winter long.

3. Since I’m managing this, there will be no use of synthetic chemicals (such as weed killers or fertilizers). We put it on an empty space we had between two vineyards and let the soil drain through the winter so the ground should be pretty ‘clean’ there. We’ll be closing up the doors and side walls whenever we spray the grapes (which on the one side are only about thirty feet away) in order to keep it chemical free in there.

As of right now, compost has been spread, beds have been formed, green beans have been seeded, and lettuce and tomatoes have been transplanted. Soon I’ll also put in peppers, basil, and some other herbs. Whew! A lot of work but it’s all paying off. It’s hard getting emotionally invested in a hoophouse because it is essentially a large tent that seems ready to blow away in any wind storm, but with the 45 mph gusts this past week it was okay so I’m feeling better.

Freshly delivered compost -- which gets shoveled into place

Freshly delivered compost — which gets shoveled into place

Beds formed in hoophouse pre-planting.

Beds formed in hoophouse pre-planting.

The Schoolhouse (still Becca): I spent every spare moment I had last week transplanting and seeding: lettuce, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, and leeks; spinach, turnips, carrots, peas, and radishes. As I haven’t put up the electric fence I’ve covered most beds with fabric for the time being (I’d prefer our customers eat the greens, as opposed to the rabbits and deer). Plenty more work remains over the next few weeks but it’s been nice getting into the swing of sowing and planting again.

My activity here at the corner has caused another FAQ, “Why are you planting here?” Answer: we haven’t farmed it in about ten years. It’s far enough away from both ground-sprayed crops on AL Jones and aerial-sprayed peaches on dCorey Lake Road that I don’t worry about it and it’s a really pretty, rustic location. Was the optimal spot to put a large chemical-free garden. I have no plans to get this plot certified organic because it would drive the cost of produce up but I am following all the guidelines. Some of you may notice I am using old grape posts for parts of the fence; as these have been outside and in use for more than five years they are approved for use by the National Organic Program.

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Ignore all the mud caked to my boot. Instead look at my lettuce transplants.

In the news: Yeah, this is stillBecca writing. You may have read in the paper that we were awarded a Value-Added Program Grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture. We have envisioned expanding operations at our winery and distillery for a while, and the grant should help us do that. I spent a lot of time this winter writing the proposal for it (in fact, anyone who saw me in December/January probably noticed I could have used a drink or two) and it’s surreal that we actually got it. With all the projects I already have going on, it’s hard to imagine how I’m going to take on more work…but then I look at the earth changing around me, sense the energy bursting through the ground and sky, feel the tide of spring wash over the farm, and I think, well, everything else is working hard right now. I guess I’ll go with it.

A final note from Beth: We remain grateful we are for the many hands which have been in motion on our farm in the past few weeks. John Heyward, an English writer from the early 1500’s has a famous quote that my parents used often: “Many hands make light work.” My Dad in particular was known for pressing any available hand into action. (If you came up the driveway–you might soon get put to work!)

So a huge thanks to: Aunt Marie and Cathy who made the job of separating 45,000 onion sets a doable task, to the group of high school students on spring break who helped us tie the remaining 30 acres of grapes, to everyone who helped us fill pots and plant in the greenhouse, especially six-year-old Tyler and to Cousin David whose hands touched every tractor and implement this week while getting them organized for the season.

A very special thank you goes to Becca, part of our next generation of family, for having the vision and motivation to bring new features to our family farm. Without her perseverance, we would not have a grant that will help us add new products. And we could not be prouder of the hoophouse that she designed and constructed with her own two hands.

John Heyward also said “Rome was not built in a day.” This farm has been 54 years in the making and we’re still trying to build it!