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

Monthly Archive: January 2018

“C” What We Do In Winter

While we are closed for the winter season,  we are always happy to meet you by appointment (just call us on 269-244-5690) if you need any of the following:

  • Baked goods: frozen take and bake pies
  • Alcohol products: hard ciders, brandy, or wine
  • Other: honey, maple syrup and meat
  • Animal Apples: $5 a bushel, bring containers
  • Vegetables: certified organic spinach, carrots, kale, lettuce, scallions, garlic available all winter long (grown in our sun-heated hoophouse).

As of now we have organic produce for sale at World Fare in downtown Three Rivers. They are open Tuesday through Saturday and our refrigerator is in the back of the store – we tend to re-fill it on Tuesday nights so Wednesday through Saturday are the best days to go for fresh produce.

So often folks ask us what we do at the farm during the winter when we are closed, wondering if we go south and soak in the sun on beaches or the like, so thought we would allow you to “C” what goes on during the winter months of a farm.

Cut/Clip: Our largest outdoor winter job is pruning grapes, so when workers are in the vineyard, you can hear the snip/snip/snip as they cut and clip out the old vines, leaving the best vines for this coming year. Hearing the clippers going in the quiet of the vineyard is such a reassuring sound, knowing that with each vine falling to the ground we are getting closer to getting this huge task done.

Compute/Calculate/Count: The record keeping on a farm this diverse is extensive. During the daily hustle of our farm in season, a spiral bound notebook and pen (if we can find one!) is our chosen tool. Everything we pick, sell and process gets recorded, with notebooks in the bakery, the distillery room, and the market. It’s easy to identify the notebooks by the flour, dirt or drops of alcohol smudged on the pages! In the winter, much of this information goes into spreadsheets for reports that we have to do for many constituents but most important, ourselves! This data helps us figure out what/how much/when and where we are planting for this coming year—hoping to get those succession plantings just right so we never run out of lettuce. When I recently finished a required 50 page report where every bushel of corn, quart of strawberries, and pound of grapes produced for the year had to be counted—I could almost feel myself lifting each bushel of corn again.

Comply:

  • Licenses: There are 10+ licenses and certifications which must be maintained for our farm. Some require a test or on-going educational credits, some just need application forms and fees processed, and all require follow ups to track them down, endure stories of “we have new software but it is in the system.”. Their systems of cashing our check for the required fees never seems to fail.
  • 5 year census—this year there is the bonus activity for all farmers of filling out the census, required by law every 5 years. This year’s form is a mere 24 pages of small print, and allowing us to use extra paper for our answers! We are hours into filling this out, speechless at the detail required, and truly wondering if someone knowing how many trucks we have and the horsepower of our tractors will aid in solving the large issues challenging the agriculture industry. We hope it does.

Check: There is a long path we walk to check on all of the farm’s buildings, especially those with water or where equipment like coolers and freezers run. We don’t like the surprises that can occur if we don’t, like a frozen water pipe or a visit from a wild animal seeking shelter! Equally important are walks through the fields, orchards and vineyards, checking to see if natural predators have curbed mice and vole damage and which trees are on the deer’s menu this winter.

Cook/Create/Consume: We often lament the lack of time we have to cook when our farm’s produce is in season. In the winter months, new recipes are tried, especially those which can use the greens coming out of the hoophouse. Becca and Beth have been trading paleo/gluten-free/dairy-free/heirloom vegetable cookbooks and Michaela has been coaching Beth on using her new Instant Pot pressure cooker.   This time of year finds many Becca notebook-scribbles creatively conjuring up different ingredients to try in hard ciders. We can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

Consider/Contemplate: This time of year has us asking the “what if” and “should we” questions out loud. What if we washed our greens before packaging them? Should we try to grow bunching onions and swiss chard again and will enough customers want it? How can we use excess spinach and carrots in the bakery?

Care/Cultivate: Becca now devotes weekly hours to caring for the crops growing in the hoophouse, much more enjoyable (and warm!) on the sunny days. We are sorting through reams of soil sample data as we determine the health of our soil and how best to care for it. We continue with community caring, apples going to food banks weekly, volunteering time on the local boards we are on, participating in the MLK walk, throwing together some farmer-to-farmer gatherings, and more. We’ll be at A Chocolate Affair in downtown Three Rivers on February 10th and warmly invite you to come as well.

Curl Up: And with no official starting time at the farm, on some of these bitterly cold days, staying curled up under a blanket still in bed or in front of the fireplace, is a nice choice to have!

And before we know it, spring will be here, the farm will wake up and we’ll be “C-ing” our customer again!  Hope you are having a wonderful winter, from all of us at Corey Lake Orchards.

 

 

 

Just Chillin’

We’re just chillin’ here on the farm, waiting for these cold temperatures to break so that we can continue our outdoor winter work. No need to hurry the pruning as long as our orchards and vineyards are in full dormancy, and right now they’re getting their deep winter’s rest for sure! So the indoor work continues, despite the pull to stay curled up in a blanket some mornings.

Winter view from the herb garden

The tomato seeds have arrived safely at Schram’s greenhouse in Portage who always starts our greenhouse tomato plants for us, 800 being planted this week. So, the official BLT countdown begins: about 170 days to go! The seed order for the conventional growing side of our business is going in this afternoon. The most time consuming part was deciding on the final sweet corn varieties since there were several that we all loved last year. Not to worry, those favorites are coming back while trying two new ones.  So to get our minds off the cold for just a minute, here’s a sweet corn picture to remind us of summer.

 

 

 

 

 

Becca has placed all of her organic seed orders too, since it’s important to buy seeds while organic varieties are still available! We’re growing a few new types of tomatoes this year and have bought some great lettuce varieties that will hopefully hold up in the heat. After three years of doing this it feels like we’re getting a good idea of what our customers want from the organic side, but it’s always fun to learn new techniques and try new ideas.

As always, we want to make sure our customers are happy about the produce and experience they get from our farm. So while we are still in the planning mode, feel free to give us any feedback on things that you wish we would grow or do, and we’ll certainly consider it! Just reply to this if you got it in an email, or leave us comments if you are reading it on Facebook!

And while we are closed for the winter season,  we are always happy to meet you by appointment (just call us on 269-244-5690) if you need any of the following:

  • Baked goods: frozen take and bake pies
  • Alcohol products: hard ciders, brandy, or wine,
  • Other: honey, maple syrup and meat
  • Animal Apples: $5 a bushel, bring containers
  • Vegetables: certified organic spinach, carrots kale, lettuce, scallions, garlic available all winter long (grown in our sun-heated hoophouse). These will be a little slow-growing until mid-January due to the especial cold and cloudiness this winter, but we know our patience will be rewarded soon!

Starting January 9th we will have organic produce for sale at World Fare in downtown Three Rivers. They are open Tuesday through Saturday and our refrigerator is in the back of the store. As previously mentioned the greens are growing a little slowly right now and it might be sparse for a bit, but the sun in the forecast and a few warmer days will really help them swing out of the slow growth of dark mid-winter.

Everyone at Corey Lake Orchards hopes you stay warm and safe, and get a little chillin’ time in yourself during the quiet of the winter season.