Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Getting Good Help - WWOOF

Many of you know that in addition to our family, we have volunteers who stay at the farm over the summer. We call them wwoofers. But what is WWOOF?

WWOOF is a country specific, international program that matches farmers and gardeners with volunteers who are willing to exchange work for room & board. It stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. A typical stay is 2 weeks and they typically get 3 meals per day, 5 hours per day of work 5 days per week. But we’ve recently heard of much longer days and little or no time off. But at our place it’s 5 days per week with Monday and Tuesday off and 9-1 for a workday. But it’s a farm, so we’re flexible depending on weather and necessity. Sometimes you need to take the day off if it’s pouring with rain or stormy and if livestock have escaped it’s all hands on deck!

 We have been really lucky over the past decade or so that we have been involved in WWOOF, to have met and stayed friends with many amazing young people from  all around the world. They have come from a variety of backgrounds including nurses, teachers, computer programmers, financiers, social workers, students, authors, and just people in general who want to learn more about farming. I think there is a mistaken idea that the woofers we have at the farm are all young people or students with nothing better to do than travel around Canada trading labour for room and board. But that could not be further from the truth. In my experience  these are people of different ages and life experiences who have a genuine desire to learn something either about farming, about themselves, or about their place in the world. And being on a small family farm is certainly good place to learn some of those things.

Why do we have WWOOFERS?

 We primarily have Wwoofers to help Elizabeth with the farm tasks that require many hands or some of the bending and stooping she’s not easily able to do anymore. And it’s always easier and more fun to do tasks with a friend. While there is a certain amount of learning and breaking-in of new people, we have still found it to be really worthwhile for many reasons other than the free labor, which isn’t really free because you still have to provide them with some entertainment, a cozy place to live, and good food. It doesn't take people long to settle into the daily routine.

 Having young people around the farm from different places in Canada and the world also brings new cultural and personal perspectives that make for amazing dinner conversation! I would have to say that personally my favourite part of wwoof is learning about other cultures and exploring new social ideas. When you live rurally  there’s a certain tendency to get stuck in your ways and as we don’t have television we miss out on some of the popular culture that naturally evolves in the cities. Not that that’s a bad thing, I love the fact that I have no idea who most of the people are in the tabloids. But it does mean that you could miss out on new and interesting ideas.  Talking to Wwoofrs about their life experiences and their culture is almost like a way of traveling without leaving home. And I credit this for one of the reasons that my children are very tolerant of other people and interested in different cultures, simply from their exposure to such a variety.

So what are the drawbacks having woofers . Let's not kid ourselves, we're all human and therefore flawed. Most Wwoofers are great. But every now and again you get someone whose personality just does not mesh with yours. And that’s ok. Some people just don't show up (the #1 complaint hosts have) leaving you with a fridge full of expensive groceries and no help. Sometimes you meet people you find irritating or who are very bossy and controlling. And it’s not that these people aren’t good at other things they’re just not good team players, and that is what a small farm it’s all about; a balance of self determination and teamwork. I think the most important thing is that prospective wwoofers and hosts need to know is that the following things can help you to be successful:
1.  Good food
2.  Safe and warm accommodation (internet does help)
3.  Good communication. Clear expectations are very helpful.
                Explaining work clearly and demonstrating your method
                Be honest about the work. If it’s hard or long days, say so.
                Talk over and resolve problems or needs right away
4. Be open to new cultures, foods and ideas.
5. Ask for feedback and keep an open dialogue.
6. Respect peoples limitations. If people have never done manual labour then
                blisters will ensue and if you don't understand that some young   
                people really need internet it can build resentment.
7. Read Read Read. Learn about wwoofing and hosting from people who have
               done it and are doing it. 

Wwoofers will still come if the work is hard or the days are long, they will still come if you don’t have 5-star accommodation, they will still come if you live miles from town. Everyone is looking for something new and different and your farm might be just what they’re looking for. Be clear about what you offer, this isn’t a personal ad you should gloss over. The emails and messages sent before the stay begins are a great way to get a feel for each other.

WWOOF is primarily an exchange of labour for skills and knowledge. But it’s so much more than that. It’s personal, it’s cultural, it can be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. And we love it!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Preparing for 2018 Growing/CSA

January in Nova Scotia is a good time for planning the seeds we need, the projects and the growing we want to do for 2018.

So, here are some of the plans.

CSA. Unlike previous years when we've run a conventional CSA where you pay upfront, this year we're going to offer a Pay-As-You-Go Veggie Box. It's pretty much the same thing but instead of committing to us by paying upfront (which you can still do if you'd like to) we are going to offer a selection of veggies in season already packed in a box for you to pick up. You can order the week ahead to guarantee your box or take your chances and see if we have some still available at the farmers markets we go to. It's essentially CSA without the upfront cost. It does make planning a little trickier for us so we will potentially have more wastage but we're partnering with the Upper Room Foodbank in Kingston to take any surplus so it will go to good use.

We plan on being at the following venues for 2018 on a regular basis:

Saturdays     8am-2pm    Wilmot Frenchys in the adjacent community sale.
Saturdays     9am-1pm    Harbourville at the North Mountain Market
Thursdays     9-10 am      Annavale Country Store in Middleton at the Nursery
Thursdays     10:30-4pm  Greenwood Mall Farmers Market

We will have one pickup location in Lower Sackville near the Cobequid Bus Terminal if anyone is interested. And possibly another pickup location on Main Street in Bridgetown.

Starter plants will be available for pick up at the markets beginning in April/May and will be available for pick up during regular store hours Mon-Sat at Annavale in Middleton. These will include veggie plants, herbs, tomatoes and peppers, flowers and fruits such as raspberries, strawberries etc. We will post a list of available varieties early enough for you to reserve the ones you'd like. Please bear in mind that the rare and specialty ones are always snapped up early. We will have soft fruits, berries and fruit trees available also.

This year we're going to continue with our line of breads and soup mixes all year long at the markets. We will add plants, veggies, fruits and flowers as they come and we will have a lot more flowers this year so bunches will be available nearly every week.

I'm off now to plan the rest of my orders. Have a wonderful day.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June Work Schedule

You can tell by my lack of blog entries that we have been keeping really busy in May. June is here, and finally some warmer Spring weather. Frost earlier this month is now hopefully the end of icy weather and according to the biodynamic calendar, it's time for warm weather crops to get planted in the garden. Beans, squashes, flowers, those are on my list for today. Melons will wait another week to go outside but we have them in the greenhouse. Plus tomatoes and peppers. Early potatoes are already in the ground for mid summer new potatoes and timed to be ready along with carrots and peas for hodge podge, a local delicacy soup made with fresh potatoes, carrots, peas and cream.

We were hoping to start work on the ponds this weekend but unfortunately the excavator we rented is broken so those projects are on hold. I guess that gives us more gardening time so it's ok. Goodness knows with a late spring we're a bit behind. 

We have lots of plants in the nursery and for sale at the farmers markets. The Mid Valley Market officially starts for the season today. Our new location is at the New Beginnings Church beside DQ on Bridge Street in Greenwood, NS. We will be open from 3-6pm each Friday.

Thunder and lightning last night were perfect for clearing the air and cooling things off. But apart from soaking my car seats (because I left the windows down) it gave the garden a good watering and will go a long way to helping all my newly planted stuff a chance to get going. Watering with a sprinkler just isn't the same as a good steady rain. I did a bunch of laundry that's now ready for the line so Mother Nature is helping me with my chores today and let me sleep in an hour that I didn't need to be fooling around with hoses. I still need to get watering and planting in the greenhouses but not water an acre of garden. So I'm happy.

Anyways, it's 7am. Time to get to work. In the greenhouses until 9 or 10 and then finishing a few planting rows and finish the rabbit hutch. Sounds like a good mornings work.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mothers Day Gift Idea


Here's a pretty simple and yet lasting gift idea you can you make for your mother. A raised garden bed. 

Think how terrific it will be each time your mum harvests veggies, or strawberries, or flowers and thinks of you. 

The video is by Charles Dowding. He's big into compost making and gardening with no till methods. But this is a simple, well-explained project for making a 4'x4' bed. It can be placed anywhere convenient (I recommend somewhere that you'll see it regularly and close to a water supply). 

So, you have a week to get your supplies together. Start looking around for lumber you can repurpose or get for free. Many municipalities give away compost in May, so you may be able to do this project for minimal cost. 

Good Luck! And happy Mother's Day to all of you. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Tomato & Pepper Plants For Sale + Veggie Boxes

Looking For A Veggie Box?

Available here each week beginning June 1st. Pay by the week or month. Ask us how you can get your locally grown no spray fruits, veggies and herbs. Delivery available.

Today I've been working on signs for our Nursery and Farmers Markets. Tell me what you think. I'm trying to make it easy & flexible to order veggie boxes this year. We are also taking pre-orders for tomato and pepper plants because so many of the popular varieties sold out quickly last year in the nursery. This year we're growing fewer varieties but more of each. Oh and speaking of the nursery, we will soon be open! We just need a dry and calm day to put the plastic back on and then a day or two to stock it. The greenhouse at the farm here is absolutely loaded with plants all waiting to be transplanted into their nice big red and white pots so they can grow nice healthy roots and be perfect for you to plant once the weather has improved. We're not past our frost free date yet so while its ok for many things to get going, the warmer weather plants need about another month yet for the nights to be consistently warm. Not +3C and raining as it is tonight. 

Veggie boxes will be available beginning in June again. This year instead of paying all upfront (which is too expensive for many people) we are doing pay-by-the-week or month options. You can pick up from us at the Farmers Markets in Greenwood on Thursday or Friday, or we will deliver too. As usual, it will be grown to our exacting organic and permaculture based growing standards. And you're welcome to come help us in the garden and see how we grow and care for your food. That way you know for yourself it's organic, locally grown, and fresh!

Your Plants Today

No Deposit Needed. Get excellent varieties for our climate, delicious flavours, and healthy plants. Locally grown, many organic varieties.
Your plants will come in individual pots ready for planting June 1st to 3rd.

Tomato & Pepper Plant Order Form 2017

Beefsteak -Vine. 80 Days. This bushy vine does best when pruned, you'll get lager fruit and better ripening. Excellent balanced flavour, dark red. Large sized tomatoes are good for one slice sandwiches and burgers. For best flavour harvest when fully ripe.

Brandywine - Vine. 78 Days. The standard for heirloom tomato flavour. Well known for its size and exotic, sweet, tomato flavour. Compact vining habit produces large fruit with a pinkish red flesh.

Early Cascade - Vine. 55 Days. These vines produce heavy yields all season long. Good for canning and eating fresh, these are open pollinated. They are thin skinned and don't keep very long but are well worth growing and eating fresh. Bred for cooler climates like ours.

Gold Nugget -Bush. 56 Days. Gold Nugget cherry tomato seeds produce compact plants 24″ tall. Gold Nugget’s compact size makes it an ideal choice for containers and small garden spaces. The fruit set easily even in bad weather and produce ping pong ball sized golden tomatoes that are mostly seedless until the end of the season. Winner of the RHS Award.

Money Maker - Vine. 75 Days. These 6' tall plants are an old English variety that produce heavy yields over a long time. Deep red clusters of smooth skinned fruit are medium sized and have a classic sweet flavour. They benefit from pruning and staking.

Old German -Vine. 80 Days. If you give this 8-10' plant lots of sturdy support and water, you'll be rewarded with a modest yield of gorgeous yellow and red fruit that are fragrant & nearly seedless. Potato leaf variety from a Mennonite in community in Virginia, circa 1800.

San Marzano -Vine. 80 Days. This is a truly outstanding tomato for making sauce and its delicious! Forget Roma tomatoes, San Marzano Lampadina 2 are the worlds gold standard in sauce tomatoes. All the way from Italy, they are long, blocky and firm with thick skins. Fruit keeps for ages as it has a lower water content and the plants are disease resistant. One of our favourite tomatoes.

Scotia - Bush. 60 Days. Very popular maritime variety that's used for wating fresh and famous for green tomato relish. Early maturity and reliability. Open pollinated. Dwarf plant habit and medium sized globe shaped fruit.

Sweet Million -Vine. 60 Days. Bright red cherry tomatoes. Early maturing clusters of tiny fruit are well rounded, deep red in colour with a delicious sweet flavour. Long harvest time, vines need support and do well in greenhouses. Tolerance to cracking and good holding qualities.

Tiny Tim - Bush. 55 Days. Miniature cherry tomatoes. Dwarf plants are literally loaded with small, firm red fruit about 1 inch in diameter. These do well in pots.

Tumbler - Bush. 55 Days. These are hanging basket tomatoes that produce beautiful red tomatoes. Best grown in partial shade out of the rain, fertilize monthly. Mix a few flowers in for a beautiful basket at eye height. 2-3 plants per basket. Limited quantities.

Plants are available for delivery June 1-3rd. They will be in individual pots, hardened off and ready for planting. We grow varieties that are delicious and also do well in our climate. Regular watering and keeping the leaves dry will promote healthy plants and fruits that don't crack. Add a little calcium to the soil to prevent blossom end rot and prune out the suckers of vining types. For best flavour pick fruits fully ripe and don't refrigerate.


California Wonder -The standard for Sweet Bell peppers. These peppers start green and with enough heat and time will turn a beautiful red. The compact bushy plants do equally well in a garden, large pot, or greenhouse with a somewhat concentrated harvest period over several weeks. You'll get sweeter peppers if you let them ripen to red.

Ghost Chili -Ghost peppers also known as Bhut Jalokia, are one of the worlds hottest peppers and really pack a whollop at over 1 million Scoville heat units (SHU). That's 3x hotter than our red Habaneros. We're serious, treat the plants, fruit and especially seeds with caution. We use gloves and are careful to not touch eyes nose etc. Limited quantities available in 2017. They fruit at the end of the season. If you can bring them indoors as a houseplant over the winter you'll be rewarded with a much bigger harvest the second year.

Red Habanero -Another hot one! These ripen from green, to yellow, to red, getting hotter and hotter all the time. Ranging from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU, you've been warned. Like many other peppers you can grow it as a houseplant over winter then back outside the next summer for greater yields.

Jalapeno M -Compared to our other hot peppers, these thick walled and juicy little green peppers seem mild to heat lovers. At a modest 5000 SHU they add a nice warmth to chili, tacos and other foods. They're especially good stuffed and pickle nicely. The small bushes are good in pots on the patio. Deer resistant after the first bite.

Large Thick Cayenne- These are strong upright plants with thick wrinkly fruit up to 6” long. At 30- 40,000 SHU they definitely have a kick, though not as much as their slim cousins. They ripen from green to red and peppers ripen almost all at once so its easy to harvest them for drying. 70-80 days to maturity.

Orange Sun - These sweet bell peppers ripen to a stunning bright orange. The blocky peppers have 3-4 lobes and are juicy with thick flesh. The interior is good for stuffing. Plants reach 24” tall and do well in large containers with good fertile soil. 90 days to maturity, worth the wait. Keep evenly watered in free draining soil.

Paprik -Grow your own paprika! These pepper plants are vigorous little bushes and produce lots of 4” peppers with a small seed cavity. Dry the seed pods at the end of the season then grind finely. We also recommend you try slicing and smoking some before drying and grinding, the flavour is outstanding.

Purple Beauty - Beautiful blocky purple peppers are sweet and good for eating raw or stirfry. Open pollinated, we recommend saving your own seeds from these chunky peppers who ripen from green to purple. Matures in 75 days.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


This has been a lovely week in the greenhouse. The sunshine and above freezing nights mean things are treacly growing now. It's time for tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini to be potted into larger pots for sale in the nursery. The tomatoes in the soil blocks are easy to pull apart and are going into 2.5" pots before going to their red pots in a few weeks. By keeping them from getting root bound they grow stronger and make far better plants for the gardeners who buy them. They're also easier to harden off, ready for planting in June. Yes, June. It's still too early to think about planting them outside, the nighttime temperature is too cold. We start ours in smaller pots so that we can fit more into a small area that we can heat. It's the best way we know to get locally adapted plants for the Annapolis Valley, as well as choosing very good quality seed. You'll find there's a lot less transplant shock and the yields are good with our plants, especially if you've got some compost and a little calcium added to your soil and you keep the plants evenly watered. 

A list of available varieties will be with us at the Greenwood Mall Farmers Market next week and you can pre-order the plants you'd like. I'm also bringing a few dozen Honeoye strawberries with me as well as breads. The nursery will be open in 2 weeks, maybe sooner! (I need the room). I'm off to pot more strawberries into hanging baskets. Have a lovely week!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Veggie Boxes 2017

Veggie boxes are available to be pre-ordered and a really good deal. Just sign up and then decide how long you want to commit for. But why choose our farm CSA (community supported agriculture) over the other local ones? There are some really great growers in the valley who work hard to provide good veggies to their customers, there's a couple within 2 miles of our farm, but at the same time I know of one other in a different community where they buy discounted veggies from other local commercial farms all season long and pass it off as their own. It's important that you get to know your grower if you can, so that you're getting what you pay for. Otherwise you may as well just shop at Sobeys. I'm not saying I've never bought anything to help fill a veggie box, last spring our partners had serious water issues and despite their best intentions they didn't get a lot growing so I bought local veggies, carrots, green onions and lettuce etc. to help fill my boxes for a few weeks while I got a bunch more seeds planted and I got garlic scapes from a lady in Aylesford before being entirely self sufficient. But we've been doing a veggie box program for quite a few years both in BC and NS and have the experience to know what to plant when (and computer programs to keep us organized). Since this year we're not relying on anyone else to provide half the veggies, we can just plan for and rely on our selves again. And you are certainly welcome to take a drive by after the end of May and check out the field garden to see what's growing. You may be able to see the plants through the greenhouses too. Cucumbers, melons, eggplant, tomatoes and wasabi are all in there during the summer.  I guess when it comes down to it, the proof that we grow our own produce is right there in the field. The farm stand will be open in June so pop by and see us. 

We're changing things up from our usual CSA where you pay for all 4 months in advance. Instead, 
you'll order and pay by the week or pay for a month and get a discount. This means you still get your box of healthy and delicious vegetables each week, but now it's easier to fit into your budget. It also means that if you're a new customer, you can try us out without a huge commitment. Try it for a month and see what you think. You'll try some new veggies, get recipes, and become part of the Humblebee family.


Do you deliver? How do I get my box?  You can pick up from us at Greenwood Mall farmers market, Mid Valley Farmers Market, farm stand or get delivery. It's your choice. Delivery is an additional $5 per week up to 50km. There's a spot on the order sheet to let us know your preferred location and we take orders by email. If there is enough interest, we will have our regular pick up location in Lower Sackville again this year. 

Going on vacation? Just stop delivery while you're gone or donate to the food bank or a friend. 

Can I cancel? Yes, you are only committing to the weeks you pay for. This is what makes us different from the other CSA's out there. You don't risk losing hundreds of dollars if you don't like it. If you pay for a month and then decide it's not for you because you're moving, or circumstances have changed, that's okay. Just let us know. You'll only get the weeks you've paid for. We will be sad to lose you but our produce is delicious and I'm sure you'll be back to see us at the farmers market if you can. 

Can I substitute the things in my box? Generally no because it can get very confusing to keep a bunch of boxes separate that are all slightly different. But we can try to work something out, you can trade with a friend, or you can share with someone who loves what you hate. 

What's actually in a box? This questions a bit tricky because each week is different. The seasonal veggies go from lots of greens in spring to peas, beans, and summer veggies to the root crops of fall. We will only have apples available late September once they're ready, lettuce and tomatoes almost every week, potatoes go from new potatoes to main crop from July to September etc. And of course cool weather crops like peas and lettuce aren't very tasty when it's hot in August so you'll be getting melons and cucumbers then. This year I'm going to take a lot more photos of our boxes so I have a better record. 

Are you organic? We are not certified organic due to the cost and politics. We are 'no spray' and certify as Naturally Grown instead. We absolutely believe in using organic, permaculture, and pollinator friendly methods of growing. Our chickens and ducks do lots of bug control, we weed by hand and use a small tiller, truly organic growing is very labour intensive. There are lots of chemicals out there that are supposedly safe for organic growers but we prefer to use natural inputs like garlic spray, compost and fish fertilizers whenever we can.  Healthy plants = happy people. 

Is it just veggies? No, your box will also include herbs, berries occasionally and fruit such as melons and apples. Plus a newsletter. We give all sorts of things a try! Plus you can add free range eggs, breads and treats, preserves and flowers. We bake fresh to order. 

Do you hire outside help? We are a very small, family run farm and don't pay anyone to work here. But we do have help. We teach organic gardening and homesteading skills to young people from all over the world through a program called WWOOF. They help us for a few hours each day in exchange for room and board and we probably host an average of 20 people per year. It's a great program and we've made some lifelong friends. We also have our children, affectionately known as the 'slave labour crew'. 

Do you have veggies all year round? No, we offer a seasonal veggie box. We will have extra fruits and fall crops and we will keep everyone informed as to what's available in October and November. We had fresh peas last Christmas! But you never know with the Nova Scotia weather. 

How do I sign up? You can email us at humblebeecanada@gmail.com and let us know how many, what size, and then we will add you to our newsletter list and arrange your pickup location. 

How much? How do I pay? It's your choice to pay by the week, month (4 weeks) or season (16 weeks). After mid September everyone will be charged by the week because weather conditions may make bi-weekly harvests more practical. Costs are:

Large box $25 per week.  $90 per month.  $340 for 16 week season.
Small box $15 per week.  $50 per month.  $180 for 16 week season. 

Eggs are $4 per dozen.

Bread $4 loaf or 2/$7

Preserves - $4 jar

Flowers $5 bunch

We accept Visa & MasterCard, etransfer, cash or cheque. Sign up first, then we'll arrange payment method. There are a limited number of boxes available for pre-order. 

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