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10 years in agriculture for this city girl

2019 marked 10 years that agriculture has been part of my life. From my early introductions at a Brant County family farm pitching hay, four summers spent in various field research assistant positions, four years as a full-time agronomist, and the six years living here on the farm where Brad grew up, it has been a learning curve like no other coming from the city.

If you asked me 10 years ago where I saw myself in the future, I certainly would never have guessed it would be here, planning for a third market season of our on-farm business. This market business is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done when considering day-to-day work.

The community of agriculture is a very special thing. The local community support, networking, and interaction from our customers in Chatham-Kent has been so amazing and has given us such a great opportunity to grow over our last two years. Social media also has given us a way to interact with other farmers across the country, and North America. We’ve connected with other pumpkin growers, flower farmers, homesteaders, and so many great families that share our passion. We might have large geographical distance between these connections, but it’s never been more clear to me how tight-knit the industry is.

My roots and path to the place I am today are certainly uncommon. I couldn’t be more grateful for my husband, and his patience, as I learn things every day that are second nature to him. And I couldn’t be having more fun connecting and interacting with people, in and out of agriculture, sharing our journey as a family in farming. As we turned the calendar over to 2020 this morning, I can’t help but be excited to see what the next 10 years will look like, for myself, our kids, and our business!

Party of four

Summer weather has finally arrived, and it seems like time is just flying!

I hope you’ll excuse my absence from keeping things up-to-date, but it’s been a little busy around here!

Last post, I was 33 weeks pregnant with Snobelen baby #2. At 38 weeks+4 days, we welcomed a baby girl at 6:01am, Sunday June 9th. She weighed 7lbs 4oz, and 21.25 inches long. We named her Blaik Elizabeth, and she is just the sweetest, most beautiful blessing making us a family of four. It seems crazy to think that five weeks have raced by already!

Just before Blaik was born, Brad managed to get all the commercial corn planted. This was an excellent stress relief because we had a large portion of our intended acres forward contracted, so it was really crucial we get the seed in the ground. Looking at it now 6 weeks later, it’s coming along quite nicely. A few days before baby Blaik arrived, I managed to plant the gladiolus bulbs, and the first of two plantings of our sunflowers. Brad also managed to transplant the tomatoes! Soybeans were planted soon after baby Blaik arrived, and the rest of the market crops like our popcorn, ornamental corn, sweet corn, pumpkins, gourds, and squash all made it in the ground. When I compare the stage of the crops this year (pictured below on right), to pictures taken on the same date last year (below on left), we are definitely a couple weeks behind, but the heat, and a little bit of rain should move things along.

We have started planning for our second annual Homegrown & Handmade in CK event, taking place on Saturday October 12th. We are so excited to see what year two of this event will bring to the farm, and equally as excited to bring people back to the farm to make a connection with the food and crops that we grow!

It will not be long before sweet corn, tomatoes, and sunflowers are the first things to come from the field. Stick close to our social media pages for sneak peaks at how things are coming along, and subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you know exactly when the first harvest is available!

Easter, family photos, and weather woes

As we turn the calendar over to May, typically farmers are getting anxious about getting to the field and starting the crops early. This year, mother nature has a different plan in mind! I checked the rain gauge this morning, and since we put it up on Sunday April 28th, we have received 2.4 inches of rain. Also worth noting, it has been quite chilly! Relatively low amounts of sun and heat have not helped the drying process. I’m sure us farmers are not the only ones longing for more consistent spring weather – where are all my families with kids that can’t wait to play outside??

We took the opportunity over Easter weekend to travel to Brantford for some Easter fun, and we also caught up with our photographer Stefanie to do family maternity photos! Stef has been photographing our family since we got engaged, and it’s so much fun every time we do photos with her! She brings out the best in us for sure.

For every ideal family photo like these, there are some hilarious outtakes that are worth sharing as well. The “real-life” photos, if you will, things that happen while trying to photograph toddlers.

This week marks 33 weeks of baby#2, and Brad and I ask each other almost daily if we’re ready to add to our busy household. Of course we are, and we’re telling ourselves that we’re more prepared this time for a newborn. I’m sure other parents are laughing right now thinking “oh they have no idea”. But that’s OK. Before Dylan arrived, Brad and I were comfortably naive about how our life was going to change, which I think was perfect in the end! No expectations that were shattered as we caught up with reality, we tried to take it all in stride. We take many opportunities with Dylan to try and explain that Mommy is going to have a baby, and that she will need a lot of help! But, toddlers.

So as we come into another wet weekend, we’ll be looking for things to keep busy and keep our minds off the ponds in our front yard and the fields. And don’t even get me started on gardens. I think I’m too impatient to be a good gardener, but I’m trying. If you follow us on social media pages like Instagram, watch for my garden updates as I renovate two large gardens once things aren’t so saturated. Wishing all the Mama’s Happy Mother’s day next Sunday!

It’s still January, right?

Well Happy New Year to you all! Being that it’s still January, I don’t feel too silly throwing that around.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season filled with delicious food, time with family and friends, and hopefully good health! Good health was tough to come by in our home this December. I remember asking Brad if this is what Christmas will always be like with kids?! In all honesty and to keep a slice of perspective, we had a couple of viruses – nothing serious. But when your little gets it and takes a solid 10 days to run its course, then I get it and takes a week to run course, then just as you think you’ve sanitized enough and maybe Brad is safe, he got it too. A virus called adenovirus got all three of us, and had us battling right up to the 23rd. We had a wonderful few days from the 23rd through most of the day on the 26th, until our fight with viruses was not over, and a stomach flu caught both Brad and I the evening of the 26th. A 24 hour whirlwind that really wiped us out.

But since then, I’ve been knocking on wood that hopefully we’ve built enough immunity to a few bugs around that we can see friends and family again!

So, January. What does everyone do mentally in January? Set resolutions? Goals? Plans? Reflect on the previous year? Maybe its super cheesy, but I love that ‘best 9’ photo grid that everyone seems to put together at New Year’s. I am happy to say that I had a hard time picking just 9 of the best pictures from 2018, so I picked 9 of our family, and 9 more of the homestead!

 

We had so much change as a family, it was really fun to look back at the year. And change is coming to our family again this summer, as we will welcome another baby in June!! img_20181219_155128

But back to reflecting on 2018 for a minute. Dylan turned 1 in April, and I returned to my full-time job on May 1st, after taking a full 12 months of maternity leave. A huge shoutout to working moms and dads because this transition was, and still is, HARD. Dylan went into daycare 5 days a week, and adjusted really well, and I think he genuinely likes going. But even this was strange because daycare 5 days a week is his routine – being at home is off routine, and for a while it seemed like we could not figure him out! Let me tell you, that is a tough mental game to work through. But, you learn, grow, adapt, and make the weekends whatever you need.

So this January we are trying to imagine what life will be like, a short 6 months from now. We’re doing the legwork now to be as prepared as possible from a farm prep standpoint, and a household readiness standpoint. But, can you ever be prepared to have a second baby? When we ask Dylan, “do you think the baby will be a boy or a girl?”, he just answers with “No”. So any advice from other parents on how to bring a new baby home to a toddler, send it right along!

I’m going to sink into a new book this January called, Girl, wash your face by Rachel Hollis. I’ve recently started listening to her podcast too, and love the positive energy I get from it while I drive to work. Sometimes we need a little positive energy boost in the midst of cold, snowy, where-did-the-sun-go winter! While Brad isn’t plowing snow, he’s been working away at a really fun project that we hope to use this summer, and hopefully many of you will be able to check it out with us! Stay tuned!

We will to continue to share our story with you as we plan our way to spring planting, and we really appreciate all the shares, likes, and comments on our social pages along the way!

 

Sweet colours and flavours of summer

As I look at the date of my last post, “holy smokes” is what comes to mind. Two more months have flown by!

We have been busy to say the least! We started a bathroom renovation in the old farmhouse. I’ve come to learn that everyone has a different definition of renovation. Our definition, is to completely gut a room, take it back to interior brick, cut out the floor, and dig out a crawlspace! Then start putting it all back together. I feel like some people’s definition of renovation is painting….which we will hopefully do in this new room, someday.

We have been busy learning a lot about the market crops we planted! We know for next year we have to dedicate a lot more space to the pumpkins. I can’t even walk in the field anymore! But I try to, at least once a week, to make sure we don’t have any signs of serious disease, or insect populations. So far, so good. Cross your fingers for us that it stays that way. Here’s a peak at the three pumpkin varieties, and our acorn squash!

 

I have found so much joy in cutting and prepping sunflowers to put out at the stand for you guys. It is so neat to go out every couple days and see new blooms, and all the busy bees working away gathering pollen. Loving all the new experiences this season has brought us. Don’t these pictures of their bright blooms just make you happy?

 

We’ve had our share of challenges with the sweet corn. The first planting sat under water for quite some time early in the spring when we had all the rain. During the time it was pollinating it was also very hot, so the plant definitely showed stress, and that showed up on the cob (ear) as inconsistent kernels and gaps at the tip. We also had some uninvited furry friends help themselves to the first planting of corn. So we lost quite a bit to them unfortunately. But we are happily picking planting #2 right now, and it looks and tastes just like summer should!

img_20180807_195736 As if we don’t have enough going on around here, I decided to jump into another project and am planning our first market event. We have called it Homegrown & Handmade in CK. I have reached out to businesses in Chatham-Kent that are growing, or hand-making, their own products, and asked if they would be vendors at our event! So far I have 6 businesses, including ourselves, on board for the event on Saturday October 6th, from 10am-3pm. The event will be outdoors at our farm where families will be able to see the beginning of harvest season. I hope to make this a yearly event!

 

I can’t believe we’re already coming up to the second weekend of August! So we hope everyone soaks up the last couple weeks of summer!

Beautifying the farm

We had a gorgeous week of weather that we usually get in July. Hot, humid, and the crops we have planted really responded! The sunflowers show the biggest improvement over 2 weeks. IMG_20180603_220032_949

We were up and at it early Sunday morning and planted our jack-o-lantern pumpkins! Then we got the most beautiful 3/10″ rain around noon. Just what we needed for our market crops, and our major grain crops!

What the heat and moisture did for the crops, also did for the weeds. Between the weeds in the fields, and the weeds in the gardens around the house and farm, it can quickly get away from us, and gardening is not something I enjoy. People have asked why gardening is any different than farming, and let me tell you, there’s a BIG difference. I work in large-scale commercial agriculture, with some customers who have land cultivators 30 feet wide! Weed control is a much difference beast with equipment that size.  So to be clear, I love neat, organized gardens, but I don’t like the process to get there.

Brad and I also hold different perspectives when it comes to gardens. I love perennials and ornamental grasses that you don’t have to pay much attention to. They just grow back every year! Brad is great with the perennial flowering plants, but can’t understand the ornamental grasses. His argument, “we spend so much time trying to kills grass weeds in the fields, and you want to pay money for grass and plant it around the farm?” Yes, yes I do. We picked up a striped miscanthus for the corner of the barn where (hopefully) people will be coming onto the farm to get their fresh grown goodies! And we also split, and transplanted a shorter variety of ornamental grass I already had, and lined the front of the barn.

We stopped out to Flowerbed Greenhouses in Blenhiem for our haul of annuals, hanging basket, perennials, succulents, grass, and a few tomato plants! Here’s some pictures of what we picked up and got planted this weekend.

So that’s what happened around the homestead this weekend. We are really looking forward to tracking the progress of our pumpkins now that we have 3 varieties planted, and some of the first ones out of the ground. The countdown is on now that we’ve turned the calendar to June. We are hoping to have sweet corn available mid July! Thanks for following along!

 

Roots of the homestead

While spring moves along and we get through the first heat wave, I thought I would open up and write a “behind the logo” post.

Brad and I scribbled and sketched for a long time trying to find a logo that we liked. We knew for sure we wanted to incorporate an oak leaf. So, here’s some history.

The farm we live on, was purchased by Brad’s grandparents, John and Kay, in 1946. They farmed here and raised their family, Brad’s Dad and Aunt. Like many farmers at the time, they dabbled in a little bit of everything; cattle, pigs, chickens, vegetables, and grain crops.

When Brad’s Dad took over the farm and the boys were young, they got to spend a lot of time with Grandpa John and Grandma Kay. Brad’s Dad and Grandpa spent a lot of time planting trees in fencerows for windbreaks, and planting plenty of trees around the house and barns on the farm.

When it came time to mark the legacy of Snobelens establishing here on this farm, an oak tree was planted at the time of Grandma Kay’s passing. This oak tree, planted at the corner of our laneway, is the perfect reminder of family working together that brought us the opportunity to farm here today and create this farm-market business to share with you all!

So there you have it. We are very blessed to have roots in this farm. We can’t wait to share our passion and love for agriculture and food production with you this summer, so make sure you come see us in July!

There will be sunny days ahead

Two weeks have passed since our first planting and what a weather roller coaster we have been on! The day we planted the first round of market crops, Brad and I nearly got sunburns. Today, two weeks later, Dylan and I went to check out the progress of the planted seeds and came in the house with cold ears and noses!

We’ve had nearly 3 inches of rain in the last 10 days, and that, paired with cool, cloudy days like today, doesn’t make checking the field very interesting. BUT, we did find that some of the sunflowers, popcorn, and ornamental corn have popped up! The corn rows are too long to try and count (with the tiny human wandering around trying to eat things he shouldn’t!), but I counted about 20 sunflowers up of the 30 seeds I planted 2 weeks ago.

I can’t wait for fresh-cut, bright yellow sunflowers!

I will plant more sunflower seeds as soon as I can. Maybe sometime before the long weekend is over. We may have to replant our pumpkins. We will have to spend some time in the field digging around to see if the seeds are trying to push through the cold, wet soil.

For now on this cool Sunday afternoon, I think we’ll all grab a cozy blanket and a nap.

Rained-out

This morning we woke up to more water laying in the fields than we have seen in many, many years.

The pumpkins, sunflowers, sweet corn, popcorn, and ornamental corn that we planted 9 days ago on May 6th have not emerged yet, and it makes us awfully nervous about what may or may not come up now that the ground is completely saturated and even flooded with 3-4″ of water on-top this morning. Plants need oxygen to breathe just like humans do! So being underwater for any length of time, really affects the health of the developing plant.

The weekend rain brought us a chance to visit with family for Mother’s Day which was very nice. With the farming calendar, it very rarely allows for us to be involved in things like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Thanksgiving. So when the weather makes a turn and we see an opportunity to get some visiting in, we usually go for it because we don’t know when the next opportunity will be!

My second Mother’s day was awesome, and Brad and Dylan spoiled me with flowers from a local florist, Red Barn Florals, and a picture frame for my desk at work!

For the next few days, we will enjoy eating dinner together before the fields dry and we all work late into the evening to get the crops planted.

Spring on the homestead

After what seemed like 3rd or 4th winter here in Chatham-Kent, spring finally arrived! We have been busy getting to the field, but also busy with new routines, as I returned to my full-time job. Dylan has been enjoying daycare since the beginning of April, and Brad and I are so glad we started that portion of our new routine early. It is a huge relief when your baby loves the people who look after him and teach him all day. Lots of love from the Snobelen house flowing over to the Thamesville & Area Early Learning Centre!

I started back to work promptly on May 1st, and it has been great to get back to agronomy consulting, and connect with customers after a full year off. We took advantage of one of those dinner-in-a-box delivery services (Hello Fresh, use code JESSNOB to get $40 off your first order), and that was a big help in getting dinner on the table in about 30 minutes when I got home with Dylan after 5pm.

Around the homestead we have also been busy organizing, and planting, our market crops. We planted the first round of sweet corn, two varieties of pumpkins, and one variety of sunflower! We used the Super A to cut a trench so we could hand plant these goodies.IMG_20180506_115436.jpg

We have more to plant this weekend, but the weather forecast might have other plans. That won’t be all bad by any means, because Mother’s Day is on Sunday! We are hoping to take Dylan to Brantford to visit with my parents and brother, and my grandmothers, his great-grandmothers! Dylan is a pretty lucky boy to have 2 great grandmas! So when we get back, there might be some ‘after-Dylan-goes-to-bed’ planting the next round of crops.

This week the magnolia tree also bloomed! Brad always says its about a 4 or 5 year pattern where you get beautiful full blooms, and then one out of five years we get a late frost and lose all the flowers. The tree continues to thrive all season, but all the pretty pink petals freeze, turn brown, and fall off early. So we are always happy when we get a beautiful bloom. Dylan liked it too!

We wish all the mom’s out there a wonderful Mother’s day this weekend! Stay tuned for more updates around the homestead, and make sure you follow our Facebook, Instagram (@snobelenhomestead), and Twitter (@SnobelenHmstead) pages to see more pictures and quick stories.