As you may already have remarked, we are going about things a little differently at Indian Creek Orchard Gardens. There are a few overarching principles we are attempting to compose a symphony with. It should be naturally grown. It should have a minimal impact. It must to be enjoyable.

Naturally grown: We both felt very strongly from the very beginning that our farm needed to be managed according to the deep organic principles. We use farming techniques and practices that ensure healthy food for us and our community as well as a healthy environment for our family and future generations.

Apart from the initial tillage required to bring our farm into production we practice minimal till farming, it has become a mantra for us as we make every effort to build soil organic matter and to maintain the integrity of our soil structure. To this end we make extensive use of green manures and green mulches. These are cover crops (buckwheat, oats, peas, radish or rye) that we use to protect and enhance the soil when we are not growing crops. Keeping the soil covered prevents erosion, sequester nutrients, cools the soil and improves it structure. In many cases we leave the winter killed crop residues in place the following growing season as an in-situ form of mulch to suppress weeds for the following transplanted crop. These residues add organic matter and fertility as they decompose.

We have also begun to assemble what we call our “poultry crew”, which is a flock of heritage chickens that we use to further enhance our soil and its fertility. We pasture them in garden beds that have cover crops that we’ve allowed to go to seed. This provides us a free source of feed, while the chickens weed, consume insect and larvae, all the while fertilizing and converting the left over straw into compost for a crop the following year. Did I mention eggs?

Although many organically derived pesticides are condoned by the Canadian Organic Standard, we avoid their use altogether. The web of life that exists on our farm is sacred and we believe every component of it serves a purpose in a healthy ecosystem and so we prefer to keep our interventions to a minimum.  This year we were reminded why keeping our farm ecosystem intact is so important.

Our front line of pest deterrents include cultural practices such as beneficial habitat, crop rotation, diverse interplantings, row covers and other insect barriers to minimize insect problems. When insect problems overwhelm these defences (as they occasionally do) we respond.

These responses may include emergency harvests (harvesting entire crops before full maturity to minimize losses) or more targeted interventions such as soap or vegetable oil sprays to deal with insects like aphids or mites and occasionally with the use of naturally occurring bacterias such as Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk) which is a bacteria found in soil in the natural environment.

For disease prevention we do not use fungicides. Rather, we make use of disease resistant strains when available. We also partition disease prone crops so that if one patch succumbs, another patch (far away) may very well carry on problem free. In lieu of any disease “remedies” we prefer the proactive and holistic approach. We have repurposed an existing organic practice, compost tea brewing, bringing it to whole new levels (seriously). Our compost tea is brewed on-site in a 1000 litre aerated brewer. We extract the microbial life from active compost into a tea solution by percolating the compost over a 24 hour period.

During this time the brewing tank is aerated with a powerful blower attached to 10 air diffusers with over 60,000 individual micron sized pores to produce tiny bubbles.

This aeration in combination with a feedstock of organic molasses allows the microbial life in the compost to multiply exponentially in that time. The actively aerated solution also favours the aerobic bacteria which are beneficial and eliminates any harmful anaerobic bacteria that may have been in the compost feedstock. Our compost tea is both disease prevention and organic fertilizer.

Our compost tea is then circulated through our drip irrigation system, distributing an abundance of naturally occurring beneficial microbial life into the soil. This accelerates the decomposition of organic matter, making nutrients more available to the trees and vegetables in the garden and faster. This results in healthier and more resilient plants. The compost tea is also used as a foliar spray on the orchard and garden foliage. Through competitive colonization of the leafs surface by the beneficial bacteria and fungus’s in the tea, disease and fungal infection in the orchard are denied a foothold and are greatly reduced, eliminating the need for fungicides (organic or otherwise) altogether. For more on this breakthrough technology see the excellent work of Dr Elain Ingham, PhD.


LOW IMPACT: Our irrigation system is a closed loop. We do not draw water from the creek or from groundwater. We have dug a 600,000 litre irrigation pond at the lowest point on our farm. All of our drainage tiles lead back into this pond. When we irrigate, this water is distributed via a network of drip lines which allow us to send exactly the right amount of water exactly where we need it, when we want it, with no waste. That water slowly seeps down to an impermeable clay layer several feet below ground level where it is collected by a network of drainage tiles that bring it back to the irrigation pond where we pumped it from in the first place. This accomplishes several things. We lose no fertility through ground or surface water run off. All our water is recycled endlessly minus the small amount lost through evaporation and transpiration.

We are uniquely sited, on a small rise, so that no surface water drains off any adjacent land through our farm. It also allows us to be water autonomous, our water supply cannot be contaminated by upstream agricultural run off or other off-site pollutants. The water that drains into our pond originates on our land. This also means that in years of drought, we do not lower the ground water table shared with our neighbours when we irrigate.

Asides from a small amount of horse and chicken manure bartered from local farmers for the market garden, we import no fertility. The hay that grows between rows of trees in the orchard is used to mulch the adjacent fruit trees, eliminating the need for cultivation, weeding and transportation, as well as providing long term organic matter as it slowly decomposes. In the fall leaves are left to compost in place at the base of the trees, all of this mimicking a self sustaining forest ecosystem. This process is accelerated and enhanced through the use of compost tea which is detailed above.

Our home and buildings are constructed from locally grown,sourced and milled timbers. We have opted for natural finishes without exception. The wood on the exterior of our home will be allowed to fade to a natural silver grey over the years, blending into the local vernacular of old barns and agricultural buildings. Our farmhouse rests on a 3 foot thick slab on grade, a large thermal mass that allows us to heat and cool our home passively. This slab cools us in the summer and retains the heat of the solar radiation heat that passes through triple glazed high solar gain south facing windows in the winter. What little supplemental heat we may require is supplied by our wood stove equipped with a catalytic converter. The air used to ventilate our home in the winter is preheated by drawing it through a network of conduits or earth tubes beneath the frost line where the earths temperature is constant. This is a example of passive geothermal heating.

ENJOYABLE: At the end of the day our reason for embarking on this venture was a desire to simplify our lives and to withdraw from the stressful and cyclical consumer existence that is consuming our planet. We have no desire to expand, or be more successful. We are content with what we have. It is enough. Our needs are fulfilled, our lives are simple. We are embedded in a beautiful agricultural community.

Not only do these practices make us sustainable they make us autonomous, and they vastly reduce the impact we have on the environment.

We are applying many permaculture principles, and attempting to do so on a commercial scale, albeit a humble one.

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Directions

#919 Sugarbush Road
RR#1 Pakenham, Ontario
(613) 914-7444

From Hwy 29, turn south on Cedarhill Sideroad, turn right at the T. We are on the shores of the Indian Creek. If you cross the bridge you have gone too far.

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Farm Stand

Wednesday: noon – 8pm
Thursday: noon – 8pm
Friday: noon – 8pm
Saturday: 2pm – 6pm
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Farmers Market

Carleton Place Farmers Market
Market Square
Corner of Beckwith and Lake Avenue
Carleton Place, Ontario

Saturdays: 8:30 to 12:30