We will be at the first outdoor market of the summer season at Lansdowne Park this Sunday the 1st of May. We had slow start to the winter season, but ended up with a rush. Rodney and I had our best day all season. Yes, he did exactly twice as well as me, that jerk. Again, I reinforce, I have been there for 8 years, he’s been there not quite a year. How can a kid do better than his fater at only 16 years of age? He ate up 15 loaves of bread. Kim was not happy to hear that she has to make 16 this week. Seems like he needs another loaf every week. Luckily, St Albert cheese can keep up to him. He is my largest purchaser of bacon for the sandwiches and even has run John at Warhtah downs out of onions. Luckily, Robin at Roots and shoots has enough spinach to supply. To the brave, he’ll have some wild garlic leaves, to be trimmed sunday morning by flashlight, to add this week. You’d better be ready, it is strong stuff, “not for the faint of heart” as my mentor farmer often said when we survived another machinery blow up. The most memorable occurred when I towed him out of a mud hole in his combine backwards with my big tractor. The combine tilted forward, I was towing backwards, it went right up on the corn head with it’s rear wheels being about 6 feet off the ground. I just kept towing and the chain gradually pulled the combine back to earth. That is where I first heard him exclaim my favourite saying,”boy, that’s not for the faint of heart”.

Thought I’d tell you about where we buy our parts for all the old equipment. Our favourite is Skuce Repair in Vernon. The original owner was Ab Skuce. He died a few years ago and his wife and two sons now run it. Ab’s funeral had everyone around there, farmers even had signs thanking him as the funeral procession went by. Upon entering the shop, Mrs Skuce greets you upon arrival. She has a little dog eared greasy book that lists most parts for older equipment, she always grabs it when I come in. They do have a computer, but it is hidden, only for back up. When farmers arrive, they are in a hurry. No place for a computer. Further south in Winchester is the Massey dealer, with their computer it can take an hour to get the answer that the part I need is special order. On the other hand, Mrs. Skuce simply says I think we have one of those back here, come help me, and sure enough after moving a few things, she’ll have it. They have, or can get anything I need. They also don’t snicker when I say how old my piece of equipment is like the dealers enjoy doing. Like Garland sugar shack, she also runs it like the wild west trading store. She writes down on a carbon copy invoice and says, get going, no need to pay, will invoice you at the end of the month. This winter, I got a Christmas card signed by everyone in the shop, about 20 of them. One of the most beautiful and thoughtful reminders of a family business that supports me in everything I do.  Ab had models of all the Allis Chalmers tractors ever made. There is the ‘G’ which is now back in production in Cuba. They even have one of the 1950′s fuel cell tractor and a sample fuel cell in the original packaging. If you think history doesn’t repeat, google Allis Chalmers fuel cell. Ron is the real tractor brain. There is so much in his head, that if he doesn’t know where to get a part or how to make do, you’d better give up. He is passive, reserved, but unlike many louder know it alls, he knows his stuff. Seems like the ones who say the least, know the most. Kim and I have a similiar analogy, those who brag they were good at sports when they were younger, were the worst. Without the Skuces, we could not bring you our oats, we’re supported by a local community like no other.

 

Remember I need your full bucket orders of grain by Saturday night at the latest for delivery to market. With hundreds of buckets in the woods, we need your empties back asap please. We also welcome any mason jars you may have. Our preference is the 500mL and smaller. All welcome though. Also need empty egg cartons. We are allowed to accept the empties at the market, but still cannot sell pastured eggs at the market, sorry. Silly provincial rules.

We will be at the Lansdowne Farmers’ Market all summer, Rodney will be dealing grilled cheese and I will be there with the oats, flour, soap and pork. Mary will be doing her first market on her own, she’s been helping since 5, filling in for me since she was 10 and now at 13 running her own show in Metcalfe. Even if I never made a cent at market, which is not true, we do well, raising our kids to run their own market from such a young age has been the most rewarding to me. To see them understand the needs of a customer, look them in the eye, firm hand shake, speak on their level, from such a young age is incredible. Today most kids cannot take their eyes from the screen long enough to give you a limp “dead fish” handshake and then scurry back to their game. The secret is  not paying them by the hour. The worst thing our society ever invented was hourly pay. Commission is the only way, piecework makes you move. Not just move, but to innovate and get efficient. Marshall, our oldest, who is now a RBC teller and International Business student at Carleton took it to the extreme one day. He ran our booth at the Manotick Farmers’ Market one summer, at the age of 13. We were paying him a sizeable commission, one day I caught him being a little to aggressive with marketing the bacon he was grilling. Terry O’Reilly, would have been impressed. We normally keep a fan beneath the table blowing on us in hot weather, it helps you move faster without sweating. He had put the fan on the stool and reversed it’s direction to blow accross the top of the bacon and out into the crowd. There was actually no crowd when he started, but it certainly quickly formed. I stopped by to check on him, after the crowd formed. He said, he’s never sold so much bacon and oats. I had to reign him in a little and say that his fan was taking it a little too far. It is amazing what innovation, born out of desire to make more money, can create. We had fostered a marketing guru. He is now importing cars from Europe, efficient clean burning diesels that we cannot buy here. At 19 he has gone through Europe on his own, buying cars and having them shipped to Halifax, fetching them, and selling them online. The first one he ever imported was sold as it was taken off the boat from England right in Halifax. My wife and I just stand back in wonder at what we created. It does worry us a little, but you only live once.

This Sunday April 17th maple syrup is back, after two months of being sold out, we are back with amber syrup. We have had a great season so far, out of a season that looked bleak the first week, we had several great days to fill almost every container we owned of sap. I joked with a friend that we filled every mug, glass and champagne flute we owned. We boil in a very efficient homemade stainless evaporator. Remember most maple syrup shack farms around Ottawa are just for show. If you do not see thousands of buckets or lines, they are a sham. Most just buy in Quebec syrup and reboil it over and over adding water. Ask for a jar right out of the evaporator, then you know if they are legit.

Garland Sugar Shack in Vars is legit, working their butts off to produce enough syrup for the farmers’ market year-round, beautiful setup just east of Vars just off Devine rd. Take twenty minutes and drive out there to see it. They have one of the most beautiful setups I could ever imagine. I took the kids there this afternoon to fetch some supplies and boy were we jealous. Stainless hoods, counters, piping, all automatic. Stained pine throughout, pumps running, steam eascaping out massive chimneys. Computerized Reverse Osmosis reduces their wood consumption by 2/3rds. They made this investment in the future for efficiency, the environment, and food safety. Impressive indeed. We buy all our supplies from them, Ivan gave me some great filtring tips this afternoon and tonight we did our best job of filtring ever. I used to fight it, now it is going well. We finish in our kitchen, all the windows are steamed up, we packed up about 50 litres tonight, no spills.  Ivan and Jocelyn hustle, madly tapping many thousands of trees, selling supplies and boiling, oh ya, and helping with advice. This year they streamlined their store by packing in their slow computer checkout and just write down what I got on my own page in their ledger and say, “get going, you got work to do”, refusing to slow you down by calculating prices and taxes. They trust us to return in a few weeks and settle up, kind of like the wild west frontier shop, selling on trust that you’ll be back soon to settle up your “note”. Lots of great “talking shop” with other farmers all trying to make a living in just two weeks of running. In this race, you’ve got to be ready, or it will leave you in summer before you know it. This year we’ve tapped 450 trees, little less than our 600 high of a few years ago, but enough. The one half of our sugar bush was just too wet to get the tractor through to collect this year. We plan to run a pipeline up in that direction this fall to avoid the mud all together.

Maple syrup will only be available at our store, I do not bring it to market as there are several full-time farmers already there. Our store is the only place it is available. This week we’ll have lots of eggs, pork and honey.  Excellent(fatty) or lean bacon, smoked hocks for soup, sausage, chops, minced and beautiful shoulder butt roasts. Kim will have a full cooler at our store, open from noon to 2, and I will have a full freezer at Lansdowne Farmers’ Market.

Think of the cold, the humidity, it makes Eastern Canada seem not the place to live, but graced with the only place on earth to make syrup, it is all worth it. I read a great historical account of maple syrup from the native Canadians right through to today written by my favourite homesteaders, Helen and Scott Nearing. French missioniaries wrote how the natives mady syrup, incredible indeed. It also pointed out that maple groves were planted from transplanted Canadian trees over to Germany and southern Scandanavia. In some years, they would get a few days worth of sap, but most years, spring just comes too abruptly, before you know it, spring is here. It is the several weeks of freezing nights and warmer days that makes it all possible. We are it, from Michigan to Maine and Ontario to Nova Scotia, the only place on this planet Earth.

Oh ya, and that grilled cheese guy is back, lots of St. Albert Cheese grilling. Good supply of eggs this week, and no, the Egg Farmers’ of Ontario has not changed their mind, still can’t bring them to market, store sales only. Sorry, well, why am I apologizing, bug them.

I have been taking a two week food safety course. It was good but the most important thing I figured out was that you have to plan for the “weakest link in the chain”. To elaborate, I am not talking about our raw milk, dirty garden carrot-snacking, pure cider-drinking, rolled oat breakfast-eating, well water-drinking, pond-swimming, natural soap… kids. I am talking about the bubble wrapped kids who eat and swill sugar cereal, city water, pasteurized skim milk, nutrient deficient processed food, and pop. It is something that has evolved in society since the arrival of the grocery store. All our nutritional problems can be traced to the advent of that garbage pipeline’s arrival.

Alarming in the food safety course was the obsession of regulating manure and the total absence of concern over chemical fertilizer and pesticides. In particular, I could not believe that dessicant spray regulations, of which there are none, were not even mentioned. I go into their details further down in this page, but let me describe reality. The head of a grain plant is like an upside down umbrella, catching all the rain it can. Days before harvest, roundup is sprayed into this umbrella, in which, sits your wheat grain, soon to be the flour in your cake, or the noodles in your KD. I feel this is the  elephant in the room that no one is concerned about. Our customers at the market are those who are eschewing our grocery store system of distrubuting nutrient deficient garbage. They are concerned about what becomes flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone at suppertime, and they are our farm’s top priority.

We’ll be indoors at Lansdowne Sundays till May. Our farm store is open on Sundays from noon to 2. Get ready for a lively egg rush and all sorts of discussion as everyone talks to Kim. If you want eggs, our 100 hens produce about 30 doz per week, on top of what we eat. They normally sell out in 15 minutes. I sure wish, what with a big mortgage every month, that we could raise more, but that is what the province/Egg Marketing Board restricts us to. I sure wish things could change someday, but try googling Egg Farmers of Ontario fraud, and you’ll see fraud like you’ve never seen it before. All out there, no criminal charges. Back to the positive though, we sell out in 15 minutes. People who are concerned about what they eat, seek out what they want, we love them and Kim awaits their arrival every week. I know we get many requests for eggs at the Market, but I must explain. Our farm customers are expecting Ottawa’s best eggs when they drive out and enjoy the afternoon at our farm store, driving an hour return for our liquid golden eggs. The fine for selling eggs at the market is worse than robbing a bank. To us it is just not worth the risk.

We have some turkeys left, their first “bad day” was a few months ago, if you want one for sunday dinner, call us today and we’ll take one out of the freezer and put it in the fridge for pick up sunday or monday. Call or email, 821 0807 or castorriverfarm@xplornet.ca.

 

 

Well Rodney has done it Gourmet Grilled Cheese is a hit. His sales are exactly double of mine. How does a 16 year old move more grilled cheese after being in business for a few months than I do with my oats in 9 years. I guess I am going to have to concede that he is better entrepreneur than I. Problem is, Kim is now baking bread every night till midnight trying to keep up. Rodney has a new cash system. He found it a little awakward to make change with his right while never touching food with that hand. It was like, one hand food safe, one not. He decided to make a honour system cash box. When purchasing, slide the twentyies or tens into the box, take your own change from the coin dish and the guillotine=held 5s. Come to the Market and see it in action. It has also increased his productivity. That means shorter lines. 

 

Kim is baking all the bread from our own organic red fife wheat. She is also suppling Rodney with her fancy Dijon Ketchup, made with no sugar, just some of our maple syrup. Whole grain flour sourdough bread, butter (sorry cannot bring ours, silly provincial rules), St.Albert cheddar and mozzerella cheese, tomatoes Ingleside tomatoes, spinach from Roots and Shoots, onions from Waratah downs and our own fat free bacon- it is all there.

Honey is back, after a long winter, our beekeeper, Brent, finally squeezed out some honey for us from our hives. They survived the winter very well, but last year’s honey ran out over the winter. Eggs are still first come, first served. I have an interesting letter which needs your support in our “news”section. For now, here goes my rant:

We are harvesting  and like clockwork, the monster boom sprayers have come out again. But the harvest is almost ready, cannot the crop survive another week till harvest? Desiccant spraying it’s called. A topic I first learned about roughly 15 years ago. I was at a Canadian Wheat board meeting in our local town. The discussion revolved around the issue of how great desiccant spraying was. Roundup herbicide is sprayed on wheat just before harvest to kill any remaining plants as well as to burn down any weeds. This shocked me because I know that the wheat in the head of the grain is dry, dead, and ready to eat. All of the spikelets and husks channel anything coming from above all onto the wheat berries themselves. I asked the question, “Is there a minimum amount of time before harvest at which one could spray the roundup?”. Their dull stares, similar to that of a CAFO dairy cow, not our Whinnie, led me to believe they could not fathom a reason why not to spray it,  for it made harvest easier. Spray residue does not exist in their minds, but I knew it sure did in the buns of the sandwiches we were wolfing down like pigs at a free food cafeteria. Always be leary of free lunches, as Joel Salatin says, harking back to when he was courted to feed ground up carryon to his cows by the USDA which later made the CAFO cow industry a little “mad”. The difference is important, the roundup was being sprayed on ready to eat food. Sure I know, food is sprayed at every port and shipping terminal it enters, but this was different, I was being persuaded to spray it on the food I was selling direct to the consumer. At the time, I was farming conventionally, had not converted to organic yet, and believed that any spray which touched the plant at a very young stage would be almost non-existent at harvest. Later, as part of my conversion to organic, I learned that there were tests that could detect spray applied at any stage of its growth. Sure I was naive, but not stupid. Their “dairy cow” stares, frightened me.

CAFO meat is a choice, pastured is another, to test,  always ask what breed of cow your steak was from, ask what colour, what sex. If you also get a dull “dairy cow” stare from the kid behind the counter, then what can you be assured of.

Desiccant Spraying is serious, it exposes you to a whole different world of untested experimentation, which you just happen to be taking part in.

I hope you guys don’t think I go too far, I just feel, we all need to know, straight up, just how messed up things have become. Demand from your local bread baker, use organic, use local.

Thanks for listening to this week’s rant.

 

 

Our pork is different from everyone else’s because of what we do not feed. No GMO’s, no corn or soy, not even conventional corn or soy.  We feed Red Fife Hard Red Spring Organic Wheat, sprouted barley (half organic), veggies (half organic), organic bread, raw organic milk, whey. Their first and only bad day occurs 4 miles from our house. We will have all sorts of options at the farmers’ market and at our store every Sunday.

Egg production is really up now that the sun has returned. We desperately need empty egg cartons, please bring all you can if you visit the farm or our booth at the farmers’ market. Free bar of $5 soap for every 25 empty cartons.

 

Soap, darn beautiful Potty Mouth Fudge Soap is what Kim has in store for you now. Tasty it may look, but it is actually for bathing. She has 6 different essential oil scented soaps, 6 for $20, or 1 for $5. We like to honour bulk buying. We have no time for bows, ribbons, wrappers, and sparkles, just beautiful soap whose oatmeal exfoliates like no other. If you want real evidence, just feel my cheeks, like a baby’s bottom.

We are back at Lansdowne Park, indoors,  Sundays from 10-3, over the winter. The sunlight in the Aberdeen Pavilion streams from end to end and rotates from sunrise as we are setting up, to sunset as we pack up. There is no more beautiful venue for a market than the original market. Ottawa has been given a choice now for opting for the food of their choice all winter.  We will continue to specialize in our oats. We will have once and twice rolled, steel cut and groats. There is no simpler, cheaper, and healthier meal than a comfort meal of oat groats and a pork hock. Hocks can also be substituted for chicken. We cannot bring our pastured eggs and chicken to market, sorry. They’re both available at our store.

Our store will be open from noon to 3.  Eggs, pork loins, ribs, and chickens will be available along with our famous oats.   We have had incredible interest in our pastured eggs lately. Our hens are now producing well, we should have enough to last at least an hour this week.   Because our provincially regulated limit of hens is 100, a ridiculously low amount, we are looking into hen shares.  A program whereby, you buy the hen and hire us to take care of them and collect the eggs for you.  This is still probably illegal, if you are willing to become a co-conspirator in a righteous fight to obtain great eggs, come talk to us.  As my favourite farmer Troy Roush says “farmers are ingenious people, if you demand good food, we’ll supply it, come talk to us”, and as I add “until then….., well by the looks of the grocery store shelves, you’ll get what you are currently demanding”.   Our store is stocked up with lots of maple syrup.  No white sugar added.  Come inspect our whole syrup setup from tree to bottle.  We bottle in mason jars for your final inspection.   Remember, All Bran Cereal is over 30 percent sugar and it’s one of the healthy ones!  Never underestimate the ingenuity of the food industry to look out for their own interests.

Our new PLESSISVILLE FORANO “1920′s” grain cleaner is working well. What a job to get it going, every night for two months we have tinkered with it, new wood parts, pulleys, flat belts, brushes etc, all hand made and custom. We purchased a Carter Disc and that machine has really helped up remove weed seeds of the same diameter as grains and also separates out hulled oats from hulless.  Boy what did we do without it, when running some winter wheat through it, all of the small black seeds(you know them) fall out in the first output.  In total, we have 11 bags of cleanings before be get out finished product out, what a dream.  At this rate we’ll have our grain cleaning done in three days.  Last year, I estimate that we spent 60 days, yeah, and don’t forget its our sixth year with the old cleaner.  That represents one year of cleaning, a year out of my life.   Our farm store is open this sunday from noon to 3pm.   We need our buckets back, if you have ever purchased bulk grain from us and forgot to return the bucket we need them back.  We do not have GPS trackers on the empty buckets, but we will find them eventually. We do not want to start charging deposits. A wonderful thing has happened, the buckets are returning, and we thank you. Our store in Metcalfe will also be open this Sunday. Metcalfe is the village just after Greely in the south of Ottawa, we are 20 minutes from South Keys area and 20 minutes from downtown via the 417, exit Anderson and head south.

Trespassers are welcome – our farm is open to the public on Sunday afternoons from noon to 3pm.  We raise chickens, eggs, pigs, very limited supply of beef from one of our dairy cows and most importantly grain.  We process our grain into flour and rolled/steel cut oats right in front of you. Our animals are moved daily onto a fresh piece of grass. We hope we can help you in your food choices and can recommend other producers who “get it”. Here is a great chef who sums up how and why we farm.  “We are not farming like your grandfather, we are farming like our children are going to have to”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqOGfg3oflA  Here is our combine, harvesting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRnneMoTCSs For a laugh, watch this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtncN5PvJLY For another laugh, try this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pDTiFkXgEE