Happy Valentine's Day

I confess, I’m not much for Valentine’s Day. Despite my better instincts, I always set my expectations too high – expectations of special things happening – flowers, dinner out, or a surprise dinner in. Expectations are usually about what we hope will happen and sometimes, when we expect our significant other to be a mind reader, we set ourselves up for disappointment; hopes are dashed and then we only have ourselves to be angry with.

 Over the years, I’ve come to have a different perspective on this day. I now think of Valentine’s Day as a day of love – for anyone – and an opportunity to do something special, no strings attached, and definitely, no expectations whatsoever. For me, it’s about expressing how I feel to my children, my partner Shawn, a friend, or my parents. Simple as that. And the way I express love is by making them something good to eat.

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Shawn is not a believer in the one-day-a-year approach. He says every day is Valentine’s Day, but I’m not so sure about that. I think we do have to step outside of our routine every once in a while and actually think about doing something special for those we love. I remember the first year Shawn and I were dating, when Valentine’s Day came around, once again, expectation reared its demanding little head. When he forgot all about it – not a flower, not a heart-shaped box of crumby chocolates, nothing! – I’m embarrassed to admit that I was disappointed and grumpy. I felt silly about my dashed hopes and grumpy disappointment; I was hoping for some romantic gesture from him, but from his perspective, he does nice things all the time, and his feelings of love are expressed in a number of ways: building something that he thinks I need, or moving some earth around with the tractor to make way for a garden or a structure.

Whatever you do today - share dinner with someone you love, stay home and listen to music with glass of wine in hand and read a book or watch a show. Enjoy the day and appreciate those around you. Here is a cocktail recipe to start off the evening.

 

Blackberry Orange Champagne Cocktail

Muddle 3 blackberries in a cocktail glass with ¼ tsp (1 mL) sugar and 1 ounce of orange liqueur such as Cointreau. Top with chilled sparkling white wine. Garnish with a strip of orange rind.

Stone Soup; It Takes a Village to Feed a Village

In the folkloric story of Stone Soup, a poor man wanders into town with nothing but his hunger and a recipe for a delicious soup made from just stones and water. The stones are easy enough to find, but he’s in need of some water, a pot, a big spoon, and a fire. So, he enlists one townsperson after the other to add to his miracle soup and before you know it, the whole village is feasting from a cauldron of spiced, herbed, veggie-loaded “Stone Soup”.

 When I first heard this story, I loved it. I loved the way it made me feel connected to a community of isolated folks come together through the power of sharing food. This story also makes me wonder if we’ve lost our sense of community. I want to believe it’s still there, but we’re all so busy and yes, isolated. Most of us don’t live in villages anymore and we’ve lost that connectedness. But, I know these stories from the past have a place in our lives; they are still relevant; they still have something to teach us.

 I had a lovely young man from Tibet work here for several summers. One day he made an astute observation; “In your culture you don’t need each other anymore, so you can be angry with each other. In my culture we cannot afford to be angry with each other, since our neighbor might need to borrow a tool or another one might need something to eat; in my culture we are dependent on each other.”

 I’ve not forgotten his words and believe that while there are many good things about our modern day world there are also many wonderful things of the past we’ve lost. Folklore may have been pushed to the edges of our world but periodically, we have the chance to remember it, so, this Family Day I’m giving Stone Soup a try here at the farm! I’ll be starting South Pond’s own Stone Soup on our fire at the outdoor oven, and guests are invited to add to it from a selection of ingredients we have here on our farm. It’s going to be an experiment in community and alchemy and I’m sure it’s going to be delicious as well as heartwarming!


Bring your family to the farm and enjoy lunch and a ski or walk on the Ballyduff trails. These trails are on private land protected through a conservation agreement with Kawartha Land Trust but open for our enjoyment.

Lunch: $20
$5.00 per person donation will be made to the Kawartha Land Trust.
Includes parking.
Use of the trails are free.

 

Sunday, February 18th 2018
12pm - 3pm

Bride Feature: Kristen Bland

My name is Kristen Bland, I am a recent bride of the wonderful South Pond Farms. 

South Pond Farms Ceremony Space. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography

South Pond Farms Ceremony Space. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography

After moving to a small town that was predominantly a retirement community I decided to join Match.com, after six months of dating I became tired of the “matches” they were sending me and decided to do a search myself.  That’s when I found Aaron’s profile!  After our first coffee date I knew this time was different.  After almost 4 years of dating Aaron proposed to me. We were on a walk on the beach in New Brunswick in front of my grandparent’s cottage.  He said “I just have one more piece of beach glass….” and then got down on one knee.  My Nana, who likes to capture every moment, exclaimed “Wait let me grab my camera!!”  After a few moments, and tears of joy, Nana was back in time to capture me saying "yes!"  

Woodsy Escape. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography 

Woodsy Escape. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography 

I had never been one to think or plan my wedding, but after meeting Aaron, I knew things were heading in that direction. Slowly, I started to think about our wedding (aka create a secret Pinterest wedding planning board).  After seeing farm photography, I fell in love with the idea of having our wedding on a farm and in a barn!  We looked at a few venues online but felt that South Pond was the right fit based on its location the initial information package.  After we had our tour, with Danielle French, we knew this was the place for us and we didn’t look at any other venues.

Strolling through the Fields at South Pond. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography 

Strolling through the Fields at South Pond. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography 

My favourite part of planning was Christine and the wedding planning portal.  It allowed me to update our vision and plan for the day on my own time.  Christine was great to work with- I could book 30 minute phone call meetings with her to finalize ideas or ask questions. I felt organized, not too stressed during wedding planning; but just before the wedding it was hard to turn my brain off.  I suggest getting everything done one week prior to walking down the aisle so that in the days leading up to your wedding, you can just enjoy the love and excitement.

My advice to newly engaged couples is to make a budget and decide what’s important to each of you. I bought the wedding planning binder from the Knot.com and it had a few helpful tools and a great planning timeline (many tools are on Pintrest too). We wanted a more relaxed day in terms of the schedule, décor, and experience for our guests.   As I said above, I grew up with my Nana taking pictures of everything, capturing our wedding day was very important to us. To ensure that every moment was recorded, we hired our photographer and videographer right after we paid the deposit for the venue.  Another tip I have for engaged couples is: don’t get lost in all the tiny details.  South Pond keeps planning easy with all the support from Christine, Danielle and the rest of the team.  The property is so beautiful you do not need to add much. Remember the big picture. 

Bethany Hills. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography

Bethany Hills. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography

Our wedding day was Saturday June 3rd 2017, it was such an amazing day-I want to do it again!  We stayed at the beautiful Iron Horse Ranch for my bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner and the night of the wedding.  It was fun to have a few days leading up to the wedding our at the Iron Horse Ranch.  It was so relaxing and felt like we had a destination wedding that was only 30 minutes away from our house.   

Ironhorse Ranch. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography

Ironhorse Ranch. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography

One of my favourite details of our wedding day has to be the way we included our grandparents. Instead of having flower girls and a ring bearer, we had our grandparents walk down the aisle before our bridesmaids just to show how special they were to us. Another stand out moment was the time I shared with Aaron prior to the reception.  One my friends said they only time she had with her husband on her wedding day was the drive from the ceremony to the reception.  I wanted to have just a few minutes with my new husband before we headed to celebrate with everyone else. We did a few photos with our amazing photographers (Agatha Rowland and Liam Rowland) and then my mom helped me pack a picnic for us which we enjoyed down at the pond.  It was so special to have a few moments alone to celebrate the fact that we were finally married!  It was also very relaxing to take in the pond and sunshine on the farm.  The day goes by so fast but I remember thinking- "take this all in!"  

Picnic by the Pond. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography.

Picnic by the Pond. Photography: Agatha Rowland Photography.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything. Our day was so wonderful, it was incredible to see all our friends and family together to celebrate our love.

 

 

 

Eight Things Your Photographer Wants you to Know: Emily B Photography

Today we are excited to present our first Vendor Feature of the 2018 Bridal Series! Eight Things Your Photographer Wants you to Know was written by Emily Schell, the creative mastermind and talented photographer behind Emily B Photography. Emily's extensive experience and attention to detail is why she is one of our preferred vendors at South Pond Farms. From timing suggestions to lighting considerations, this is a must read blog feature for all couples about to tie the knot! 

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Hey there friends! Thanks for tuning in! Today I'm excited to share a few tips and tricks to make your wedding day run smoothly and to get the best photos possible. In my 7+ years of photographing weddings, I've learned a few things and I'd like to pass this knowledge on to you! If you're a bride, grab a pen and paper!

Timing is Everything!

Everything takes longer than you think on a wedding day. Weddings can often feel rushed and it makes your day less relaxing when you are trying to do a thousand things. Try to do as much as you can before the day of the wedding so that when the time comes, you can sit back & relax and enjoy your day! It only happens once, so don't be afraid to delegate people to do things for you – that's what your bridal party is for! Ask your hair dresser and makeup artist how much time they will need per person to get everything done on time. A lot of brides will opt to have their hair done last, but I would recommend being second or third. That way you won't have to stress about whether there will be enough time, and you will be able to relax and have a drink. You will also be able to 'test out' your style and make adjustments as needed before you leave the salon (or before the hair stylists leave your house). Usually the makeup artists will stick around to give you a touch up before they leave as well. I've been to many weddings where hair and makeup was running behind and we had to cut down on photo time because of this. Once at a wedding, one of the bridesmaids had a faulty zipper on her dress and the dress had to be taken apart and resewn onto her while she was wearing it. This summer I was shooting a wedding and we were on our way to the ceremony and someone realized that the veil got left at home, so we had to turn around and go get it.

You just NEVER KNOW!

A lot of these things are things you can't anticipate, so there is no harm in leaving a little cushion room! It's better to over estimate how long certain aspects of the day will take, because if someone is running late, there will be wiggle room for that. Aim to be ready to go roughly 20-30 minutes before you actually have to leave. This will allow time for last minute adjustments and for you and your attendants to gather your things and be organized before you leave. It will also allow for some extra photo time! After the ceremony, everyone will want to come up and congratulate the both of you. It's an awesome part of the day! But if you haven't added this into your schedule, it will cut into your photo time, especially if you have a lot of guests. If you are planning on doing a receiving line, make sure to add that into your schedule. If you plan to head straight into photos, simply tell your guests that you will visit them personally at their tables during the reception or have your officiant make an announcement.

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All About The Details

One of my favourite things to photograph on the wedding day are the details! Rings, shoes, bouquets, invitations – I love them all! When I arrive on the wedding day, its usually the first thing I tackle. It's best to have all of your details gathered and ready to go before I arrive so that we aren't searching around the house when its time for them. If you want detail pictures of your flowers, make sure that you have them delivered early enough and to the right location to be in your photos. Here is a list of details to have ready on the day:

Bouquet, Dress, Veil, Shoes, Rings (all three), Invitation (all pieces), Jewelry, Perfume

When it comes to your wedding, there are a lot of things to consider and a lot of expenses – brides have to prioritize what they invest in. The one aspect that will make a big difference in your wedding images is your bouquet. It will be with you the entire day and will be a major focal point during your wedding. I highly recommend treating yourself to your DREAM bouquet and investing a little less into the bridesmaid bouquets as they will be less central to your day.

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Your First Look

First looks are becoming more popular. This is when the bride and groom set aside some time prior to the ceremony to see each other. A lot of couples shy away from this idea because it goes against tradition and they think it will make their walk down the aisle less magical. Every bride wants that initial emotional reaction from their groom when he sees her for the first time. Who wouldn't!? But the first look doesn't take away from the moment – I've actually found the opposite to be true. The first look is done in a private setting – just the bride and groom. The bride will walk up to the groom who has his back to her, and when she calls his name, he turns around and gets to see her in all her wedding glory with no one else around. They get to share an embrace and laugh and cry with each other and have this alone time during their day that they wouldn't have otherwise had! And when it comes to the ceremony, the groom is just as blown away by his bride as the first time he's seen her.


Because there is no timing pressure, we ease into doing romantic bride and groom portraits after the first look and some of the bridal party photos as well. I absolutely love photographing first looks, and every couple I've known that has done one, hasn't had any regrets. Because a lot of the bridal portraits get done before the ceremony, this is ensures that you are receiving way more photos on your wedding day and makes the most out of your photography investment. Talk about what you two need as a couple, and don't let habit dictate what you do purely for the sake of tradition. I can't say enough good things about first looks and if it's something you're considering, I say go for it!!

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Keep It Tidy!

Whether you choose to get ready at home, in a hotel room or at your venue, it's important to remember to keep your space picture ready! On your wedding morning there will be people getting ready, makeup everywhere, clothes everywhere and usually a lot of clutter. Some people will say “Oh just photoshop it out!” but that's not always as easy as it sounds! I would recommend dedicating one room to keep all of your stuff in, and keep one room tidy for photos. I am a natural light photographer which means I don't use flash (only at the reception) so the more windows, the better! I will choose the one room that has the most natural light to shoot you getting into your dress as well as other significant moments on your wedding morning.

South Pond Bride, Nicole Sirrs, waiting to say "I do" in the guest cottage. 

South Pond Bride, Nicole Sirrs, waiting to say "I do" in the guest cottage. 

Communication Is Key!

If you have special guests who have traveled a long way to be present at your wedding, we want to know! If you have a special heirloom piece that you would really like to have in photos, tell us! If you and your dad are planning a surprised choreographed dance during the reception, let me know before hand! It's best to fill your photographer in on what exactly is happening throughout the day so that we can be ready and in position for when it happens! I've been to many weddings in churches that have more than one aisle, and we need to know which aisle you are planning on walking down and which one you are exiting through. It's highly recommended to send your photographer a day-of time line so that you two are both on the same page with regards to the wedding day. It's best to go over this time line together so that suggestions can be made and things can be altered if needed. Another item I ALWAYS require on a wedding day is a family photo list – this is how I ensure that no one is left out during photo time.

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Lighting

This is one of the most important things to consider when planning your wedding day schedule. I love when clients come to me for advice on location and timing in order to get the best light – after all, it's all about the lighting! As I mentioned earlier, choose the largest, brightest room for getting ready. If you choose a hotel, make sure you get a room with a lot of natural light – believe me, it will make all the difference. If you are planning on having an outdoor ceremony, consider where the light will be at the time you will be getting married. For example, if you are getting married at 12pm in the middle of the summer on a sunny day, the sun will be almost directly above you and will cast shadows and harsh highlights across you and your groom. This isn't something that can be fixed in post processing. If possible, it's best to start your ceremony later in the afternoon (anywhere between 2-5) to ensure that the sun is at a lower angle in the sky. Depending on whether you are doing a first look or not, I will do most of the bridal party photos after the ceremony. Then, after dinner, I love to steal my couples away during sunset hour to capture some romantic shots in that beautiful, glowy sunset light.

 It Matters Where We Sit!

South Pond Sunset

South Pond Sunset

If you have hired your photographer to stay during the reception, they're going to have to be sat at a table. The reception is a great time for your photographer to capture those awesome candid shots, and this is when all of the unexpected moments happen! I've been to many weddings where the table for the photographer/DJ/videographer is in a separate room. Placing your photographer in a separate room removes them from the action of the reception and makes it more likely that those candid, in-between moments are missed. I would recommend having your photographer seated in the same room as all of your guests. This way, when a memorable moment happens, they're there. If your photographer is in a different room, he/she will be able to sit down briefly, shovel a few bites of food down, then rush back into the main room to make sure nothing was missed, all while having to worry whether or not their food was cleared away while they got up (and usually, it has been). I am not saying that vendor tables are a bad thing, but if you plan on having one, keep it close to the action! It's also common for the vendors to be served last, after all of the guests have had their food. Usually by the time the food is served to the vendors, another speech is starting which leaves ten seconds for a few bites, and then back into the reception room. It's best to serve the vendors at the same time as the guests so that they can eat and can get right back to shooting before anything important happens. No one wants photos of themselves eating anyway, so have your photographer eat when you eat! So, where would be the best place for the photographer? Right among family and friends and within close range of the bride and groom.

Cheering the lovely couple in South Pond's refurbished barn. 

Cheering the lovely couple in South Pond's refurbished barn. 

Don't Forget To Have Fun!

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You will hear this so many times throughout the wedding planning process, but it's true! Your wedding day goes by so fast. You spend so much time planning out your day, and when it arrives it's almost a blur. Take in every moment. Look around at all your friends and family who came so celebrate this day with you. Take the time to walk around, socialize & enjoy and don't worry about if something didn't go as planned. This is YOUR day. Do what you want! Make it your own! Express your style and pamper yourself! Let other people help you so that you can relax! Have a glass of champagne (or two) & dance the night away! Once the guests have all left, the dancing is done and the honeymoon has ended, the photos from your wedding are what will rekindle the memories of your day for years to come. They are priceless reminder of your love and commitment to each other and they should be as genuine as you two.

For more tips and tricks of the trade, check out Emily's blog: http://emilybphotography.org/ or contact her at info@emilybphotography.org

 

 

 

 

 

Overrun

Early one morning, before the holidays, I was starting my day. The fires had been lit, coffee made and I shuffled into my office to sit in my favourite chair and do a little reading before opening my laptop and starting the day in earnest.  I love the very early morning because no one is up; the animals also still sleep and I am not disturbed, it is very quiet. I usually sit in near darkness, with only one light on near me to see what I am reading. I jolted into alarm to hear a ruckus upstairs. It was a series of loud noises completely foreign and it sounded like an intruder. Only it couldn’t be, I didn’t see any lights or signs of someone coming near. I put down my coffee and crept upstairs. I found our pet rabbit running in circles in his cage around and around tossing all his shavings, food and debris out of the small area. He was going so fast he nearly tipped the cage over. It was a sad sight. I was overwhelmed with sadness. How could we think that keeping this animal caged was the right thing to do. Over the summer, I had special cages built to withstand the elements by Carpenter John so that the bunnies (we had three guests over the summer) could stay outside in the grass and enjoy the outdoors and each others company. Now our bunny was back inside and alone. He was not happy. So I let him out.

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I brought him downstairs and put food and a litter box in the corner and watched to see what would happen. We have two cats, one is a hunter and regularly drags large rodents onto the front porch for us to admire. The dogs are getting older. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The bunny spent the first day in the corner, trembling. I worried about the evening and the cat feeling bolder unsupervised by me, so I put him back in the cage and the next day, let him out near where I was working. Deanna and I kept an eye on him. He spent the day under the table not going back to his area to eat or to drink. Maybe this wasn’t going to work. This behaviour lasted about one week - he was fearful. I also thought he probably didn’t know how to use his legs or body since being confined for so long.

Nim with a new friend

Nim with a new friend

The girls arrived home for Christmas. There was a lot of commotion. Olivia and Grace took one look and remarked “Mom honestly? you’re letting the bunny free?” Yes I am. The bunny is now free. Christmas Day things changed. The girls went into Toronto and Shawn and I settled by the wood stove and contemplated life. All of a sudden, Molly our aging beautiful golden-doodle Molly leapt into puppy mode and began chasing the bunny around the room. First it was a short chase back and forth, then the chase became running around the entire downstairs at a high speed. Shawn and I watched as first Molly chased the bunny and then the bunny chased Molly and then the cats got in on the action and everyone was chasing everyone. It was hilarious to watch. We couldn’t quite get over how life was evolving where the animals were now our source of entertainment. The girls arrived home. They took one look around and gave us a bit of a “rolling the eyes” look like we had lost the plot, that Mom and Shawn were losing their minds. That they shouldn’t be left alone.

Molly having rabbit taking a nap. 

Molly having rabbit taking a nap. 

Visiting rabbit

Visiting rabbit

Since then, the bunny has gradually taken over the downstairs. Litter training has been successful some days and not so much on other days. Shawn remarked one day (Shawn who believed all animals should live outside when he came on board to the Gray Road household) that the bunny just wanted to belong and we should feed him with the other house animals. And so it is. The bunny just wants to belong. At night, we hear him and the cat racing through the house and in the morning, he’s ready for company when I get up. The other day, I came downstairs and was sure I saw him leap from somewhere out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough, a few hours later, he was settling on to the chair to cuddle up with the cat, Nickel. No go on that one. “The chair belongs to me” he said and threw him off.

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What’s happening to my life? Maybe I’m worried that all the girls will be gone soon and we need replacement company. Maybe I am just becoming a little more flexible and tolerant. But this certainly feels like the right thing to do and there is no question for the rabbit. He can never go back to his miserable caged life. There are mornings when I think it’s gone too far and we should simply move out of the house and leave them all behind. Then I look around and think it’s a lovely thing that these creatures do just want to belong together and be loved like we all do. Meanwhile, I’m looking into some bunny furniture just so he also has something to sleep on…(that is a joke.)

Bride Feature: Melissa Cordick

Today we share our first Bridal Testimony of 2018! There are many reasons why we choose to run an annual Bridal Series, but hands down, our favourite reason is because we get to share some of the beautiful love stories that we have had the privilege of being part of on our farm. In addition to sharing the love, we hope that featuring bride testimonials serves to provide some insight for our newly engaged couples. What were the planning highs and lows? What would couples change if they could do it again? What advice do our South Pond Alum offer to couples getting ready to walk in their shoes? We hope that these testimonies leave you excited and inspired. Without further ado, I am pleased to present a piece written by Melissa and her wife Ashley.  

My name is Melissa Cordick. I live in Bowmanville with my now wife, Ashley Page. We both enjoy spending time with family and friends and can usually be found frequenting concerts or sporting events in the city, attending our favourite local brewery Old Flame or curled up at home watching the latest Netflix series.
 

Melissa Cordick relaxing in South Pond’s Cottage before heading down the aisle.  

Melissa Cordick relaxing in South Pond’s Cottage before heading down the aisle.  

After nearly three years of dating, I had not fulfilled my promise to take Ashley to Peggy’s Cove. I had taken a trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia when we first began dating and during that trip I promised Ashley that we would one day return to Peggy’s Cove together. So when my parents invited us on their annual trip to PEI in September of 2015, I knew this was my chance to not only take Ashley to Peggy’s Cove but to also ask her to be my wife. September came and Ashley and I headed to Halifax. We planned a quick three day stay, just the two of us and then we would head to PEI to spend a week with my parents at the cottage. When we arrived in Halifax, we ate all the seafood our hearts desired, walked the pier day and night and truly just enjoyed our time together. This was the first real vacation that we had taken as a couple and boy, was it going to be a memorable one. On September 4, 2015 I proposed to Ashley at Peggy’s Cove.

South Pond Newly Weds

South Pond Newly Weds

There is no such thing as stress free wedding planning, but South Pond Farms helped make the process as stress free as possible with their inclusive venue. Catering and bar service were confirmed with our booking. We used the recommended DJ, Officiant and had Danielle French create all of our beautiful flower arrangements on site. We secured a few outside vendors for small décor items and personal touches but South Pond took care of the rest. We loved taking part in the Tasting Event that was offered to all of the couples getting married that upcoming season. This event was a fun filled afternoon that helped take a lot of the guess work out of the planning process.  We were able to view the farm once again, ask any pressing questions, hear planning tips from then coordinator Christine Briggs, and our favourite part of the day, sample ALL the menu items and specialty cocktails South Pond has to offer.

Melissa and Ashley celebrating their new marriage in the barn!

Melissa and Ashley celebrating their new marriage in the barn!

Ashley and I were married on September 9, 2017. It may seem cliché, but it really was the best day of our lives. Everything about the day and venue was flawless. When my Maid of Honour walked into the barn to check on set-up and came back near tears, we knew we had chosen the right venue. Some of our stand-out moments were the ceremony, mingling with our guests at cocktail hour, sharing our first dance in the middle of the barn and sneaking away for a couple minutes during the reception to take sunset photos in the field. We have so many special memories from our day and we would honestly do it all over again tomorrow if we could. We look forward to spending another evening at the Farm and reliving many of the moments we loved about our wedding day.  

Melissa and Ashley taking in the Bethany Hills Sunset 

Melissa and Ashley taking in the Bethany Hills Sunset 

For any couples planning a wedding at South Pond Farms, we highly recommend attending your cocktail hour. We had not originally planned on attending ours, but our planning sessions with our amazing photographers paid off and we were able to capture all the photos we wanted quite quickly and join our guests. Being able to grab a drink and a bite to eat while casually mingling with all of our guests was one of the best parts of our day.

Time to tie the knot

Time to tie the knot

In closing, there are no words to describe the feeling you get when you marry your best friend in a place like South Pond Farms. Walking down the aisle and suddenly, only being able to see Ashley, her face and that huge grin. If it weren’t for pictures, I couldn’t tell you who was sitting by the aisle. It was all a blur except for her.

Married at last!

Married at last!

Photo Credits: Juliette Capdevielle - Beautiful Life Studios

 

 

 

 

Then and now. Part I

I was sorting through some photos recently. A project that I believe seems to fit with January in the greater scheme of getting organized. I found some old photos of when I first started the business of what would become South Pond Farms. It seemed like so many years ago when when we started renovation of the drive shed, barn and and then built washrooms. So much work has gone into this property and restoration of the land. I wish at the time we began, I might have had a larger vision of what might be. I really didn’t have that vision. It started piece by piece and project by project. It also began based on need - my need to stay on the farm to raise my daughters and to try to earn my living from the farm instead of driving away every morning, possibly far away, to a job.

The drive shed before it became a kitchen and car park

The drive shed before it became a kitchen and car park

This post is what I hope will be a series of how we restored this farm and brought it from neglect to a place where the fields yield crops, gardens flourish, the barn and outbuildings have renewed purpose and they all lay the groundwork for a true business based in agriculture.

The driveway straight from the road

The driveway straight from the road

I met Shawn because I needed guidance and expertise with repairing (or demolishing) a barn that was falling down. It was a sad state when we moved here in 2006. Boards were off the west and south sides, the floor was missing large sections, and the pigeons had made their home in it for who knows how long. The barn had not held farm animals for many years and while the fields were farmed by our neighbour, not much care had gone into upkeep and ensuring the crops were providing the best nutrients for the soil. I think it would be fair to say it was a farm in decline.

Before the driveway and my original garden

Before the driveway and my original garden

Shawn arrived one Saturday morning wearing cowboy boots and hat - a site a bit unusual for us urban folks. I called him a cowboy because he honestly was. He took a a look around and didn't say very much. He spent a few weeks coming back at odd times of the day (I later learned he wanted to see it in all aspects of light), and we often looked out the window and would see him driving around in the fields. He re-appeared one day and announced that the driveway needed to be relocated. That just seemed completely illogical to me.  I wanted to fix boards falling off the sides of the barn and have floor boards. I was hoping for some answers about the structure. I thought it would have been a waste if it had to be torn down. It was a beautiful traditional barn and standing in front perfectly centred, the most unusual silo with brilliant ceramic tiles that reflected the light at all times of day with a copper coloured steel roof and a tiny window that one might have thought Rapunzel would have let her hair down from.  Someone had been thoughtful about building this silo not to mention the expense. Remarkably, it was still in wonderful shape unlike the wood framed structure behind it. If there was a way that I could save the barn, I wanted to. Shawn was looking at the land and the bigger picture.

Looking closely....the barn and original driveshed

Looking closely....the barn and original driveshed

The newly renovated drive shed

The newly renovated drive shed

Meeting Shawn was certainly a pivot in my life. I loved the land but did not see it in the same way as he did. He saw neglect and beauty and I just saw raw beauty. He saw ways to improve and interpret the land and I saw fields, pond and forest. But we both shared a mutual love for this place and he guided me in envisioning what it could become. His view of the driveway was the starting point as he felt that others would more readily see the majestic sweep of the fields and how the structures connected with the land. I didn’t see the significance of that at first but I did later. We shared the same thoughts for starting the “farm restoration project” which initially involved building a kitchen in our drive shed so I could prepare food for my new business, Farm Flavours. This was a big step for me and a large investment. I was making food for others and needed a proper place to do so. While  barn was in shambles we turned our attention to the drive shed to make a kitchen. The original drive shed was on the north side of the barn, directly in the way of the new drive way. Having the capabilities of many things, Shawn picked up the structure and moved it to where he believed it should be - where wind and snow would not come in the doors and it was protected. It was also a place to park the car and closer to the house. It was at that time, a multipurpose structure. It was also my source of income and its restoration was the first step in what would be a labour of love on so many levels. 

New driveway

New driveway

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Another “cleaning out the refrigerator” soup

Soups are just a good thing to have in the winter. It’s what our bodies crave to ward off the cold and damp of the winter months. It's also a great way to clean out the refrigerator.  It’s so hard for me to get outside and move around. I have chores to do outdoors every morning and I do them reluctantly but often, I go back inside and hibernate for the day.  I'm conflicted because I do love winter. I love being active. I love cross country skiing. I love the warmth of the fire when I return inside. Yet, I can not get myself outside in this cold very easily. So I clean things, cook and I work.

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My refrigerator after the holidays was, let’s just say a little full. Even my daughters thought there was an explosion inside and for any of them to notice must mean that things were getting a bit out of control. So much good food to eat after the break but an abundance of it all. After going through the things not so healthy like the phyllo and cheese, patés, I waded through and pulled out vegetables.

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This “refrigerator soup” passed the Shawn and Aubrey Rose taste test which given the ingredients - cabbage and sweet potatoes - both things neither care for - it is hard to believe. When both Shawn and Aubrey Rose like something I’ve made I believe it’s safe to pass on to others. They are the biggest critics. The key in this recipe is having a blender or better, a vitamix to puree it finely so at the end it is velvety, spicy, delicious warmth in a bowl. I topped mine with yogurt and a grate of orange zest. Truly delicious.

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Danielle’s spicy soup (lack of a better name)

4 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large yellow onions
2 cloves garlic
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 large sweet potato peeled and cubed
1 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp yellow or brown mustard seeds
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cardamom
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds or ground coriander
1 tsp chilli pepper flakes
Salt to taste
Plain greek yogurt
Orange zest (optional)

Start with a large heavy pot and place on medium heat to warm. Add 3-4 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Add onions and sauté until soft - about 10 minutes. Don’t allow them to brown.

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Add in garlic and sauté one minute longer. Add in all the spices and stir until fragrant about 3 minutes. Add the vegetables and coat them with the onion and spice mixture. Add the cup of wine and cook about 3-5 minutes. Add in the remaining stock and bring to a boil. Cover and gently simmer on low heat for 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly. Puree the mixture until fine in the blender or with an immersion blender. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and grate a fresh dash of orange zest. No one but you will know that this is a perfectly healthy soup because they will love the taste and comfort of its creaminess.

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Wedding Series at South Pond Farms

It is that time of year! Couples deciding to get married. January marks the commencement of our second Wedding Series on the blog. We started this series last January after an influx of inquiries about how to start planning after becoming engaged. We know that planning a wedding can be a big job and though it’s an exciting time for you and your family, it can often be difficult to discern where to start! The purpose of the wedding series is to connect you with past brides/grooms and vendors who can help you navigate through the, sometimes muddy, waters of planning.

Photo Credit: Agatha Rowland

Photo Credit: Agatha Rowland

Photo Credit: Daring Wanderer

Photo Credit: Daring Wanderer

Featuring Bridal testimonies gives you some insight into what it is like to worth with South Pond, special considerations for the venue and a general “what to expect”. We feel that recent brides can offer unique perspectives and current advice that we can take for granted being entrenched in the field.

 

Photo Credit: Agatha Rowland

Photo Credit: Agatha Rowland

We also like to feature posts from our preferred vendors. Individuals that are selected to be apart of our Preferred Vendors List have been carefully vetted and have worked with our team in the past. This year we will be featuring pieces from one of our DJ’s, officiants and makeup artists. We do encourage you to give these posts a read as they are written by industry professionals and they are designed to help you identify what to look for before hiring someone in their respective fields.

Photo Credit: ZsuzsiPal Photography

Photo Credit: ZsuzsiPal Photography

Below is a link to our first ever Wedding Series post identifying what we feel are the initial questions you need to consider before commencing with your planning. These queries are meant to get you thinking about important details like setting/allocating your budget, researching your venue (and the services it provides), and outsourcing vendors. Check it out here http://www.southpondfarms.ca/stories/congratulations-you-are-engaged-now-what )  to get started on the right foot this January!

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Getting Ready

I’ve spent the first week of the new year probably like many - thinking of what next steps might look like over the coming months and changes I’d like to make. I need a clear space to work and think. So, I'm also cleaning things out and organizing. A friend once gave me one of those funny cards that said  “A clean house is the sign of a wasted life.” I love my friend but I totally disagree with this thought. A clean house, space, apartment, room or closet is the sign of being ready. Being ready to begin the next step.  “Mise en place” is a perfect concept - a French term for cooking where everything is in its place and measured and ready to begin and as it should be. It has nothing to do with a division of labour between men and women whereby cleaning is somehow women’s work - men and women alike create clean and organized spaces.

January Christmas decor left from December

January Christmas decor left from December

A few years ago, my daughter Carlyle was at university and asked me to find a document for her. I literally tore the house up looking for this piece of paper. After a week of looking everywhere, I told her it was gone, missing, just not here. Two months later, I was organizing some files and found that I had created a file for each of the girls and in the folder marked “Carlyle”  was the document. How had I not realized I actually was organized enough at one point to create those folders; that I assumed there wasn’t one? Ug. I now joke that if I can’t find something than it must be in the Carlyle folder, i.e. in its place, where it should be. I read once in Newsweek that we spend a lot of time looking for things - 55 minutes each day or 12 days a year trying to find our stuff. (Newsweek Magazine, 2004). We need a Carlyle Folder for everything. Last year my brother gave us all the tiles that you can put on things to track if you lose them. (I may have lost my tile.) I’d rather basically just keep things in order, get rid of what I don’t need (HA!) and live more simply. So would we all I’m sure, it's hard not to get bogged down by the clutter.

It was about eight years ago that I started Farm Flavours - the original business of South Pond Farms. I made prepared food for others. It was the second week of January. This month for me and probably for others is a time to reflect on life. I was out of a marriage with four young daughters and in a new place having just moved from the city to the country. I needed to work but I wanted desperately to be available to my daughters and I wanted to do something creative. I was too old to go back to an investment world that I lived in before children. I took stock of my skills and I knew I could cook and grow things and I had an abundance of ideas. I remember so clearly at that time the feeling like I needed to “pivot” my life, make drastic changes and turn things around or “run fast and break things…” (I listen to Masters of Scale regularly- a podcast by Reid Hoffman where I learned about this concept).

January sunrise

January sunrise

This was how things started for me and evolved into the business I now have. I decided over lunch with my girl friends on a Monday to make a change and on the drive back to the country thought up the concept of Farm Flavours.  Some of my friends spent their weekends at ski retreats and looked for ready made food to take with them.  I sent out a newsletter to about twenty people that I knew and said I would deliver weekly, Weekend Baskets to Go - a ready made meal for four -  and began delivering the “baskets” on Friday of that same week. The girls and I were sitting around our “family” computer and literally screamed in excitement as we watched orders come in. I had no idea where things would go or where they would lead. I took a chance and made a change.

January sunrise 2015

January sunrise 2015

Farm Flavours began with help from all my daughters - even Aubrey Rose who was only 6 at the time. I cooked a lot of food and my network of friends  sustained me by referring me to others. It wasn’t until I met Shawn and he restored the barn for me a year later, that South Pond emerged. Instead of catering for others off the farm, I was able to stay on the farm and cater to myself offering events here. It wasn’t always that easy. There were regulations that needed following, investments to be made and what seemed like hurdle after hurdle all the while juggling my desire to be the best mom and not let my new life get in the way. Ultimately, that is a hard balance and one that I try hard in keeping.

Unpacking the first batch of dishes I collected for events held in the barn

Unpacking the first batch of dishes I collected for events held in the barn

That is one of the reasons I love this month. I actually love cleaning and organizing and knowing that it may lead to new paths. I feel that it clears the mind to take on new challenges. I am hoping to take on a new challenge this month and finally begin writing my cookbook and producing some videos about our workshops and recipes. People ask me all the time when I will have one but every year I get sidetracked. I’m determined that this is the year I will do it. It’s been on my mind since that first year I started with Farm Flavours.

My new "craft" area

My new "craft" area

I have a little office space that I used up until last year. Now I work with the others in our main office (or former family room now converted office space). Yesterday, I transformed the small former office into my craft area. A place where I can bead or create whatever I want and have all my tools around me and not have to dig things out of the basement or a closet.

A necklace created with some of my bead collection

A necklace created with some of my bead collection

I love it. I can start a project and not have to finish or clean it right away since it’s an out of the way space. I’m looking at different ways I use the spaces I have in my home. Things change, we change as a family. As the girls grow and leave for longer stretches, the spaces adapt to suit us better. I’m ready for a beading project and I’m ready to start writing my book. I wish you luck on your own cleaning and organizing adventures.

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Craft

I started doing workshops at the farm not because I’m an expert in instruction or even have expert knowledge but because there are certain things that I love doing. Craft is one of them. The art of craft has a important meaning for me and how I live my live. It means something traditional and authentic. It is creating and making something by hand. It also may have been something that people have been making for hundreds of years; it has a purpose. Like many moms (and dads), I encouraged crafts with my children and making things with their hands, drawing, hammering boards, cooking, pushing together clay forms. I feel that the the art of creating something for many of us it is an important foundation to happiness and appreciation of life.

Finished for the day.

Finished for the day.

When I was finishing university at McGill, an Anthropology professor who I really admired, suggested that what I was doing for a summer job that year - hand making men's shirts  (do not ask me why I was doing that…..) was an admirable craft and one that wasn’t being done any longer. His comment has stayed with me. An admirable craft. I could tell that even though I really didn’t have much genuine skill in making shirts, he appreciated the concept and the craft intended behind making them.

Cooking class in canapes for the holidays....

Cooking class in canapes for the holidays....

The workshops we offer are not in shirt making. We do offer workshops in cooking, bread-making, floral arranging, learning about bees, beading to name a few. I also connect with others who offer instruction in things that I do not do such as dying textiles. I love making bread and I believe it is a craft that over time has ebbed and flowed in and out of our culture as important and something we do now because of choice and in former times, because of necessity. It is something we make from scratch. I am fortunate enough today to have a “genius” bread-maker here to teach his knowledge and expertise. I’ve gone from making bread with others in my farmhouse kitchen into our proper kitchen led by our pastry chef Dylan who makes fantastic sourdough bread from a starter that he has kept for fourteen years. With his guidance, I hope to have two day bread-making workshops this winter so one can really delve into the nuances of dough and the beauty of bread.

Breadmaking workshop 101...

Breadmaking workshop 101...

In our workshops involving sourdough, I've often started with an explanation about about sourdough, how it is like a love relationship. If you don’t nurture and pay attention, it may slip away. It’s a friendship that will be with you always but you do need to feed it sometimes. I found mine in the back of the refrigerator, abandon by me, completely hard, brown and green with unwanted mold and it didn’t smell that great. It has been neglected far too long and sadly it went into the garbage. Time to start again.

My abandon sourdough starter....

My abandon sourdough starter....

If you ask me what one of my goals here at the farm is, it is to have a place of learning and exploring craft of many kinds. To learn about making bread, cooking with what is available but being creative with ingredients, understanding what local means, what is plant based food and how to properly cook with fish or cut meat, arranging flowers and creating wreaths, to learn about beekeeping, farming and gardening and how to live more sustainably. I have come to the realization that I can not do everything, that it’s time to surround myself with people who have a “genius” of their own and are willing to teach others. I am lucky to have some of these people and who are willing and interested in sharing their knowledge. It’s time for me to let go of some things.

Mother and daughter with their skills.

Mother and daughter with their skills.

Shared by Sarah.

Shared by Sarah.

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In the meantime, I’m happily doing my own crafts with my girls or just on my own. It’s quiet time, a time to share together and time that I feel great joy and feeling of accomplishment. I believe it is these small things that keep us going and satisfied. Making a great meal, creating some bit of tiny beauty in our home. I told my daughter after listening to a commencement speech by Admiral William McRaven who said “change the world by making your bed’, it’s the little tasks and feeling of accomplishment that take us to the other steps in our day. I agree with this. I think she did too and I noticed her bed was made the next day...I also feel and recognize accomplishment when those who have been here for workshops share with me their own achievements. It is truly a  pleasure to receive those emails. I’m sharing two wreaths made from workshop attendees this December.

Shared by Jamie DeWolf

Shared by Jamie DeWolf

My life has taken pivoted these past ten years. From an earlier day with an office on Bay street to now my beautiful home office which looks out over the fields. I appreciate the weather. I appreciate beauty of nature. One thing that has not changed. Making and creating things using my hands. It’s a reward after a busy week and I am looking forward to sharing crafts with my girls over this holiday and appreciating all that we have.  

Merry Christmas.

Making some lemon scrubs

Making some lemon scrubs

A genius at work...

A genius at work...

Evolving

Yesterday was the first Christmas Market at the Farm. Truthfully, I did try a Christmas in the Country Market a few years ago, before our chef, before Netflix. I had an ornament table, a place to make wreaths and I believe we offered some cookies and hot chocolate. If I recall, there were not many who turned out. I remember thinking it was an idea that should be shelved. It was actually Chef Mckenna who suggested the Christmas Market this year. We could offer lunch and hot drinks outside by the fires, our breads and specialty items and Farm Flavours for sale. I agreed because I love the holidays, I love food outdoors by the fire and I am passionate about all the things we make here at the farm. And this year, unlike the last time -the delicious food of Chef Mckenna and more people than just Amy and me to make it a reality.

Wrapped up stollens

Wrapped up stollens

I made up a list of all the things I like to have over Christmas - tourtière, stollen, German cookies, shortbread, chocolate bark and handcrafted gifts and together (mostly the Chefs) we baked, packaged, assembled and decorated.

Shortbread

Shortbread

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The decorating part was fun, hanging a Christmas tree that Shawn and I cut from the property, Deanna strung lights and Aubrey Rose tied on bowes. Chef worked tirelessly in the kitchen. We listened to Christmas Music and sipped mulled wine. Given my last Christmas Market experience, I thought we might have twenty guests come by, Chef suggested planning for fifty.

The tree is hung.

The tree is hung.

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The day started out in a deep fog. In fact, I thought it was snow it was so dense. The temperature was pleasantly warm. I woke up early, started the fire inside and Shawn outside in the pizza oven and at the bon fire. The music turned on and hot drinks heated up. The kitchen lights were on from early morning as breads baked and delicacies finished up. We loaded up the wagon many times heavy with all our products and filled the tables. Everything looked beautiful and smelled delicious.

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We hadn’t quite finished setting up when some cars came down to the driveway. Early birds I thought. Then a few more. Then a steady stream. Tourtiers and pecan tarts were gone before noon, our fresh breads in twenty minutes  Aubrey Rose had a long snaking line to the register, Carlyle and Barb had trouble keeping the beverage pots full. Chefs Kevin and Dylan served up hot sandwiches from the pizza oven and Meghan delicious soup from the iron kettle by the fire. Chef Mckenna seemed to run back and forth to the kitchen more times than I could count cutting up fresh bread for more sandwiches and concocting additional batches of soup.

Carlyle and Barb taking in some sunshine

Carlyle and Barb taking in some sunshine

At the end of the day, we collapsed by the cook stove to debrief and calculated over 130 visitors came by the farm. The weather helped. It was a magically misty winter and warm day. People had the opportunity to walk the trails, warm by the fire, visit with the roaming chickens and goats. I had the chance between running back and forth to retrieve products, to chat with people who had come from near and from afar to see what it was like. It was a lovely perfect day. I will be better prepared for our next Christmas Market on the 17th and plan for a few more than twenty.  

End of the day

End of the day

Spiced Nuts and getting ready for the holidays

This is the time of year when your inbox fills up with cyber holiday shopping emails and holiday emails in general. I said I was not going to participate in that continuous sales process. Then on Friday a visitor dropped by and purchased a few things from our store and before I knew it, I was caught up in the excitement of holiday gifts and immodestly speaking, all the really great products we have here. Carlyle also just bottled more honey and it looks so beautiful in the jar.

Beautiful Carlyle honey.

Beautiful Carlyle honey.

So now there it is. Our own holiday cyber Monday gift opportunity: Carlyle Honey, Danielle’s Moraine Tea Blend, and a beautiful bar of our Farm Christmas Soap. Wrapped up in a box and ready to go. Handmade and packaged.

Danielle's Moraine Herbal Tea Blend, Carlyle Honey and Christmas Spice Soap $23.00. Includes gift box and packaging and a recipe card. email Deanna .

Danielle's Moraine Herbal Tea Blend, Carlyle Honey and Christmas Spice Soap $23.00. Includes gift box and packaging and a recipe card. email Deanna .

I’ve been asked on line a number of times for our spiced nut recipe. They were featured in one of the Netflix episodes (View it here) and I promised to share the recipe. I call it Manvers Station Spiced Nuts because I use some of our Manvers Station spice rub. If you don’t have the Manvers Station - just omit entirely rather than try to substitute. I also include our cranberry rosemary salt but ordinary coarse salt will due just fine. I’m going to include the recipe card in the Cyber Monday gift box. What I like about this mixture is that it is very slightly sticky, a little bit spicy and sweet and still the flavours of the nuts are there. It also keeps well if stored in a jar or airtight container. A nice idea when after the holidays you don't want to eat any more snack food - put them in the food processor, pulse a few times and sprinkle on salads. Delicious.

Pecans, Walnuts and Almonds. Pecans and Almonds are the musts. Peanuts, cashews, walnuts work great too. 

Pecans, Walnuts and Almonds. Pecans and Almonds are the musts. Peanuts, cashews, walnuts work great too. 

 

Manvers Station Spiced Nuts

  • 1 pound unsalted mixed nuts about 3 cups. I use pecans, almonds, peanuts or walnuts. Peanuts are definitely more popular in my family.

  • 3/4 cup minced candied ginger - this ingredient can not be substituted! I buy the ginger slices in bulk and then with a chopping knife, mince by hand.

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 teaspoons coarse salt

  • 1 teaspoon Manvers Station Spice

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup water

 

Sliced candied ginger, cayenne pepper, Manvers Station and Cranberry Rosemary sea salt.

Sliced candied ginger, cayenne pepper, Manvers Station and Cranberry Rosemary sea salt.

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

  • In a large bowl, combine all the nuts nuts, candied ginger, both peppers, salt, spice rub, and sesame seeds.

  • In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water over medium-high. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until sugar dissolves, 3 minutes.

  • Pour sugar syrup over nut mixture and toss well to combine and place on the cookie sheet in a single layer.

  • Bake until the nuts are just beginning to brown and are golden about 15 to 20 minutes, turning once.

  • Let cool completely on sheet on a wire rack before breaking into pieces.

Grandma French's Stuffing Recipe

My niece, Claire, asked me yesterday for the stuffing recipe that we had for Canadian Thanksgiving. My brother and his family spontaneously flew up for the holiday this past October and my parents drove up as well. We also had Devon (my step daughter), James her husband and baby Aren come from the city. Thanksgiving is really my favourite holiday but I’m not going to lie, I love American Thanksgiving too. The girls and I drove home to my parents most every year for American Thanksgiving and my brother and his family from New York on years they could. We always brought some sort of craft that we did together and it always involved making Christmas decorations too just because we wouldn’t see Claire and my nephew Joe before December - if we even saw each other at all during the Christmas holiday. I love those times.

A favourite view from my parent's home in Vermont on a rainy Thanksgiving weekend last year.

A favourite view from my parent's home in Vermont on a rainy Thanksgiving weekend last year.

 

This year, I’m missing the trip home for Thanksgiving. Often the girls opt out of school and we pile into the car for a road trip for Thanksgiving in Vermont.  It’s a long journey and this year all my daughters are busy with school and Rugby and it’s impossible to make the trip. Not to mention, it’s a long drive - ten hours without traffic. Flying isn’t any faster either since they don’t live that close to any major airport. It’s the one sadness that I have living so far from my parents not being able to have a weekend dinner or holidays together as often as I would like.

I appreciated celebrating Thanksgiving here in Pontypool this year. It will hold me over until the next visit for sure.

 

Liv and I carving up the bird she made this year.

Liv and I carving up the bird she made this year.

In the meantime, Olivia’s favourite holiday is also Thanksgiving. She said to me this year she was going to eat her weight in pumpkin pie. I’m not sure she was successful on that front but she was amazing at making the stuffing. This year, each of my girls chose a dish to make which was fun and also a great help. Olivia chose the turkey and stuffing. We started with a very large bird, about 30 pounds, that came from Jessica Foote’s organic farm nearby - Lunar Rhythm Gardens. The next critical ingredient is good bread. My grandmother baked her own bread and used this as the basis for her stuffing. I used the bread we make here on the farm. Her recipe is very simple, uncomplicated and very easy to do. I add a few things depending on my mood but it is still her basic recipe and I remember her teaching me when I was about the same age as Olivia and this is the year I taught her.

A very old photo of my dad with my grandparents. Grandpa carving something.....

A very old photo of my dad with my grandparents. Grandpa carving something.....

Begin with about 1-2 loaves -depending on the size of loaf - of good white bread. Grandma French always used white bread but I often mix in a bit of grain or whole wheat bread in. The evening before, break apart the bread into cubes either by cutting the loaf or breaking it apart with your hands into about one inch size pieces. You want 10-12 cups bread after it is all broken up. Put the bread on a cookie sheet and allow to dry out overnight. If I’ve missed this step and forgotten to do it the evening before, I put the cookie sheets in a very low about 175 degree oven for  one hour or until the bread is stale and dry.

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In the morning of the day you are cooking the turkey, prepare the following:

4-6 tablespoons butter
2 large onions sliced and chopped finely.
6 celery stalks sliced and diced finely
Salt and pepper
Fresh or dried ground sage to taste. In my recipe I put about ½ cup chopped fresh or 2 tablespoons ground.
Danielle’s options: 2 fresh mild sage sausages or sweet Italian
Walnuts chopped (and toasted) (which my nephew does not like!)
1 apple chopped

For my recipe, I almost always put the sausages in. But my grandmother rarely did. Once I started doing it in our home, it seemed to become a habit.

Heat a large frying pan  on medium high. I use a large cast iron frying pan just because I love this pan and it cooks so evenly but any large pan will do. Remove the sausages (if you are using them) from their casings by squeezing the meat out directly into the hot pan. Using a wooden spoon, cook the sausages through until they resemble a brown crumble. Through this process, take the wooden spoon and continually mash and press the sausage meat in the pan as it breaks down. This will take about 15 minutes. There should be enough fat from the sausages that you don’t need any extra in the pan. If you do, use a small amount of vegetable oil to get things started. Place the cooked sausage meat into a large bowl and remove the grease.

Heat the pan on medium heat and melt the butter.
Add the onions and sauté until they are soft, do not brown - about 5 -8 minutes.
Add the celery and cook for approximately 10 more minutes or until the mixture is soft and melting.
Add the salt, pepper, sage and heat through until the spices are fragrant.
Turn the heat off.

In the large bowl where the sausages are, add the bread chunks and stir. Add the onion mixture and using the wooden spoon, combine all the ingredients. If you are using apples and walnuts, add them both here.

My grandmother used water to wet the bread, some people use stock. Either works. Olivia used water for our Thanksgiving this year. Add only enough water to dampen the bread, don’t wet it. It’s just to add a bit of moisture to the mixture. About ½ cup or a bit more should do the job. Allow the mixture to cool.

My Grandmother cooked everything on her wood fired cook stove

My Grandmother cooked everything on her wood fired cook stove

In the meantime, the turkey is washed, dried and ready to be cooked. The insides have been removed! The oven is on - I preheat to 400 degrees. The roasting pan is waiting for you on the counter. Stuff the bird with cooled stuffing. We stuff in the neck and the body and remaining stuffing goes into a buttered casserole dish to be baked covered with foil later.

Salt and pepper the bird well and place in the oven. Turn the temperature down to 325 and cook until it is done. I use 20 minutes a pound. Make sure to allow the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes after removing it from the oven. Just before serving, scoop out the stuffing into bowls.

Good luck with this, Claire. Happy Thanksgiving. We will miss you this year.


 

Everyone has a Budget: Customizing your Holiday Retreats

The holiday season is upon us and with that comes an inherent desire to gather with colleagues, family and friends. Despite wanting to partake in the full gamut of seasonal festivities, we know how important it is to keep your bank book in the black. In the event industry often see  “a one size fits all” approach to event planning. This creates a dichotomy of have and have nots, can and cannots. Frankly, we don’t think event planning needs to be so black and white; after all, what are the holidays without a little bit of colour!  At South Pond, we like to take a “build your own” approach to gatherings.  At the end of the day everyone is operating from a different budget and we believe that you should be able to customize your event accordingly.

Culinary Creativity at South Pond Farms 

Culinary Creativity at South Pond Farms 

Whether you are looking to spend or hoping to save we can accommodate a variety of options to ensure that you get the biggest bang for your buck! We cater to half day, full day and even weekend groups. If you are looking to get your staff out of the office for some quality team building, or hoping to bring your family together to learn a new skill, our half day workshops are the perfect solution! Lunch and supplies are included! If you are looking for a full day experience why not schedule two work shops or an afternoon on the trails!  

South Pond Makers 

South Pond Makers 

If you are looking to extend the holiday cheer a bit further, we recommend an intimate culinary experience with our Chef in the South Pond Kitchen for a six course tasting menu. Each menu is unique and prepared seasonally, dietary restrictions are always accommodated for and you are able to bring in your own wine! For those looking to prolong the celebrations or perhaps, looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we encourage you to stay with one of our accommodation partners for a weekend of R&R. South Pond can provide all the goodies you need to ensure that your stay is a comfortable one.

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We know that everyone is looking for something slightly different and feel that you should have a say in building your ideal retreat. Contact connect@southpondfarms.ca to learn more about how you can customize your event!

 

Wood stacks and conversations

This past week, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to take a break from life at the farm and visit my godmother, Renate and her companion Eberhard in Germany. We often visit with her and then take a few days to tour the country side. Visiting the two of them is such a pleasure for me and for Shawn but most importantly, Shawn is so happy to have her German cooking. Eberhard is also a very cook cook and they prepared one of Shawn’s favourite meals together. It wouldn’t be a visit without schnitzel and no matter how hard I try to make it at home (not on that many occasions sadly for Shawn), it is best prepared in her kitchen. Eberhard makes his own bread and he says the secret in this dish is in the breadcrumbs. He combines a variety of his stale bread slices and makes up a delicious topping for the schnitzel. Renate uses his breadcrumb mixture for her vegetable specialty of boiled cauliflower with toasted brown butter bread crumbs. This is such a great way to enjoy cauliflower - even for those who do not like it. While this should be a story about great Germany recipes, it is actually a story about wood. More on recipes later...

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Shawn and I have been having some new “conversations” about wood recently, although these conversations have been part of time spent around the cookstove in the winters since we met. Years ago, you may recall that I wrote one of my first blog posts about stacking wood in a holzhausen, a round wood pile shaped like a bee hive.

Our first holzhausen

Our first holzhausen

Using this type of wood piling was my idea of stacking a large amount of wood in a beautiful way. We use over eight chords of wood and each holzhausen takes about four chords. During the summer months it would be an aesthetic feature on the property and then turn into our fuel during the winter. Shawn gave pause and one of his looks when I set my sights on this type of stacking mode leaving the girls and I to do nearly all the work together with Jamyang Tenzin. Jamyang is an expert wood stacker and also in the summer tended all the fires for our pizza oven and barbecues. He appreciated my stacking idea.

Starting the pile

Starting the pile

Carlyle finishing the last little bit.

Carlyle finishing the last little bit.

The downfall in the holzhausen’s were realized when it was time to keep them covered and protected from rain and snow. I purchased giant tarps, and held all the corners down by tying bricks to edges with rope looped through the tarps holes so that the bricks hung down around the wood stacks. I also put re-enforcing tent pegs into the ground and looped some of the tarps edges through the pegs. We were ready for the winter. Until the first major winter storm with hurricane force winds picked up the edge of the tarp and off it flew across the field leaving our wood exposed to the elements. It was almost impossible to keep the wood dry that winter and was a cause of quite a lot of conversations between Shawn and me as we sat beside the wood stove glass of wine in hand and analyzing different ways to hold the tarps down. Next year would be different I said. I would use heavier bricks, different ropes and tie some of the edges to the fence posts and trees. 

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Next year was no different. I bought new tarps, I doubly secured them. the wind caught an edge and it was game over. Tarps flying up over the wood - the edges secured by the fence or tree staying in place but the end result was wet wood. The conversations by the wood stove between Shawn and I continued. I decided that the following year, I would stack the wood normally like everyone else does, in rows and he would use a large rubber sheet he had to cover the stacks. This didn’t work either. One large cover was prone to being lifted off the edge and it was so heavy, we could hardly get a wet rubber mat back on top of the wood. We talked about this situation over wine and by the wood stove. Shawn said it was just a fluke and we tried it another year with the rubber mat. February’s storms blew it off last year again and we battled with trying to keep our wood dry. I suggested a wood shed large enough to hold all our wood. But this type of structure would need a fair amount of square footage near the house and Shawn wrestled with the number of structures we have all over the property. 

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this past week during our visit to Renate and Eberhard’s, I went out for a number of walks in the country side by their house which is located at the base of the Bavarian Alps. These people seem to use wood and many houses in fact have special wood stoves. I noticed how they stacked their wood.  Tidy piles all neatly covered and ready for the big snows of their winters.

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I also remember on another one of our day trips from their home, how the Swiss stacked their wood. They use a lot of wood and their stacks were beautiful and purposeful and each one protected by metal or rubber but the difference is that each stack had it’s own cover. I hurried back to the house - eager to show a potential new plan for covering our wood with photographs that I had taken. We talked about it with Eberhard and my Godmother and decided what we really needed was therapy, a mediator, an advisor on wood and more wine. We will see how this year works out. Shawn has half the wood stacked and covered with the large piece of rubber and I’m going to cover the other half with different  smaller pieces like those I just saw on my trip. Stay tuned to the spring for more conversations about one of our favourite topics. Wood stacking.  

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What's New With Farm Flavours

If you have been on our on-line shop recently you might have noticed some new additions to our Farm Flavours Pantry- Gift Sets! Okay, it is true, we have experimented with gift sets in the past but this year we are partnering with local purveyors to ‘round out’ the types of items that we are able to offer in our store. As a business owner in rural Ontario, I am passionate about working with other small businesses to create quality goods that are local and unique to the region.

South Pond Farms Finishing Salt Set 

South Pond Farms Finishing Salt Set 

This year we are happy to feature businesses from Peterborough, Northumberland and the Kawartha Lakes in our gift sets. Below you will find some information on the craftsmen and women behind the magic.

Honey’s Kitchen: featuring Carlyle’s Honey, The English Potter’s hand crafted honey pots, Beeswax wraps by our very own Amy Hall.  Carlyle is my eldest daughter who has taken on sole responsibility for the honey on our farm. Carlyle is a self taught bee keeper and works tirelessly to take care of her bees, harvest the honey and process it for jarring. Gail West is the creative spirit behind the English Potter in Lakefield, Ontario. Each one of Gail’s pieces showcase a unique facet of her whimsical personality- her creations are truly one of a kind and we are lucky to work so closely with her. Last but not least, you have likely seen our third entrepreneur on our Netflix series “Taste of the Country” - Amy Hall is from the City of Kawartha lakes, you can find her Beeswax wraps at the Lindsay Farmer’s Market every Saturday!

South Pond Farms Honey's Kitchen 

South Pond Farms Honey's Kitchen 

Maple 150: The Maple 150 gift set features Maple Syrup from Deanna Bolton’s family farm in Lakefield. Deanna is our in house Public Event and Wedding co-ordinator. Deanna started with us this spring and is typically the friendly voice on the other end of the phone and the helpful individual that responds to each and everyone of the connect emails. The Maple Syrup provided from the Boltons is also featured in the South Pond’s Sugar Shack Maple Mustard and the Maple Champagne Tarragon Vinegar made on the farm by our Chef!

South Pond's Maple 150 

South Pond's Maple 150 

Farmer’s Daughter Beauty: This basket features a homemade scrub by Danielle French, it also features Handcrafted botanical soaps made exclusively for South Pond by a local artisan and Keene’s Cross Wind Farm’s body butter!

South Pond Farms Farmer's Daughter's Beauty 

South Pond Farms Farmer's Daughter's Beauty 

Farm Pantry & Finishing Salt Set: Featuring, of course, South Pond’s signature salts but also, a handcrafted spoon carved by John Newman aka “John the Carpenter”. John’s craftsmanship was featured on our blog earlier this year- to learn more about him and his carpentry skills check out his feature here.

Now is a great time to start shopping for the holidays! If you order your South Pond Gift Boxes before December 1st, 2017 and share a photo on your social media, you will be entered for a chance to win a custom Holiday Gift Box that is otherwise, not available in store! This contest is open to all Canadian and US residents and is a wonderful way to support our local artisians! 

 

Holiday Planning: Gatherings

It is not Halloween but we know that planning for Christmas can be downright scary! Whether you are planning a family outing or a corporate event, the task of planning a Christmas gathering can be daunting. Despite it being October, holiday gatherings can easily sneak up on you so here are our three top tips to ensure that your get-together is one to remember!

  • Set a date - December is a busy time for most. Between holiday get-togethers and last minute gift shopping schedules book up fast! Set a date for your event as soon as possible so that your friends, family and colleagues can squeeze your gathering into their rapidly filling planners.
  • Set the tone - What type of atmosphere are you looking to create? Is your gathering meant to be a team building excursion? A relaxing day away? A culinary adventure? At South Pond we offer a variety of packages depending on the intentions for your event.  Whether you are looking to engage in a workshop with your team, walk our trails and become one with nature, learn about farm house cooking and baking, or enjoy a private dinner with our chef, we have options that appeal to a variety of audiences!  Set your tone, determine what you are looking for and ensure that your venue can accommodate your needs. Check out some of our public and private workshops here!
  • Set a menu- Accommodating for dietary restrictions is an important step in ensuring that all of your guests can fully partake in your holiday event. It is important that the menu you choose accommodates a variety of dietary modifications. Our chefs are trained in nut free, gluten free, dairy free, vegan and vegetarian cooking. We believe that everyone deserves a delicious entree and are happy to make alterations to all of our dishes to ensure that this is the case! We also advocate for menus that are seasonal and local so that your guests have the freshest tasting and most nutritionally dense meals during this holiday season. For more information on eating local check out our blog published during last year’s holiday season: https://www.southpondfarms.ca/stories/test?rq=local

With these tips in mind you are ready to plan an unforgettable event! Set a date, set the tone and set your menu to accommodate all of your guests; doing so will undoubtedly lend itself to a stress free day filled with great company, great memories and delicious food!

 

 

 

Farmhouse Feasts

On October 15th we hosted our inaugural Apple Fest Brunch at South Pond Farms. It was a quintessential fall event and despite it being our first Apple Fest it was the last barn event of the season! Where did the time go? After a busy summer of Farm House Suppers and Full Moon Dinners we couldn’t imagine a winter void of culinary creativity. As such, we have decided to introduce intimate Farmhouse Feasts.These feasts are particularly special as they are intimate dining experiences located in our Chef’s Kitchen! As a result, attendance will be capped at twelve guests. Dinner will be comprised of a six course tasting menu that features seasonal and local ingredients. Each menu will be different and kept a surprise; however, we will be sending out suggested wine pairings for each course the week before. Perhaps we forgot to mention one of the unique features of this event, since dinner takes place in our Kitchen, each event is BYOB! All recommended pairings will be available at the LCBO and will allow you to customize your choices to your individual tastes!

Farmhouse Feasts at South Pond Farms 

Farmhouse Feasts at South Pond Farms 

While the element of surprise might seem daunting, we hope that you are as excited as we are to sample new and innovative menus created by our chef. It is worth pausing for a moment here to reiterate that we are happy to modify individual dishes for dietary restrictions. We believe in making these experiences inclusive to all - vegetarians, vegans and gluten intolerant alike. Please let us know upon booking if there are any restrictions that we should make our kitchen aware of so that we can ensure that you get a meal that is customized just for you.
These events can be booked privately for a flat rate or as a public event ( dates for these are noted on our website). If you want to test the waters before committing to an event of your own we recommend the October 21st dinner. Unfortunately, the 20th has already sold out! If you would prefer a private booking instead please don’t hesitate to reach out, we would be happy to coordinate a time with our chef.

 

Sumac

I spent one of the most beautiful fall days this past weekend picking and drying sumac. Sumac is one of my favorite bushes. They are called bushes but really small trees, grow here on the property and are unusually shaped. In fact at the end of the driveway, a lone sumac bush stands as almost an ornamental tree to mark the entrance. I pick the branches and berries early in the fall before the seriously cold weather sets in and spoils the colour of the berries but turning the leaves a blood red. I remember as a child spending time on my grandparents farm in Michigan, there were many sumac bushes growing in their sandy soil. There was also said to be an indigenous burial ground on their farm and old sumac trees were clustered in this area. I felt connected to this land and associated the with the sumac bushes in a spiritual way.

Our lone sumac bush adding an ornamental touch to the entrance of South Pond

Our lone sumac bush adding an ornamental touch to the entrance of South Pond

I use the berries and branches for fall and winter decorations. I also dry the berry clusters for use in spice mixtures, or sprinkling directly on salads or dips and also to make tea; of course it is a staple in our farm cocktails. Sumac claims to have have a number of health properties. It is high in vitamin C, can be used as a poultice on burns and wounds by grinding the berries into a powder, to aid digestion by steeping the berries in water, straining the mixture and drinking it cold, and to cure sore throats and cold sores. When I was younger and interested in dying fabrics, I ground the berries and infused with warm water to make a red dye.

Sumac berries

Sumac berries

 

Mostly, I love using sumac in food. One of my favorite “Ottolenghi” inspired salads uses pita bread broken and sauted in a pan with almonds and sumac added in at the end before serving and heaped on top of a bed of spinach and red onions. Sumac has a citrus flavour and when you rub the individual berries between your fingers the flavours are released. Chef McKenna here at the farm uses sumac instead of citrus in his cooking simply because lemons are not local and sumac is a tangy and tasty alternative.

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Sumac is increasing finding popularity. I notice that in restaurants or in cooking magazines I see it used more frequently but years ago who would have have seen it? The sumac bush is native to the Middle East and sumac as a spice is a staple in these countries. Sumac is the main component of Za’atar a delicious spice mixture that used widely in middle eastern cooking. I make a mixture here with our garden thyme, oregano, sea salt and sumac.

Sumac flavoured butter on top of South Pond's sourdough quinoa crackers

Sumac flavoured butter on top of South Pond's sourdough quinoa crackers

 

I pick the berry clusters before too much frost has hit them, late in the summer, early fall. The berries are a deep red and the leaves just starting to turn colour. Don’t wash them as the “dusty” feeling on the berries is what holds the vitamins. I dry the berries out, in front of our cook stove which is a perfect slow drying method. You can leave them on a tray out of the sun until the berries are dry - this takes a few days.

 

Then remove the berries from the clusters and pick out any sticks or impurities. I grind them in a blender and store in a mason jar to use throughout the year. I also add sumac to a honey syrup for a cocktail or tea base. An easy way to use the sumac berry is to put the entire cluster into cold water and let it steep for several days, strain and use as a lemony drink full of vitamin C.

 

Making a vitamin drink

Making a vitamin drink

If you don’t want to make it yourself and aren’t near any sumac trees - good news. It is available in most all bulk or health food stores in the spice section. Enjoy using this spice! The tastiest use is to simply sprinkle a teaspoon before serving on top of a salad, on roasted vegetables or roasted chicken. It will give your food a little zest.