Musical Happenings

My vision here at the Farm is to offer a place of artistic and culinary experience: music, art, food, craft. All of these things are integral to the type of gatherings we offer at South Pond and that I will continue to tinker with in the future. This fall will be our fourth year of Art in the Fields - an outdoor art gallery, for our Supper Clubs  local musicians are background melody and over the winter months I have been honoured to have different performers in both classical and folk genres at Ironhorse Ranch paired with brunch or dinner. I also hope to expand the workshops that are offered for cooking, flower arranging, preserving - it’s all about creating a place for people to come and experience the Farm and participate in food, music and art. Creating these experiences is why I started South Pond.  

I’m excited about a new event we have planned coming up this Monday evening called Vignettes. Vignettes is a concept that Tom Colver and I thought up over the winter months to present musical talent paired with food against a backdrop of serenity and beauty.  Vignettes with Sophia Mackey on July 18th is music and food being presented intermittently throughout the course of an evening and themed around European countries both from a culinary and musical perspective. This Monday our own Sophia - and when I say our own I mean the very talented Sophia - a graduate from I.E. Weldon, entering the prestigious University of Toronto’s Vocal Performance music program, Sophia with a magnificent voice and who is an equally talented dancer,  a friend of my daughter Olivia, a part of the South Pond team, a twin, the daughter of friends, Stephanie and Lindy Mackie of Lindsay. Sophia is performing with Tom Colver a series of songs from Europe paired with food and wine throughout the evening. 

 

Vignettes is a concept we hope to repeat over the year with other artists performing and different culinary and musical themes. This is going to be a lovely evening and we hope that you can join us. It is sponsored by Classical 103.1 and the Kawartha Lakes Arts Council. Tickets are available on our web site.

Millie's Corner

Our lovely goat Millie will not be with us much longer. She has a sickness that we can not cure and every day we have with her is a lovely day. We’ve given her run of the property just like she used to have before she ate up all my gardens and had to be contained in a paddock. She remembers those days and I often find her on the porch where she looked in on us inside the house or sleeping by her goat house. She doesn’t do much eating these days so what few flowers she grabs now I happily sacrifice to her.

Olivia and Millie in front of the goat house. (Mark Ridout Photography)

Olivia and Millie in front of the goat house. (Mark Ridout Photography)

The goat house was built by Shawn for Millie and it’s a place that she seems to love. It’s a place that people love to photograph and this past weekend, I spied her trying to get into some photos as a bride and groom stood in front of the goat house door. We will miss her, Olivia will miss her especially. There is no other crazy goat like our Millie who thought she was always just one of the dogs; she is one of our pack, part of our family. Enjoy these days Millie, eat what you want, take what you need and be at peace.

Epic adventure, epic daughter

Carlyle is off on a truly epic adventure.  She is finishing her degree in biology from Western in New Zealand and has fully embraced the local culture of “tramping” (hiking) and enjoying the natural beauty of this country. It seems that New Zealand naturally attracts those to come to it’s rugged and spectacular landscape who love nature, the outdoors, wildlife, beauty that only the land can give.  

Carlyle is my eldest daughter, she arrived here to rural life from our little Toronto world to go into the seventh grade - which now seems like a lifetime ago. She embraced our new farm life in a serious way. She embraced chores and stacking wood - a lot of wood. She tended every wounded animal that wandered onto the property.  One day she and I stopped at a road side sign spontaneously and picked up Lillie the lab to be a companion for our dog Mollie. Like all puppies, Lillie was the cutest dog ever until she came home and spent a solid two years putting me over the edge of dog training. She tended meat chickens and our laying hens. She withstood the coldest temperatures in our house with relative comfort, smiling when it got to near zero degrees in her room. She did not think it was weird to take a hot brick to bed with her to keep warm. 

All my wonderful daughters contribute in such supportive ways to what we have created here.  From the very first events which imposed ever so slightly on our home life to our family room converted to an office and now visitors who regularly drive down the laneway, they have all embraced the change.  Carlyle has an important role here at the Farm.  She manages the bar; I will find her after closing at 2 a.m. and first thing the next morning calculating usage to the ounce. Last year was her first bee tending adventure and in the fall, a lovely bounty of her own honey. This summer our significant landscaping project, initiated by her, is to introduce more native species into our gardens and in fact, as an experiment we will fully convert our ceremony area into a landscape of native flowers and grasses. If Carlyle were part of a beautiful plate of food, I would describe her as the bones in the meat.  The spine on the vegetable. She brings structure to my creativity. And a bit of reality when I may have wandered from it.

As honey production increases, it will become an integral component of our menu fare.   A new way to use it was in our Easter celebrations this past year. This cake recipe was given to me by my friend and business owner, Nicki Dedes from the Olympia Restaurant in Lindsay. It is a lovely traditional Greek corn cake, a recipe from her mother which she graciously shared it with me. I added my own twist by pouring Carlyle’s honey as a syrup over the cake instead of sugar syrup. It was delicious.

 

Orange Torte Ravani

 

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(This is a great cake to have in the afternoon with a cup of strong coffee.)  

 

1/2 lb butter

3/4 c sugar

1 cup semolina flour

1 cup regular all purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 eggs

1 orange rind grated 

1/2 c orange juice

1/4 cup of milk

1 cup finely chopped almonds

Prepare and grease an 11”x7” pan. Preheat oven to 350. Grind almonds until fine in a food processor being careful not to make almond paste!  In an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Mix flours, salt, baking powder and salt.  Add flour mixture gradually and alternatively with the milk.  Do not over mix. Add almonds and orange zest plus the juice. Stir until just combined.  Pour into greased pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.  Make syrup and and pour cooled syrup over warm cake. Cut into diamond shaped pieces - or squares. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired and serve.

 

Syrup:  1 cup honey, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 lemon boil together 10-15 minutes.  Let cool slightly and remove any lemon seeds. Add 1 T orange blossom water (optional). 

 

 

 

 

 

Shark Conservation in Fiji

By Amy Hall

I briefly mentioned Projects Abroad and the Shark Conservation Project (http://www.projects-abroad.com.au/destinations/fiji/conservation-and-environment/shark-conservation/) in my last post about Global Friendships  (http://www.southpondfarms.ca/stories/a-global-community-friendships-while-travelling) while discussing how difficult it was to leave my new found home in Fiji behind, but I’m sure by now a few of you may be wondering just what exactly it was that I was doing during my time there. 

 

In some ways that is a rather complex question to answer, as there are many facets to the project itself. After having this dialogue with many people face to face, I have figured out that the best way to elaborate on what I was doing is to simply describe our weekly schedule, which is exactly what I am going to do for you here.

 

Sunday - Dive Day!

Sundays and Wednesdays are the best days of the week. Why? Because they’re dive days! We’re assigned to either the morning or afternoon dives for the day. Morning dives are always the best because the wind usually picks up in the afternoon, thereby limiting the dive sites you can access and sometimes affecting the visibility. On the dives we are conducting surveys, looking for what are called indicator species - aka fish that sharks like to eat. Before you are able to participate in a proper survey dive, you must pass your fish ID test. In a nutshell, we swim around under water for 30 minutes writing down all of the indicator fish we see. In turn, this information is recorded on the boat and entered into several online data bases. 

 

Mangrove Monday

Mangrove Nursery

Mangrove Nursery

Or, as Kris who is in charge of the mangrove nursery would say, “Mangroves for Fiji baby!” Not only are mangroves a crucial link in a healthy marine ecosystem (75% of saltwater animals will call the roots of mangroves home at some point in their life), they are simultaneously one of the most efficient plants at converting carbon dioxide into breathable air while providing protection from erosion and tsunamis. 

 

At the apartment we had one of the largest mangrove nurseries in Fiji, so every Monday we dedicated an entire day to maintenance, organization, planting propagules (kind of like seeds) and eventually planting the seedlings themselves in the rivers. It was often one of the more physically demanding days, but also an incredibly rewarding one. Kris’ passion and excitement for mangroves was infectious and definitely rubbed off on everyone - myself included. 

 

Tuesday - Chores

Shark Tagging

Shark Tagging

I always looked at Tuesdays as a very practical day. We would usually begin with a workshop or guest lecture, followed by house chores. In the afternoon we would conduct surveys in one of the nearby towns to gather information about local fishing practices and public perceptions regarding sharks. Responses were very interesting because you would experience opposite ends of the spectrum. On the nearby island of Taveuni, locals worship a shark god and therefore have a great reverence for them. On the other hand, you might meet fishermen who think that sharks are ruining the fish population by eating their daily catch. You never knew what you were going to encounter. Our job, however, was to collect information, not to preach or judge. 

 

Mondays and Tuesdays were also tagging evenings. We would go out with the lead marine biologist, Gauthier, and tag any sharks we caught throughout the evening. Unfortunately when I was there we were between projects. The previous work was done in the Rewa river with baby hammerheads and after a year of research it is believed this may be one of the largest hammerhead nurseries in the world! When I went out in Navua we were hoping to catch a few baby bull sharks, but unfortunately we didn't have any luck. It was still a beautiful night out on the water in Fiji though!

 

Wednesday - Dive Day!

BRUV drop

BRUV drop

One thing I forgot to mention about dive days is that we also drop a BRUV before our survey dives. A BRUV is a baited remote underwater video. Basically a large welded contraption with a GoPro mount and bait. We would sink the BRUV and set the video to record for a few hours while we were gone on our dives. Watching the videos during land based activities was either incredibly boring, as sometimes nothing interesting would come by, or incredibly exciting and you would hear people screaming when something like an eagle ray decided to come check out the BRUV.

 

Thursday - Cultural & Community Days

Making LOVO

Making LOVO

Depending on the week, Thursdays were set aside for cultural days, community days and/or land based activities. Cultural days included things like making tsulus (traditional Fijian sarongs for men and women), cooking lovo (traditional cooking method in the ground with rocks) or learning the language. Community days during my time there consisted of helping to paint a local school and cleaning up the nearby beach. 

 

Friday & Saturday - The Weekend

Tiger Shark Dive

Tiger Shark Dive

Since we dive on Sundays, Friday and Saturday became our weekend. Often times we filled our weekends with, what else, more diving. A group of us went out on a Tiger Shark dive and ended up having a private dive with a 4 metre female as we were the only divers there (aside from the staff). If you ever have the chance, you must dive in Beqa Lagoon, it’s one of the most rich and diverse eco systems I have ever seen and the project is working very hard to keep it that way. 

Navua River

Navua River

Easter

I love Easter.  It is one of my favourite holidays.  This is the time of year that there is a renewal and rebirth in everything. While it is early this year, Easter represents Spring to me. The earth is muddy and ready for new life, the pond has lost or is close to losing its ice cover and this year, the ducks and the swans are back making nests. 

Early mornings here at the farm, before the sun is up, I hear the wild turkeys clucking away and oddly at the same time, coyote pups.  Then the sun begins to rise and it all just explodes in a racket of wildlife.  A sure sign of what is to come - the spring peepers (frogs) at the pond and the swallows return.  Nest building begins!  

Since my girls were old enough to hold onto eggs, we made an easter “tree” adding blown out decorated eggs each year. We all love crafts and even today, the girls and I sit down at the kitchen table and make a pretty big mess. Our Easter tree is really branches placed in a vase that we put on the counter now with all our crazy animals about who would happily eat the eggs or worse, tip the vase over. 

When Carlyle was in her first year, we lived in Hamburg, Germany and in this part of the world Easter is a very serious holiday and beautiful decorations begin at least two weeks before. The most creative arrangements:  wreaths, wooden and cloth decorations, blown eggs beautifully painted; every store has a display and the markets are full of celebratory offerings. We started our own tradition of blowing out eggs and decorating them with a collage of materials: paint or fabric, tissue paper and protecting them with a glaze so the shells would be hard enough to last a few years. They have lasted a few years.  Carlyle is 21 and we still have some of the originals!  There was the one disaster year when the new kittens tipped over the “tree” and sadly that year, we lost a few.  There was also Lillie the lab who thought anything was fair game to eat and she knew enough that at some point there had been food inside. 

This weekend, try your hand at an egg craft.  So simple to do.  Take one raw egg and with the tip of a skewer, poke gently at each end of the egg until you have a hole big enough for the insides to come out - about the size of the ball point needle. 

Then gently hold one end of the egg, put your lips over the hole and blow the insides out into a waiting bowl - to make scrambled eggs with later!  At first it is hard and then the yolk and whites usually just stream out. If necessary, you can poke the skewer through the hole to stab into the yolk to get things going. That’s it.  For decorations, take a small bowl and mix together about 2 tablespoons of white glue with 1/4 cup of water.  Spread out before you things you want to use to decorate the outer shell. The easiest to use is scraps of coloured tissue paper but thin fabrics, ribbons, grasses anything that inspires you will do. Dip your scraps one by one into the glue mixture and then spread on the egg. 

This part is where your own creativity comes in.  Before it dries, thread a piece of thread, I use rafia through the egg and then cover the opening with a last piece of your egg covering to keep the thread in place after it dries.  Leave the egg on a empty egg carton to dry.  Then hang your egg on your easter tree and begin your own tradition of making an egg or two each year.  Or, bring it as a gift to friends or family.  Either way, it’s a nice way to spend part of the holiday. 

Rainy Day Weddings

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Rainy Day Weddings

I love rainy days here at the farm.  The air is moist, the smells from the crops, flowers and herbs, the cedars all seem to float low in the air and it is a wonderful thing.  I think all the celebrations that take place here are beautiful, but ones held in rain or “gloomy” weather have a very special beauty.  Sometimes there is fog or mist adding a romantic and mysterious beauty you can’t re-create, sometimes the rain comes down so hard on the metal roof it creates it’s own drama and romance. Sometimes you have a near tornado forcing emergency food service in the middle of the barn!  Guests always seem to take these things in stride.  It is after all a farm, a celebration outdoors with the barn as shelter. 

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We always hope for nice weather. The walk down the outdoor isle to waiting guests is what we envision, but it’s hard to control what we can’t control - no matter how hard we all try. I remember one wedding where as the bride looked pleadingly out the cottage window for a change in the rainwhile her guests waited in the barn. After her acquiescing nod, we simply relocated the tables, placed all the flowers on the bar and filled any empty spaces with candles.  Guests parted a centre space and when the bride and groom walked inside from waiting under umbrella’s, it was magical. And honestly, I remember it being such a wonderful celebration. 

 

Or when it rained so hard on the tin roof, people danced all the harder and more lively or when our first day of filming for the new TV show, A Taste of the Country was underway and it began to rain in the middle of the ceremony.  Looking at the show now, guests were just happy to be part of the celebration, no one was (or showed signs of) stressed, it was just the way it was that day and it certainly didn’t change the loveliness of the wedding or the enjoyment of the guests. 

 

There is no question, sunny skies, warm sun makes us all feel happy, but a dark and stormy is dramatic and requires us to just shift expectations and relish in the drama.  Remember, rain on a day of celebration symbolizes fertility, unity, renewal and luck! And, it makes for really great wedding photos. 

Visit with Gracie in Montreal

Montreal is such a great city.  I will never forget when I showed up for my first day of University, fresh and eager to start (more like grubby from a weekend camping trip) venturing north from Vermont to the corner of university and Sherbrooke where my University room was located.  Literally on the corner.  My time at McGill was the best experience ever.  It brought me to Canada, it changed my perspective and my life. I went from a country girl to a "centre city stage" girl - in literal sense only... The winters were cold, the walks up Mount Royal on Sundays and beer in litre bottles, late nights in cafes and bars. I loved everything about this city then. I love it now. 

 

Out with Mom....

Out with Mom....

My second daughter, Grace is in her first year here. I try not to point out and say things like “this is where I…” it’s just embarrassing.  She’s finding her own way.  She is a student of Math and Economics, I was a student of Anthropology.  But we would have had classes in some of the same buildings at least! I hope so much for her, to find likeminded people, to embrace different views and values.  Jobs and careers are important, but there is nothing that can replace the experience of just being influenced by great professors and experiencing life every day.  Grace is finding her own way in this amazing place of learning and history. I will get to visit sometimes and share a little bit of her world, remembering my own.

A Global Community: Friendships While Travelling

I thought that a whole month in one location in Fiji would feel like a long time. Maybe even an eternity considering I would be sharing a room with up to 3 other people. Yet, as I sit here writing this approaching the end of my time with Projects Abroad, I feel like I just arrived yesterday. Like I’m running out of time. Like I don’t want to leave. 

 

To be honest I didn’t expect to be feeling like this. I thought adjusting to things would be a bit of a struggle - not an insurmountable one, but one nonetheless. From the heat; to being around a group of people all the time; to likely being the oldest; to not being able to cook my own food. I’ve lived by myself for the last 5 years so I thought this would be the most difficult part, but as it turns out, the things that were of greatest concern to me are actually what I am going to miss the most. I have grown accustomed to spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with this group of people and it is going to feel incredibly strange to not be around them anymore, to be back on my own. 

 

It amazes me how quickly and deeply you can form friendships when you travel. Why that happens I’m not exactly sure. I suppose it’s a combination of things. Everyone is out of their comfort zone, meaning that generally people are more open and understanding. You also share experiences together that are so unique it creates lasting memories. Memories and experiences that are sometimes difficult to properly communicate to friends back home. 

 

Most importantly though, I’ve found that what makes being here at the project different from anywhere else I’ve travelled is that we are all focused on the goals of the shark conservation program. We have the same interests and values and are working together to do something we believe in. The work here is not always easy, it’s not just diving and sitting by the beach. Two weeks ago we helped to paint a local school in the midday heat and just this past week I was shovelling topsoil in 32 degree weather so we could repopulate the mangrove nursery. All of these are integral parts of the project that I will explain in another blog, but the point here is that when you see your friends not only carrying their weight but working their asses off it motivates you to do the same. You develop a respect for these people that makes you start to feel like family. 

 

That’s what’s different. I’ve just begun to feel like part of a small family here and now I am leaving. Some I’ve met just for a few short days and others who I have spent my entire time with here. We are an eclectic group from all over the world, which in part is what makes saying goodbye so hard - I don’t know when I’m going to see them again. We’re Canadian, American, German, Norwegian, Swiss, Australian, Swedish, Indonesian, Netherlandish and South African. I know that things just won’t be the same without them.

 

I left my small town in hopes of finding vibrant, thriving, like-minded community. I suppose I never expected to find it so quickly, with a melting pot of nationalities halfway across the world.

Oscar and I at the end of an awesome dive!

Oscar and I at the end of an awesome dive!

Jasmine and I on the dive boat.

Jasmine and I on the dive boat.

Shark Reef Marine Reserve with Noah.

Shark Reef Marine Reserve with Noah.

Groundhogs and other winter thoughts.....

Six more weeks of winter?  Our chickens said so but I'm not so sure. Usually this time of year there is a thick blanket of snow leaving only the top ends of the brown hydrangea flowers bobbing around in the wind.  I leave them all on in the fall because I love seeing them against the white during the windy cold months.  I find this time of year just as beautiful walking around in the gardens, finding little beads of ice on the most delicate leaves, tree branches bare.  

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This year, I see green already growing.  The ground is pretty much bare and soft.  I can only hope that the sudden warm spell won’t kill off my flowers. It doesn’t seem natural to have this temperature. And I’m sure that the plants don’t like it.    

Thyme still has an a fresh aroma in all temperatures!

Thyme still has an a fresh aroma in all temperatures!

David Hickey's flowers are always in bloom...

David Hickey's flowers are always in bloom...

This is the time that brides call me about their flower arrangements for their weddings.  It’s that time of the year to look at all the lovely images that start to appear in magazines, on pinterest…I get fired up with ideas too.  It’s when I start to plan, adding things to the gardens, looking for native flowers that will round out our plantings.  The ceremony space is going to get a face lift this spring. It will keep it’s natural beautify but be augmented by native grasses and wild flowers. 

I also hope that the arbour I set in the ground years ago will actually see some green life around it. It was always my idea for it to be a green canopy backdrop for the bride and groom. It’s early days yet, we will get cold and snow. I’m happy to have the flower garden go back to sleep for a few months -  our Chicken “ground hog” did say six more weeks of winter. 


How to Kill 8 Hours in LAX

Los Angeles International airport is arguably one the of the busiest in the world

As a state of the art facility, there is no shortage of provisions for entertainment. After passing through the golden gates of security, you are welcomed into consumerist heaven. It’s easy to kill a few hours - if you are also looking to drop several thousand dollars that is. Shop at stores like Burberry, Gucci and Tom Ford; sip champagne and eat caviar at Petrossian; or swing by the duty free if you’re in the mood to pick up a $4000 bottle of scotch. Some of the world’s most rich and famous call LA home so the sumptuousness should come as no surprise, but what are the rest of us supposed to do? 

Not to worry, there are still lots of things to keep the rest of us common folk sufficiently entertained. Here’s a few suggestions after my own 8 hour stint in LAX.

1. Nap

The tried and true airport go-to for backpackers and business travellers alike. We all know there’s no easier or more efficient way to kill an hour or two than to find a comfy spot and catch a few z’s. Finding a comfortable location can sometimes require a little creativity. Long benches are a god-send, and my heart breaks a little every time I stroll by and see them divided with individual armrests. For those of you daring (or desperate enough) theres always the floor with your carry-on for a pillow. 

I’m happy to say that none of the above are necessary in LA. Thankfully they have the most beautiful lounge areas equipped with comfortable chairs, tables, benches and lamps. So pull up a seat, set an alarm (you don’t want to miss your boarding call!) and take a nap. Not only is it free, it will help you feel a little more rested before the next leg of your journey.

2. Exercise

Once you are rested, why not get your blood flowing back to all of your extremities with a little exercise? You may feel you’ve gotten your fair share of physical exertion for the day while carting your 50 pound luggage across miles of airport terminals. If that’s the case, feel free to skip to number 3. 

There are lots of free, bodyweight exercise routines available online (a lot of my own favourites are saved to Pinterest) but I wouldn’t recommend anything too intense, just enough to get your heart pumping and oxygen flowing. 

For long-haul flights I generally am wearing workout tights and runners so this is perfect. If you’re dressed in business or more restricting attire, consider packing an outfit change into your carry on. 

3. Yoga

Before setting foot onto another 12 hour flight, let’s get your body back in alignment. Yoga for hundreds of years has been practiced in order to properly stack bones and muscles in preparation for meditation. If it can work for monks before hours of sitting on the floor without moving an inch, it can work for you. 

You can find millions of free videos online and stream to either your computer or phone. If you're a newbie to yoga, watching the video may be best so you can see visual cues. If you have tried yoga before, I prefer to play the video on my phone, plug in my headphones and tuck it into a pocket so I can let the instructors voice guide me. 

LAX has free wi-fi (hallelujah!) so you can easily search for bodyweight exercises and yoga lessons that are suitable for you. The biggest hurdle will likely be getting over feeling silly doing this in front of other people, but take a word of advice - no one cares what you do an an airport. It’s like an other-worldly dimension, so go ahead and do your thing.

 I’m a personal fan of Vinyasa Flow.

4. Coffee and Cookies

Caviar and champagne not in the budget? How about just sticking to good ol’ tea and/or coffee and some baked goods. You’ll get a nice caffeine boost and let’s be honest, you deserve that treat, travelling can be stressful after all. Get a spot right by the window and watch the planes land, or open up a newspaper or magazine. I got a free magazine with the purchase of some snacks from a little general store which ironically, was all about Toronto. 

5. Make New Friends

When all else fails, make new friends. Aside from napping, this is the easiest and most entertaining way to pass the time. People are always more open and friendly when they are on the move. I often give my mom a hard time about striking up conversations with random people but sometimes, it is actually quite interesting. She’ll go to buy a water bottle during a layover in Germany and find out that the cashier has a niece who lives up the road from the family cottage back home. 

I became fast friends with this lovely couple, Tim and Nancy, when we were getting off the plane at LAX and realized we were both on the same connecting flight. Unfortunately since our boarding passes weren’t printed in Toronto we had to check-in at the counter, which of course didn’t open for several more hours, so we went on an adventure to find a little bar that was open so we could relax for a little while. 

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There are many other things to do of course, like window shopping or card games, but the point of all of the above is to prepare you both mentally and physically for another potentially painstaking flight. If you’ve got any travel tips of your own, let us know in the comments!


Mushrooms Woodsy and Wild

January is a time that I enjoy changing things up a bit with food. Yes, I love stews and soups and all things comfort. I like to have dinner by the fire, maybe set up a table in a different place or even serve out of bowls rather than plates.  Romantic dinners for my girls and Shawn.  A candle, a warm bowl of something delicious and a glass of wine is a perfect way to end the day.  In my family, everyone is doing something that involves exercise (I’m not sure that I would put myself in this category). Olivia is training for Rugby every day and has decided to abandon red meat. I realize how much I do cook with meat so this month has been a bit of a challenge. Poor Shawn has been subject to a variety of meatless dinners or fish. What? Lentils and brown rice again?  Even the other girls have put their foot down.  

In one recent conversation with my mother, she was describing a dish she prepared for her French book group based on mushrooms.  Why don’t I cook with more mushrooms and more often? Somehow I feel that it is not a “local” food but why wouldn’t it be?  There are mushroom growers even in this area like Waymac - Farms .  I love any kind of mushrooms and this recipe is such a great way to enjoy them.  It can be converted into soup, served over pasta or a chicken breast, virtually anything. It is delicious and easy.  


Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients: (Enough  sauce for 4-5)

3 - 4 cups or 250 grams of various mushrooms - shiitake or cremini or whatever looks good at the grocer or market.
1/2 leek washed throughly and dried or 1 small onion finely sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 glass white wine or shot of sherry
1/2 cup 18% cream or chicken or vegetable broth
grated zest of 1 lemon

Organize your ingredients.  Begin with an assortment or just one kind of mushrooms. Depending on the number you are cooking for but this recipe is for five of us so I used 4 cups or about 250 grams. Slice the mushrooms, slice the leek or onions finely, mince the garlic, chop parsley coarsely, have wine or sherry ready.  Salt and pepper. Grated zest of 1 lemon. 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter.

Heat a large sauce pan add the butter and oil and on medium to low heat, sauté the leeks or onions until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Do not let them brown. Turn the heat to medium and add the garlic, the mushrooms and sauté until they are browned and tender, a deep golden brown colour. Add the wine or sherry and let this reduce slightly about 5 minutes. Add chopped parsley and 1/2 cup of cream or broth.  Let this mixture simmer a few minutes until the mushrooms and liquid have mingled together and become thickened. Add in grated lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste and combine.  At this point - your choice: serve over chicken, rice or pasta or just plain on toast.  yum.  

Adventures with Amy

In her post about my departure (http://www.southpondfarms.ca/stories/amys-departure) Danielle alluded to some regular travel posts to come and well, Adventures with Amy is here! Formerly Ask Amy (a place where I would answer my most commonly asked questions, provide stories from life on the farm from my perspective and share a little more about myself) this new column will allow you to follow me on my travels from South Pond Farms and my home, while I share insight and anecdotes about the places I am visiting. 

Ironically, my first ever post under Ask Amy was titled “Adventures of Amy” (http://www.southpondfarms.ca/stories/adventures-amy). Life’s funny how it comes full circle sometimes isn’t it? 

I hope to provide practical advice and tips alongside personal stories about the ups and downs I face along the way of my new travel journey.When I started my own  blog https://ignitethejourney.wordpress.com my goal was to inspire others in some small way to start their own journey - to reach outside their comfort zone and simply enjoy what the world has to offer. For some this is as simple as going to the movie theatre alone, for others a long post-poned road trip with friends. Everyone’s journey and view of adventure is different, so thank you for joining me on mine!

Stay tuned to read about Amy's journey from South Pond Farms.  She is headed this week to the island of Fiji for a month long adventure in shark diving.  

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First Real Snow

Finally today is a great snow day. After Christmas temperatures climbing to T-shirt conditions, I was so happy to see this beautiful snow. It was a spontaneous decision.  I have to confess that regular exercise has not been in on any of my to do lists. Or should I say it has been on the list but overlooked - for the last several years!  I threw another log into the fire, retrieved the boots from the basement and went under the barn to look for cross country skis. No bothering to wax or adjust bindings or anything actually in case the urge to go back inside with the fire would overwhelm me. March on. Besides, the dogs were ecstatic.They had all but decided that I was a lost case, that playing with the cats and each other would have to do. They were beside themselves with eagerness.

waiting for us.....

 

Lillie the lab, falls in to the routine immediately. First she won’t let me lace up boots, steps on the bindings, pushes me aside when I reach for poles. Then as I build momentum going down the hill, she looks at me while running back and forth across my skis often causing a wipe out. Once we cross the berm of the pond she settles down and focuses on finding wildlife. Nim is content head down following her but keeping a regular slow lope. Molly usually is the rear guard. She follows directly behind me careful not to tread on the skis. She stops when I stop, she is polite, she is my quiet dog.  Today I notice that Molly is not the ski dog she always has been. She falls behind, she struggles. It’s hard for me to admit this but Molly is getting old. She was our first puppy. Olivia celebrated her 5th birthday when we drove out to the country to pick her up making her nearly 13 years old now. She is a cross between poodle and golden retriever and from the very first day she had the most lovely personality. We call Molly our Rosedale dog. She is polite, elegant, she learned her socialization skills in the dog parks of our old neighbourhood. I love our Molly dog and I’m sad today to realize that her skiing days are probably over. A walk to the barn, maybe to the pond but that’s probably enough. She would prefer then to head home but she wouldn’t turn back as long as a walk was ahead of her. She’d follow me as far as I went. So I won’t go far. She loved the snow today and I’m glad to have had her with me. 

Cooking in Tante Nati’s kitchen

I’ve decided to try to cook a German meal every week - or at least two times per month. I recently visited my godmother, Renate and her husband Eberhard at the foot of the Bavarian Alps in Germany.  I’ve called her Tante Nati since I was young, I think when I was a small child I couldn’t pronounce Renate very well.  Sitting in her kitchen while she cooked reminded me how much I love this food and that I need to try different German recipes more than a few times a year.  

Danielle & Tante Nati

Danielle & Tante Nati

Tante Nati is a great cook and like many of us, she learned to cook from her mother, my great aunt Tante Mimi, her actual name was Maria.  Tante Mimi I remember for her woollen underwear that she used to send to my brother and me every year at Christmas and her potato pancakes.  She had a low voice and a cackle laugh and she made a mean potato pancake that I have never been able to beat.  I think it has to do with the potatoes and the fat that she used.  It’s hard to duplicate the taste of German potatoes and who questions the fat that people used to use.  It is true, German food is hearty and can be heavy, but so satisfying, rich and delicious.  I don’t need to make this food every day just once in a while and most importantly, this food reminds me of a place I wish I could be in more often -  in Tante Nati’s kitchen.

This is a special meal, something for company or Sunday dinner. It is special because veal shank left whole is most likely something we need to special order from our butcher and while this preparation is actually very easy, the meal when presented to the table, feels more luxurious than the average weekday menu.


Kalbshaxe in tomato sauce


1.2 kilo + 1.5 kilo of veal shank left whole or in two or three pieces (but not cut into slices like for Osso Bucco).
4 large cloves of garlic grated or put through a garlic press
salt and coarse pepper
2 tins ofg of diced tomatoes. 
Fresh parsley or basil leaves - about 1/4 cup.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the meat: Take the film of skin off the veal if it has not been done so by the butcher.  Rub the meat with salt and pepper and the garlic cloves. 

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Prepare a dutch oven on the top of the stove.  Heat the pot slightly and add the oil.  Once heated the oil is hot but not smoking, add the meat and brown well on all sides about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes. Spoon the tomatoes over the sauce.  Cover the pot and put in the bottom rack of the oven.  

After 1 hour, carefully take the lid off - do not burn your fingers while lifting the lid -  and try the sauce. Check for seasoning and put the cover back on for 30 minutes.  The meat should be tender and be loose off the bone.  Remove the pot, and let the meat sit for 10 minutes.  On a cutting board, cut the meat into pieces and put into a warmed serving pan.  Add the tomato sauce and serve. Sprinkle with fresh parsley or basil if you wish before serving.

Amy's Departure

Although I am sad to formally announce Amy’s departure from South Pond, if I'm being honest there’s mixture of pleasure in this announcement too. Amy is off to find adventure and possibly love in a new phase of her life. She is not only leaving South Pond, but the area - and not just around the corner. She is off for six weeks to Fiji to engage in a world of shark diving and conservation (who knew!) and then “down under” to Australia and New Zealand for a tour that is described asthe “living embodiment of variety”. Not simply a tour but travelling through the rugged terrain, diving on coral reefs, hiking on snow capped mountains and navigating deserts and forests. Amy is truly reaching beyond all that she has known and push her own boundaries in exploration. After several months of adventure, she plans to settle in for a new life in Tofino, B.C.

When she first told me - this past summer - I realized immediately that this was a journey in her life that she couldn’t pass up. We should all be so lucky as to take time in our lives to pause, reflect and reconsider directions. It is easy to remain complacent and stay where we are. It is far more difficult to grasp the unknown, in fact it is pretty scary. There are so many what ifs:  what if I am homesick, meet no friends, get sick, feel lonely, hate it. What if I can’t make it in the new world that I’ve created?  Amy is one of the most independent women I know. She thinks nothing of travelling alone and finding interesting things to do along the way.  I remember when on one of her trips learning how to surf ended up in countless days of rain and cold. And she was by herself. She still made something out of this trip, learned how to stand-up paddle board instead and made notes of what to do for next time.  

I will miss Amy, but I know there will always be a place for her here at South Pond. She has contributed so much to this business and it's success. Who knows, the Ask Amy portion of the newsletter may be replaced with Adventures with Amy!  I feel like this new chapter in her life may overlap with our own travels here at the farm. Bon Voyage!

Keep your eyes open for future posts from Amy, and in the meantime if you wish to follow her journey you can do so at www.ignitethejourney.wordpress.com or follow her on Instagram @amyluells

Kohlrabi Recipe

Kohlrabi is a vegetable part of the cabbage family, that I do not believe gets much attention. It may be that we don’t see it that often used in recipes. I’m not sure but it is part of my German heritage and I have a soft spot for it. It has a sweet taste and can be eaten raw or cooked. I make it in two ways - one takes a bit more work and has a sauce, the other is simply cooked and served. Either way, it’s delicious and I think it will surprise you what a nice taste it has. Even the girls like it! 

Serve along side any dish that you might use carrots or broccoli. 


Take three medium sized kohlrabi and peel off the outer layer with a knife or vegetable peeler.  If the vegetable is young and the leaves are tender, you can cut off the leaves and use them as well.  Unless I’ve picked the kohlrabi from my own garden, I most often do not.  Once the kohlrabi is peeled, slice it thinly about 1/2 - 1/4 centimetres. 

Version I - Without Sauce

3 peeled kohlrabi
2 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup water
salt, pepper
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh finely chopped parsley

Gently heat a saucepan or frying pan, add the butter and add the peeled kohlrabi and sauté for a few minutes until the kohlrabi is covered in butter.  Add the water and cover for about 5-8 minutes or until the kohlrabi is tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the heat, add the parsley and nutmeg and serve.

Version II - With White Sauce (my mother’s version)

Take three peeled kohlrabi and place in a medium sauce sauce pan.  Fill 1/4 of the pot with cold water.  Bring to a gentle boil and cook, covered until the kohlrabi is fork tender about 5-8 minutes.  Drain the water from the vegetable into a measuring cup or bowl and reserve.  In another saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter and then add 3 tablespoons flour stirring all along with a wooden spoon or whisk. Stir the flour into the butter until it is well combined and on low heat “cook” the flour for 1 to 2 minutes.  Then slowly in a steady stream, add in the reserved kohlrabi water stirring the flour mixture all the while to prevent any lumps.  When you have the consistency that you want which is a thicken kohlrabi water, stir and heat gently for 5 minutes until you have a velvety white sauce.  Add the kohlrabi back into the mixture, heat through and add 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg and 1/4 cup fresh finely chopped parsley and serve.  This vegetable is a lovely backdrop to our lemon salt!

Why we make things: Our path to salts, infusions and other delicious items

There are times when I question why we do certain things. Why make so many preserves when we have no store? (Amy says I’m cut off from making any more this year...) Why make our own bread for such large events? Why try to make our own ricotta cheese? It’s part of what we do; trying things out and using them at our events here on the farm. Making things from scratch; that is what I like to do. It’s my part of the the vision I have for the farm: a “general store” of homemade delicious things. Which brings me to our salts.

Finally. We are ready and have pushed the button. We have decided to launch our finishing salts, specialty pepper, a special liquor infusion and a caesar rimmer. We are calling these products Farm Flavours because they are a little of this and a little of that with ingredients from the farm. We think these products are pretty great. We use the caesar rimmer all summer at our bar. (We make a great caesar by the way!)

Our Caesar Set makes a perfect gift!

Our Caesar Set makes a perfect gift!

Using the salts has changed the way that we enjoy food and we thought others might enjoy this experience also. We combine fresh herbs that we grow ourselves, infuse them in salt and end up with a product we love. I’ve long learned that salts are not created equally. Some add more flavour to food than others. Some salt grains sparkle in your mouth and crunch and others just go unnoticed. We have been working on this product for most of this year, fine-tuning the ingredients and proportions. 

I should say that Nick keeps me on task with minding proportions - he is the task master of precision. These products are as good as they are because he is mindful of the ratios and doesn’t allow me to willy nilly make things up for the end product. So when I say that there is a little of this and a little of that, it’s only true in the beginning. By the end, it’s a precise formula and in the case of Farm Flavours and our new products, they are finally ready for us to introduce to a wider audience, to you. They are ready to make a grand entrance. 

 

 

Click here to visit our online store and see our full line of Farm Flavours Products!

How I Met Jessica Foote

"Jessica has been the star of my summer. Getting my vegetables from her further reinforces the value and quality of food close to home."


I met Jessica Foote at a farmers market. She had a giant table full of vegetables and the lettuce was so full it made a screen so you could barely see the people in behind. I had an event and was short salad greens. A woman with wild curly hair popped out and explained her various greens to me with great enthusiasm. She sold me two huge bags. I got her card and realized her organic vegetable farm, Lunar Rhythm Gardens  was basically around the corner from South Pond.

Jessica is one of the hardest working people I know. She tills the 10 acres by horse and plough and grows a large variety of organic vegetables. She offers a CSA farm share which is a great way for people to buy directly from a farmer. Typically, a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. The memberships or shares are vegetable “boxes” but may also contain other farm products like honey, meat, flowers. The benefits for the consumer is that they get a basket of fresh vegetables throughout the season and the farmer gets money up front which helps cash flow.

squash

Jessica supplies South Pond with a great variety of fresh vegetables: salad greens, onions, squash, carrots, celery and celeriac. Most all of the vegetables that we use are from Jessica. She or one of her workers deliver them in the early morning hours. Usually I’m working in the kitchen when she arrives and her voice and always cheerful disposition is contagious. She reminds me of a child at Christmas - she is so excited by what her garden has produced and is proud to share it with a booming voice and a belly laugh.

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I visited her garden this fall with our Taste of the Country TV crew in tow. Her energy, the magnitude of the work in front of her every day was astounding. She had new sweet potatoes in dozens of rows, her new storage house full of onions, a field of squash catching the last rays of sun, kohlrabi, rows of herbs and flowers. I wanted to weep seeing how much work she had still to do and the day for me was almost over. Jessica has been the star of my summer, getting to know her and her farm and being at the receiving end of her pride and joy - her bounty. Getting my vegetables from her further reinforces the value and quality of food close to home. Jessica’s produce is a joy to use and is well worth it. Not to mention we support our neighbours and our farming community, working hard on their land in any kind of weather to ultimately bring to market freshness and beauty. 

The Goat Coop?

The goats are currently having some reno's done to their usual paddock (or goat palace as we lovingly call it) meaning that lately they have been sharing pasture with the chickens. They get along surprisingly well, and it makes me wonder if perhaps they will be sad to be separated again...

I have noticed a rather strange occurrence over the last couple of weeks though. The goats have been climbing up onto the portable chicken coop! They are clearly very comfortable there and have no problem claiming it as their own. I somewhat envision them as the bigger older siblings staking out their territory. We really are just one big happy (sometimes strange!) family on all fronts.  

Zucchini Boat Recipe

September is one of my favourite months. I feel like I’m turning a new page.  Weddings come to a close, the super charged bustle is gone. I come up with the most ideas this time of year which for some in my family is not always a good thing. I feel a mixture of exhausted and “fired up” about what could be coming up.  The downside is that I’m missing all my girls.  Aubrey Rose is the lone farm girl left for a couple of weeks! I dropped Grace off at McGill, Carlyle is finishing her fourth year at Western, and Olivia is the rockstar representing Canada at the Junior Commonwealth Games in Samoa for Rugby.  Aubrey Rose is embarking on a new chapter - new high school and grade 9. I remember that year so clearly and am glad not to have to revisit it.

Other great news is that South Pond is part of a new TV show - about all the different events that we do and how they come together.  It will be a series on a new network called Makeful, run by Blue Ant Productions. It’s exciting to be part of the filming. Who knows where that might lead…

The last burst of heat this summer as turned our tomatoes into objects of art and beauty. I have a variety of heirlooms in the garden and each has a the most delicious flavour and character.  It’s almost like being part of a wine tasting every time I go down to the garden. I carry one of our lemon salts in my pocket, ready at a moments notice to bite into one.  I’m kidding. But that would be a good idea. What garden wouldn’t be complete without a mountain of zucchini’s? They are almost always an explosion of vines and greenery making a mess of the rows, yet such a pleasure to grow and to eat. My absolute favourite are zucchini boats. When I first started working in Toronto, there was a french restaurant nearby that served only lunch and breakfast and they always served zucchini boats. It was a weekly standard for lunch in the summer. 

I made mine this past week for my girls and Shawn - this was a bit of a stretch for Shawn who is a big tomato guy but zucchini not so much. I started with the best onions from Jessica Foote’s Lunar Rhythm Gardens, then roasted some garlic of our own, our tomatoes, a little cheese and yum. Simple and delicious. Nick had made some fresh bread that day and honestly, it’s hard to have a better dinner. Unless pie for dessert was involved. 

Zucchini Boats (makes 2)

Begin with all the freshest vegetables that you can find.

1 zucchini of medium or small size
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
4 medium size tomatoes quartered 
1 handful of fresh herbs:  parsley, chives, basil or oregano
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup feta or mozzarella cheese

Cut the zucchini down the middle lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and flesh being careful to leave the skin and enough of the flesh so that it is sturdy enough to hold the filling. 

Preheat the oven to 350.

Heat the oil in an iron skillet or pan and add the onions.  Cook over medium heat until they are soft not brown.  Add the garlic and the tomatoes and cook over medium heat until everything is soft and the water from the tomatoes has been substantially reduced.  Add the herbs and the salt. Lay the zucchini halves on a cookie sheet or shallow baking dish.  Put the tomato mixture into the zucchini and sprinkle with the cheese. 

Bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes until the cheese is bubbling.