Return from Everdale

Monday was a bittersweet day for me as I left Everdale for the 2008 growing season. I will be in and out to help with the winter root vegetable harvest and also to continue with my farm property search, but I gave up my room in the straw bale and will no longer be spending most of each week there. The last week of ‘regular programming’ at Everdale included the weekly harvests and pulling in all the irrigation equipment. Now the unwinterized public buildings on site will have to be shut down and eventually only the farm managers will be left for the winter.

We ended our week on Friday at John Slack’s farm where he showed us his setup for honey extraction and also how to shear sheep. John has Romney (wool breed) and East Friesian (milk breed) sheep, as well as their crosses, and he and his daughter Natalie sheared 2 of the Romneys as a demonstration for us. Each fleece is probably more than 10 lbs, and I got to bring home the one from the grey/black Romney. So in the next few days, I will be reporting on the fleece washing process! It’s going to be quite an undertaking as sheep fleece is far from clean ;P It will also be interesting to see how well I do at sheep shearing in the future as it definitely involves some sheep wrestling!

Saturday was a day spent touring 3 farms with Farmers Growing Farmers (Everdale’s farm business planning course that I’m taking with Mark…more details on the course in future posts). We visited John Sutherland’s farm where all his outdoor soil fertility comes from mulching with leaves and grass clippings, and his greenhouse mixes include a layer of manure and straw for fertility and heat generation; John Slack’s farm (yes, I saw a lot of Slack last week!) where he talked about soil fertility (the fizzy test which I’ve written about before, which Mark performed at the last farm we looked at…again, more details on the farm property search in future posts) and composting; and John Rowe’s farm where he talked about needing to educate the consumer on the difference in flavour and texture of pastured grass-fed beef when compared to that of feedlot corn- and grain-fed beef. Cows, being ruminants, are healthiest if they eat mostly grasses. Corn really disagrees with their stomachs and results in overly acidic pH and meat that’s higher in bad fats. The Rowe Farm stores in Toronto’s Leslieville and St. Lawrence market carry a hybrid of beef that’s grass-fed and then finished for about 6 weeks on grain so that consumers can get used to the taste and texture differences by moving down a continuum. But if you’re ready to go for fully grass-fed beef, you can ask the St. Lawrence market location if they’ve got any fully grass-fed beef in stock. It’s best to cook grass-fed beef using slow cooking methods of longer cooking times at lower temperatures, perfect for braising and stewing recipes that are so welcome at this colder time of year!

After all the farm tours, Saturday ended with Everdale’s end of season party which included a feast of turkey, ham, pork roast and chicken wings, all meat raised at Everdale! I’m obviously an ardent meat eater…though I think I did eat some roasted cauliflower and salad that night too. Those of us who have spent a significant amount of time living and working at Everdale were presented with keys to Everdale so we can always come back 🙂

So I’m back in Toronto now and am looking forward to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair which will be held on the CNE grounds starting Friday, November 7. I will be helping out with both the Everdale and Greater Toronto Area Agricultural Action Committee (GTA AAC) booths. If you’ve never been to The Royal before, you should check it out!

This is the story of my journey into sustainable agriculture. From the streets of downtown Toronto, to the farm land of southern Ontario, I hope to discover the techniques and practices that work for me in both mind and heart.

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