Did you want to visit the farm last season?

pasture lambs chicken Birds Nest Garden Farm
Lambs and chickens roam the pasture at Birds Nest Garden Farm.

Maybe we talked at market, but the timing just didn’t work out. Or maybe you were too shy to ask. Or maybe you didn’t even know it was a possibility.

Well, this year we can officially remedy that.

Our farm is a member of Rural Gardens of Grey and Bruce Counties. We refer to ourselves as being members of a “garden tour,” but it’s more like a choose-your-own-adventure story than a scripted tour. It’s up to you which gardens you visit and when you visit them.

Rural Garden Tours in Grey and Bruce

There are 22 gardens ranging from homesteads (like ours), to restored historic sites, to plant nurseries that have developed lovely gardens. Some gardens are open all the time, others on specific dates and others by appointment only (that’d be us.) Many of the gardens have plants for sale and some are even set up to handle bus tours.

We are excited–and nervous–to be part of this group. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed visiting many of these gardens as we developed our own landscape. There is no better way to learn about what grows in your climate than by visiting another plant geek to see what they are doing!

birds nest garden farm wiarton sage flowers
Sage blooms are a welcome sight and a sign that summer is here.

Some of these gardens are now integrated into our lives. Mother’s Day is not complete without a trip to Grange Hollow. “If Mama ain’t happy,” and all that. Art in the Garden at Keppel Croft is our new favourite date day. Like a date night, but it’s in the daytime. We get to wear clean clothes and be tourists. And go for ice cream the Big Bay General Store afterwards. Awesome.

Visiting Us

A visit to Bird’s Nest Garden Farm requires a phone call to set up an appointment ahead of time. I put that in bold because it is important. Well-meaning folks don’t always understand that, as a working farm, we need to schedule your visit so we can give you our best attention. Please use 519 534 3533 and be prepared to leave a call-back number.

In July and August, we are open for guided tours Tuesdays and and Saturdays between 1 and 4pm.  Tours are $20/hour for up to 8 people. Meaning, up to eight people can come for a tour for 20 bucks. There are no public washrooms currently, so plan accordingly.

So, if you’d like to see where your food is grown before we bring it to the Wiarton Farmers’ Market or learn details of our conversion to no-till growing, mobile chicken and lamb set-up or off-grid living, give us a call to set up your visit!

cordwood and straw bale house with blooming flower garden birds nest garden farm
The baptisia in full bloom attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

5 Tips for a Successful Backyard Garden

Fresh red and golden beets
Harvesting red and golden beets fresh from the garden.

Preparing for a local Seedy Saturday today has me thinking about my journey as a gardener. On reflection, I realize that I am entering my 27th year of growing veggies, herbs and flowers. Wow. 27 years!

Growing in downtown Kitchener, then growing in small-town Wiarton paved the way to growing on our rural property and finally growing for market. I guess I might have a little to share with budding enthusiasts, after all.

Want a Successful New Garden?

garden beds prepared for planting
Preparing the beds for next spring’s planting. After weeding (whew!) the beds were broad forked, amended with organic fertilizers and raked to a smooth finish.

1. Start Small

It is totally normal to be super enthused to start your new garden. Most garden burn-out occurs in mid-season when the weeds have overtaken the soil and garden work turns into a sweaty, sun burned, horse-fly biting war. Don’t buy the line that there is a “lazy gardening” style of gardening that actually is successful. Growing and tending a garden is WORK. If you don’t have a lot of extra time to throw at your new project, starting with a smaller area is a wise move. You can always expand as you gain skill. You can grow a surprising amount in a small space. I recommend two classics on the subject Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and How to Grow More Vegetables John Jeavons for more details.

 

Polka Dot Hen Produce fresh produce Wiarton Farmers' Market
Tomatoes, peppers and green beans freshly picked

2. Grow what you like to use

Choose plants that get your attention, whether by stimulating your appetite, your nose or your eyes. Continue reading “5 Tips for a Successful Backyard Garden”

Winter whammy

sunrise winter hike Cape Croker Neyaashiinigmiing
Hiking the Neyaashiinigmiing bluffs on a beautiful winter morning.

 

It’s been a wild winter. A mild December lulled us into believing we would get a break this year. Silly, silly us. By the end of February–when we often have a thaw, but not this year–our daughter had missed a record sixteen days of school because of cancelled busses. We even saw the weather website post ‘Blizzard Warning,’ which was a new meteorologic category for many of us. In the midst of this, our physical access to the outside world was throttled.

I’m stealing from Peter’s letter/essay that he shared with several family members in February about the experience.

My Personal Groundhog Day

By Peter

I sometimes tell students the proverb: “There’s no such thing as bad weather—just poorly prepared people.” That perspective has been intercepted and tasered the past two weeks. Even slightly decent weather has been an exception.

When one lives in a town with modern conveniences: public snow removal, the hydroelectric grid, and functioning fuel and food systems, winter is very manageable. But in a rural area like ours—especially off-grid and far from the road—a stormy fortnight can do more than make you glum. It can make you glum, exhausted, anxious–even desperate.

To be forced to worry about all four needs—heat AND food AND hydro AND road access—would be devastating. Even being faced with two of those four factors moderately at-risk is quite concerning. And if on life-support, only one need to grapple with is worse than two or three of moderate concern.

Along the front line of needs, we thankfully don’t have to worry about heat because our heat “only” depends upon processing firewood before the winter ogre emerges. Also ahead of time, we stash food in the freezer and pantry. Throughout much of the year, power production tends to be good as long as the sun shines, the wind blows, and our generator starts–all of which usually occur. But for years, our bugaboo has been our ability to access the road in winter.

No tractor means no snow-clearing and sometimes no access. No access means gradual desperation. Fear of desperation leads to planning and payments. Living rurally on anything other than an acre requires significant money. Tractors are especially expensive if your livelihood does not pay for them. Years ago, a farming neighbour recommended,”Get something with 60 horsepower and four-wheel drive.” Not being farmers, we ended up with an old 40-something horsepower unit with only two-wheel drive. We hoped and prayed it could handle our Goliath of a driveway. For years, it did.

 

April snow clearing Massey 135 Bird's Nest Garden Farm
Clearing snow with the Massey 135 (April 2018).

To wrestle the driveway brute if the Massey got sick, we bought an admittedly expensive walk-behind, two-wheeled tractor–like a rototiller on steroids. We reasoned that it could help with Erin’s market gardening, it could help manage our property, and it could step in as an emergency back-up to our four-wheeled tractor. It has started to pay us back numerous times by fighting back snowdrift monsters.

Continue reading “Winter whammy”