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.

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”

The Holistic Homestead?

snowfall birds nest garden farm
An early snowfall blankets the garden.

Review last year’s ups and downs?

I just feel like tossing last season in the bin and not looking back.

It was a summer of digging deep. We were met by challenges both planned and unplanned. Some were so hard, it was impossible to write about them–not a great way to meet my goal of blogging twice a week.

The Challenge We Expected

Lambs.

Introducing lambs to our farm ecosystem was in the plan. Peter beat the bushes researching mobile livestock housing, watering and fencing. He bought and built the necessary infrastructure. He read up on lamb husbandry and persistently pestered our friends for their pasture management wisdom.

Finally the day came when seven lambs arrived, and there was no going back.

lambs birds nest garden farm
Lambs arrive at Bird’s Nest Garden Farm. Let the games begin!

Even though we knew in our heads that being shepherds would be a steep learning curve, I don’t think we really got it. It’s kind of like realizing that being a new parent will change your life, but you really have no idea until you are in the thick of it. No going back.

Continue reading “The Holistic Homestead?”