Our Autumn Apple Picking Adventure

To celebrate the arrival of Fall, I thought it would be only fitting to take the family apple picking.  And what luck, there's an adorable Dwarf Apple Tree Farm only 5 minutes from our house.  It turned out to be a perfect morning; the rain cleared up and the air was wonderfully cool and crisp. 

The orchard has had a few tough years since we moved into the neighbourhood.  In 2009 there was a devastating hail storm in the spring which destroyed all the apple blossoms.  And then in 2012 we had a freak warm spell in March which caused all the trees to blossom too soon.  It was promptly followed by a cruel frost which destroyed the blooms and again no apples.  This year was somewhat better, but yet again a wacky hail storm in June damaged the apples.  Luckily for us there was still a crop this year and they were offering them at a discount as the apples weren't perfect.  Bonus!  And really, who cares if they look a little funky when you're making a crumble or applesauce.

We pulled on our rubber boots and headed out to the orchard to fill our 20lb bag.  Picking your own apples is soothing to the soul and calming to the mind.  And what a fantastic way to teach the kids where our food comes from. Stella dashed from tree to tree trying to find the most perfect apple while Alice rode along contently in her stroller chewing on a MacIntosh.

Red Delicious, Northern Spy, Jona Gold, Macintosh, Mutsu and Golden Delicious, Empire, Spartan, Royal Gala and Ida Red - we picked them all.
                                                                                              Fresh fall air and cloudy skies made for a wonderful morning gathering sweet fruit to fill our pantry. Can't wait to start on some baking adventures!

And stay tuned for an extra special Fall DIY beauty treatment on Tuesday.  So good you'll want to eat it!
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Dragonfly Farm - A little piece of Heaven

Recently we had the pleasure of visiting Dragonfly Farm in Chatsworth, ON.  In the spring we joined Dragonfly's Meat CSA program.  For those of you not familiar with the CSA program, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Essentially you buy a 'share' in a farm and receive your portion of what the farm produces.  We do this for our produce as well, but had a hard time finding one for meat.  And then we found Dragonfly Farm.  What could be more perfect than a local farm producing a variety of grass fed organic meats? Each month we receive a 20lb box of various meats to get us through the month.  The farm owners Cindy & Mike Wilhelm had invited us up to take a tour of their farm and finally we were able to take them up on their offer.

Nestled on 70 acres of gorgeous grassland just out side of Chatsworth, Ontario,  the Wilhelm's have created a little piece of farm heaven.  We arrived late in the evening just as the sun was starting to go down.  Cindy popped up out of her veggie patch and gave us such a warm welcome it was like we had known her for years.  Her husband Mike drove past on his four-wheeler as he was finishing off the evening chores.

Stella could hardly contain herself.  All she wanted to do was see the animals and so we headed into the barn straight away.  There were great bails of hay from floor to ceiling and a few chickens meandering around.  At the back of the barn Cindy showed us the roost.  And yes, chickens (turkeys, ducks, etc.) come home to roost.  On the roost were their Layers I don't know much about chickens, but at Dragonfly Farm they have 8 kinds of Layers. 

1. Chanteclair (the Canadian Chicken)
2. Spanish Basque Hens
3.  Rhode Island Red4. Barred Plymouth Rock
5. Coachin
6. Black Sex Link
7. White Sussex 
8. Jersey Giant

Outside the barn, in a large grassy field were 2 chicken tractors filled with more chickens.  Chicken tractors are essentially a mobile chicken coop that gets moved so the chickens have a fresh piece of pasture to feed on.  Quite ingenious if you ask me.

Cindy then recommended we take a stroll to the back field to check out the pigs.  On the way we passed the Turkey coop.  This was one of Stella's favourite spots.  She ran up and gave the craziest Turkey call only a 3 yr old could make and out came all of the young turkeys to greet her..  She stood there singing to the turkeys and they sang back to her.  It was glorious! 

We then passed the cows and  I have to saw, I've never seen cows quite like this before.  Various shades of rich brown with a white stripe they were calm and regal and dare I say content.  The Wilhelm's raise Hereford & Galloway cows, to make a Hereford/Galloway cross calf. Both are good English breeds that love clover filled fields for grazing and hay.  The Galloway's have a second layer of hair making them more tolerant to Canadian Winters, while the Hereford cows are good mommas and easy to work with. They are also kind natured; a bonus to new farmers. In amongst the cattle are 2 resident donkeys.  I asked Cindy why there were donkeys in with the cows. "Protection" she said.  Apparently donkeys make very good guards and protect the calves from foxes and coyotes.

 At the end of the road  we found the pigs. Dragonfly Farm raises 2 different kinds of pigs; Tamworth and Berkshire and then the Tamworth/Berkshire cross.  These piggies are heritage breeds that love living outside and eating grass and pasture.  They also enjoy the soy-free pig feed. (which the Wilhelm's also make) The pigs were calm and curious and followed us around the enclosure.  Stella was trying to feed them but they were a little shy of her exuberance.  As we finished visiting with the pigs we saw Mike go by again on his four-wheeler.  He had just finished feeding the pigs and was scoping out some new pasture for the cows.  "They eat 100lbs of feed in the morning and 100lbs at night. That's a mortgage payment." Cindy said.  

On our way back to the barn Cindy and I chatted while Stella danced along the dirt road, following us in the sunset.  I could tell by our conversation that Cindy and Mike truly love their farm and love what they do.  Chores start at 6:30am everyday and they don't stop until the sun goes down. It was almost 9pm and Cindy said she still had to go pick some potatoes for dinner.  As much as they worked and as tired as they must be, in every exchange we had you could tell that they are extremely passionate and motivated individuals and that this farm was their dream.  On a side note, Cindy and Mike have only had the farm for 8 years and this is their 7th season and neither of them had any previous experience as a farmer.  None.  Amazing!

I think I will stop here for now.  I could go on forever about this beautiful place and the wonderful farmers and gorgeous animals.  But don't worry, this won't be the last you'll hear about Dragonfly Farm. One last thing before I go....get to know a farmer.  Start a conversation with one at a market or roadside stand.  Hear their story and their passion.Maybe even visit their farm.  Food will have more meaning and I think more flavour when you know what went into it.

Missing the farm,
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Dragonfly Farmstore - a little preview

Going to pick out our 20lb meat share!  Mmmmm!
I'm just too excited and couldn't wait until my post was done.  Here's a couple pictures from our visit to Dragonfly Farmstore to pick up our monthly meat CSA and we got a farm tour to boot!  Full post will be up soon! In the meantime, stop by Dragonfly and show them some love! www.dragonflyfarmstore.ca

Stella talking to the turkeys.  She was so excited when they answered her!

I'm totally in love with this picture!
 I was completely shocked by how friendly and docile the piggies were.  And they didn't smell either.  In fact the entire farm smelled earthy and green.  Our host Cindy said the animals don't smell as they are grass-fed, organic and antibiotic-free.  Amazing!

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