We farm on 300 beautiful acres north of Wakefield in the beautiful Gatineau hills. Our farm is home to many animals both wild and domestic, big and small; stands of mixed hardwood and coniferous forests; a dramatic combination of rock, fertile soil, and an abundance of fresh, clean water. This land is located within traditional Algonquin Anishnabeg unceded territory. As a white settler family living and farming here, we recognize the Algonquin Anishnabeg as the custodians of this land, since time immemorial. We are grateful for their care of the land in the past and today. We are fortunate to be living and farming here, and we commit to tending this land to the best of our ability, for as long as we are able.
We make use of all types of land here for our farming activities. We use the pasturelands and hayfield to rotationally graze our sheep and cows, moving them every few days when they've had a chance to clip off the top few bites of grass but before they can graze down more than a third of the plant. We cut hay in June or July, and store small square bales indoors for the sheep in the winter. We get help to make large round bales for our cows, as we don't have the equipment for this. We use forested areas in our grazing - either the fringes of pastures or pockets of trees and shrubs within pastures, to provide shade for the animals as well as habitat islands for wild birds and to give a diversity of nutrition for our animals. Some forested areas that border the pastures we will reclaim into savannah-like pastures with the help of our pigs. We can find a great many useful and edible things in the forests, and enjoy the trails, but we also enjoy the forest for what they are - beautiful, rich, productive and biodiverse, and we intend to keep them that way. We are fortunate that this farm is well-watered: springs, creeks, and natural wetlands are here. Without the water, the rest would falter. It's our job to keep the water clean, to slow it's flow down so that it has more time to permeate into the soil, and to be judicious in its use - after all, IT doesn't need us, but we need IT.
and how we use it
and how we raise them
Our registered Icelandic sheep are the keystone of our farm. Hardy, smart, and gentle, we appreciate all that they provide. We choose Icelandics because they excel in a 100% grassfed & organic regime. The lambs are born in the spring; the ewes are excellent mothers and we rarely need to intervene. The lambs stay with their mothers until the fall; milk & grass is all they need! We rotationally graze the sheep, this keeps our pastures and soil healthy, ensures the best possible nutrition for the sheep, and the wool stays soft and clean. We track the parentage of every animal born; the best ones join our breeding flock. Once the snow makes it impossible for the sheep to graze, we bring them up to the barn, where they stay in an outdoor paddock with a shelter and windbreaks, eating hay that we cut and harvest in the summer. Of course, we don't use antibiotics or hormones, chemical dewormers, or medications; and if we have a sick or injured animal needing conventional treatment after all natural treatments have failed, then rest assured we will never sell this meat to you without organic standard withdrawal times, absolute and full disclosure and your knowledge and express agreement before you order. (It hasn't happened yet.) The lambs or adult animals that will not join our breeding flock make their final journey to the abattoir in the fall. We make this journey as stress-free and as short as possible. We mark this day with both sadness and gratitude, and commit to using all of the products of these fine animals; the wool, the meat, the leather; it will all be appreciated.
We love our pigs. They are smart and funny! A pig loves to explore, to socialize, to root in the soil and flop into a cool muddy wallow on a hot day. They like the shade and the trees, and they are pretty lazy, rolling out of their beds when the sun is well up in the sky. Piled together asleep in their shelter they look like little loaves of bread, so plump and sweet, you just want to pinch them! For now, we buy heritage breed Red Wattle or Berkshire weaned piglets from another family farm instead of keeping breeding sows. The piglets are well-started on mother's milk and pig starter (grains) before they arrive here. We transition their diet slowly to a mix of organic grains that we buy directly from an Ottawa-valley farmer, vegetables from our garden, waste milk and whey from our dairy cow, and kitchen remains from an organic vegetarian restaurant. The pigs rotate through a series of wooded pastures that we are converting to a savannah-like silvopasture. Other than good food, fresh clean water, a good environment, and the companionship of their piggy friends, we don't give these pigs anything else. In the fall, we thank them for their antics and companionship, for the food that they will provide to many families, and with some sadness, we send them to the abattoir. These are not good days on the farm, but we know that death is a necessary part of nature's cycle; we accept this and do our best to do it right.
Our cows provide our family with delicious healthy milk, fertilize the soils, and their gentle presence reminds us to slow down. We started out with a Jersey cow and her calf, with the goal of providing milk for our own family. Our Jersey matriarch, Fanny, now raises calves, and one of her fosters, Elly, is our family milk cow. Now that we have greater acreage, we are able to produce more hay and therefore keep more cows. Over the next few years we will be growing our herd of cattle. The cows are rotationally-grazed, much like the sheep, and are kept outdoors with the shelter of trees or simple structures, year-round. While we do provide some organic grain for our dairy cows in order for them to maintain their health while producing milk in the cold winter months, we never give grain to growing animals or our beef herd. Grass-fed beef is delicious! We take care to finish our beef animals on actively growing, high-sugar content grasses; this means there's lots of lovely marbling; and lots of lovely flavour in the meat. Grass-fed meat is solar-powered meat; with very little fossil fuels, and no fertilizers or pesticides needed at all in its production. As with the sheep, we don't use any chemicals, antibiotics, or dewormers, and would never sell meat from an animal that had been treated unless it was expressly agreed to before the order (and we have never had this happen). Our beef cows get loaded with heavy hearts when we send them to the government-inspected abattoir, after all, we know their personalities quite well by the time they are grown. We take heart knowing that they will be handled professionally, that their journey is short, and that we have given them the very best we can while they were here, and we are grateful for their meat.
Our poultry play a hugely important role on the farm. We rotate them through our pastures, and by scratching up manure piles they help to kickstart the decomposition process; by eating larvae, they reduce parasite pressure on our grazing animals. In turn, their manure fertilizes the land. Poultry thrives on the insects and grasses they forage. The meat chickens are housed in a modified chicken tractor-style enclosure within a pasture - they have shelter and freedom to move and forage, but are protected from predation (inspired by Ridgedale Permaculture, check them out!). Our small flock of laying hens forage freely throughout the farm, although we close them into a smaller paddock overnight to protect them from predators. They convert whatever they can find (which is plenty!) into amazing, nutrient-dense eggs which we enjoy - and sometimes have extra for sale. All of the poultry are fed certified organic grains, and the laying hens get vegetable scraps from the garden as well. They never get any kind of medication, antibiotic, or dewormer, and are processed at a government-inspected abattoir.