Category Archives: Clover Hill Heritage Farm

Specializing in heirloom varieties and heritage breeds

Rain, rain, go away, come again after about three weeks.

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Garden Elf, reminding us to not take life too seriously.

This is my garden Elf. He was given to me by my mother about 6 years ago. He makes me smile when ever I see him. As I get ready to head to the farm, I know this little guy will help me from getting that overwhelmed kind of crazy that usually envelopes me at this time of year. I had better take him with me, too.
The countdown has started! In a little under three weeks the voyage begins. So, as usual, there is much to do. This year we will take two vehicles, packed to the rafters, and two trailers. I believe I get the easy end of things as I will be taking my son and the trailer with two seadoo’s on it, and my sweetie will take the one full of everything else…. and two great danes. But what we pack in the cars and trailers isn’t really what makes the trip difficult, it’s the weather.

Shredded tarp

Barn underwater


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Last year in particular was a very long drive. Over three thousand miles through Canada and the United States during some of the worst rain, hail, and flooding in memory. Roads were closed or about to be closed. Detours all over the place. Tarps ripped to shreds and the trailer carrying water like a giant bucket. And worse…houses and farms lost. Crops washed away.
What do those poor people do when the livestock has to be moved to temporary housing, or worse, drowned. Their crops are wasted and will have to be replanted if and when the land dries out and if there is time for it to grow then. Buildings completely under water or damaged beyond repair. How do they cope? My heart was sick for these poor people.
On we drove for 9 days, it rained and rained. In places the highway was the only land for a quarter mile or more on either side of it. I have never felt such unease, knowing that if the water got just a little higher, the highway would be washed away and there would be no where to retreat. Helpless. It was a feeling that stuck with me, too. It wasn’t a feeling that would inspire one to action as there was no action that would have made a difference. There was panic, and then there was a form of serenity, because there was nothing that anyone could do. It was unlike anything I have felt before.
The feeling at the farm, when it rains is different. I am grateful the farm is located halfway up a large hill in the Appalachian mountain range. When the rain falls there, it is welcome, needed moisture and it is restful and serene but you don’t have to go through chaos to get there…unless you are driving.

The barn in the rain

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Marshmallows

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I never used to like marshmallows. They seemed unnatural to me. I didn’t trust the white powdery substance that covers their weird cylindrical shape, and they taste funny. Okay, maybe not ‘funny’, just like sugar.
I get that roasted marshmallows are popular. I get that they are an absolute necessity if you are making s’mores, and I’m not bad-mouthing them without an ingenious solution to what I perceive as the problem.

Marshmallows bought from the store are, in variations, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Dextrose, Modified Corn Starch, Water, Gelatin, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (Whipping Aid), Artificial Flavor, Artificial Color (Blue 1), and sometimes other trace ingredients, flavourings etc. But, in order to make them, you really only need 4 ingredients. Two more if you want to make them fancy. Gelatin, sugar, corn syrup & vanilla. That’s the basics, but you can cover them in toasted coconut and flavour them with pure almond extract, or keep the vanilla and dust them with a wonderful dark cocoa, yum! Or flavour them with Sambucca and float them in your hot chocolate! Or peppermint, and roll them in crushed candy canes!! Okay, so now, you guessed it, I love ’em!

Cocoa dusted marshmallows before they are cut.

Recipe below:

Marshmallows
Prepare your pan approx. (8 x 8 for a nice thickness of marshmallow) by dusting with icing sugar, or cocoa, or toasted cocoanut, or your desired covering for your marshmallow. It will need to be thick enough that the marshmallow mixture won’t soak through and stick to the pan, or you will have trouble getting it out of the pan once set. Set aside.

4 envelopes unflavoured gelatin dissolved in 3/4 cup cold water in a large bowl, or the bowl of your mixer.
3 cups sugar and 1+1/4 cup light corn syrup placed in a saucepan and brought to a boil for 5 to 10 minutes until it reaches 230 degrees on a candy thermometer or forms a ball when dripped into cold water.
With hand mixer or table mixer going at low speed, whisk small amounts at a time of the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture gradually turning the speed up higher and whipping once all syrup is added. Mixture will become very thick. Add 2 tsp vanilla (or other flavouring) and keep whipping until mixture cools and becomes difficult to stir. Mixture will be glossy. Scrape all of mixture into your prepared pan with a spatula and quickly dust the top with whatever coating you have on the bottom of your pan. Set aside to dry for at least 3 hours. Remove from pan and cut into squares. Dip cut sides into your coating and set on a plate to dry for another hour or so. Enjoy!
Tip: Martha Stewart doesn’t coat hers in anything – so she brushes the pan with oil, lines it with parchment up the sides, and brushes that with oil, too, to avoid a sticky mess. So, if you want to do as Martha does… do as Martha does! Her recipe is a little different than mine, but I bet it will still work.

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We’re in for a blow!

This week has been so busy! My son’s 11th birthday was Saturday so after getting all the laundry caught up, washing the kitchen floor, and baking a birthday angel food cake that flopped out of the pan and all over the counter in a smushed mess when it was turned upside down to cool, and the subsequent Dairy Queen ice cream cake was served at the actual party, I had some time on Sunday to do some research and contemplating and daydreaming. So, while the wind was hurling porch furniture cushions onto the grass in the front yard, here’s what I came up with. 

But, I’m ahead of myself. I actually went into Walmart on Friday – something I haven’t done in a very long time and I bought a magazine and a few  bouncy balls that were 2 for $5. I figured the kids (six of them on our block that play together every day) could throw them around outside and entertain themselves for a few hours while I washed the kitchen floor… again. The magazine was Martha Stewart Living, July 2012 issue. Now, I don’t normally buy magazines anymore, either, but this one had a picture of S’mores on the front with a note to the side that said “the s’more upgrade (yes, it’s possible)” and I had to read exactly HOW this was possible.
On Sunday, I actually had time to sit and read. Of course the whole magazine, more or less, is about the 4th of July and the celebrations that go along with the holiday. Recipe’s for lobster bakes, chilled soups, cute table arrangements and settings. The home made graham crackers look pretty fabulous, too, but I haven’t tried them yet.
There’s an article in there about a couple that bought an old camp in Wisconsin and turned around while saving the integrity of the era in which it had thrived. The camp is called “Wandawega Lake Resort” (Google it! You’ll love it! I don’t know how to add a link to it yet, sorry.) and it is charming!  A tire swing, a tent hill, a few cabins, tennis court, horseshoe pit, shuffle board, archery range, the whole nine yards. All set up to enjoy the leisure time of camp. I began wondering how difficult it would be to create a spot like this, with the feelings it conjures of a time when we were kids, enjoying all that summer offers, at the farm. I thought about the corner of our field by the old apple tree, selectively cleared out, it could host a few scout tents and a camp fire pit. A 12′ circle mowed in the field, cropped close to the ground like a golf green to play giant marbles with a dozen or so bouncy balls. A craft cabin for rainy days where wind chimes, tree bark canoes, dogwood baskets, dream catchers and leather arts could be created. A tether ball, and archery range. An outdoor kitchen and picnic tables for group events. And maybe, just maybe a huge free standing fireplace with an enormous hearth down by the pond for winter skating parties. (well, maybe that last one could take a few years)
A Canada Day weekend at our place could turn into an annual event filled with good friends, tons of kids, campfires and s’mores! This thought makes me smile with my soul, as the sky opens up and washes my cushions down the street.

Daydreaming up a storm….

Porcupine got her….

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EllaSo last summer, after everyone else had headed back home, my son to his dad, my sweetie back to work, I was at the ol’ homestead by myself, with my dog. It was a beautiful day, as it usually was last summer. Ella had run into the woods and I was clearing rocks out of the market garden, some of them bigger than my head.
After about 20 minutes, I realized I hadn’t seen the Ella girl for a while and called out to her. Usually, all I have to do is think ‘hmm, wonder where that dog is’ and she appears. But this time, she didn’t. I called again, scanning the tree line on the far side of the field, and still no Ella.
This was unlike her. She usually stuck right around wherever I was, which is why I had no worries about having her off leash at the farm. I went back to the trailer to see if she was hiding in some shade, or if she had found something she was digging up, a favourite pastime of hers.
Nope. Still no Ella.
I got in the car and drove down to the road, and over to the next farm looking for her. No Ella.
Turned around, back up our drive and as I crested the hill, I saw her coming out of the back woods, behind the workshop. She was pawing at her face and looked very much like someone just after they have walked through a spider web. I called to her, she looked up, started toward me and stopped to paw her face again.
Once I got close enough to see her face, I noticed the quills.
Those first few moments, I had no idea what to do. Then I remembered someone telling me to clip off the tips of the quills to avoid tearing the flesh as much upon removal. I ran to the workshop and grabbed some pliers and wire cutters, then to the trailer to get some water and a cloth. Ella followed me. I’m sure she knew I was preparing to help her – the poor little girl. Nine quills in her face and three in her right paw, one of those between her toes.
Once I had a bowl of warm water, a bowl of cold water, and several clean cloths, I backed her bottom up against a wall and grabbed the tip of the first with the wire cutters and clipped off the end. It was quick and Ella hardly moved. The other tips had already broken off with all her pawing at them, except for the one between her toes. I cut that tip quickly, too. Then got to work with the pliers. She was nervous and kept tossing her head every time I tried to get hold of it, but the pliers grabbed quickly and when she tossed her head, it came out.
I thought about wiping the little trickle of blood away before getting to the others but I figured, if that was me, I’d want them all out ASAP – no messing around. I grabbed for the next, and the next, and in less than 5 minutes, I had them all out. Then I washed gently with the warm water, every spot that had taken a quill, and followed it with cold water, only because I thought it might feel better to have cool water over those injury’s. I purposefully didn’t use any soap or detergent in case it could cause irritation to the wound or remove some beneficial bacteria dogs have to help heal wounds. As I wiped the cloth over her face and foot, I was feeling for more quills, in case she had broken them off right at her skin, but didn’t find any more. The one between her toes bled quite a bit, and for a long time. Once I finished, she went to lie down on her bed in the back of the trailer, and shook for a while. I checked on her every half hour for the next few hours, and mostly she just looked sad. I had wrapped her foot in some strips of towel to slow the bleeding and I changed those a few times over the next few hours, but once it stopped, there was no sign of even the smallest puncture wound.
Over the next day I kept her close to me. We drove to Moncton to meet my sister’s plane and Ella slept the whole way in the car. Before we came back, I checked her all over for swelling or redness and found none.
I can’t help but feel we dodged a bullet with this one. We were very lucky she didn’t get any in her eyes or mouth.
I have since done some research on the internet to see what kinds of advice are out there for people trying to help animals after encounters with porcupines, and only one or two sites mention the clipping of the quills. One of those says it is so you can get a better grip on them, and the other says it stops a vacuum that can pull out more flesh if the tips are left on. I’m not sure how this would happen, though.
I can’t remember who told me to clip the ends off, or if I just heard it somewhere, but whomever it was and whenever it was, I am grateful. My Ella puppy is grateful, too.

Beginnings, middles and endings…..

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My dog is lying on the grass at the bottom of the porch stairs. The spot she chose is still straw-coloured from winter, but the sun is warming her as she lay on this bare patch of grass.
We have a high today of 11 degrees celsius. The buds are on the trees but no leaves as yet. Not much in the way of flowers. Just yellow-brown grass and sunshine, but it is a beginning.

I love beginnings. Beginning a new book, the first chapter especially. Beginning a hot vanilla lat­­e` or an adventure. The start of a long walk or a drive somewhere. The first 30 seconds at the dog park when the realization hits, the leash has been removed. A friendship. A romance. A marriage.

The middles are alright, too. I like the comfort of middles. The relaxed atmosphere of being here already for a while and there’s time still. Like Saturday mornings, or finishing a friends thought and laughing with her because you understand. Middles are good.

Endings, I like, because it means there will be a beginning again. And because endings mean rest, renewal, and regeneration.
My dog found a warm place in the sun. She stayed for a while, enjoyed the comfort and the warmth that came from being there. Then I called her inside, which ended her warmth. And I gave her a treat – the smelly liver flavoured kind – which then started something.

Today I am thinking about beginnings, partly because of the weather and my dog, but mostly because I’ll be heading the the farm in a little over two months. I’ll start packing at the beginning of June and this time will be taking anything I don’t use often but want to keep, and all my summer clothes, because the next time I head there will be when I move, at the end of June 2013.

I am thinking about middles because, to be truthful, this dream began when I was twelve, began again when I was 43, and again after I met my love at 44, again at 46 when we bought the farm, and every day since beginning again with each evolution into its’ current-rough-draft-of-a-farm.

I am thinking also about endings. We have friends here, and family. I have a home that I bought eight years ago when my son was only 2, and my dream of home ownership as a single parent was almost outside my grasp. I was house poor for ages to accomplish my wish to have each of my kids in their own room. And in the nick of time, too, as my eldest went away to university the following year.
There are memories here, more than anywhere else in the last 25 years. I will miss it. I will miss the 7 faces of my garden, as it was re-done year after year. I will miss my neighbours (well, most of them) and the kids I’ve watched grow up from birth; my sunny kitchen, the ease of the gas fireplace.
I won’t miss the fuel cost for the fireplace or the electricity, water, & sewer combined costs, the Trans Canada Highway just down the block with it’s accompanying noise, dust and grime covering every surface daily, the organic market prices, the tiny pantry, no kitchen storage, or the front door that doesn’t close properly.
So I tell myself, I can visit friends and family. They can visit me. And this ending isn’t sad at all. It’s becoming a beginning again.

The Wedding

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So I haven’t posted anything about the wedding yet.
I had hoped we would be able to have it at the farm, outside, with guests perched on quilt covered hay bales on either side of a petal covered isle, leading to an alter, with an officiant covered in white robes….but we are still miles away from having comfortable spots for guests to sleep, as well as a decent place to cook for more than 10 people. Wouldn’t it be grand, though, to have some kind of celebration there for our tenth anniversary? Maybe that will have to do.

Enter Loreto Aprutino – A tiny town in Italy, only 30 kilometres from the coast, and roughly 2 hours from Rome, is the magical spot chosen for our wedding.
The bride will be dressed, unconventionally, in fuschia and white with white peony’s and a modest veil; the groom in (of course…) an italian suit, looking every bit the Sean Connery stunt double. There will be photo’s taken outside the town hall, and on the beach and in the cafe and ….. and…. and…. yes, there will be photo’s!
In just under a month, I’ll be there, with my sweetie and my world will begin again. A new chapter that I am excited to read in this book I can’t put down.

After our trip, we’ll be getting ready for our journey east once more. Back to the farm for the summer. Building fences, enriching soil, mapping future pastures and starting construction on the house.
I have been making lists for weeks now, and have narrowed down the tasks at hand, counting back from departure date to now, the things that need to be done. My plate is full, but I like it that way. I can feel the bubbling anticipation and it’s hard to sleep.
Tomorrow is Easter. I have an easy plan for the day. A drive in the country, toss around a glider in the park, pizza and a movie, then sleep. Monday the countdown begins. I’m ready.

I miss my tractor…..

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1951 Ferguson Tractor - the pre-curser to the Massey Ferguson. Man oh Man, I love this tractor!

How is it possible that this born and bred city girl misses her tractor?
I have only used it maybe a dozen times, constant learning curve, all the while my stupidly long legs – the right one specifically – having to bend in weird angles to get the extra stiff clutch to move. Yes, it is a bit of a pain to drive – but WOW! is it beautiful!

It’s home is in New Brunswick, and until the move, I am in Alberta, biding my time, researching all that can be researched about farm animals and growing things. The weather here has been beautiful. The ground is thawing and the buds are on the trees. In New Brunswick it has been about 10 degrees warmer with rain and things turning green. If I were there, I’d have started seeds in the as-yet-to-be-built greenhouse, ordered saplings for planting along the road, and started on barnyard fencing. My beautiful tractor would have started the season with a tune-up and a drive around the fields.

Now, I know that “beautiful” isn’t what farming is based on. I also know that you can produce perfectly respectable, wholesome, natural, GMO free, additive free, hormone free, organic food with an ugly tractor…. or no tractor. But the fortunate opportunity to be able to choose a beautiful tractor to help with the occasional tilling or plowing or pulling before we have found a willing draft horse, presented itself two years ago. I didn’t know the first thing about tractors, but as usual, my gut served me well. I bought it, and the lovely farmer who restored it delivered it to our farm the following evening. Parked it right in the field so I could practice a while before it got dark. He even put some gas in it for me.

This Ferguson has been lovingly restored. It runs beautifully and has been cared-for well. Last summer, we used it to till up the market garden. It was to be 100’x100′ but after 3 hours and some (make that a lot) extremely large rocks were hit by the tiller, and didn’t even budge but had huge gashes in the sides of them along one side of the garden – I decided to be happy with 100′ x 50′ for the first few years. Then I will expand in another direction to save my tiller.

So, as mentioned the tilling took three hours. The rock pulling took three days. I told my son he could make a nickel for every rock he pulled out of there that was bigger than his outstretched hand. It was a hot few days and he worked and worked until I owed him $30.00! I figured, after that, what rocks were in there, could stay in there.

I really think I may be growing rocks. Hope there’s a market for them.


This tractor may help with putting a fence around this market garden. It has a three point hitch and power take-off. I hear there is a power auger that can hook up and dig post holes. It will help with delivering manure from the far side of the barn to the compost heap, then from seasoned compost heap to the garden bins where it will be stored until used. It may even help haul some of the harvest from the pumpkin patch. It may be used for hay rides in the summer, tours of the farm, to bring bales to animals or haul water to the pigs in the lower pasture. It will save my back and help me complete work a whole lot faster.

So although it is a beautiful tractor, it’s not just another pretty face.