The Country Garden

I’m a city girl, but I’ve been in and out of farmland since childhood. Ottawa’s a pretty small city, and it is surrounded by (and encompasses) a great deal of agricultural property. You’d be hard pressed to find anywhere in town that is more than a 45-minute drive from planted fields (traffic aside, of course).


Sign at the farm at 1900 Kerr Line, Foresters Falls, Ontario

Once you get out of the city proper, you start seeing lots of signs like the one above for home-based businesses selling produce and goods that were grown, raised, or made on the property. However, there has been a sharp decline in the number of little sheds that I saw as a child at the end of just about every farm lane. I don’t know what has changed that caused them to become unused; did they become unprofitable to staff? If the booths were unmanned and ran on the honour system, was there just too much theft to make them profitable? Too much spoilage? Was it caused by the change over years in how farms are being run (increasingly, one large farm produces only a few select things and brings everything else in based on the profits, versus the older model of many smaller farms that fed their residents first and then sold the excess, if there was one)? Is it just because there are fewer people living on farms overall, as machines replace manual labour? Or is it because as the larger farms buy up their neighbours’ land, they leave the homes on the property to sit empty? A combination of all of the above, possibly in addition to factors I know nothing about?


Roadside sign for The Country Garden.


The Country Garden’s main area.

However, there are still a few roadside booths going strong. The Country Garden on Queen’s Line is the best example of a successful booth that I know of. The farm itself appears to be tended with a great deal of care. The grass is mowed up to the road, the fruit trees are neatly trimmed, there are flowers planted at the base of all the signs and hanging baskets wherever they’ll fit, the dirt road is without major potholes. And the food, oh the food… I make a point of stopping there every time we’re in that neck of the woods, and I’ve been going for almost ten years now.

The Country Garden is unmanned unless it is being stocked, and hence it runs on the honour system. There is some security in the shape of a lock box and a security camera. This seems to work out well for them overall, although there have been hiccups. Inside the shed there is a board with photos of people who have stolen from the Garden before, along with pictures and a written request for people to help in identifying the thieves. I don’t have a lot of patience with thieves in general, but I think it’s pretty despicable to steal from a small business like that.

The shelves on the outside of the main booth (shed?) are stocked up every day with fresh-picked produce from the farm (which I believe is run by the Martin family). This time of year there is a plenitude of tomatoes, peas, garlic, potatoes, lettuce, and green onions. Of course, this varies by season; I’ve been by in the fall when there are literal trailer-loads of squash for sale.


Inside the shed/booth.


Of course I had to buy a blueberry pie.

Inside the shed (booth?) are shelves lined with preserves, some of which come directly from the farm and others from Horst Homebaking (another local business, which is run by Noreen Horst at 74 Government Road (Foresters Falls, Ontario)). All of the preserves I’ve bough from The Country Garden have been bursting with flavour and not over-sweet, which is exactly how I like them. There is also a fridge that is re-stocked daily with eggs, fresh-baked pies and tarts that would make Dean Winchester weep, pepperettes, and sausages. The freezer is regularly refilled with cuts of beef and homemade ice cream bars.

There are photos on display of the family working on the farm; by their garb I would guess they are Mennonites, but I am not 100% sure. Most of what I know about Mennonites is based on the food I have bought from their booths at farmers’ markets — which has invariably been delicious.

Occasionally there are crafts for sale, like the above ride-on toy digger.

And there are often ornamental plants and hanging plants on offer as well.

If The Country Garden is still running for another ten years, as I hope it will be, I plan on buying fresh local produce and goods from them for all of that time. They don’t exactly have a web presence, but I can tell you that they’re open seasonally Monday through Saturday. They only take cash and, as you’ll have to deposit your payment in the lock box, you’ll need exact change. The Country Garden is located at 3024 Queens Line (Foresters Falls, Ontario), just down from the intersection of Queen’s Line and Acres Road, and close to Queen’s Line United Church (currently not in use). I highly recommend stopping by if you’re in the area. You won’t regret it. Come early if you can, as their stock can run low later in the day.

Fish Stories

According to Wikipedia, the Canadian province of Ontario contains approximately 250,000 lakes annd 100,000 plus kilometers of rivers. This means that about 1/5 of the world’s fresh water is in this province. So I guess it should come as no surprise that many people raised here spend a lot of their recreational time out at “the lake” or “the river”. A lot of us learn to fish from a very young age, which is funny when you realize how few of us ever actually catch enough to cook even a single meal.


Thing 1 fishing.

My father started taking me fishing when I was about five years old, so you’d think that that would mean that I’m an expert by now. Not even close. I mean, I can go fishing in a shallow, weedy area using a spinner lure and worms as bait, and I can catch yellow perch, northern sunfish, and pumpkinseed sunfish like there’s no tomorrow. But I was always taught that, except on those rare occasions where you get a huge specimen, it just wasn’t worth it to take these fish home for dinner. I’ve also caught some monster pike, but they’re not good eating unless you’re truly desperate, as they are slimy, bony, and difficult to clean. Upon occasion, I’ve caught decent-sized walleye and carp, but only in waterways adjoining major cities that I consider too polluted for safe eating.


Thing 2 fishing.

Only in the last few years have I become truly interested in eating the fish that I catch; before that it was 100% catch-and-release. The prize fish for eating around here are smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and trout, with the latter being the most desirable. Of course, this means that this year so far I’ve only caught the one smallmouth bass, which started flopping on the line while I was trying to get a picture and somehow broke my wire leader (which I attached to my line on the off chance that I’d catch a pike, which can bite through a normal line). No, the metal did not snap; the ferrule securing the wire loop slipped open, and not only did the fish get away, it took my lure with it! So that means that really, this year so far anyway, I have been skunked for edible fish. How demoralizing.

It’s still a lot of fun to fish though, especially with my kids. Thing 1 prefers to root through her tackle box and sort through her lures rather than fish. Thing 2 generally alternates between running along the shoreline and seemingly trying to hook herself with her wildly-cast lures. Even so, we have a great time. I’m lucky enough that my lack of fishing success doesn’t mean that my family will go hungry, so we have the luxury of being pretty terrible at it but enjoying ourselves anyway.

Breakfast With a View

I spent the weekend at my in-laws’ cottage, which is built uphill from a lake and hence commands beautiful views from one side.  (The other sides look into the woods, which is quite pretty, but definitely isn’t expansive.) I love that the side overlooking the lake has a screened-in porch where we can eat meals undisturbed by mosquitos and, in the evenings, moths attracted by the lights. I would love a screened-in porch outside of my patio door, despite the fact that I would only overlook my own back yard. I think that almost every summer meal would be eaten out there.

Breakfast on Sunday was two eggs over-easy, a slice of buttered crusty white bread fresh from the bread maker, a grilled chicken burger patty left over from the previous night’s dinner, and a banana.

And of course, then there was The View. What a fantastic way to start the day.

The Scone Witch

One of my favourite places ever to eat lunch is The Scone Witch. I started eating there years ago, back when they only had one location on Albert Street. The restaurant/cafe was in easy walking distance on a lunch break when I worked downtown, and I must have popped in at least once a week. Since then, they have moved their flagship restaurant, and they have three locations in total: one on Elgin (near City Hall), one on Beechwood (across from the Metro and adjacent to Books On Beechwood, which is just as tempting to me as The Scone Witch but for totally different reasons), and an express counter on Cyrville (across from Home Depot). Yes, I actually did like this restaurant before it was cool. How hipster of me.


The Scone Witch entrance at 33 Beechwood.

I am happy to say that the quality of their food has not suffered as the company has expanded. Their scones are flaky, their sandwich fillings generous and tasty, and their side dishes remain scrumptious. Service-wise, I think that increased experience only makes things better. At their pilot location, service was sometimes slow and the restaurant was often over-crowded — which, to be sure, was a problem with running a successful restaurant at downtown, where all office-workers seem to take lunch at the same time. I did make a point of trying to come by in non-prime hours when I could, and that did help a lot. But now that there are different (and more spacious) locations, and the staff is more seasoned, I find that things run more smoothly. Mind you, I haven’t braved the Elgin location at noon recently, either. I think that’s for the best.


The main counter at the Beechwood location.

I think that, over time, I have come to try everything on The Scone Witch’s main menu, although I may have missed some of the seasonal dishes. My favourite is the poached salmon with cucumber SconeWitch, closely followed by the bacon cheese melt. But honestly, I wouldn’t turn down anything on their menu, it’s all mouth-watering.


Poached salmon with cucumber SconeWitch with mushroom soup.

So if you can, head out to The Scone Witch for breakfast, lunch, or afternoon tea. You will not be disappointed. And hey, if they are super-busy and you can’t find a seat, you can always get their food to go — or, in the case of the Cyrville location, that’s the only way it’s offered. If it’s not pouring rain (and this summer, there’s a good likelihood that it may be), bring your take-out to a nearby park and enjoy a picnic. I believe that there are city parks within easy walking distance of all three locations.

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

We decided to forego the the crowds downtown on Canada Day; in retrospect, this ended up being a really good idea because the wait ended up being two to five hours to get onto Parliament Hill. There is no way that my kids would have had the patience for that — even if I did! After all, living in the nation’s capital means we can visit the area any time. Why contend with the crush?

Instead, we headed out to the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, which is away from the downtown core. Parking was out into overflow lots, but otherwise it wasn’t too busy; I’ve seen it more packed when a bunch of school/camp trips all arrive simultaneously. Like most of the museums that are open on Canada Day, the Agriculture Museum had free admission, although we did have to pay $6.00 for parking. So all in all, it was a cheap day out.


Thing 2 checking ever-so-gently petting a sleepy calf.

There were all kinds of special demonstrations planned for Canada Day. We got a chance to check out the Chantecler chicken demo, ice cream making, the Great Canadian Quiz, the kids craft & games station, and the afternoon milking. Of course, we also had to make our way through all of the barns and pens to visit all of the animals. Thing 2, unsurprisingly, was the most fascinated by all of the animals.


Thing 2 on my husband’s shoulders while they watch the afternoon milking.

This kind of museum probably doesn’t have a huge amount of appeal to people from farming communities, where the knowledge to be garnered from the exhibits is part of everyday life, at least in part. I mean, day to day I can’t see the history of canola oil production in Canada being something that comes up, but if you live with livestock then it’s not going to be all that exciting to see them in a museum. However, for city folks like my family, it’s very interesting. I also think that it’s important for everyone to understand where their food comes from and how much time and effort goes into feeding our country. And of course for the kids, being allowed to touch some of the animals means that the place ends up being like a large petting zoo.


Thing 1 checking out the replica root cellar in the food preservation exhibit.

As a home cook, I found the Food Preservation: The Science You Eat exhibit to be particularly interesting. I like how you literally have to walk through the history up to the modern day. I’m also a big fan of area where you can manually control the time lapse video (forward, back, and speed) of decomposing food. I’ve always found that kind of thing to be fascinating.


Jars in the food preservation exhibit.

There is a section of the exhibit dedicated to home canning as well, which is very relevant to my interests.

All in all, we had a wonderful day out! We even got lucky with the weather and managed to avoid most of the rain. We’ve been to the Agriculture Museum many times before, and it never ceases to entertain and educate. I highly recommend visiting this museum if you have the chance.

Ottawa Farmers’ Market

I had my first chance to check out this year’s Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Lansdowne Park this past Sunday. This being Canada (first outdoor plantings generally happen during the Victoria Day weekend at the end of May) and especially with the flooding we’ve had this spring, there wasn’t a lot of fresh produce out yet. We probably have at least a couple of weeks before garlic scapes (one of my all-time favourite ingredients) start coming into season. However, there were lots of baked goods, preserves, freshly-cooked food, and locally-grown plants. It was a rainy, chilly day, but we still had a lovely time. First came the exploring:


The Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Lansdowne Park, with the Aberdeen Pavilion (also known as the “Cattle Castle”) on the left.


Potted herbs for sale.


Maple Country Sugar Bush


Acorn Creek Garden Farm


DiversiTea


Asparagus


The Right Bite

Then of course we had to stop for lunch:


The Hot Potato Company


My baked potato wedge poutine from The Hot Potato Company


Raon Kitchen


Thing 1’s chicken bimbap from Raon Kitchen

Then of course we had to get dessert; this week it was tarts from Savoury Pursuits Fine Foods:


Savoury Pursuits Fine Foods

And then back to exploring!


Linda’s Garden

The weather is promising to be much nicer this coming weekend — actually summery weather in June, who’d’ve thunk it? Here are some of the local markets that are running this (and every) weekend until fall:

Ottawa Farmers’ Market: Orleans
Thursdays, 12:00pm – 7:00pm
Ray Friel Center, 1585 Tenth Line

Cumberland Farmers’ Market
Saturdays, 8:00am – 1:00pm
R.J. Kennedy Community Centre / Cumberland Arena, 1115 Dunning Road

Ottawa Farmers’ Market: Byron Park – Westboro
Saturdays, 9:30am – 3:00pm
Byron Park, 432-454 Richmond Road

Ottawa Farmers’ Market – Lansdowne Park
Sundays, 9:00am – 3:00pm
Aberdeen Square, Lansdowne Park, 450 Queen Elizabeth Drive

The Great Glebe Garage Sale 2017: Fabulous Finds

I found all kinds of neat things at the Great Glebe Garage Sale this past Saturday, although I did try to exercise some restraint and didn’t fill up the entire trunk. Although I did see someone walking past who had purchased a modern spinning wheel, and if I’d found it first it would totally have come home with me. Ah, well. It’s probably best for my budget.

– Miniature T.A.R.D.I.S. from Doctor Who (about the size of a Christmas ornament) with a working LED light on top, $1.00

I was actually pleasantly surprised to find a number of Doctor Who merchandise, which, since it is imported, can be pretty pricey around here.

– Small T.A.R.D.I.S. and Dalek silicone molds, which can be used for baking, chocolate or ice cubes. $2.00

– Aluminum T.A.R.D.I.S. lunch box, $5.00

– Girl Guide doll (an older version of the ones found here), $2.00. I was especially happy to come across this doll because my girls already have dolls in Sparks and Brownie uniforms, and my eldest will be starting Guides this year.

Of course, no day spent rummaging through garage sales comes without a stack of books.

The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls by Elise Primavera (2008), free (for Thing 1)
Candy Apple: Confessions of a Bitter Secret Santa by Lara Bergen (2008), free (for Thing 1)
The Canadian Harvest Cookbook by Jen Sayers & James Darcy (2008 edition), $0.50
The Divvies Bakery Cookbook: No Nuts, No Eggs, No Dairy, Just Delicious! by Lori Sandler (2010), free
Around the World Cookbook: More Than 50 International Recipes for Children by Abigail Johnson Dodge (2008), free
Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual Core Rulebook III, (2000), $10.00 (for a friend who had been searching for a copy)
Monstrous Manual for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, (1993), $10.00 (for a friend who had been searching for a copy)

– Air Zone Punisher Gatling Blaster, $5.00

This was my only purchase that was too large to photograph in my light box, since the gun is almost a meter long. Please ignore the dandelions in the lawn. I didn’t test it to see if it works at the sale as it requires batteries, and I still haven’t, to be honest. I plan to use it as a costume prop, so it doesn’t really matter if it fires. I thought it might be fun to paint it up as a junior version of Sasha, the gun the Heavy uses in Team Fortress 2.

– Pentax MZ-7 35mm camera with a 28mm to 300mm zoom lens, $60.00

This was my most expensive purchase, but also the one I am happiest with. The camera itself is a side bonus; the lens works on my Pentax K-30, which is currently my main camera. My longest lens previously was 200mm, so this is a fantastic find for me.

– Kodak Brownie 8mm film camera, $10.00

This last one is the purchase I am most happy with. I have always wanted a camera like this, not to use (can you even buy 8mm film anymore?), but because I am a bit of an old home movie nut. My maternal grandfather shot his home movies on a camera like this. This camera will happily be added to my collection. I think I need to build a shelf to exhibit them all.