Sunday, August 21, 2011

Harvest Week from Aylmer, Ontario

Welcome to Harvest Week at Rural Revival!

I have invited women from far and wide 
to share with us what 'local' means to them, 
and on Friday, we invite all of you to join us in a local celebration,
by sharing your local experience with us.

Without further ado, here is today's first guest post from Kerry.

Who wouldn't choose to buy local this time of year in Ontario? After all...'Good things grow-ow-o in Ontario-o-o!'. Call me biased, but food grown in Ontario dirt just tastes better! Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the imports we get during the winter months but they have a distinctly different taste.

For Ontario travelers, Highway #3 (aka the Talbot Trail) stretches from Windsor to Niagara Falls and has an abundance of produce available at homemade stands and markets along the highway this time of year. Tidbits along the way include the ever popular Leamington tomatoes (yes, the extras head to the Heinz factory for your ketchup!), the village of Shedden. known as Ontario's rhubarb capital, for fish lovers we have fresh markets along the shores of the Great Lakes (my favourites are Pickerel and Yellow Perch) and our maple trees provides us with sap for maple syrup and of course the Niagara region which is best recognized for its grape production for award winning wines and juices.

Buying local also brings back many childhood memories. Growing up, every year mom would plant a huge vegetable garden in our backyard, as did a lot of the neighbours. There was the tending to the soil to get it ready, and going out to buy seeds and plants that were to be nurtured. This is when the race started between the neighbours, who would be the first to get their garden planted?  Whose seeds would sprout first? Who would have the largest plants? All was fair in gardening until the next door neighbour decided to start her seeds inside!  Last but not least, who would be the first to harvest and have the greatest yield? It was fun to search the plants to see what was ready for picking.

Mom always prepared the extras for the freezer to see us through the winter months. Corn was the only vegetable that was bought from a local farmer and dozens upon dozens of cobs were always dropped at my feet to husk. Today I thoroughly enjoy passing that task onto my own girls! They've been fortunate enough not to have found any corn borers so far!
I'm convinced, though, that it was a top secret mission created by my parents to get me to eat vegetables! I admit as a kid, I wasn't a big vegetable eater. Carrots, corn and potatoes rounded out my limited repertoire while my motto was 'if it's green, I won't eat it.' Many times I was left sitting at the dinner table not allowed to leave until I had eaten that spoonful of a veggie that my taste buds wanted nothing to do with. My argument was that Canada's food guide listed fruits and vegetables together and since there wasn't a fruit I didn't like, I was covered. Since then, I have expanded my liking for some of the green veggies so, another amen to matured taste buds!

For a few years in my teens, summer jobs included picking strawberries and blueberries at local farms but picking raspberries was my favourite; I think I ate as many as I saved. Making homemade jam was always a must. Fruits were usually purchased at local farm stands or at the local sales barn where local farmers would gather once a week to sell their produce. A large number of these retailers were from a nearby Old Colony Mennonite settlement. It's quite something to drive through this area, watching how things are still done the old fashioned way. Here, you can find lots of fresh eggs and produce for sale, handmade wooden furniture and close ups with their magnificent animals. 
While living in different areas in this province, you meet lots of great folk, with many different ideas and uses of their gardens. It was one particular neighbor that introduced me to the use of fresh herbs. Wow, what a difference! Before then my only experience with herbs had been the sage my mom grew and dried each year. Those same neighbors also taught me how to make homemade stuffed jalapeno peppers....the trick, make sure ALL the seeds are out; they were absolutely delicious! But to this day, when these are mentioned, I find myself still profusely apologizing to my husband for a couple of seeds that were missed!

We always knew that fall was just around the corner when the apples were ready. The bushel basket would be loaded in the trunk of the car and we'd head off to the local orchard to pick our own. There was no missing their roadside stand at the orchard entrance. It was the shape of an apple that had been partly eaten. It was often the talk of travelers.  Another apple orchard on the other side of town consists mainly of juicing apples and is made into Martins apple juice sold in stores. They also provide the Boy Scouts their apples for fundraising.
But for some foods, we must give thanks to the bees that help pollinate the trees and bushes and of course provide fresh honey! The small town of Aylmer, ON is the home to a 3rd and 4th generation of beekeepers, who have continued their passion of beekeeping into the family business called Clovermead. What was once started as a small business of selling honey out of the back garage is now a full adventure farm, offering tours, kids’ activities and includes a gift shop, selling everything from beeswax candles to many different types of honey, spreads, pollen, propolis and royal jelly.
Our final local farmer purchase is the great pumpkin. It was always fun to go hunting for that perfect shape that would play host to our jack-o-lantern. This is a local field currently maturing, how many pumpkins can you spot?
Travelling through a local corn maze is our family's last salute to another great Ontario harvest year. Until then we dream and wait for spring to arrive again! 


Kerry is a wife to Michael and mom to two amazing teen girls and four guinea pigs who believe their presence is just as important as everyone else. She has a love for the simple things in life. Pleasures can be found in unique places even if you're not looking for them!

And as a youngster, Kerry perplexed her slightly older cousin, Andrea by putting ketchup on everything she ate. And while Kerry no longer hogs the ketchup bottle during family dinners,  Andrea still manages to perplex Kerry with always closing her eyes whilst having her picture taken.

Andrea (l) and Kerry in the famous Aylmer veggie garden,
sometime in the late 70's.
Photo and gardening inspiration courtesy of 
Aunt Linda (Kerry's Mom).

Please join us on Friday! 



Mary Ann said...

I love the harvest week theme... driving down even farther in the country this weekend I see corn is beginning to be harvested (field corn) and our sweet corn is gone now. I love this time of year. I love your header, too!

Connie said...

Love this post and the harvest theme! I was born in Southern ON...London and travel to Kitchener/Waterloo whenever I can in the Fall! It's just bursting with freshness!

Lynne said...

Wonderful post and one to create interest for travel.

I love our little part of heaven on the western shores of Lake Michigan but reading a post like this encourages a new "place to visit" in my book of, where should we go next!

HARVEST TIME might be a perfect time to plan a visit.

I'll be looking for the huge, already eaten apple!

Buttons Thoughts said...

Oh I do like this story. I also live in Ontario and have many wonderful stories I will see if I can change things around with my Photo Friday or maybe I can make it fit in.
Good idea.
I see a lot of farms being divided up and sold into subdivision land in Ontario I am sure this is everywhere but some of the best farmland has already been ravaged. I praise the farmers trying to keep his land and I do know how hard that is and will be in the future. My hat is off to you all.
I loved ketchup just as much. Nice story. B

Deb said...

I could barely read this post. All I could think of was my dirt tastes better than yours! Good maritime dirt.

~from my front porch in the mountains~ said...

I so enjoyed this :) I love guest-posting and this a perfect way to kick off the end of summer season!
I wanna come see the half-eaten apple, too!
Farming is rough biz, not for the faint of heart who need, and want to know what the yearly paycheck will be. The plight of the farmer is so often dismissed, by those not fully understanding that Farmer is the first person to touch the food that ends up in our homes!
Thanks Andrea! Thanks Kerry!
xo, misha

Stephanie said...

Ontario sounds wonderful! I bet it has a lot of opportunity for photo ops?! Love the pictures! We have Amish in Missouri also.