We arrive pretty late in Toronto but spend a really cool night at Jenn and Jean-Sé’s and their adorable daughter Ella. They are both really good cooks and getting along in between foodies is always a good time. We are looking forward to meet them again after a little excursion in Ontario.
As soon as we left Québec, we go back to English, after a month and a half of French, it requires a minute to adapt but we quickly find our flow back. Our first stop is Orchard Hill Farm. A farm as you would only dream about discover more HERE on this beautiful horse-powered place. We are a little apprehensive before we get there because the conversation by email has been very short so we don’t know what to expect but i really wanted to see how a horse-powered farm works.
It is a really good surprise to realize how doable it is ! The first day, Ken welcomes us and takes us directly to see the horses, we discuss while feeding and then harnessing two horses. He then takes us to the nearby field to flip some hay and create windrows. I help him harness and ride with him, he even hands me over the reins to manage the team ! What a pleasure ! And I learn at the same time a lot of things about cereal cultivation and rotations as well as the various steps, it is fascinating, i take notes really fast trying to not lose any of this precious information while trying to imprint my brain with it as durably as possible. It is our first contact with an organic farmer growing « big crops », till then we have only seen veggie growers, which sometimes did a bit of fruits or raised also animals but the « big crops » so far had remain a bit of a mystery.
We then go over to help his daughter and Marta his wife for the market harvest as there is also a veggie growing area. It is a good time spent with the team talking about the farm business. We are then invited for diner and to sleep over at Marta and Ken’s. They left the main house to their daughter and her family and went to live in a nearby house on the same land, entirely built by them with wood from the adjacent forest. It is a real haven of comfortable and welcoming peace. The food is delicious and we have really nice conversations. We discover Marta’s own garden and her hobby to cultivate plants that enable the creation of various natural dies as well as her own woven creations made through the winter when the farm rythm allows for it. She creates notably a magnificent indigo blue in a small workshop.
The next day, we meet Ken who lets me, under his guidance, harness the horses, attach the tool and lead to the field to flip over some hay ! I am extatic, even if a little nervous because i want to do it right and that it goes well, it makes the possibility of working with horses so much more real to us. The feeling is really amazing and the horses are really nice with me. As Ken says, tractors don’t reproduce and do not provide manure to grow veggies. It is a real solution for the future ! After this, Ken takes us to visit the nearby amish community, they are at the technological edge with regards to development of tools for horse powered agriculture. We go see a tool maker and discover at the same time a little about this very different culture.
When we leave, Thomas and I are convinced that if we find enough land to grow cereals then this venture will be done with horses. It is a real decisive turn of our project as I did think about this options before but neither of us were really convinced about the feasibility of such a thing and I had pushed it back to year 5 of our plan seeing the dubious faces of my trainers during my specialization certificate in veggie growing in Rennes. When we see things in real, we realize much more easily if it is feasible for us or not, if we want to do it or not and it we would be ready to commit the finances and the efforts necessary. That is the beauty of Wwoofing and we would have definitely spent a longer time there to learn more !
However we only stay two days because we need to get on with our traveling and we want to go see the Niagara Falls. Thomas already saw them but i need to see them too. We take the chance to visit a bit the area and we realize that is also a beautiful wine region so we enjoy some wine tastings too of course. These are rather nice and relaxing moments, especially since we are in a very positive mood after having met Ken and Marta ! The falls are grand but the place is so touristy that they lose a lot of their charm. We don’t stay there very long. We also visit the touristic village of Niagara by the lake which is a classic English settling place, a lot of heritage buildings.
The next day we go back to Toronto to spend a little bit of time with Jenn and Jean-Sé, Thomas’ friends. We arrive quite late, the trafic is terrible. After nearly three months roaming in the countryside, we are definitely back in the city. However, the city is pretty bearable with good company and we have a very nice time. There is this BBA evening with a bonfire on Ontario lake shore with their friends, a little bubble of wild freedom in an otherwise very polished urban universe and also an improvised picnic at the edge of the water, just down their building, delicious cookies in a small shop during a little tour in the city and a farmer’s market so packed that we are wondering why there isn’t a bigger hall dedicated to it and why there are so few producers, especially for organic food ! Jean-Sé shows Thomas how to make his legendary rillettes (confit shredded pork belly) and we have the pleasure of enjoying them during apero time, they are delicious ! Here below is how to make them !
Finally after having said our goodyes and making a pit stop for an oil change, we leave Toronto to start our great road trip from east to west !
We start by going to the back country of Ontario. We visit a very particular « farm » thanks to Nicole from the Ferme des Quatre-Temps who kindly put us in touch, the Eigensiin Farm, discover it HERE. Michael and Nobuyo are very welcoming and we are invited for dinner (and what a dinner ! It is absolutely delicious ! One eats well at the table of big time gourmet Chef!) and we sleep on the farm. It is a magical place, made magic through the creativity of its inhabitants, we are charmed.
The next day we continue over to the Bruce Peninsula. We take a break at the Bridal Veil Falls where we discover a macabre spectacle of dead salmons in the river. Some are alive, stuck below the fall. We don’t know if it is the normal result of natural migration or if it due to human activities. We sleep close to Clear Lake.
The next day, on the way, we hear a babyboomer on the radio complaining to be of the forgotten generation (??!! one can really here everything and nothing on the radio) by the politics and doesn’t stop screaming « Boom the vote ». He is so moved by himself that he ends up crying and the radio animator has a hard time getting rid of him, we have a good laugh. « Boom the vote ! ». It is election time in Canada so there are a lot of debates between the various candidates, it is quite interesting to hear them even if the format of the debate doesn’t leave much space for an actual debate of ideas. We pass by a motel with a little quote at its entrance : « If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. » It is both deep and shows the limits of metaphors, i think.
We sleep at a camping Pukaskwa National Park, a magnificent park on the edge of Superior lake, the installations are great and the walks in the forest are breathtaking. We would have loved to take a kayak there and spend a few days. The temperature is still dropping, summer is now well gone, and autumn has settled in.
The next night we sleep on a highway rest area, we enjoy a beautiful sunset (the joys of the roadtrip) and soon cross into Manitoba and the big city of Winnipeg.