Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sleepy G Farm

On Earth Day, 22 April 2012, we visited Sleepy G Farm - with Marcelle and Brendan, who run this incredible homestead farm on the edge of the Sibley Peninsula near the Sleeping Giant's resting head. The visit was arranged over a story for theWalleye - except theWalleye story was already written and submitted with photos of theirs from previous years. A wild spring snowstorm had interrupted the spring farm story, but I still wanted to visit the farm and take my own shots, and see for myself what they are up to.
It ended up being an unbeatable way to end Earth Day - after a day in the greenhouse planting basil and photographing things growing; new life was all over the farm with babies born before our eyes. I've haven't been able to put it to words...

We got lost on the way out. I was too excited to remember to read (or bring) the directions and was just running on memory from Marcelle's instructions and my image of the farm from photos on their website. Our teenager in the back seat wasn't impressed with our country drive, but I was - there's just something magical about being on the Sleeping Giant.
I admired the farm from the road the first time we passed it, even more so when we drove up to it again. The fields, tilled by oxen, lined the road to the farmhouse and barn, with an irrigation system greeting at the top of the drive.
Met by a friendly farm dog before meeting the farmers, who welcomed us like old friends, I was really surprised at their modest surprise that theWalleye was interested in their story... never mind all the words I wished I could have added to the story. How could we not all be interested in this? Thunder Bay (& area) now boasts a number of these young farms emerging from the landscape with passion and integrity; and its because of people like Marcelle and Brendan that a greater respect for local, ecologically raised food has developed.

I'm glad that both Brendan and I remember the Fort's farm in better days. It deserves that. Even more glad to see his traditional farming knowledge fundamental in their farming philosophy. Simple hard work, ecological farming - people who care about their animals, and the land they live off. They raise Dorper sheep, shorthorn milkers, and field run chickens along with their vegetable gardens.

It was great to see the little chicks; for me an instant flashback to my childhood
 - the smell of the chicken coop, the warming lights on straw, the feed. Hannah was able to hold a chick while I told her what it was like to keep them in the family room growing up, holding them in our laps while we watched television, or letting them run loose in our Lego™ village.

She was also lucky enough to hold a lamb, finally. After years of adoration and only seeing them at places like the Hymer's Fair, or at Featherdale in Australia - here she was on a working farm, seeing sheep being raised for food the way they should be, in the field eating grass, cared for like family. I was happy.

More incredibly, there in the evening sun, as we stood over the oxen yoke talking about farm days at Old Fort William, a ewe gave birth in the yard. Before our eyes an Earth Day lamb was born, and I find it really hard to find the words to describe the sight. It was such a beautiful spring evening; a best memory for sure. 

a new mother and her lamb
moments after birth
on Earth Day 2012
 ewes & babies
spring on the farm

Red and River, the Sleepy G oxen work the farm with Brendan and Marcelle. They are referred to as children, with anecdotal stories of calf-hood and playfulness. Lovely, sensitive animals - they are appreciated greatly for their contribution to the farm.
Red & River
Sleepy G Oxen
Red & River's oxen yoke
at Sleepy G Farm
The irrigation system, cleverly set up to pump fresh water from the creek that runs behind the farmhouse to a raised well near one of the large vegetable gardens, uses gravity to cover the area. The dogs fend off deer and rabbits to the best of their ability, working shifts between belly rubs and long naps. The whole farm is in sync.
onions growing
preparing for transplant
chicks grown up
We left the farm with eighteen of the freshest eggs, and a deep respect for how hard these people work day in, day out all year long. There are no vacation days or sick leave in farming. Their successful CSA program is credit to the extra effort they put into growing great food - organic, healthy, and most of all: fresh. 

You can find them at the Pavilion at Silver Islet every Saturday from 10 am – 12 pm June 30th to September 1st, 2012. Farm products from Sleepy G (including fresh lamb cuts) are also available at the True North Community Co-op in Thunder Bay - on Algoma Street with The Green House (previously Folino’s store).
They also keep up a blog with farm news and photos through their website: 

Brendan Grant & Marcelle Paulin welcome questions and comments. To learn more about their farm, here is their contact information:
RR 1 Pass Lake
Ontario, P0T 2M0
807. 977.1631

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