Monthly Archives: February 2012

Rural Routes: Old 99 Farm

I have always loved the idea of growing my own food. There is just something so nostalgic about that kind of self-sufficiency. Sigh. But while I adore the philosophy of it all, I am a little lost when it comes to the logistics. So I set off last Saturday on an adventure to Old 99 Farm in Dundas, Ontario.

Now, not to worry, I didn’t just show up on farmer Ian’s doorstep demanding to be educated. I went as part of Environment Hamilton’s Rural Routes project. They have paired up with the Hamilton Street Railway to show off some of the area’s most interesting farms.

We started out at Homegrown Hamilton, an awesome little cafe downtown that serves a mean hummus and tempeh sandwich. From there, an HSR bus picked us up and drove us out to the boonies.

Old 99 Farm operates using the permaculture theory that tries to mimic natural ecosystems in order to increase sustainability. It’s hard to convey just how much detail goes into planning a farm like this, so if you have an opportunity to visit one, I’d totally recommend it. Ian Graham started the farm in 2007 after leaving a long and successful career in business. He is a fountain of knowledge, and was more than happy to share. It’s hard to believe that he used to be, in his words, “a suit”.

The visit started out with a lecture on permaculture in the barn (we had a prime view up in the hayloft), and then we took a tour of the greenhouses and animals. Old 99 grows a huge variety of vegetables, and is in the process of cultivating an orchard. Ian also raises cows, sheep, chickens, geese, turkeys etc. etc. etc. In order to be successful at permaculture, Ian says your farm should be as diverse as possible. It sounds like soooooo much work! (But the fun kind of work, I guess). Check out Ian’s milking skills below….so jealous.

I don’t think I’m at a stage where I’ll be growing my own food, but backyard chickens seem pretty tempting (and easy) to raise. How idyllic would it be to wander outside every morning and collect your very own farm fresh eggs? Ahhhhh….I would look so cute! Now I just need to buy an adorable straw hat and overalls…

If you’re from the Hamilton area, Rural Routes will be back with more events for summer 2012. Hopefully by then I will have my own little flock of feathered friends. I’ll keep you updated 😉

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Larger than Life: Chocolate and Hotdogs

For family day weekend, my fam and I took a little outing to Chocolate: The Exhibition at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. The exhibit takes you through the history of cacao harvest and chocolate making starting in the Mayan era. In all honesty, I don’t really think I got a whole lot out of it, but I would totally recommend it for families with kids. They had a few chocolate making demonstrations, and best of all, some epic-ly giant chocolate props for photo-ops. Nom nom nom.

Also, who knew that chocolate starts out with these massive, wonky looking pods? They extract the beans from inside these pods, dry them out, grind them up, and add sugar and milk fats to make choco. Sounds glamourous eh?

After taking a few too many photos with giant chocolate bars, we went across the street for a bite at Easterbrooks. If you’re from the Hammer, and have never been here, you are missing out. This place is an institution. They’ve been around since the stone age (1930s), and serve awesome footlong dogs, ice cream, and other standard greasy fare.

It’s certainly not gourmet, but definitely tasty. And an awesome throw back if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you’re looking to kill time with the kittens over March break, or just have a spare afternoon, these are both fun destinations. Chocolate: The Exhibition runs until April 15th, and good ole Easterbrooks is open year round. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go continue my hunt for gigantic imitation food items….

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