There's a surprising lot of interesting stuff going on around here, and this space is devoted to discovering and sharing it. We'll post regular updates on merchants, activities and events. Look in often and soon you'll see why Meaford calls itself "The other Big Apple".

posted January 29th, 2015
Ontario announces grants for projects for seniors

Ontario is accepting applications for the Seniors Community Grant Program from from January 28 through March 27. The $1 million program is intended to give seniors more opportunities to participate in their communities. Last year’s grants went toward projects to help seniors learn skills (such as cooking or mastering their iPads) and encouraging physical activity (including dance, lawn bowling and tai chi.) So far, the program has supported 179 projects and helped 43,000 seniors across the province.

The Seniors Community Grant Program will support projects that allow seniors to contribute to all aspects of community life. Individuals representing non-incorporated seniors groups, incorporated not-for profit organizations, municipalities, Local Service Boards and Aboriginal groups are eligible to apply for Seniors Community Grants.

As of 2015, for the first time, people over 65 account for a larger share of the population than children under 15.

Learn more about the grants here.

posted January 24th, 2015
Ice fishing in Meaford

When the ice thickens on the protected harbour at the mouth of the Bighead River in Meaford, fishermen and women venture off the harbour wall and out onto ice shacks. There, they drop a line for the Rainbows below.

icefishing2But even if the ice isn’t quite ready, or you just want to try it out without investing in gear and a hut, you can experience the fun of ice fishing just west of Meaford. U Catch’em Charters offers ice fishing on their stocked pond during the winter months. It’s almost luxurious. Settle down in a heated fishing hut to try for Rainbow, Speckled and Brown Trout between 12″ to 24″. On top of that, you don’t need a licence, and there’s no limit. Cost is $50 per person, equipment and hut included.

Location: 205572 Hwy.26 Call 519-538-5333 to reserve your time. Or visit U Catch’em’s website.

posted January 10th, 2015
Cirrus Hill Farm offers a taste of the past

Last time we introduced you to JoAnn McCall and Cirrus Hill Farm, and it’s heritage philosophy.

Heritage breeds are the birds raised before industrial agriculture took over – carefully selected and bred to develop traits suited to the local environment, and to farming practices of a bygone day. They’re self-sufficient and mate and reproduce naturally.

Cirrus Hill Farm specializes in Beltsville Small White turkeys, Saxony Heavy ducks, Khaki Campbell and Welsh Harlequin Light Layer ducks, Buff Orpington and Ancona Dual-Purpose ducks, Ancient Roman geese, Standard White Chantecler chickens, and, recently added, Heavy French guinea fowl (from Quebec, for grow-out only).

Beltsville Small White turkeys, while relatively recently introduced, fit the heritage bill. They were first bred by the US Department of Agriculture during the Depression to help strapped farmers of the era. McCall describes them as “a miracle of traditional selective breeding and a priceless agriculture heritage. This small, busty, naturally reproducing heritage turkey looks like its descendant, the modern giant industrial BBW, but there the similarity ends. Smart and personable, hardy, fertile and strong foragers, layers of delicious eggs almost year-round, they produce a delicious meaty table bird 8-17 pounds in 6-7 months , and will breed naturally in their first adult year.”

Saxony ducks were also bred early in the last century – in Germany. “The Saxony is a very beautiful, productive large duck which grows rapidly on pasture, finishes a less fatty roasting duck of 4-5.5 lbs, and lays as many of their big, rich eggs as any heritage chicken,” writes McCall on the Cirrus Hill Farm website.

Campbell ducks (Khaki Campbell and Welsh Harlequin) date from 19th century Britain. “Both lay very well and will outlay any heritage chicken breed while foraging more of their feed,” writes McCall. “The elegant, frenetically active Campbell has been proven many times to be the champion layer of all domestic fowl, besting the Leghorn in formal competitions.”

The Buff Orpington duck was popular in its 19th century heyday for both heavy laying and eating. “These are the rarest of the production bred heritage ducks we offer,” writes McCall, “and are highly recommended for a multi-purpose farm flock, combining all of the best features for small farm use in a sweet, pretty duck in desperate need of more preservation breeders.”

Chantecler-chicken-at-Cirrus-Hill-FarmWhite Chantecler chickens are Canada’s native heritage chicken breed – a originally bred at the Abbey Notre Dame du Lac at Oka, Quebec in the 1900s. “Brother Wilfred developed a ‘Canadian’ chicken, a dual purpose meat and laying bird, tolerant of bitter Canadian weather, and reputed to continue laying their large, creamy brown eggs through the long winters, when American and European breeds give up.”

Mother Goose was a Plain-headed Roman goose, the breed believed to be among the first domesticated geese in Europe, and might be the geese of the Temple of Juno, who saved Rome from the Gauls by alerting the sleeping sentries of the attack. “These ancient geese continue to be an important commercial breed elsewhere, producing small traditional Michaelmas and Yuletide geese, but are almost extinct in North America. The “tufted” mutation was selected as the standard for exhibition by the APA. Ours are of the original type, surviving representatives of the original, ancient goose, that may have graced Caesar’s feast table.”

Eggs and birds for cooking, in season, can be ordered locally from The Market. Will you notice the difference when enjoying a heritage turkey or goose raised traditionally? As McCall writes on the website, “Duh! So much better than Styrofoam supermarket turkey – prepare to be amazed.”

posted January 3rd, 2015
Heritage birds find new life in Meaford at Cirrus Hill Farm

“Eat them to save them” is the catchphrase of many heritage livestock and fowl aficionados, and Meaford’s Cirrus Hill Farm embodies this practical philosophy. A breeder and purveyor of heritage ducks, turkeys, chickens and geese, JoAnn McCall aims to “help rare breeds of exceptional merit survive for a secure future food supply… [and] see a large, viable local resource flock for each breed, in every county in Canada.” To that end, she sells live hatchlings, started birds, breeding stock and fertile eggs to those interested in raising the heirloom breeds. She also sells eggs and dressed birds to locavores, gourmets, restaurateurs and those interested in trying something different from the standard grocery store fare.

Roman Geese at Cirrus Hill Farm“Inspired by the French ‘Label Rouge’ program of humane, natural husbandry, and the traditional customs of regional French specialty producers, our market birds enjoy an idyllic chick-hood roaming at liberty on lush summer pastures, followed by a relaxed, species-specific finishing program to produce an exceptional gourmet product,” writes McCall on the Cirrus Hill Farm website.

Her ducks and duck eggs have found fans among those in the know. “Waterfowl are almost all tender breast meat, and serve more diners per pound than land fowl,” she says. “Ask a top chef like European trained Teo Paul of Union Restaurant on Ossington in Toronto, who serves our ducks in every imaginable way as specials on his elegantly rustic lovavore menu. Duck is much more versatile than chicken in the kitchen.”

And Sarah Elton, author of the best-selling Locavore: From Farmers’ Fields to Rooftop Gardens” visited Cirrus Hill Farm a few years back and wrote about this local treasure for The Atlantic’s website.

More about Cirrus Hills Farm next time.