Monday, 1 October 2012

Harder Heritage Farm - Living The Right Way

    On Saturday afternoon we visited Harder Heritage Farms as part of the "Get To Know Your Farmer" tour sponsored by Harvest Hastings.  We pulled up into the long driveway, and gasped at the beauty of this haven.  Their home looked like a home you would see in a magazine.  Not the magazines where the houses are pompous, but the magazines like Harrowsmith Country Life, where people love their land and the land in turn loves them.  It was so beautiful.

    We were greeted by this great big friendly dog, it was a pretty nice welcome.  Our second greeter was Owen Harder.  Owen and his wife Jackie own this little piece of paradise.  It really and truly feels like paradise.  Behind where we had parked the van was a pen with pigs.  There were two great big sows and their adorable litter of piglets.  While I was watching the babies, I looked down and noticed the mug caked face of the sow.  This gave me the giggles.  While I was hit with a case of the giggles, said pig climbed into her mug hole and rolled around, which brought on even more giggles, and then she proceeded to shake, not unlike a dog, splattering mud everywhere.  It was great.
    In touring the farm (that they personally built), it became very obvious that everything they did had a sound reasoning to it.  They rotate their animals pens.  This allows the animals plenty of grass and natural food, while it also allows the animals (we saw the pigs and turkeys) to fertilize the whole land.  Owen told us that he moved the turkey pen daily.  The trail that was behind the pen where he had moved them was lush and green (evidence that he is really doing something right).  It was really a wonderful thing to see.  

Are they not the cutest little things?
    Owen and Jackie live off of the grid.  Their farm is powered by solar and wind power.  They do as much of their farm work as they can with their draft horses.  To me it is an amazing existence.  I really admire their work ethic, and ethics.  It was so obvious looking at Owen's face, that he loves this life.  I cannot imagine having that kind of strength and level of commitment to doing the right thing.  Right now both Owen and Jackie both work off of the farm, and then come home and tend their farm.  I honestly cannot imagine that kind of commitment to my dream.

    After we had admired the pigs, Owen told the girls that he had something that they would really like to see.  He was right.  He took us over to see the draft horses.  It's funny, but growing up I never really noticed horses, I mean I "saw" them, but I never really took notice of them.  The thing that is funny about it is that is that horses are really in my bloodline.  My great -grandfather and his father before him, and probably his father before him were blacksmiths in Harrowsmith, Ontario.  When my Dad was a boy he would spend his summers with his Grandma and Grandpa.  Whenever Dad talks about his childhood summers in Harrowsmith, he gets this contented smile on his face.  He would help his Grandfather in the blacksmith shop.  It was here that Dad developed his great love of horses (and lots of scars from them).  I sometimes wonder if Dad's love of horses is just the horses, or maybe even a love of his Grandpa mixed in there.  As a young man my Dad worked at the Greenwood Racetrack exercising horses. Dad loved this work.  He would travel with the horses, it was his passion.  Around the time that Mom was pregnant with me, Dad had to give up his love to care for his family.  Anytime my Dad would sees a horse he sizes it up.  He gives the nod of the head in approval of the horse's care, or a disgusted snort if the horse was not being well cared for.
   Although my Dad was a great horse lover, I never really had much occasion to be up close to a horse.  It was not until Grace decided that she would like to try riding lessons that I ever came up close to a horse.  My friend Laura owns horses, and decided that she would teach riding lessons.  Grace rode this wonderful horse named Caviar.  Part of riding the horse, was getting the horse ready to be ridden.   This mean grooming her.  I would sometimes help Gracie reach the bits of Caviar that she could not reach.  Over time, I fell in love with that horse.  I would groom her, lovingly, and when Laura wasn't looking (not because I couldn't, but because I felt stupid) I would wrap my arms around her neck.  It was almost a spiritual feeling.  It turns out that I love horses.
    When Owen showed us his horses,  I asked almost immediately if I could touch the horse.  After permission had been granted I walked up to the gentle giant and rubbed the top of his nose.  I kept muttering "He's so beautiful".  My Dad gave his nod of approval.  It was really a beautiful thing to see, Owen working with his horses.  There was a great respect between them, respect and love.  Here was this huge animal that could easily kill him, and yet it gently did as it was bidden to do.  It is such a nice thing to see someone who obviously loves and respects his animals.

Owen and Jackie built this beautiful
house themselves.
     In Canada we have become overly dependent upon technology.  We no longer remember how to live off of the land, well majority of us don't.  Remember the Great Ice Storm of 98?  Houses in Kingston were without power for weeks.  We were just very lucky here in Tweed.  I worry about winter storms.  What if our hydro were knocked out?  How would we keep the kids warm?  Owen and Jackie would not have to worry about a power outage, as they do not rely on Hydro for their needs.  All of their power needs are met with solar and wind energy.  If you want to talk about carbon footprints, I'm pretty sure that their carbon footprint is more the size of a baby's toe.  They conduct workshops that teach others how to live off of the land.  There are solar workshops and workshops about working with draft horses.  It sounds like it would make an amazing gift to yourself, or the ecologically minded person in your life.

    We had a really lovely time at Harder's Heritage Farm.  All Rowan could talk about were the horses, and how much he had loved them.  It was funny, because of all of my kids I least expected that reaction from him.  The kids all fell in love with those huge horses.  I don't think that is the last time we will be visiting Harder Heritage Farm.  I plan to give them a call in early spring and order one of those turkeys we saw out in the field.  Thank you Owen for our tour, and for allowing us to see a glimpse of your beautiful life.

    If you would like some more information about the farm or about Owen and Jackie's workshops go to their website and take a peak.

I found this neat little clip on youtube, and I thought that you might like to take a peak too.

Please take a second and vote for me.

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