I love this time of year. Vegetables are in the garden, the herb garden is full, the flowers with all the rain are lush and radiant with colour. It seems like a full-time job simply to keep the weeds at bay. This year is bittersweet. It’s my last few days at this beautiful farm before a new adventure begins. Olivia has returned from the Tokyo Olympics, the other girls returning from their apartments to take some time together and cook together and share memories of our home for the past 16 years.
When we came to 1020 Gray Road there were no gardens, no herbs or vegetables.
I spent years carving out beds around the house and barn, the stone oven and out in the fields. I loved looking at the seed catalogs and finding old fashion varieties and carefully planting in composted soil. Now there are gardens everywhere, mature and overflowing with fruits, flowers and herbs. The barn that Shawn restored and the land we both improved has never looked so good. It’s a perfect time to leave the farm for someone new.
I’m spending these last days with my daughters and enjoying everything we have built together to its fullest. We’ll eat around the campfire, harvest the abundance of garlic (250 bulbs! What was I thinking!), make pizzas in the stone oven, walk the trails and remember when they were young and we first moved here. Even though I had grown up in a rural area, I really didn’t know much about living in the country. I gardened but it’s different when you are young gardening for yourself versus for many. There were so many things I had to learn like how to store wood properly, using the cook stove, and finding creative ways to keep the heat inside. All of us have learned and become resourceful. These experiences are things that we keep with us and become useful later in life, when the girls have their own families. But for now, we are taking some time to remember the farm over the years we have lived on this land, loving it, hating the chores that went along with it and now knowing how much we will miss it – chores and all.
I’m looking forward to sitting around the fire or kitchen table talking about the barn before it was restored. The girls used the bottom of the silo (which had no floor then) for playing hide and seek even though I had told them how dangerous that was. Not to mention, it was creepy! There were years of pigeon manure on the floor, broken floor boards, garbage from previous owners left behind. I didn’t really have any experience on what to do with all of that. How do you start cleaning it out and building something? The girls were reluctant to get in and do that job. They were much happier playing games, making rope swings from the granary that was once there, pretending to be pioneers. But they did help me and they did clean it out so we could take stock and come up with a plan. We could then see the vision and the way that the barn was meant to be.
We were just recently reminiscing about when we first got Millie, Olivia’s goat. The only place we had for her was a little area in the barn before it was cleaned out. The first day she cried all night. The second night we put the dog out with her. The third night neither of them would go in. We literally had to push them inside and shut the door and then we all looked at each other, listening to Millie crying and the dog whimpering. Ok. in the house we all go – goat and dog – to figure out a better plan. I never told anyone that I agreed to let the goat into the house. Who does that? How embarrassing. We’ve moved ahead a little bit over the years and have built up some sort of knowledge but no doubt, would do it all over again given the opportunity.
Change is hard but change is also good and keeps us moving forward to embrace new things.
We will all shed a lot of tears saying goodbye, it’s been an incredible place for me to raise a family and for us to build this business. I am grateful and proud. The girls have had a wonderful start to their own lives and a deep connection to the land which is really what I wanted from the beginning.
A simpler life; and I think we found it.
About Danielle French
Danielle French and her four young daughters left a comfortable city life behind to spend the next 12 plus years bringing love and life back to a sadly neglected farm and the land it sits on. The farm is on the Oak Ridges Moraine in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe Mississauga.
The adventure evolved into South Pond Farms starting as a small food delivery business to become a vibrant, working event space and destination for authentic culinary experiences, weddings, celebrations, workshops and homemade food products. Danielle was also host of the Netflix series, Taste of the Country.
In 2021, after many hard working years to build the business into the success that it became,she was ready to move away from the farm, passing the property on to a new family under a new name.
Danielle now lives in Peterborough, Ontario and will continue to share her experiences as South Pond Home about the things she loves: cooking and entertaining, exploring, training her dog and offering advice for those wanting to begin their own event based business.
Contact Danielle at Danielle@southpondfarms.ca