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Reflecting on the Season

December 13 2017
The winds pick up. The dull grey clouds roll through. Even in the sunlight it doesn’t feel bright and the sun goes down at 4:30 in the afternoon. I had to shut the water down in the kitchen and barns and blow out the lines to prevent freezing and rupturing the pipes. I’m still tying down the vines to prepare the vineyard for its annual hibernation. It’s a different time now. It’s almost hard to imagine summer these days on the farm.

Evidence of Transformation

September 14 2017
I see evidence of transformation in many places. An intricately patterned caterpillar inching its way towards the ideal location to spin its cocoon and then to emerge, a graceful butterfly leaving the torn remnant of its former life behind. A lobster, its flesh pushing outwards beyond the capacity of its rigid carapace. It molts, shedding its shell and begins the next chapter of its life anew. Its new exoskeleton is vulnerable in the early going, growing harder and more protective in time. I think of these creatures in nature and wonder how people show outward signs of transformation.

Watching the Weathervane

September 05 2017
I thought of Mary Poppins looking at the weathervane and seeing the arrow pointing to a new direction. In the movie this was her cue to pack her magical carpet bag and umbrella and move to a new place. I thought of this as I closed the shutters on the loafing barn windows this past Saturday night. I had never thought of doing this all summer as the weather had been warm and stable. Now I was feeling a change. A change of season from summer to fall. In Toronto, this feeling has for years coincided with the labour day weekend and the air show at the CNE. Here in Hillier it is more about the wind picking up and the clouds moving quickly across the night sky, obscuring and then revealing the waxing crescent moon.

A Late-Ripening Summer

August 31 2017
If I have the luxury of time, I always opt to take the train. A few years ago my mother gave me a triptych of photographs she had taken from her Viarail seat en route to Montreal from Belleville. It was autumn and the changing colours on the trees were at their dazzling best. In the images one can’t make out the trees though. Rather, the pictures convey a beautiful abstract colour field all blurred together through the motion of the train. I love this triptych and I love taking the train for the feeling the photographs evoke. 

Ruth's Cheddar by Land and by Sea

August 23 2017
As we moved into the open water it was clear Champ did not enjoy being on the boat. All that pitching and yawing in the swell of Lake Ontario upset his equilibrium and his delicate stomach. He looked at me with these plaintive eyes I had never seen before as if to say “You have to take me back to shore”. Our very considerate host and captain agreed to turn his worthy craft about and we made for Wellington harbour and terra firma for Champ. Safely ensconced in the back seat of the car under the shade of the basswood trees Champ flashed a smile at me as if to say “thanks doggie daddy. Now you run along. I’ll be fine here”.

Terroir Harmonies

August 17 2017
As I surveyed the people gathered in the dining room last Saturday evening, I spied Peter and Alice Mennacher. Each Saturday I convey the message that we are exploring the relationships between foods and wines grown in a specific place. It is exciting to me to discover the natural harmonies that exist and to share those harmonies with my guests.

Remembering Aunt Myrtle's Preserves and Donald Ziraldo's Icewine on...

August 09 2017
I first started to get interested in canning in the mid seventies, during my apprenticeship in cooking. My great Aunt Myrtle led me down the back stairs of her house, just south of the city limits in Toronto. It was a hot August day and I felt the heat leaving my body as I descended the stairs to the cool depths below. We stood amongst the wooden shelves loaded with mason jars of this year’s production of jams and pickles. I was awestruck by the display. Everything looked so delicious and precious. There in suspended animation, like bottled sunshine, to later grace the table on a dreary February night, stood row after row of mason jars. 

Potatoes & Pinot Noir from the PEC Soil

July 31 2017
Like wizards with long beards, the seed potatoes languished in the dark, cool cellar. The white beard like root stems forced their way through burlap bags that contained them. They mistake the cool subterranean cellar for the good earth where they yearn to grow. I am in my basement looking for something and the sight of these bearded burlap bags startles me. Somehow they got left behind on potato planting day back in early June.

In Praise of Fermentation

July 25 2017
This past weekend was certainly a celebration of fermentation as well. On Saturday evening beginning on the ridge, Dan Sullivan, winemaker at Rosehall Run shared his story of local provenance of wine to a sold out crowd at our summer dinner series. Even though I have known Dan and Lynn Sullivan for many years, I still learned new things as Dan stood and spoke to the wines. 

The Shimmering Heat of Summer

July 10 2017
The shimmering heat of summer in Southern Ontario is back. The vines feel it. They love it, but they could do without the humidity that comes with it. Humans and vines are alike in this way. Along with the shimmering heat comes the hypnotic drone of the cicadas. Listen for a few moments and you will also hear the bluesy drawl of the mourning dove. You are outdoors with your hands submerged in cool water moving the just harvested leaves of lettuce around allowing the grit to fall to the bottom of the sink, when you hear the dove. You skim the fresh leaves out of the sink and into the spinner to pull the moisture away and now the salad is ready to dress and serve with the cheeses.

Ingredients of the Moment, Foraged and Cultivated

June 20 2017
My dog Champ has adapted well to dividing his time between the farm and the city. While in the city he looks forward to his daily walks along the West Toronto Rail Path. This morning, we walked north past the Union-Pearson Express station at Bloor, to Dupont and then back. Champ loves to pause frequently along the way. A fresh blossom caught my eye as I waited for Champ to thoroughly inspect yet another interesting scent in the underbrush. It was the first catalpa flower of the year.

Gently Steering the Ingredients

June 14 2017
The last couple of days of tropical heat and humidity have convinced me that we have come through the long, cool, wet spring and have arrived at summer. Shimmering heat and the cacophony of tree frogs and cicadas has replaced damp coolness and sinister, carnivorous May flies. The veil has lifted.

Sensory Memories and Ephemeral Identities

May 30 2017
There is the same intoxicating profusion of lilacs in bloom. I watch from the kitchen in the loafing barn as our guests make their way past the garden to the top of the escarpment to enjoy an apéritif and passed hors d’oeuvres as they look over the vineyard, now 15 years old, to the village of Hillier, on the other side of the creek. Needless to say, we purchased this property and over the past 15 years have slowly gotten acquainted with the land and the possibilities it represents.

Stage Fright and Show Buzz

May 24 2017
I remember listening to an interview with a famous actor with many years of experience under her belt. The interviewer supposed that after all those years that preparing for a role must be more or less straightforward and certainly much less stressful now than when she was first starting out. “Au contraire” exclaimed the actor “I am probably more fretful now than I ever was and certainly I still have butterflies in my stomach in anticipation of my performance”. In short, I suppose, it doesn’t get any easier. Should preparing for a performance ever be easy?

The Quest for Wood Fired, Clay Oven Baked Bread

May 18 2017
It has been a slow awakening this spring on the farm. The creek is surging. I have never seen rapids in there before. My dad would have loved to have paddled that white water in his canoe! I remember thinking how fortunate we were to have planned the cane raising work bee on April 22. I thought the buds were about to burst on the vines! In reality here we are nearly a month later and the canes are still budding out! It has been cool. It has been rainy. The pale green haze that is everywhere one looks has been slower this year to deepen to the various shades of green that emerge as the new leaves form on the trees.

Warm Autumn Reflections on the Summer Dinner Series

October 17 2016
There was a tang in the air. The leaves on the trees glowed with their Thanksgiving colours that Andy Goldsworthy finds so fascinating. Chase and I made sure there was plenty of firewood around. We would need to get the wood stove going in the loafing barn Saturday evening for the first time all summer. Victoria wanted the Tom Dean “Mercy” burning barrel close to the entrance so that everyone could see the fire from their seats. Crispy Confit of Pork was to be one of the hors d’oeuvres on the ridge so we needed to burn a fire there too.

Polished Gems Around the Table

September 06 2016
Bruno François said to me, “you know Jamie, what I have begun to realize is that more than making my way as a wine and cider maker, I value the friends I have made in the community that has grown here in Prince Edward County.” I agree with Bruno and I am fascinated by how the ground has shifted in this rural region.

On Sundials, Tamales and Limestone

August 30 2016

I am noticing how the sunlight plays on the side of the barn. This year we constructed an arbour covering the area of our outdoor kitchen. The idea was to allow, through the slatted roof, filtered sunlight to enter the space. It is a breezy spot, pleasant to work in, and sheltered from the direct glare of the sun.

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