Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Once there was a way…

…to get back homeward.

But I’m afraid goats have become an irrevocable fact of life as long as I am farming. They arrived as a novelty and have somehow infiltrated into practically every aspect of my life. But I can justify keeping them…sort of.

We’re fast approaching our first year anniversary as goatherds (or as I like to call it, goatslaves) and have passed a lot of milestones: first kidding season, first vaccinations, first drenches for colic, first disbudding, first milking, first loss….We’ve learned to master goat cheese, goat soap and goat manure, the three byproducts from our dairy herd.

I have to regularly remind myself that the considerable investment in feed, infrastructure and veterinary bills will be paid out in rich compost for the market garden. As long as nobody forces me to sit down with a calculator I can continue to believe that.

Moving the steadily accumulating wealth of goat pebbles and bedding is the equivalent to the exercise classes I sign up for but never attend. There are savings to be had there.

Although it’s tempting to argue their worth based on practical considerations, I’d have to say their true value is entertainment.  I spend so much time watching goat antics that I’ve suspended the satellite subscription (which is kind of an argument for both practicality and entertainment). Goats are natural actors and rarely have trouble staying in character. They’re simply built to be hilarious/cute/obstinate/annoying/endearing.

Each has their own role. For instance Reeses Pieces (stage name Rhys or Coco) is by far the friendliest kid of the six offspring. Always the first to greet you, he loves to put his front hooves on you and nibble your collar or hair.  I often wear his hoof prints on the front of my shirt. He’ll occasionally stir my coffee with one of them. He’d make a great agent if we detoured him from his inevitable path towards buckhood.

Sierra Nevada prefers to play a supporting role. She is the barn daycare goat and doulah, who happily hangs with the kids when the moms are busy and accompanies her sister goats during their labour.

King, 170 pounds of shaggy, imposing-looking buck is the least aggressive of the lot with his understated little “meh” that barely registers on the bleating scale and the polite offering of his head over the paddock fence for rubbing. The only time he remotely resembles a leading man is during the rut, but to be honest, he’s mostly  ram without the ‘bunctious.

Cookies and Cream, an aging Nubian diva with a breathy moo she must have learned from a bovine pasture mate at some point,  is the self-appointed matriarch, always the first to the food and the loudest protester when the humans don’t keep to schedule. She has obviously had vocal training because she can project her  low voice from the stage (paddock) to the back of the hall (my bedroom) until she captures her audience (me, trudging down with grain).

Sunshine Girl, a nimble, good-time Toggenburg-Alpine, is the stunt goat. We’re almost certain she made her debut in the circus. She demonstrated early on that she is only behind bars because she so chooses. She easily leapt over the breeding stall gate  to escape the unwanted attentions of the suitor we chose for her and sprang back in with equal vigour when her preferred buck took up residence. She also catapulted onto the Christmas parade float as the fourth goat in the Three Billy Goats Gruff diorama and required some persuading to return among the goats who didn’t make the cut.

The remainder of the goats have walk-on roles in the daily soap opera that makes up the days of their lives. Aspiring starlet Peanut Butter (twin to Reese Pieces and the producer’s darling) delights in slipping her still slender form between the bars of the hay crib to dine at leisure from within and flaunt her privileged position by depositing goat raisins on everyone else’s dinner.

Cookie’s two-thirdlets (we lost a triplet) Marshmallow Creme and Chips Ahoy prefer cameo roles that showcase their sleek brown and white coats and exquisite Egyptian profiles. They’re often found posing with their heads tilted coyly, showing their long arched necks to advantage.

The baby Alpines, Capricorn and Capella are much too dignified to pose overtly, but excel at stealth photo bombing. They’re never detected until you upload the files. Various body parts litter the cutting room floor.

The remaining does watch from the sidelines away from the admiring crowds (unless the admiring crowds have carrots); Bubblegum Girl, Aurora Borealis and Eloquent Mist are backstage ingenues just waiting to be discovered.

No production is complete without the credits:

Cameron McGregor – Producer

Sheila Selby – Director

Joe Renaud – Key Grip

Angie Chaput – Script Editor









All is Calm, All is Bright


As soft the new lain snow beds down

And laden trees bend low to ground

The lowly beasts with muffled sound

Their comfort seek in safe surround.


And I my husbandry complete

A path do trace with eager feet

Toward the golden panes that greet

My weary bones with promise sweet


Of wood-stoked blaze and cushioned bed

Of damp wool-scent curled ‘round my head

As snow-soaked coat and hat quick shed

The cloak of lace upon them spread.


But though my body sore inclined

To seek out hearth and humankind

Does forge its way with intent blind

A silver web my feet entwines.


The moon, hung high, will have her way

Her spell, tight-bound, my progress stays

And stilled, I meet her kindly gaze

My soul awash with peace, with grace.


From the ashes…

“Mom! Quick, call 911. The garage is on fire!”

An infinitesimal pause while the reality sinks in.

Then my feet burst into action even as my sluggish brain is still wrapping itself around the truth: This is happening to me. Me. My property and belongings. A woman of action, I’m completely paralyzed.

Realization dawns. Oh my god the goats are in the barn next to the garage!

Urgency quickly telescopes me back into the moment and my fingers dial 911 as I race outdoors simultaneously giving instructions to the operator and yelling for the rest of the household to free the goats from the barn.

Obscene black smoke smears the normally bucolic view of the square timber outbuildings. The scene is fit for the 11 o’clock news, not my own yard.

I bark out a final instruction at the 911 operator who is insisting that there is no such address and toss the phone, still live, to the nearest person before sprinting to the barn. The goats are milling  in the back stall, eluding all attempts to rescue them. The grip on my heart releases as I see a path forward.

“Pick up the babies and carry them out!” We scoop up the six kids, dump them outside the paddock, then bully a couple of adults to the gate. The balance is tipped, the need to be with the herd outweighs the fear of smoke. The rest follow.

Next the buck pen where the two males need no urging to flee.

The emergency response team has begun to arrive. I stand alone in the field,  surrounded by goats pressing against me. My legs are trembling and I reach out to touch them, seeking reassurance from their musky warmth.

The adrenaline drains and I realize I’m shivering, dressed an improbable combination of black camisole, shirred skirt and gum boots.

Household safe. Goats safe. Time to join the bystanders standing by helplessly as the fire fighters battle in force to subdue the flames. Hugs. Reassurances. A coat thoughtfully draped over my shoulders.

I later discover that what felt like half an hour was only ten minutes; that what felt like half an hour was actually three hours.

Ten minutes response time by the firefighters. Three hours on the scene to completely secure the building.

In the vulnerable aftermath I reflect deeply on the valuable treasures that survived the stench and the ashes of the destroyed garage. They aren’t covered by the insurance, but the fire has in fact increased their value…

A husband, who drove seven hours through the night to be by my side. Family, who dropped everything to come and stand by in solidarity. Friends,  who called, visited and launched hundreds of Facebook messages with heartfelt offers to provide whatever we might need. Strangers, who heard the news and reached out generously. And the volunteer firefighters, young and not so young, who train rigorously, who wear their pagers when on call, ready to interrupt weddings, funerals and family events to respond, and who race to the scene at the sound of a siren  even when they’re not on call.

Yes we’ll rebuild. Yes we’ll refill the garage with tools and gear. But they will never have the same value. And I’m good with that.

Wanted: Hungry Mouths – 2014 Wellspring Gardens CSA Memberships

2014 CSA Memberships

Wanted...hungry mouths

Wanted…hungry mouths

Incubatorship Opportunity


Wellspring Gardens is an organic market garden located in the Upper Ottawa Valley. It is owned and operated by me, Sheila Selby, and my husband Joe Renaud, both of us long-time residents of the area. I’m the gardener and Joe is the invaluable infrastructure guy.

We live, work and play on 150 acres of mixed forest and field, only 3 acres of which is currently under cultivation. We raise pastured meat chickens and turkeys, pastured pork, and eggs in addition to our vegetables.

We are entering our fourth year of operations offering a 30-member CSA program, a booth at the biweekly Deep River Farmers’ Market (DRFM), and possibly a weekly roadside stand or farm-gate sales this year.

Our mission is to provide fresh, locally grown produce using sustainable agricultural practices and promote farmland as a community resource through ecotourism and education. Because our long-term goal is to integrate the present organic vegetable production into the larger framework of a farm B&B and other related agritourism components, we feel the time is ripe to explore an incubatorship. This will not only give a potential farmer/producer a chance to try their wings, but it will also allow us to build expertise on multi-component operations and our future hope for an intentional community.

We are registered with Corocoro Farmstay as a host farm for Japanese international students seeking a language immersion experience in a rural setting. We also support the local high school by offering co-op placements to interested students.

Applicants are asked to submit a detailed project proposal. We will consider either an individual, who would barter three days of labour on the farm for use of the facilities, room and board, or a couple, who would barter a total of four days for use of the facilities, room and board. It is expected that you will keep the revenues from your own project. Of particular interest to us is the construction and operation of an outdoor bread and pizza oven. Raw materials are supplied and we have a local source for organic grains.

You will have access to cultivation equipment (two tractors, flail mower, 5-foot tiller, disks, flat harrow), irrigation, greenhouse, garage with power tools, gardening materials and a client base provided by our CSA membership, the Deep River Farmers’ Market and the Ottawa Valley Food Co-op. We anticipate your participation from May to October, however we are open to alternate arrangements.

Accommodations are a square timber outbuilding, the Milkhouse, which is equipped for sleeping, lounging and light cooking. Laundry, bathroom and shower facilities are in the main house. We also own a family cottage nearby on the Ottawa River where you can spend free time swimming, canoeing or fishing. Driver’s license and vehicle an asset, but not required.

If you would like to discuss the project in more detail before submitting a proposal, or any other aspect of your stay at Wellspring Gardens, please feel free to email, call or arrange a visit.


Phone: 613-401-0879

A Word from Julia

I grew up in what I used to consider a small town in Southwestern Ontario, yet I now know better after living in a few true small towns.  I spent the last four years in Montreal completing a B.Sc in Environmental Science at McGill University. While I chose this degree by chance, it uncovered and cultivated the environmentalist inside of me whose existence was unbeknownst to me at the time.

After completing my degree and embarking on quite a miserable job search, I stumbled upon the possibility of a farming internship.  I jumped at the opportunity as I have always wanted to learn more about organic agriculture and how to produce my own food, ethically.  Whether this internship will bring me down the farming road or simply prepare me to grow a self-sustaining garden has yet to be determined; my future is still a bit foggy.

I wasn’t sure what to expect before arriving at the farm as every single thing would be (and has been) a new experience for me.  I had to accept the fact that I was clueless about everything, which is a feeling I am not used to.  I quickly learned to swallow my pride and ask every question that comes to mind, no matter how obvious the answer may seem!

Despite the sometimes demoralizing cluelessness that ensues, I really enjoy working on the farm.  I feel so at peace and in tune with nature every day, no matter the task, rain or shine, and despite the constant buzzing and biting of black flies, mosquitoes, and deer flies.  I have yet to be given a task on the farm that I dislike or find mundane!  From the transplanting hundreds of tomato plants, to the endless weeding, to the daily animal care, I find enjoyment and repose in every task.  I think Sheila is more enthusiastic about me taking time off from the farm than I am!  I love to be outside and active every day and getting up close and personal with the earth.  I cannot wait to watch the fields become a diverse display of delicious organic fruits and vegetables, and to be a part of such a fundamental aspect of human life.

A friend and fellow gardener said to me before I left, “growing food is simply the best time spent;” I am starting to agree.

Quiet repose

Quiet repose

New Wave Food Lexicon

Today, there is an increasing tendency to question what we eat, where it comes from and how it’s produced. Some consumers are prompted by the rise in obesity and diet-related health problems. Others are responding to food scares and a belief that an industrial production system that treats food as a commodity rather than a necessity is ultimately unsustainable. Across the globe, consumers are actively seeking ways to forge closer connections with their food sources and take more control over what they eat. The result has been a delightful food lexicon that represents the grassroots movement to create alternatives to the industrialized food chain.

Can we change the world overnight? Of course not. Can we improve our own small corner? You bet we can! Here are a few delightful additions to the modern lexicon. At the very least, they’ll spark a lively debate.

Food sovereignty – A policy framework advocated by a number of farmers, peasants, pastoralists, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, women, rural youth and environmental organizations. It claims the “right” of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces.

Foodshed – A foodshed is everything between where a food is produced and where a food is consumed. It includes the land it grows on, the routes it travels, the markets it goes through, and the tables it ends up gracing. A local foodshed might be defined as a simple 100-mile radius.

Locavore – Someone who eats foods exclusively or primarily from their local or regional foodshed or from within a defined radius (often 100 miles). By eating locally, most locavores hope to create a greater connection between themselves and their food sources.

CSA – Community supported agriculture is a small farm model where consumers purchase a share of the harvest in the spring in exchange for weekly baskets of fresh produce. The model creates food communities, promotes sustainable agriculture and allows people to trace their food from field to fork.

Freegan – Freeganism is a boycott of the industrialized food production system. The word freegan is compounded from “free” and “vegan”. Vegans are people who avoid products from animal sources or products tested on animals in an effort to avoid harming animals. Freegans take this a step further, circumventing the economic system by practicing “urban foraging” or “dumpster diving” to recover edible or reusable waste. (Read more at or a thought-provoking documentary, Bin Appetit, at

Mindful eating – A meditative approach to eating that focuses awareness on the positive and nurturing aspects of food preparation and consumption. The mindful eater becomes attuned to the interconnection of earth, living beings, cultural practices and the impact of food choices on all of these systems. Many adopt mindful eating as part of a health and diet regime. (More at

Slow Food – An international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It began as part of the broader Slow Movement, whose goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are paralleled by a political agenda directed against globalization of agricultural products. (More at or at

Incredible edible communities – Cities, towns and villages that have dedicated public and private lands to grow food for the taking. Parks, schoolyards, medians, pathways are converted to garden plots and tended by members of the community for the benefit of all. The models vary from community to community, but the common themes are food accessibility and education, healthy eating and local produce. (Watch a brief video at

Of course, the language is constantly evolving and this list is far from comprehensive. Feel free to submit terms as you come across them 🙂