Dryer balls

A farmer on a small diversified operation is always looking for ways to add value to products.  A small Shetland flock yields a surprising amount of wool, wool that can be cleaned and scoured and then sold to hand-spinners, felting artists, and crafters.  Surplus wool on many farms is often discarded in the compost heap.  At MacCurdy Farm we didn’t want to produce a throw away product so the idea of the dryer ball was born.

Our general society is becoming increasingly eco-conscious and environmentally friendly.  Wool, some would argue, holds value as a product for the environmentally conscious individual.  How, you might ask, is wool an environmental product?  Answer, dryer balls.78227893_1741260256009893_7153861029032624128_n

Dryer balls, most specifially wool dryer balls, possess several qualities as a product designed to reduce our ecological foot print.  They have been around for a while as a substitute for dryer sheets, fabric softener, and plastic variations of the dryer balls.  Dryers balls work to separate clothing during the drying process when 4 or more are used in a load of laundry.  It is important to note that the functionality and effectiveness of dryer balls are greatly reduced with excessively large loads of laundry.

Dryer balls naturally act to reduce static cling by absorbing water from the load of laundry, which creates a humid environment.  It is important to note that dryer balls are felted at MacCurdy Farm by running them through several wash and dry cycles.  The agitation causes the wool fibres to interlock and felt, keeping the spherical shape of the dryer ball.  Once they are put to use in a load of laundry, the dryer balls firmness allows them to create a better pathway for hot air to travel between the clothing, reportedly reducing drying times by up to 40%, a significant energy savings on your electricity bill during those months when clothes can’t be hung on the line.  In Northern NB, that period of time stretches between late October and early May.

The process of producing a dryer ball, at least with our methodology, involves scouring our raw wool, drying it, and then selecting strands of fibres, preferably coarser wool.  The strand of wool is tightly wound into a golf ball sized shape, at which point we use a felting multi-tool to bond the fibers.  From this point, the wool is pulled and stretched around the ball in the same manner as a handspinner would feed wool to a spinning wheel until the size of a softball is achieved.  A second felting with a multi tool is performed and then the balls are added to a nylon sock, one by one, and are tied off for the wash/dry cycles with our loads of laundry and dryer balls. 76969079_1741260156009903_5366741715740786688_n

Our dryer balls are fairly priced at 4 for $15.  We aim to produce dryer balls with our Shetland wool by tightly winding and then felting all of our wool that does not go to a fibre mill, hand spinners, or felting artists.  All  balls are hand made in a rocking chair in front of a woodstove, well most of the time…haha.   The balls really are a work of love and patience but it is important to note that they can also be used as play toys for cats and smaller dogs, although with dogs they will inevitably pull apart with biting.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Try Hards

In my time as a school teacher I’ve come across many catch phrases, sayings, colloquialisms, buzz words, and derogatory labels.  Students and people in general lay hold to certain terms for one reason or another in their efforts to categorize and make sense of the world around them.   The term, try hard, has been the most perplexing and honestly, the most agitating that I have encountered.

Having been raised by two hard-working parents who were both raised on family farms, I was instilled with the values of trying your best at everything you did, regardless of the activity, simply for the purpose of doing your best.  My parents lived by their principles and I appreciate the power of  principled life now more than ever.  As I grew into a young man, I quickly equated enjoyment with my level of success in a task.  In other words, I didn’t shy away from a tough task but motivated myself to tackle and conquer it.   It was a resolute stickwithitness and it has stuck with me to this day.  If I was mucking out the gutter in the beef barn, then the quicker I did it the more capable I felt.  I was trying hard and no voice of criticism stood in my way.  No voice made me question why I was working so hard.  I lived with the belief that a person was meant to try or work hard at everything they did.  Today, that message seems to have changed.  Voices of criticism have intensified in volume.  Enter the easy button generation.

Recently, I overheard my son and his group of friends using the term try hard.  The term carried a negative connotation with it’s apparent application in their conversation so I couldn’t help but wonder why?  Naturally, within groups leaders and followers form.  Evidently, in my son’s group of friends parity is highly valued.  Maybe his group doesn’t have a clear leader per se or the group values sameness across all areas of life more than difference.  I found myself wondering about the long term effects of a term intended to diminish one’s level of effort in an activity.

It seems that kids today are just trying to survive by doing the bare minimum.  They aren’t striving to become better and as a result they aren’t thriving in their endeavours.  This was always my experience in my group of friends as well.  Within my group of friends there were always peers who took others down a peg, and rightly so sometimes.  However, there are costs and benefits to this approach to friendship.  When ambition is replaced with complacency, people let go of their dreams and live for acceptance of the group.

We have been fortunate with our hired help on the farm.  For the most part, the local area high school students who we employ from time to time, really put their noses to the grindstone when it comes to doing their paid tasks.  There are only voices of encouragement, saying. “You’re doing a great job! Pace yourself.”  Their effort responds to positive encouragement and they can try as hard as they need to finish the humdrum tasks of cleaning out stalls, piling hay, digging fence post holes, etc.

From time to time, I share my life experience with my son and daughter.  I think it is parental duty that helps children prepare for the unknown paths in life.  I try to impart valuable advice to them to help them build skills to thrive in life.  For example, whenever you are doing business with someone find time to talk with them, don’t rush away, but don’t overstay your welcome.  Friendships can be forged, respect deepened, and shared interests opened.  My grandfather and father taught me this valuable lesson.  Don’t be so busy with your life that you disregard your kind and caring nature.  I also teach them to hold doors open, even if you’re in a rush, for anyone and everyone.  This simple act of kindness helps you to find acceptance in putting others before yourself.  After completing university, a friend sent an email to me.  In the email, he shared how the one mark of kindness left an indelible impression upon him: I always held the door open for people coming behind me.  I had no idea that this had such an impact on his life.  I wasn’t trying hard to impress anyone, I simply had an innate desire to show kindness to others.

Farming, and life in general, has ups and downs and all arounds.  Learning to navigate the tumultuous ebbs and flows of life can be a challenging task.  Finding time away from hard work is important to live a balanced life on a family farm.  Thankfully, farms abound with opportunity for a moment of rest.  In fact, these moments are always available to us.  I found and still find myself sitting down to listen to the repetitive cud chewing of the cattle in the barn.  During hay season, I’ll take a moment between loads to lay down and stare into the expansive blue sky to ponder life.  At the farm dinner table, I’ll turn off the busy button to listen to my grandmother narrate tales from her past.  There is always an occasion to turn off the mind and find rest.

My son and daughter both try hard at those pieces of their life that they are passionate about.  Shouldn’t they? Shouldn’t they strive to rise above normalcy? The etymology of the word pursuit means to follow and persevere.  A follower can follow the group or follow their heart and passions.  We persevere or try hard, not to set ourselves apart but to bring our own unique talents and skills to the group.  All sheep need a shepherd, but we can be sheep and shepherds in life where we can help others to achieve and still find achievement ourselves.

In my walk with Christ, I am a follower who tries to continually have a servant’s heart.  Farming is a service? Isn’t it?   I try hard, every day, to improve our family farm.  Sometimes, I tried too hard at the expense of my physical and mental health.  I should have listened to my parents when they said, “Go home and rest,” but my pursuit of a dream to have a self-sufficient family farm trumped my better judgement and the voices of concern and wisdom, went unheeded.  We can try too hard.  Lately, I am learning to let go of negative thinking, grudges, and other unhealthy habits.  Instead, I am trusting God’s will and His promises that I am discovering in His word.  It’s hard not to try hard.

Sometimes it feels as though we are learning a language within a language.  This can be especially troublesome for us as we go through life.  I explained to my son that being called a try hard or calling someone else a try hard can be taken one way or another.  The term carries negative and positive connotations.  Negatively, a person tries to hard that they forget to enjoy the activity that they are doing.  That’s a win at all cost attitude.  Positively, a person tries hard to be the best that they can be in order to improve themselves or better contribute to their group.  We have the ability, as parents, to guide our children through the rapidly changing landscape around them and positively try hard.  My hope is that my son and daughter will continue to try hard in every avenue of life.



Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Inevitable First

Today marked the first day in my three years as a shepherd of Shetland sheep that we had a lamb killed to meet local culinary interests.  The growing demand for lamb in our local area, the expense of feeding the animals, and the ever present debt warranted the right of passage that mostly every sheep farmer must go through.  It isn’t easy; butchering is an emotional experience.

I spent a week mentally preparing for the date, which I left off the calendar but at the forefront of my mind.  Shetland sheep have a way of working their way into your heart and some, more than others, nestle right into our good graces and affections.  Those lambs/sheep will live out their days on the farm as fibre pets, while others ultimately go to the table.  One has to remember that a farmer spends countless hours, around the clock, toiling away at tasks that provide protection for his animals, healthy nutrition for their diets, and safety within their free movement pens only to have the journey with his animals culminate in harvesting the animal.

There are no jokes to be made (bbq this and stove top that) but there is an immense amount of respect that one must show to the animal before and after the task is done.  I sit here writing this next to the wood stove, with the sheepskin I am tawing drying beside me on a rack, thankful that the lamb will provide meat for hungry families and a sheepskin for a lovely throw or carpet.  Every part of the animal has to be used, even the entrails.  Agrarian societies have made use of every part of harvested animals since time immemorial.  Although we now wear mass produced clothing that we buy in clothing stores and animal skin clothing items seldomly find their way onto our backs, we feel it is important to honor the animal that gave his/her life.  I think this sentiment is echoed across many cultures and especially farming communities.

Given that I wouldn’t be killing the animal but helping to dress it and prepare it for the meat-cutter, I contacted a friend of the family who agreed to ethically kill the ram lamb.  I didn’t want to hire anyone with a bloodthirst or inexperience as I wanted it to be swift.  I am thankful to have had the help of this individual who was very calm and collected throughout the whole process.  I believe this is a must.  The animal must be calm before it meets it’s fate.

Culling is a big concern for a sheep farmer.  In the event that sheep can’t be rehomed as fiber pets or sold as breeding stock, the sheep with less desirable traits find their way to the freezer in small farm flocks.  Bad horns, bad feet, bad mouths, and slow gains make for tough decisions.  This year, I made every effort to sell my ram lambs from the past two years into breeding programs in other Shetland flocks.  Out of 7 rams, two were sold to breeders with Shetland sheep flocks, two will be wethered (castrated) and remain in the flock as fiber pets, one has gone to the freezer, and the fate of the last two is undetermined.

Make no mistake, our Shetland sheep are bred primarily for the purpose of meeting the growing demand for wool, either raw or cleaned and scoured.  However, Shetland sheep are also known for very tasty meat.  Although they are small-boned and a primitive breed, they have a high meat to bone ratio even though they dress out smaller than commercial breeds.  Case in point, the quizzical look on the meat-cutters face assured me he hadn’t cut the smaller bodied Shetland lamb before.  Some other Shetland shepherds/shepherdesses have suggested that 12 months is not enough time for the slower growing Shetland sheep.  It remains to be seen.   If we end up harvesting our lambs after a year old, they will technically be called hogget up until 2 years old when the sheep becomes mutton if harvested.

Our plan is to provide the following individual cuts: lamb chops, rack of lamb, leg, shoulder, and ground lamb for the time being until we have more volume to sell a half or full lamb.  With increasing demand, we will be increasing our supply for next year when we introduce a cross-breeding program.


Shoulder, neck, ground lamb, racks, and chops.

Cuts are priced as follows for the time being until we have more readily available lamb and more quantity to sell:

  1. Chops – $10/lb
  2.  Rack of lamb – $10/lb
  3. Ground lamb –  $8/lb
  4.  leg – $10/lb
  5. Neck/shoulder – $8/lb

Our sheep and lambs are fed hay and grass primarily.  They do not receive oats or grain of any type.  They do receive produce in season such as apples, pumpkins, lettuces, kale, and balsam fir trees as anti-helmintics to help with any worm load.  Currently, we only de-worm in the Spring before the sheep go to pasture, which is a year ahead of butchering.  They also receive sheep mineral blocks throughout the year as well to make up for any missing micronutrients.

Due to the relatively small size of Shetland lambs many Shetland sheep shepherds crossbreed to improve carcass yield.  Supply of market lamb is limited until we start a cross-breeding program.  We will most likely introduce a terminal sire to breed our Shetland ewes or a few commercial ewes to breed to one of our Shetland rams.  At this point, we will be able to produce a faster-maturing lamb for meat purposes.  We are considering the North Country Cheviot for our crossbreeding program.

Click, for more information on Shetland meat.




Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Shetland Sheep Shepherd

grazing Shetlands

As some of you may know, I have a proclivity for raising Scottish breeds of livestock.  From the large Clydesdale draft horse to the Belted Galloway cattle to the Scots Grey chicken, breeds of livestock from Scotland and the surrounding isles have always brought about a great amount of curiosity and interest in this Scottish descendant.  This past year, I decided to pursue an interest in a Scottish breed of sheep, Shetland sheep.

In recent years, handspinning and knitting have seen a resurgence in our geographical area as people begin to return to simpler ways and reconceptualize the meaning of the term local.  Market gardening and selling from farm gate affords a farmer ample opportunity to talk with customers and friends of the farm.  While restocking my roadside stand this past Summer, several people approached me and shared that they would really like to be able to purchase local wool for handspinning, yarn for knitting, as well as lamb and mutton for their freezers.  All we had to do was find some pedigreed sheep to start a flock and we could begin to provide for a growing demand in our area.

After spending several months researching breeds I landed upon a smaller statured, primitive sheep breed originating from the Shetland Isles in Scotland.  Scottish Blackface sheep seemed to be in short supply in the Maritime provinces of Canada so they were out of the question, but after browsing the NASSA website (North American Shetland Sheep Association) and sending requests to join several Shetland Sheep Facebook groups I felt confident that we would find breeding stock.  The search for a ram and three ewes was on.

In recent years, the last couple decades really, the breed has seen a resurgence in popularity with small-scale flock keepers due in large part to the breed’s primitive appearance (shorter tails and smaller features). their generally calm and docile temperament, and their maternal instincts.  Shetland sheep have 11 different colorings and 30 different markings.  This variety of colors and patterns make the fleeces from Shetlands highly desirable for handspinners and avid knitters.  When considering Shetlands as a food source, their meat is considered to be very flavorful and high quality.

The Ewes – The Three Ladies

Finding our first three ewes to start a flock took us to Deerfield, NB, which is approximately 3 hours southwest of our farm in Northern, NB.  A long time shepherdess, Dr. Cathy Gallivan, was looking to part with some of her ewe lambs as she had decided to only keep a small flock of retired ewes.  It was a treat to meet my first sheep farmer and talk farming with her at her family’s homestead.  I spent a good deal of time talking with Dr. Gallivan about her experiences with equine livestock in an effort to grab a few bits of information to mollify any lingering worries about raising sheep that were still perturbing my mind.

I’ve learned over the years, from stories and experiences visiting farms, that you should always allocate time towards the development of conversation between farmers.  We can’t treat the purchase of livestock like convenience store shopping.  Although you can flirt with the possibility of wearing out your welcome, gauging the farmer’s willingness to let go of their livestock will signal when it is time to leave.  Speaking from experience, farmers can grow deeply connected to their livestock and experience difficulty letting go of their animals, especially those animals who have journeyed alongside them.  Taking time to develop trust before the transaction is finalized can reduce any sitting tension or anxiety on both sides of the transaction.  It gives you time to inspect the animals, observe their behaviors, and at the very least allow them the chance to get used to your voice.

three ewes

We loaded the 3 ewe lambs into the back of my Honda CR-V.  Don’t worry, I flipped the seat up, installed a divider to keep the ewe lambs from jumping shotgun in the front seat, and laid a tarp down to catch their raisin nuggets.  Pelleted sheep dung is a bad prank waiting to happen, let me tell you.   The three sisters stood tensely for the first hour of the return trip, eye balling me while I coursed through the meandering back roads to the Trans Canada highway and then Highway 17 and 11 home to Point La Nim, NB.  The trip was uneventful, unique and eerily quiet at first, but with the radio on CKNB we pulled into the farm lane just after dark in the beginning of December.  In the dark of night, our breeding stock had arrived at MacCurdy Farm.

Robbie MacRam

The breeding window of Shetland sheep is seasonal.  Generally, the further the sheep breed originates from the equator the shorter the breeding season.  Our ewes arrived at the beginning of December but the search for a ram, and a livestock hauler, took us into the last month of Winter.

In March, after coming to terms on the purchase of a ram from Chassagne Farm in Puslinch, Ontario, our ram finally shipped.  Chassagne Farm is home to the lineage of the first Shetland sheep flock introduced to Canada by Col. Dailley.  Not to be outdone by the three ewe lambs, the ram received a ceremonial trip in a dog crate in the back of the Honda CR-V.  I travelled 2 hours to meet the livestock hauler in St. Leonard, NB where we transferred the ram into the large size dog crate, which my aunt had used for her large sized dog.  Travelling alone again the second time around, my wife wisely chose to stay behind with the kids, I had a two hour bonding window with Robbie the ram, which culminated in him ramming the cage door when I greeted him at the back door of the jeep.  There was no way Robbie would allow me to open the crate and get him into the livestock barn.  However, stubbornness would not prevail.  Distraction would win this battle.  My sister, home for a visit, waved her hands at the other end of the dog cage, while I snuck my hand at the cage opening to grab a horn. Painless victory!  We then proceeded to coax our newest addition to the barn, myself on the curled end, my sister on the raisin pellet end, but were met with resistance like that of a toddler dead set on not going to their room.  In the end, Robbie joined Martha, Rosie, and Ruby establishing our first flock on MacCurdy Farm.

Robbie the ram

Bearing in mind that Shetland sheep, in colder climates such as ours, tend to have a shorter breeding window, I thought the introduction of a ram to the three ladies had a small chance of producing lambs.  Only learning later that some shepherds/shepherdesses avoid breeding sexually mature ewe lambs to allow their body condition to develop, I thought no need to rush things.  In the absence of any witnessed breeding behavior, the opportunity to have lambs seemed a dismal possibility.

Say what now?

The gestational period, pregnancy term, for ewes lasts 148 days give or take a day or two.  If Roberto was successfully able to throw lambs with the three ewe lambs, it would be July 27th before the fruits of labor arrived.  On the morning of July 23, 2017.  I received a phone call from my father, “Justin!”  Busy preparing breakfast, I responded, “Yes?”  There was a pause on the phone, “You might want to come up here,” he spoke, the excitement pouring through the phone.  “Why? What’s up?” I curiously inquired.  “There’s a baby lamb in the pen, get up here!” dad said, and just like that a day had eagerly anticipated had arrived.  My father, like myself, loves animals and does everything in his power to insure that their lives under our care are meticulously cared for in all aspects of animal husbandry.  Given the novelty of a newborn lamb on the farm, I knew the importance of attending to the lamb as quickly as possible.  After all, if there is anything that defines us as a farm, it is our love for our animals.  Unable to contain my glee, I told the kids about the new arrival, we grabbed breakfast on the go, jumped into the Honda CR-V, cleaned and with a human occupancy only rule now in place, and drove up to the farm.  The joy we shared as a family watching the new lamb, Daisy, stumble after her mother was palpable.  I could see the wonder in the faces of my two little ones.  My kids, not convinced of sheep as companions, fell in love with the new lamb…and the next two that followed during the Summer.


After allowing the ewe to clean her lamb and establish a bond with her lamb, I sterilized the remaining piece of the umbilical cord, fed momma, and sat back with my own precious lambs, Cameron and Addyson, to watch a new mother nudge, guard, and teach her newborn lamb.  My lambs repeatedly exclaimed, “She’s just so cute! I want to name the next one Daddy.”  They would each have their turn naming the next two lambs.

Both lambs that would follow, Midnight and Storm, would weigh in at just over 6 lbs, which is at or near the average weight of Shetland lambs.  Shetland lambs are up on their feet in no time, unlike us human beings who take 9 – 12 months to find their feet.  The fact that they stood so quickly on their own made it easy for me to weigh the lambs on my platform scale.  Taking records of the date of birth, weight at birth, conditions of birth, colorings, health status, and any other pertinent information quickly followed weighing the lambs.  Shetland sheep truly are easy lambers with strong maternal instincts that go hand in hand with their hardiness as a breed for our snow filled and cold infused Winters on the North shore of New Brunswick.

To date, my experiences with Shetland sheep have brought a great deal of pleasure to my foray into sheep production.  They love saltine crackers, have unique personalities, are curious, produce beautiful natural colored wool, and provide lots of fodder for story telling which leads me to the story of the last lamb, Storm.

In an effort to learn about the lambing behavior of Shetland sheep and experientially document the tell-tale signs of imminent lambing, I decided, as both a precaution and an educational experience, to follow the last lambing.  I have years of experience in assisting cattle, when necessary, with difficult births but in the equine world of lambing my rating is at nil.  Dr. Gallivan had graciously given me an arm load of books when I left so I wasn’t a complete greenhorn in the area of lambing.  Well, maybe I was.  At any rate, Martha showed behavior consistent with being close to lambing such as getting up and down, making of a bag (udder), dazed appearance, and finally the passing of her water bag.  I thought, “Oh wow, I’m going to witness my first lambing.”  Outside the barn, a thunderstorm crackled, illuminating the sky in the heat of the August night.  Inside the barn, I lay on a stack of hay, praying for a healthy lamb, cowboy hat resting over my exhausted visage.  It was nearing 2 am so I got up, went inside my parents house to tell them that I’d be back up in the morning as the ewe didn’t look to be distressed and would likely lamb before morning.  Oh but that was not the case, when I returned to say goodnight to the animals, there was a brand new ram lamb that only 5 minutes earlier had not taken his first breath.  Amazing!  In the same manner that I had never witnessed any breeding in my flock, this ewe decided to keep the birth of her lamb private, away from the shepherd’s eyes.


As I continue to raise sheep, I find myself thinking that just as these beautiful sheep are under my care, so too am I under the care of my Shepherd.  Psalm 100:3 says, ” We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”  I am thankful for the experience of having these beautiful small-bodied with big personality sheep.  A little over a year later, we are now registered Shetland Sheep breeders with NASSA (North American Shetland Sheep Association).

More to come in the near future on my experiences with raising Shetland sheep on MacCurdy Farm.






Categories: Bay of Chaleur, family farming, farming, MacCurdy Farm, pasture based farming, Shetland sheep, small family farming, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Dancing Farmer: Honor System


Welcome to part II of our blog post on our road side farm stand.  We hope to share some insights into effectively running an unmanned roadside stand to sell your produce, meat, preserves, wood crafts, or any other item fit for roadside commerce.  Our roadside stand has been a blessing to our small diversified family farm operation.

Our roadside stand runs on the honor system.  We do not hire anyone to stand and exchange money, rather we trust our farm supporters to pay the asking price into an honor box, which is under lock and key.  When your hunger for vegetables grown without the use of pesticides,  herbicides, and chemical fertilizers brings you to The Dancing Farmer farm stand at MacCurdy Farm the first thing you will notice is the absence of any workers in it.  Do not be alarmed, we have a system in place.  The honor system.

The decision to employ the use of the honor system was born out of necessity as we needed to allocate money towards infrastructure and operating costs for the first year of small fruit and vegetable production on the farm however, charity is very much an aspect of the system because we want to see people eating well as well as make them feel trusted.  At the moment we employ pickers and farm hands when needed but we couldn’t justify paying someone to work the stand 10 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week.  After a little research online and some conversations with food conscious people about the honor box system use in other parts of our country, we decided to go ahead and try it out.  We had nothing to lose.


Our prices are listed on the chalkboard on the wall as well as marked on any packaged produce items.  A customer simply has to do the math.  Time to put those math skills you told your middle school math teacher you’d never use to work.  To keep things simple, our prices go to the 50 cent of a dollar.  We use competitive pricing bearing in mind that we charge a premium on most of our products as they are all grown according to organic principles.  However, we understand that times are tough in our economically challenged area so we try to keep our prices affordable so that everyone can eat healthy in our region.  You can always pay more if you feel the prices are too low but we ask that everyone please honor the asking price.  From time to time we have talked to people who were a little short on change.  We’ve told them to simply pay the difference the next time they pass by.  On a couple occasions patrons have brought the money they owed to our booth at the Restigouche Farmer’s market.  That’s honesty! We love it.


Honor Box Code

Pay the asking price

If you are short on change, pay the difference the next time.

Cash only.

Place unwanted greens/bad veggies in compost pale

Spread the word.

Feel free to leave comments.

We’re watching you, just kidding, we trust you.

This year we stocked the produce stand with the following items: Strawberries, lettuces, spinach, rainbow swiss chard, radishes, tomatoes (different varieties), hot peppers, green peppers, carrots, beets, kale, dill, field cucumber, English cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, yellow beans, pickles, assortments of herbs, and hanging wave petunia baskets.  Everything sold well with little waste.  Any waste (swiss chard, tomatoes, lettuces) went to the pasture turkeys and chickens as an added source of nutrients.  Minimizing nutrient loss is essential.  Given the location of our farm stand at the base of the farm lane, we restock, empty the honor box, and check the shelf life of the produce periodically through out the day.  We plan on expanding the variety next year.  After a few conversations we made note of some regional culinary favorites that we will grow next year, which included potatoes, onions, zucchini, squash, and corn.  Regretably we only grew some of these items for family consumption this year.

Although work takes us many other places around the farm we always take time to stop and chat with customers especially if we feel they might have questions or have some confusion over how it all works.  A small diversified farm has a steady stream of jobs and tasks, much like the old time homesteaders, but much of our operation is set up within sight of the stand so we are always handy unless we are on our hay, garden, or woodlot acreage.  Availability of produce items is indicated in hand painted wooden signs attached to the exterior of the stand.  As items come in to season, the signs go up on to the wall.

As with any new venture, there is always room for improvement.  Next year we will increase our signage on the sides of the building.  We will have to level off the site with pea gravel as mud and wet became an issue this year.  Improved shelving and a double bi-fold door will also be an upgrade.  Currently, we stock the stand in the morning and bring back into store every night.

For more information on the story, you can check out an article by Bridget Yard of CBC on the Dancing Farmer.

Categories: Agricultural Awareness, Bay of Chaleur, family farming, farming, Food Awareness, four season farming, organic agriculture, organics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

2016: A New Year Brings New Ventures

After a quarter annual hiatus from the blog, we are back with some updates and ready to roll out some new blog posts in the next few months as we build towards more changes and additions on the farm.  Despite our absence from the blog, we’ve continued to plug away at farming on MacCurdy Farm.  Winter has a tendency of recharging the batteries, when sickness is held at bay, and tends to reinvigorate the body.  Lots of quality time snowshoeing on our family acreage helped to reinstill a hope in the members of the family to further establish our transitioning farm.

Multi-season farming has been a goal for Jonathan and Justin since they began to pursue their separate farm endeavours.  Without abandoning previously established elements of the farm, Jonathan and Justin have decided to put their knowledge sets together to increase productivity on the family farm and partner together in the birch syrup, small fruit, pastured poultry, and greenhouse operations.  They’ve both come to the realization that together they can accomplish much more in seasonal aspects of the farm that require man power and brain power.  Who better to partner with than a brother or sister?

Warm me up Scottie!

Warm me up Scottie!

Justin and Jonathan will be tackling birch syrup production beginning in March when the sap starts to run.  They’ve set amibitious goals and have made filling last years crowdfunding backers the first priority for this season, with birch syrup for the market and other stores within Canada to follow.  We’ll be putting out an informative blog series on everything pertaining to birch syrup production in the coming weeks for those of you interested in trying the product.  An informed consumer is more likely to be a satisfied consumer.  We have hopes of potentially sharing our knowledge in the school systems in years to come as well.  We’ve started to prepare our evaporator, sap collection equipment, and temporary sugar shack for our big boil downs to come.  The next few weeks leading up to March Break/Study break will be busy, to say the least.

In other news, Justin and Jonathan have added a wood fired furnace to the greenhouse to get an earlier start in march with herbs, cut flowers, tomato and pepper plants, and some in ground cold hardy plants for the table.  In our winter with the greenhouse, we are pleased to announce that we’ll be able to produce a substantial amount of produce, herbs, and flowers.  Our goal is to open up the greenhouse as flower shop in the Spring to provide hanging baskets, cut flowers, container herbs, and other floral arrangements.  More to come in the coming months.

We will be sharing more about our seasonal adventures on MacCurdy Farm/Nature’s Estate Farm in the near future.  We apologize for the hiatus from the blog.  Jonathan will hopefully be able to contribute his keen knowledge set on everything pertaining to birch syrup in the following months.  Please look for another tab on the website related to birch syrup.

MacCurdy Crest Dartboard Cabinet

MacCurdy Crest Dartboard Cabinet

Taking care of health and family relations have been a priority for us this past year.  Justin has kept busy with teaching school and some small carpentry projects, Jon is constantly studying his craft and mom and dad are busy being busy.  Together, they are very excited to tackle birch syrup, small fruit production, market gardening, our cow/calf operation, pastured poultry operation, and greenhouse growing in the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2016.  We are hoping to satisfy the local palates of our devoted customers and locavores.   Until we get to see you at the market this Spring, enjoy some of what’s left of Winter in our beautiful region in Northern New Brunswick.


Categories: birch syrup, family farming, four season farming, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, small family farming, small fruit, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Beef and Barley Soup with MacCurdy Farm beef soup bone stock

Beef and Barley soup is, without a doubt, my favorite winter comfort and home remedy food.  If the pot has soup in it after two days, send a search party, because I usually like the pot to finish.  My love for this type of soup originated with the Campbell’s Soup variety and now, just as I did then, I can’t stop eating it until the pot is empty.  Even better than that, the nutritional elements of this homemade soup far exceed that of any canned variety.  It’s breakfast, lunch, supper, and in-betweensies when I make this soup.  Hope you enjoy this hearty traditional favorite of the MacCurdy family!

Homemade Beef Stock

You will need a bag of 2 lb soup bones.

On a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, bake the soup bones for 45 – 60 minutes until nicely browned at 350 degrees.  Some people suggest longer at higher temperatures.  You want the bones to be nicely browned before adding them to your soup pot,


  • 2 onions chopped coarsely
  • 2 carrots chopped coarsely
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped coarsely
  • 1/4 tsp of summer savory
  • 1/4 cup of vinegar (Draws minerals out of the bones)
  • I bag of browned soup bones
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt (optional)


Cook in a 4 quart soup pot.  Make sure that the bones are completely immersed in water.  Bring all ingredients to a boil.  Turn down and simmer for a minimum of 12 hours (I did it over night) and up to 48 hours.  The longer it cooks, the more flavor emerges.  Skim the scum as you simmer.  Remove the bones and give to the dogs for a treat if they are still hard.  I used a soup ladle to fill freezer containers with the excess stock that I didn’t use in the beef and barley soup.

Beef and Barley Soup

Soup is Served!

Soup is Served!


  • 8 cups of homemade beef stock
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (You can use a smaller can if desired)
  • 1/4 tsp ground celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of pearl barley (Don’t use too much)
  •  2 cups of stewing beef (cooked or uncooked)
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 1 cup of chopped onion


In a large soup pot (4 quart), add your beef stock, water, diced tomatoes, and spices.  Saute the vegetables in a separate pan or simply add them to the soup after it has been brought to a slow rolling boil.  Add your beef (I’ve used uncooked stewing meat and leftover roast on separate occasions although I prefer cooking the stewing beef into the soup.  Add the 1/2 cup of pearl barley and cook the soup for 45 – 60 minutes.  Taste to check to see that all ingredients are tender and cooked.  Serves up to 12 individual bowls.

Serves well on cold Winter days and during cold/flu season.  Spruce yourself up with this homemade belly warmer.  Finally, a big shout out to Mark Hengst for his cooking wisdom for producing healthy soup stock.

Best. Soup. Ever.

Best. Soup. Ever.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,700 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We’re Here for a Gourd Time

The Fall of 2014 was our inaugural pumpkin picking at the farm.  We planted dual-purpose (carving and baking) organic Howden pumpkins, which many use as Jack-O-Lanterns but can also be used for pies.  However, it’s been said that they make the best pumpkin jam.  120 pumpkin plants were planted late this Spring in hopes that there would be a pumpkin patch for families in our area.  In keeping with our start small/grow big natural farm philosophy, we felt that a 100+ pumpkin plants would allow us to gauge interest in farm activities based around the pumpkin patch, provide pumpkin picking over two weekends, and give kids and parents an opportunity to step outside of their daily routines to have some fun at our farm.




This year, we had a photo zone set up, a guess the weight of the pumpkin contest (won by Annie Robichaud this year), and a feeding area set up with our young pullets (laying hens).  Our feedback form allowed us to gather ideas for next year’s event.  We’ll have signage at the base of our road and parking signs as well.  Others suggested hot drinks, baby chicks, a photo of the MacCurdy Farmer with a cutout for pictures, and a hayride.  Also, given both my mother and I’s educational background, we’ll have information and activities centered around the cucurbitaceae (gourd) family.  We’re thinking along the lines of a blown up picture matching and an information sign on the life cycle of a pumpkin, .  Don’t forget, pumpkins are native to North America so it would be interesting to learn a little more about their nutritional value (organic) and how they grow.  We’ll make sure that these elements of the experience exist during next year’s pumpkin picking.  A perfect blend of education, family time, and fun on the farm.

One of our proud customers

One of our proud customers

Pumpkins retail for $3 (small – under soccer ball size) and $5 (medium and large).  At this time, we do not sell wholesale.  However, we have not ruled it out for next year as our current plan is to grow at least an acre of pumpkins.  For those of you planning on picking a pumpkin, please remember never to carry the pumpkin by its stem.  The weight of the pumpkin can cause the stem to break off, sending the pumpkin to be pureed instead of adorning your entry way.  In the spirit of making more pumpkins available to additional customers, I’ll be capping the number of pumpkins per person to no more than 3 for pumpkin picking.

Ol' Sir Howden

Ol’ Sir Howden

We are located at 29337 Route 134 Point La Nim, NB.  Look for an old barn and a green farmhouse on the south side (not the bay side) of the old road (Route 134).  The farm is situated between Methot Road on the east (Dalhousie way) and McNeish Bye Road (Dalhousie Junction way) on the west.

Guess Howdy's Weight

Guess Howdy’s Weight

Next year, we will be planting Howden, Tom Fox, and New England Pie pumpkins, which all turn orange.  We will also have white varieties like Polar Bear and Moon Shine, as well as miniature varieties like, Jack-be-little and baby bear.  Finally, for the sake of attracting customers we will also grow the Atlantic Giants and Big moose giant varieties.  It’s going to be an exciting year of pumpkin growing and picking.  Our seed will be sourced from either Veseys or Johnny’s Selected Seeds, depending on where organic seed can be sourced.  We look forward to having you to the farm next year, 2015, for a day of farm education, enjoyment, and entertainment,

White pumpkins

White pumpkins

More pictures to come for those of you who emailed or posted your Jack O’Lantern creations to the Facebook page.  The first five designs will make it onto the blog and our pumpkin picking page.

Categories: pumpkin, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Friends of the Farm – Hengst Quality Sausage

Point La Nim, New Brunswick is not only home to our small diversifying family run hobby farm but another local family run business, Hengst Quality Sausage.  In the name of collaboration, we teamed up with the Hengsts this end of summer to produce our first turkey sausages from MacCurdy Farm turkeys.  I know, just like Pavlov’s dog, I’m drooling at the thought of it too.

This summer, while the turkeys grazed on pasture in our fleet of pastured poultry pens (aka. chicken tractors), an idea came to mind.  Small scale farming always has room to consider value adding.  Those of you caught by the addictive game, Hay Day, on your smartphones, will quickly understand the concept of adding value to a farm product.  For example, pumpkins retail for $3 – $5 (depending on the size) but they can be value-added in the form of jams, pies, cakes,  and painted Jack-o’-lanterns.  Value adding allows us, in the case of pumpkins, beans, and strawberries, to find a return on our perishable products that might not sell at our local Farmer’s Market on any given Saturday.  Turkeys, on the other hand, require some more expertise.  Namely, quality production from our neighbour’s up the road.

Market days at Restigouche Farmer’s Market have their ups and downs for all vendors.  On those days when the crowds are waning, I usually saunter over to the Hengst Sausage booth to toss ideas around with Mark and have a tasty mild italian sausage (my favorite) off their grill.  Our conversations cover a lot of topic areas, mostly related to food, but on one occasion we discussed some possibilities for our larger retail turkeys that might not sell.  The turkey sausage idea was born.  Through many conversations with Mark and Jane, I’ve realized that they are just as passionate about locavorism and small sustainable family run businesses as I am.  Like us, they endorse buying seasonal local farm products and, like us, they understand that supporting small farms like ours boosts our local economy and funnels money back into the hands of farmers to help nourish the people of our region.  So, I jumped at the idea to try something new.  I love novelty.

As I came to find out from Mark, and his wife Jane, turkey sausages are quite common.  We talked at length about producing the best product we could with the turkey meat and settled upon mild Italian turkey sausages.  A bit of spice is nice.  To share in the experience of sausage making, I carved all of the meat off of the thawed turkey frame and boiled the flesh off of the bones (You can use up to 10% cooked meat in a sausage).  The meat, fresh and cooked, was bagged in freezer bags.  We bottled the remaining turkey broth as stock and have decided to sell it at the market for all of you scratch soupers out there.  I am a strong believe in using everything from a turkey and a chicken.  It’s healthy and you pay the animal respect by eating all of it.  A quick trip to deliver the frozen meat to the Hengsts and then the magic could happen, sausage making magic that is.

The before picture.

The before picture.

One of the most endearing qualities about Mark and Jane with their sausage business is their openness and willingness to talk about everything related to their operation.  In my opinion, it is a reflection of the knowledge they have required over their 20 + years in business and that passion that so often accompanies the entrepreneurial spirit.  They love to do what they do and they aren’t ashamed to share it.  They are exactly the type of people that we would want to collaborate with on a project handling the meats of our labor.  Their openness has allowed many people who grow and raise their own food in this region to create variety in their culinary selection.  Hamburgers, sausages, and steaks are all equally at home on the bbq grill.

Hengst Quality Sausage

Hengst Quality Sausage

Hengst Quality Sausage is a family owned business.  They use recipes that are over 60 years old with only the best ingredients available.  As Mark says, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.”  Isn’t that the truth.  Mark and Jane’s respect for the older traditions of sausage making are very apparent.  You can see it in their diligence and attention to detail in making and cooking their sausages.  Mark and Jane have been stuffing sausage goodness for over 20 years.  Now, thanks to their automatic stuffer, they can produce sausages at an accelerated rate getting them to grocery store shelves and home freezers at a much quicker rate.  They also have a variety of other food products available from beef jerky to smoked meat.

Mark’s passion stems from his roots in sausage making.  His father was a butcher and a sausage maker who worked as a chef in many of the finest hotels across the country of Canada.  Today, Mark continues to refine his craft as a next generation sausage maker.  Their business continues to evolve in a shrinking market via many pathways including word of mouth and social networking sites like Facebook, which can be found by searching their business name.  Their business finds success through the support of family and a collective effort to make quality the word that stands out in their business.  You can find their sausages and other products at the Restigouche Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning from 8 – 1 pm just across the way from our market booth.  Just follow your nose, it’ll take you to sausage heaven.  Trust me, I’ve tried every sausage they make, including our MacCurdy Farm turkey sausage, and all of them carry that taste that makes you want to go back for more.

Italian Turkey Sausage

Italian Turkey Sausage

I think it would be safe to say that both of our families could be considered Bay of Chaleur locavores who seek to provide tasty and healthy food products for the omnivorous diet in our region.  That is what excited me most about collaborating on this project with the Hengsts.  Tradition and innovation both play an important role in how our businesses evolve in our region.  There must always be a respect for those generations who broke ground ahead of us and a spark within us that seeks to make refinements and improvements while we are at the helm in hopes that something exists for the next generation of farmers and sausage makers.

MacCurdy Farm turkey sausages are available at the Restigoucher Farmer’s market.  Make a note of stopping to have a chat at one of our booths the next time you visit.  Conversation creates relationships as well as opportunities.  It did for us at MacCurdy Farm when we chatted with the Hengsts.

We will soon have a drop down menu on our MacCurdy Farm website entitled, Friends of the Farm, that will share more details concerning Hengst Quality Sausage products as well as other local businesses who use our products in their food creations.  Look for this added site feature in the very near future.

MacCurdy Farm

MacCurdy Farm




Categories: Bay of Chaleur, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm, pumpkin, turkey, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.