Raw Milk Victory

Schmidt (right), is surrounded by supporters as he toasts to the queen with a glass or 'Raw Milk' at a courthouse in Newmarket, Ontario

Schmidt (right), is surrounded by supporters as he toasts to the queen with a glass or 'Raw Milk' at a courthouse in Newmarket, Ontario

Local dairy farmer Michael Schmidt finally had his day in court, and the ruling has allowed him to continue offering his raw milk co op.

From the Toronto Star

In a surprise move, a Newmarket court ruled Thursday that dairy farmer Michael Schmidt can continue his raw milk cooperative and that his venture does not break laws against selling unpasteurized milk.

Government officials had little to say about the decision Thursday. But dairy experts say the ruling will spur more cow-share programs to form and encourage the underground co-ops already operating in Ontario to surface. And, they say, it will likely force the government to change its laws to allow the sale and distribution of raw milk.

Schmidt, who operates Glencolton Farms, has been offering raw milk products to the public via a cow share program. From the crown’s case against Mr. Schmidt –

Investigations reveal that Mr. Schmidt has developed a “cow share membership” scheme whereby he sells shares of cows to the public, so that he can subsequently supply them with milk. According to Mr. Schmidt, members pay a fee to care for the milk cows, cows which the cow share owners have purchased a share in (usually 1/4 of a cow for $300.00). he denies that he is actually selling milk or milk products. He suggests that the cow share owners bought a part of the cow, and are therefore drinking their own milk.

The crown case tells us that “In June of 2006, a complaint was received by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs from the York Regional Health Unit regarding the possible distribution of unpasteurized milk”. With nothing else quite as pressing on their hands, the Ministry set up a full scale sting operation, dedicated to doing an undercover investigation in the Schmidt’s cow share program, and the possible other raw milk products which the farm might be selling. There’s no word if the operation was nicknamed “Project Sour Milk”, but wouldn’t it be awesome if it was?

Once officers were finally able to obtain a cow share membership and purchase raw milk, charges were laid against Mr. Schmidt.

Thursday’s decision will allow him to continue to sell raw milk, and raw milk products, and hopefully it will also allow him to expand his cow share membership. I’m not a milk drinker, but I’d love to get my hands on some fresh, unpasteurized cream. I’ve heard you can make gorgeous creme fraiche with it.

Glencolton Farms is just another example of why I love living near Durham. We’ve got what is quite possibly Ontario’s most eclectic community here, complete with Symphony in the Barn, The Words Aloud Festival, The Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film, the Rocky River Cycling Festival, our local Art Gallery and more organic farms than you can shake a carrot at.

Here’s a short video about Glencoulton Farms, made by Markus Schmidt. Watch it, and you won’t find it difficult to believe that animals raised and kept with this much care and respect live healthier lives, and provide us with healthier milk, eggs and dairy products.

All this, and we’ve also got the mystery of the missing cemetery, too. More on that later.

Other people have stray dogs…

Stray cattle

… We have stray cattle.

These guys have been wandering around since Sunday, when I first saw them milling around on our side lawn. Since then, we’ve almost run into them on the road, and they’ve been enjoying an all you can eat soybean buffet in the field across the road.

They got out of a field one concession north of us, possibly spooked right through the fence by coyotes, which have been getting worse in our area. The night before we first saw the stray cattle, I was awoken at about 2 in the morning by the sound of coyotes killing something – something that screamed. My neighbours were also woken up by it – it’s a sound you don’t soon forget, once you’ve heard it.

The farmer got eight of them back, but can’t quite catch up with these guys. Apparently, they’ve been bucket raised (hand fed feed out of a bucket), so they’re usually pretty people friendly, but these six young male Charolais are spooky after almost a week of being honked at by cars and waved at by strangers.

Tonight I caught their attention, and they were willing to cautiously head in my direction, but they spooked when Bunny (unnerved by seeing six rather strange looking and disturbingly large dogs heading towards us) barked at them.

That did it – they turned tail and ran for the woods.

I hope they get home soon – it’s getting cold, and I’m really worried that one of those idiot gravel truck drivers who sometimes speed down our road is going to careen around the bend and take out the whole lot of them.

A short note to an old man

Dear little old man at the Durham Farmers Market:

You are an old man, quite obviously cranky and set in your ways, and used to just saying whatever the hell pops into your mind. I suppose age could excuse this, but I strongly suspect you were like that before the years added up, and the walker was needed. I suspect it, but I’m not sure – perhaps before the years passed you were a sweet and gentle fellow, friend to all, polite to a fault. That doubtfulness is the only thing that kept me from whacking you with my purse on Friday afternoon at the market.

You see, I personally don’t think it’s polite to walk up to a stranger and say “Jeez, look at the mug on that dog – that’s one ugly face. Face only a mother could love, huh?”.

Because, no – no, I don’t think she’s ugly. I don’t think her face is ugly, and she is, in fact, loved by a great many people. More, perhaps, than could love a cranky old coot like you.

I bit my tongue when you said it – ignored you, in fact. Just let it slide, walked right past you. Sean was shocked – he said he was surprised I didn’t ‘kick the crutches out from under you’.

Like I said, I gave you the benefit of the doubt, old man. But my little dog is just as old as you – older, probably, in dog years. I see nothing but beauty in her face, and the fact that you can’t see it? Your loss, I suppose.

I still wish I’d hit you with my purse, though.

French Bulldog Walking in Durham

Sailor and Ellie in the Muddy ElementI spent part of the afternoon walking Sailor and her daughter Ellie in Durham. As always, I brought my camera along, and got some great pictures (in spite of the two feet of mud on the ground).

By the end of the afternoon, I was mud up to my knees, the dogs were mud up to their bellies, and my Element was mud up to the roof. I hate winter, but spring thaw isn’t too far behind on my list of things I loathe.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I cooked a big pot of kick ass pea soup. I made it in the crock pot, and left it cooking on low all day. Served with a loaf of fresh bread, it made the perfect ‘welcome home’ gift after an afternoon wandering ‘downtown’.

I love my crock pot – semi instant food, no waiting.

Here’s the recipe –


1 ham bone, 3/4 cup pieces of leftover ham
3 cups dried whole green peas, split
2 quarts water
2 quarts chicken broth
1 cup onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped(with leaves)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper


1. Saute onions until translucent
2. Add garlic, saute until lightly golden
3. Put onions, garlic and remaining ingredients in crock pot on low
4. Cook for five to six hours – add more water as needed near end

Hastie Tobacco Shop, Durham Ontario CanadaI have some awesome photos of Solo to post, likely tomorrow. In the meantime, a the end of the post you’ll find some photos from our afternoon walk – or see them full sized here.

It’s worth visiting Flickr to see the photo of Hastie Tobacco Shop, the local Durham smoke shop. It’s been there forever, and is fitted with the most incredible built in cabinetry. Look closely in the photo, and you’ll see that each custom fitted cabinet has a sign on it, indicating what was originally showcased in it – toiletries, ‘sundries’, etc. It’s simply too perfect for words, right down to the fact that it was a combination Tobacco Store/Pool Hall. There are still three or four tables in the back.

I imagine that Hastie was a pretty rockin’ place to hang out, in its heyday. I look at it and picture leather jacketed hoodlums, lounging at the pool table, smokes tucked into the arms of their t-shirts.

The store and building are for sale – I wish I could figure out something awesome to put there that would let the interior remain intact. It’s just too perfectly preserved to see it all torn out and sold for salvage.

The Surreal Life, Country Edition – Or, how I learned to give up Lattes and love Durham

Ruth Gordon almost ran me overLast night I dropped in at our local grocery to grab a few groceries, and was almost run over by a chain smoking, wig wearing Ruth Gordon clone driving a mini van. This isn’t as unusual as it would seem, since the average age in my tiny little town seems to be about 101.

Seniors who can barely see over the steering wheel of their cadillacs regularly veer into traffic without signaling (or even noticing other drivers), and parking spaces are considered to be suggestions more than hard and fast rules. The busiest joint in Durham is the Legion (that’s Canada’s version of a VFW hall), and the crossing guard by the local school seems to escort more old guys in rascal scooters across the road than she does school children.

Drive through Durham, and your initial impression is of a typical small town in rural Ontario – not a lot of money, slightly down at the heels, and with a rapidly aging population. You need to look closer to see the changes that are taking place here.

Driving along the main roads and side-roads in Durham you’re struck by the cheerful cacophony of hand lettered signs for eggs and produce.
There is something else distinctive about this farming neighbourhood. You’ll notice that organic farmland is not manicured. You don’t see perfect rolling hills of green or gold, you see nature in its natural state. Wildflowers are abundant on an organic farm. The fields are white with Queen Ann’s Lace or covered in the purplish haze of wild alfalfa.

From ‘A Day in the Life of an Organic Meadow Farm

There’s a paradigm shift taking place in this tiny little town on the shores of the Saugeen River. We’re at the center of the organic farming boom, and this is bringing in an influx of forward thinking, new generation farmers, some of whom sport tattoos and multiple piercings. As one local resident is quoted saying “I wasn’t sure what to make of them at first, but they sure do seem to know their farming”.

They sure do know how to court controversy, too. There’s a local dairy farm where you can buy ‘shares’ in a cow, which entitles you to a share of raw, unpasteurized milk. Fans of raw milk say it tastes better and is healthier than pasteurized or processed milk, but selling it is illegal in Ontario, as local Durham organic dairy farmer Michael Schmidt found out in 2006.

Raw milk legalization bill defeated in December
Issues around raw milk gained a high profile late last year after a raid on the southwestern Ontario farm of Michael Schmidt.

Schmidt, who runs a cow-sharing raw milk operation near Durham, Ont., had his equipment seized on Nov. 21 and was charged with operating a milk plant without a licence.

A number of prominent supporters including celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy and Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara spoke out on Schmidt’s behalf during his month-long hunger-strike protest.

From ‘Got raw milk? Don’t share, Ontario dairy board warns farmer‘, on

With the organic farmers and their families have come more interesting local businesses. Chicory Common sells organic produce and foods, as well as vegetarian options. Their cafe features vegan and fish based lunches, with dinner served on Friday nights. Poetry slams, lectures on greening your house, special orders from small micro cheeseries and farmers and speeches by Green politicians keep the cafe full five days a week.

Bike FaceBike Face sells high end road, mountain and recumbent bikes, along with hand cycles. Bike Face sponsors the Rocky River Cycling Festival, with demos, triathlon workshops, film nights and camping. We see a ton of cyclists in this area in the summer, due to the abundance of accessible trails and roads with wide shoulders (originally there to accommodate Mennonite horse and buggies).

The same trails that bring in snowmobilers in the winter, draw mountain and cross country cyclists in the summer.

Our local art gallery is set at the end of a long, lovely suspension bridge that spans the Saugeen river. We wandered in last summer, expecting to see quilts and water colors of flowers. What we found was an exhibit of kinetic art, featuring ‘Science of the Quotidian’, an installation by Christopher Flowers, and the quirky and ground breaking film ‘The Way Things Go’, by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss.

No quilts in sight, and the only water colors were a selection of prints from the local artists commune/collective, located just behind the gallery in an old converted grain mill.

Durham might not have a movie theatre, but we do have the Symphony Barn, complete with cattle, birds and an assortment of cats. It’s one of the venues of the ‘Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film‘, our local film festival. The films range from independent to animation, and are shown outdoors, in the barn or at our local retro drive-in.

Durham also has the ‘Words Aloud‘ festival of spoken word and storytelling. With entries open to almost anyone willing to step up to the mike, there’s a lively mix of poetry slams, verbal histories and folk lore, with some political action thrown in for good measure.

Against all of this — this mix of new tribe organic pioneers, displaced Torontonian artists and professors, and an aging population of middle class, blue collar workers, we sit on the edges of the largest concentration of Old Order Mennonites in Canada.

Our store parking lots have shelters for horses and buggies, and we share our sidewalks with Old Order women in ankle length dresses and velcro closing tennis shoes.

It’s a rich and fertile mix that encourages and nurtures iconoclastic personalities. What better place for a post punk geek grrl dog breeder to put down roots?