BY JANET DAVIES
Lorraine Schmid and Lori Aselstine are the owners of Thyme Again Gardens, a bed & breakfast and organic farm in Carrying Place, where you’ll also find nutrition and wellness counseling, reflexology treatments and some pretty gorgeous surroundings.
Lorraine, who bought the farm in 1997, grew up in Germany in a town of just 600 people and, as a child, wanted to be a farmer. Her chores included collecting raw milk from the farm next door and helping mother and grandmother tend their vegetable gardens. She says, “I didn’t like it much then, but after living in downtown Toronto, I was a little stir crazy and wished I could get out.” In the 1990s she ran a landscaping business in the city, but she and her business partner yearned for the country and went looking for a rural property where they could have greenhouses to grow perennials. “We looked in Peterborough, east, west, down to Niagara, all over for somewhere not far from the city, close to the highway and affordable.” Not surprisingly they became aware of Prince Edward County.
“A realtor friend told us about it, and it only took one weekend to fall in love with The County and to find and fall in love with this property. We drove down Wooler Road and when we hit the Bay of Quinte I slammed Sue on the arm and said this is it! This is where we need to be.” The first few houses they looked at were a little frightening. “We wanted a fixer upper but not one that needed all new plumbing and electricity. This place had been on the market for years. There were no gardens at all, just hayfields and some big trees, but I thought it was wonderful. What I appreciated most was the quiet.”
Lorraine cheerfully admits that after 10 years living downtown Toronto she was suffering road rage. Even so, she commuted to the city for years until her County weekends grew longer and longer and she made the break. “As soon as I hit Port Hope on the way here, I would relax. I would turn off the highway at Brighton and roll down the windows and sometimes just stop the car, get out and listen to the frogs and birds. I would breathe and say I’m home. The city is great, but at 34 I was slowing down and wanted peace and quiet. I lived on a major thoroughfare with streetcars and lots of traffic, and my landscaping work was usually right beside the road with cars roaring by, noise and honking. I’d had enough.
I began growing vegetables and herbs right away. I was so proud of my cabbages! At a weekend workshop through the Ecological Farmers Association I met a farming couple, Ken and Joan Marriset who had a dairy farm near East Lake and were transitioning to organic farming. They became my mentors. Don’t think I’m weird but when I visited them and went to their barn I was enchanted by the smell of manure. I walked in and thought Yes, this is what I want to do. Stop and smell the manure! Wintertime, when all the animals are indoors, is my favourite time in a barn. It smells so rich and warm and earthy, it smells of life.
I helped them on their farm. I was such a city girl but the cows didn’t mind. I felt terrified and amazed when I touched these gigantic animals, it was pretty empowering for me and I set off from there. I got six laying chickens and invited a local farmer to graze his cows on our land, and then three Shetland sheep came next. At first they were mostly for lawn cutting but I had studied Fine Art, Art History and fibre art, so I wanted to work with that beautiful wool, so the flock grew. When Lori came to live with me we got our own cows, beef cattle and a dual breed you can milk, too, and now we have cows, sheep, pigs and chickens.
NUTRITION AND WELLNESS COUNSELLING
I became interested in nutrition when we took our organic vegetables and meat to the markets and people would ask “Why is this better? How is it good for me?” and I could not really answer. I was doing reflexology after seeing the huge difference my foot massages made to a friend who was ill with AIDS, and as I went deeper into studying reflexology and treating people I often felt blockages in their digestive systems. So I studied the fundamentals, protein, fats, carbohydrates etc. But a course called Nutrition and the Environment really blew me away by explaining how nutrition starts with the soil. With my newfound knowledge I now grow vegetables in the healthiest way and I develop my own recipes. We do Kitchen Table Talks at Thyme Again on things like seasonal eating and how to use unfamiliar vegetables. The talks are free and about an hour long. We cook and talk and taste. With nutrition clients I explore the garden and work with them in the kitchen. I feel it is a perfect circle – organics and nutrition and reflexology.
THYME AGAIN CUSTOMERS
Lori takes up the story. “Our customers are a real mix, including city people who have moved here or just come in summer, B&B guests who buy our meat and vegetables and local people. Some people choose our B&B because we are an organic farm, others don’t know we’re a farm until they get here, but then they are really interested. For the most part our guests are like-minded people who, even if they don’t live as we do, they want to try it for a while. We remember when we were like that – a little green, eager to learn and experience. Others who visit already know a lot about where food comes from and are concerned about animal welfare. Recently a guest who had told us she doesn’t eat meat surprised us by buying some of our meat before she left. She said she’s only vegetarian when she doesn’t know where the meat is from. Being here with us she saw how the animals were treated and was eager to try our meat. Customers like that really make our day!
Many of our customers have had a bit of a tour of our farm at one time or another. When people see how a small organic farm works they understand why some things cost more, how much work it takes. We are lucky to get help from a wide array of volunteers, including young people from all around the world through the WWOOF program, and high school students from the Toronto Waldorf School. Our volunteers leave with an understanding of where food comes from and what it takes to get it on the table.
CONSECON & CARRYING PLACE
Up here there are not as many stores as in Bloomfield and Wellington, not as many restaurants either. It’s not very “touristy”. When people ask about restaurants, I often recommend Trenton because it has good places and is closer than Wellington and much closer than Bloomfield and Picton. When people are relaxing here, they don’t want to go very far. Sometimes they eat big meals during the day so they don’t have to go out at night, or they pick up something to bring back to the B&B. We love this area, just 20 minutes to the highway, but it’s surprising how many people don’t know about it, maybe because Consecon and Carrying Place don’t feature much in County promotion. Some guests have told us they want to take a drive down to The County, and we tell them they’re already in The County! It’s more farm and water related activities here. Maple in the County has events up here. We are not experiencing the rush of people moving in here, but awareness is growing.
One last thing. The County is a big place, but it’s not THAT big. You can drive from one end to the other in under an hour. But when we drove city friends from our place down to Waupoos Winery, about 40 minutes, they were going Oh my God, how LONG is this going to take? I pointed out it takes an hour and a half to get across Toronto and they do that all the time. They said, “But when you’re sitting in traffic or on a bus it doesn’t feel as long.” Well, we would rather spend 40 minutes driving through nice scenery than crawling along all choked up in traffic. I guess we’re real County girls now.
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