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Donkeys and Elderberries by Annick

I was born in the Alps, the French Alps. Twenty-eight years ago I came to Canada, but I first came to Quebec. My first child was born in France, but my second was born in Montreal. I worked in Montreal for a couple of years and then operated an agri-tourism farm near Sherbrooke, which was a B&B and farm. The reason I came to Ontario was my kids.

They were both living in Ottawa. And especially after my son came back from Afghanistan, I wanted to be near them. Here, it’s very close, only an hour. I moved here a year and a half ago.

I arrived by myself, but I had a friend I’ve known for years, and he has farming knowledge, especially with plants. We decided we could work together and share our knowledge, which is how we started the farm.

Our idea was to apply the permaculture ideas and be as independent as we can. We decided to be off-grid, so we built the house to be able to make the donkey milk soap, and to work with the elderberries that we grow.

This is our second year with the elderberries. It takes three to get really good harvests, but we have been getting some flowers and berries, enough we’ve been able to start experimenting with recipes. Elderberries are excellent for your health because they are full of antioxidants but are also good for your skin. They’re very popular in Europe, but less so here, so it’s been fun introducing them to the area. Right now, I’ve infused my oils with the elderberries, and mixed them with the donkey milk for our soaps. This gives them a rejuvenating and moisturizing effect for the skin, which is especially good for sensitive skin and skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis. We sell the soap at the different farmers’ markets in the area, including Wendy’s Country Market, Brockville, Gananoque and Kingston Memorial’s.

The other thing our farm focuses on is our donkeys, who are more than their milk. They’re intelligent creatures who love people, and they’re our assistants. They help us clear fields into pastures by eating the bushes and the grasses. They also pull the carts we use to harvest the elderberries, as well as move things like wood and manure. We have no tractors here. Just the donkeys. It forces us to be clever in how we do things. Like putting the manure along the hill so the rains wash it down into the field we eventually want to put an orchard in. Our products are organic and as we continue to improve the farm, we’re hoping to have more things to offer to the people here.

On small scale farms donkeys could be really useful and I would like to see more of them here in Canada, as they’ve almost all disappeared. That’s why we also do training for owners of donkeys at the farm.

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