Oulton’s Farm: Bringing home the bacon.

My love and I went to Oulton’s Farm in Windsor, Nova Scotia, this weekend to buy meat. We don’t often buy meat, my love and I, because the freezer is usually full of carnivorous delights that Himself has dragged home from field and forest: gutted, plucked, skinned (or ‘skun’ to use the correct terminology), butchered and wrapped and frozen with loving blood-encrusted hands.

Goose, duck, deer. Loin, liver, breast, chops, ribs.

Portobello mushrooms are my friends.

I buy peppercorn gravy by the case. (And wine by the box… but that’s another story.)

Meat…  Lovin’ the meat!

But it’s the very eve of hunting season, so the freezer? She be empty, b’ys, and we be’s hungry.

Oulton’s is a delight.

Family run,  perched atop a mountain with a view of the Annapolis Valley on all sides. (Yes. A mountain. If you are from NS, you will know that a mountain is a hill, is a mound in the earth, is a slight elevation that gets you just high enough above sea level to see the fields dotted with hay bales and ditches. Late summer sun setting over the countryside. Flocks of starlings dancing in waves. Beautiful.)

They have Elk. Emu. Wild boar. Mara (which I don’t think they eat because they are simply too beautiful.) Squab. Goat. llamas. Herefords (descendants of a herd from a shipwreck a million years ago) Fields stretching as far as the eye can see populated with beautiful, delicious animals living well, eating well, safe and secure and healthy. It was wonderful. I think even a die-hard vegetarian would be impressed!

A young man gave us the tour, warned us about the dangers of Elk (“most dangerous meat on the planet”) and the delights of wild boar (“they’ll go right after you if you go in that pen”) and he assured us, several times, that he loved his job.

I wish I had asked his name. I was overwhelmed by the meat. And the mara. (They are gorgeous.) The Man-Who-Loves-His-Job was absolutely charming, and I felt that some huge marketing firm in Toronto should have snatched him up to be their PR person, so enthusiastic was his endorsement of the farm. But I doubt they butcher many Elk in Toronto, and this guy loved his meat.

He took us into the butcher shop with the grisly hanging carcasses of future dinners. Fascinating and eerily beautiful bodies stretched in rows of pink meat and white fat, tendons and bone. Odors of death and life, blood and gristle, meat and summer.

And so clean. The men wore aprons speckled with pink and red stains, the nature of the work apparent in gory fingerpainting on white aprons. Stainless steel, sharp knives, hand sanitizer on the counter.

And it was busy. People were lined up, eyes shining with carnivorous anticipation.

We met the owner… Mike? Wayne? I’m afraid I didn’t catch his name, so thrilled was I by the enormous Elk antlers on the barn, and the wild boar in the corral, and the little boy who spun his bike in circles in the parking lot, a grandson growing up on the family farm, surrounded by hard-work ethics and dedication. Mr. Oulton introduced the young fella as “the boss”, and then offered to drive us around in his truck to see the Elk, the deer, the Herefords, but we had to leave. Dinner was calling. It was time to go.

Two things struck me, aside from the amazing smorgasbord of culinary potential… (how does one cook squab?) A man who loved his job. And a family who had created a sustainable industry.

In the throes of “back-to-school” with my students, in a community which has just lost our main industry (thank you Resolute Forest Products), in a climate of extreme university fees and ever-changing technology and intense competition and overwhelming pressure to succeed… how do I inspire my students to believe that Nova Scotia will nurture their dreams?

This young man… who assured me he was over thirty, although I would have guessed him twenty five… said “I love my job. And believe me, I’ve had lots of jobs I didn’t love. This one? Love.” He spoke of coming to the farm initially to help, to feed the animals, eventually being drawn to the shop and learning the art of meat processing. He cut us the most succulent 1.5 inch lamb chops. And gave us Cajun sausage.

Oh gawd… Cajun sausage. Be still my heart.

Will he still be happily employed, slicing meat, entertaining customers, when he’s sixty? Maybe not, but they would be hard pressed to find someone to replace him who has the same charisma.

“D’ya wanna see the freezer? C’mon, it’s really cool. I’ll show you.” Like we were going to the undersea museum in Disney World. Of course we wanted to see it.  Rows of sheep skulls, eyes intact, watched us agree with his enthusiasm. Yes. Yes, it is very cool!

Will my students find their place in the world of work? Don’t we all want to love our jobs? Of course we do. Did this young man know, in the fall of his final years of high school, that he would become a butcher, happily slicing bacon like an artist? I doubt it.

I will tell my students about him on Monday.

They will smile, nod, text their friends to tell them that Ms Broadbent was talking about sheep heads and it looks like it will be a long week. Some of them think beef means a Big Mac. Sigh.

And family.

Mr. Oulton told us that his brothers left the valley, and he bought their farms, and his empire grew. There was a child on a bike. A big yellow dog. Houses with verandahs and comfy chairs and flowers.  Idyllic. Goats bleating, chickens clucking, elk… um… rumbling. Elk rumble. It’s nice.

In my community, the mill has closed. Three hundred people lost their jobs. Dads are going out west in droves. One of my students already wrote about missing him, Dad who is gone for three weeks at a time.  Nova Scotia needs to find a way to make it work for families, for careers, for young people looking for inspiration. We all need to bring home the bacon.

Oulton’s has found a way to make it, bring it home, smoke it in apple wood.

We had lamb for supper. Nova Scotian lamb, grown by a real family, cut to order by a happy butcher. It gives me hope, and gastronomical pleasure.

Tomorrow’s supper? Cajun sausage.

Thank you, Oulton’s. Perfection.

Check out my novel: That Thing That Happened

Available on kindle and kobo

9 thoughts on “Oulton’s Farm: Bringing home the bacon.

  1. I love your comments. you hit the nail on the head, Oulton’s is a real world family farm. Love their community and visitors like your self, always have time for people and children love it. My children all have fond memories of Uncle Mike’s Farm. …… I will definitely read your book, love the way you think.

  2. “Hay” thanks for spreading the word on my daughter (Novadawn MacKenzie (Brewer) Oulton’s husband’s family farm. In an age that consumers are convinced that everything on earth is trucked from somewhere else, it’s great to hear a voice that spreads the work about local farmers and their great produce……thanks jessie nova brewer, Shallop Cove Newfoundland

  3. This is great Libby! We are very proud of Oulton’s up here.
    All I have to say is….. ummm…. why didn’t you visit me? 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s