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Potiuk’s Paradise : Out and About with The Wheelbarrow Gardener Leanne

Today's blog is brought to you by Sturgeon County local Valerie Loseth, The Wheelbarrow Gardener. Valerie makes the world a more beautiful place, from backyards to weddings to planters, to workshops and more!



Potiuk's Paradise : Out and About with The Wheelbarrow Gardener

In the year and a half since moving to their acreage, Darren and Tasha Potiuk along with their four daughters have turned their 3 acres into a very productive small-scale farm that produces meat, fruit, vegetables and even honey for the family.

I visited them on a gorgeous morning as they were out and about feeding and tending to the several types of animals they have chosen to raise on their farm. I asked Tasha, why is it important that the family raise and grow their own food?



“People are far too disconnected to their food supply these days. It started very simply by growing a garden, and getting a few hens for eggs, then you start to look into where your food comes from. How it’s grown, processed, stored, shipped and handled. I know where our food comes from, I know how and where it was grown, how our meat was raised, what goes into everything. I know how our animals are treated, how my daughter plays tag with the pigs or that the chickens can run loose and love to take dirt baths and hunt bugs in the garden. I know our fruit and veggies aren’t sprayed with who knows what, and our bees dine on dandelions and fruit and flower blossoms. The amazing sense of peace we have when we are home. There’s a reason we call it Potiuk’s Paradise! Now that we have come this far, I can’t imagine ever going back.”

Sustainable Farming
Sustainable farming means that whatever is farmed, raised and grown on the farm is consumed by the farm dwellers themselves. They are living off the land and providing the food they need for their own consumption.



What started out as a garden and a few hens has expanded to pigs, ducks, geese, rabbits and bees. All of the animals other than the family dogs, some farm cats and one particular bunny are all raised to either produce food or to be food. Everything around the farm has multiple purposes, and a food chain is created between the animals and the plants. Weeds become food for the rabbits and pigs, the hens scratch up the soil, eat the bugs and fertilize the garden, rabbit pelts become mitts and hats, nothing goes to waste. They live as sustainable as possible, butchering their own animals, canning and preserving fruits and vegetables and even processing their own meat. Always finding ways to live with the smallest footprint on the environment Tasha even makes her own hand soap and has graciously agreed to share her recipe for it (see below).



With both Darren and Tasha working full time shift work, time is a challenge. On average it takes an hour in the morning and then again at night to do all the animal chores. “We can get it done in twenty minutes if we really rush, but I prefer to take my time and interact with the animals, everyone helps including our five year old. Our greatest success is how close we have become as a family. The day we put a meal on the table that was all homegrown, that was a pretty big success” said Tasha proudly.



I was interested in how much research she must have done before she started, but she shared that she often acts before she knows all the facts and that animals often find their way to the farm before Darren knows they are there. They explained that they are constantly learning and gaining knowledge through friendships with like minded people, mentors and groups on Facebook that share common problems and goals. When asked what is next for them and the farm Tasha said after a quick smile and glance at Darren, “Looking at adding a heifer calf next spring. She would be a 4H project for one of our daughters. A few more fruit and nut trees and a wood burning stove.”

Not all of us are blessed with owning an acreage, living within town or city limits there are some constraints, but urban homesteading is on the rise, people want control over their food. Growing their own vegetables and raising small livestock (where permits allow) can be accomplished on a small parcel of land if people are willing to make some changes. Dig up the lawn and grow your lunch. Plants trees and perennials that are food based. Raise rabbits, chickens or bees to feed your family. Shop local, visit your Farmer’s Market, or better yet visit the farm. If you are interested in any of these things there are plenty of support groups and people like Tasha and Darren who are willing to take you under their wing and show you the ropes, you just need to be willing to take that first step to food freedom.

Soap Recipe
One cup filtered water
3 tbsp. liquid Castile soap
1tsp veg glycerin.
Drops essential oil or tea tree oil (optional)
Mix and pour into foaming pump bottle



If you know of someone who has a farm, garden or anything special that is agricultural based that I could highlight in a blog please contact me.


Valerie Loseth    |    780-668-3892    |     
thewheelbarrowgardener@gmail.com

You can find me on Facebook and Instagram as The Wheelbarrow Gardener or check out my website at www.thewheelbarrowgardener.com


That'll Do Pig, That'll Do Leanne

Natasha Kryger is an Urban Agriculture student at Morinville Community High School.  This article is part of a series written by students enrolled in the Urban Agriculture course.

Pigs, we all know what they are bred for: ham, bacon, ribs…Yum! We love to eat pigs but we seldom stop and ask, “Where was this animal raised?” “How was it treated?” 

On October 20, the students in Morinville Community High School’s Urban Agriculture class visited Belle Valley Berkshires, owned by Ron and Karen Sobeys. Belle Valley Berkshires is a small pig farm operated five minutes west of Morinville. Ron and Karen raise Berkshire pigs, a heritage breed that is raised mainly for the quality of their ham. 

The pigs are fed a complete feed from Champion Feeds.  The feed consists of barley, wheat, and oats. A nutritionist also helps determine what supplements are needed within the pigs’ diet. The Sobeys also feed their pigs vegetable scraps, and because the pigs are raised outdoors, they are free to graze on whatever is in their pen. I was fascinated to learn that the pigs aren’t fed an all-wheat diet, as this would create too much fat in the pigs. You may think that the pigs would freeze during the winter, but the pigs are given straw to burrow in. The straw acts as an insulator and keeps the pigs warm in the frigid temperatures. 

Ron and Karen have three sows and a boar. The sows usually produce two litters per year; this is a fair amount as a Berkshire’s gestation period is about 114 days. Each sow can produce about 10 litters in their lifetime and usually grow to a weight of about 400-450 pounds. 


I learned that sometimes a piglet is born with a ridgeling. This is a birth defect in males where one teste remains inside the pig. The procedure to fix this is very expensive so these pigs are often destroyed. Piglets born with defects are ended with a process known as thumping. Thumping is when the piglet’s head is slammed with great force against a hard object. The pig doesn’t suffer because the farmer makes sure to do it right the first time. 

Males born without defects are castrated at 2 days or no older than 6 weeks. They are castrated because when they mature, the testosterone would taint the meat and leave a strong odour.  At 6-8 weeks, the pigs are weaned off their mothers and begin to eat  the feed. I learned that the pigs were raised for about 180-190 days or about 6 months. At that time, the pigs generally weigh 260 pounds and produce a 90-95 kilogram carcass.  The pigs were sent to Country Quality Meat Cutting, in Bon Accord for slaughter. I was astounded to learn that not all facilities slaughter pigs with the same process. Quality Meat Cutting uses a bolt that hits the brain of the animal whereas Sturgeon Valley Pork, another facility near Morinville, now out of business, used to use nitrogen to asphyxiate the pigs.  


The students in Urban Agriculture bought three of these pigs, creating six half carcasses to butcher. Kyle of Darcy’s Meats, brought the carcasses to the school. On the trip to Belle Valley Berkshires, I learned the important process in going from piglet, to pig, to plate.


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Sturgeon County Bounty is a Sturgeon County Economic Development initiative, aimed at providing local producers, chefs and processors with an opportunity to promote and expand value-added agriculture in the region. more

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