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Christmas in the Country

For thousands of families in and around Middlesex County, the festive season begins with a trip to Tree Lane Farms to find their perfect Christmas tree.

Just north of Ilderton on Twelve Mile Road, Tree Lane provides more than simply a Christmas tree, however. It is the ideal place to capture the spirit of the season.

Imagine riding a tractor-driven wagon among thousands of trees, drinking hot chocolate and then sitting around a campfire with family and friends, eating a picnic lunch and breathing in the country air. All at a price below what many people pay for a tree in the city.

“Lots of people come here for the entire experience,” says Irene Nugteren, who runs the farm with husband Larry and their extended family. “You can come, get your tree, and leave right away. But a lot of people enjoy the campfires, the store and, of course, our two reindeer in the pasture.”

Since purchasing the tree farm almost four years ago, the Nugteren family has transformed it. They built the 2,000-square-foot retail store, from which they sell a variety of seasonal products, including tree stands, as well as hand-made crafts and decorations. They created the campfire pits scattered throughout the 106-acre farm. And every spring, they plant 5,000 new trees.

It takes about eight years for trees to reach their ideal size. Tree Lane plants mostly White Spruce but also grows some Canaan Fir, White Pine, and Siberian Spruce. The family also offers Fraser Fir trees for those who prefer them. The soil on the farm is not suitable for growing them locally.

The family has been farming for nearly 20 years. It operates Nugteren Lane Farms, a broiler chicken farm, just down the road from the tree farm. “We bought the tree farm and renamed it because our son, Lucas, wanted to get into farming,” Irene says. Lucas, 25, works on the farm beginning in April every year, planting and grooming trees. His sisters, Michelle, 23, and Carley, 19, work on the farm, as does Irene and Larry’s daughter-in-law, Colleen.

“We have a staff of 13 at our busiest times,” Irene says. “The first weekend of December is usually our busiest weekend, but on the day we opened for the season, there were cars lined up waiting to get in.”

The farm opens for business in mid-November and is open 9-6 every day up to and including Christmas Eve. “On Dec. 25 we close and rest up,” Irene says, laughing. “It’s very busy here, especially on the weekends.” On the first Sunday of December, for example, she estimates there were 4,000 people on site.

For a flat rate of $45, tax included, families ride the wagon through the rows and rows of trees. When you find your ideal tree, you cut it down with a saw provided by the farm. “People take their time cutting down the tree, taking tons of pictures, everyone posing with the saw,” Irene says.

With your perfect tree in tow, you ride the wagon back to a central location where a machine shakes and bales the tree. Once it’s wrapped up as tightly as little Cindy Lou Who in bed on Christmas Eve, you put it in, or on, your vehicle, with rope supplied by the farm.

“We sell a lot of hot chocolate,” Irene says. “It’s $1/cup and all the proceeds go to Ronald McDonald House.”

It’s the perfect Christmas outing, an event that defines the season for thousands of families across Middlesex County. 

 

Middlesex County Launches New Invest in Middlesex County Video Series

The videos, officially launched at a special event at the County’s Administrative Office today, offer a thought-provoking look into local businesses, and the reasons why they call Middlesex County home. Cara Finn, Director of Economic Development says  “combining extraordinary videography and unscripted conversations with the businesses that contribute directly to the vibrancy of Middlesex County, results in an innovative opportunity to get at the heart of what makes our community special”.

Each year, the Economic Development department launches a new video series to showcase the diversity of businesses in the area. The videos are used by the County, local municipalities and businesses themselves to promote the area.

In addition to representing each of the municipalities that make up the County, the businesses featured in each series represent the four key sectors of the Middlesex economy….Agri-business, Manufacturing, Tourism, and Small Business.

To view the brand new 2016 videos, please go to https://www.investinmiddlesex.ca/video-feed or visit the following direct links:

Wardsville Golf Club

Safe Home Fireplace

Roestenberg Welding

Tim Zavitz Developments

Purple Hill Country Music Hall

Dairy Lane Systems Ltd.

Great Canadian Hideaway

McNaughton’s Home Hardware

 

A Holiday Twist with Beef and Herbs

By Marlene Cornelis of Urban Cottage Life

In many circles, turkey and ham will star in upcoming celebratory holiday meals. Not to argue with tradition, delicious as it can be, but how about switching things up?

My search for an alternative protein took me to Tom and Julie Field Farms (contact information here) in western Middlesex County. The Fields raise totally grass-fed beef and lamb, resulting in more robustly flavoured meat. I came away with a prime rib roast, suitable as the centerpiece of any festive table.

Simplicity is key when cooking with such a premium cut:  a simple rub of garlic, pepper and salt flavours the meat and a sauce provides a finishing touch of flair.  This recipe is for prime rib roasted to medium rare, just how I prefer it. For my family I usually cook it to medium-well. You can find more information on cooking beef at Make It Ontario Beef.

Instead of the usual jus or gravy, the array of herbs at Sleger's Living Organic Greens, just outside Strathroy, inspired me to pair the roast with a piquant herb sauce. Not only was it a vibrant accompaniment to the rich beef, but its colourful green and red added a festive touch.

Prime Rib

For recipe testing purposes, I used a small roast of about 3 pounds. You’ll definitely want more to feed a crowd! This recipe feeds 2 to 4, depending on appetites.

Remove the roast from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before cooking to allow it to come toward room temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 450℉. Prepare a roasting pan with a rack (I used a row of celery stalks cut to fit the pan). Have a meat thermometer ready.

3-pound prime rib roast

2 large cloves of garlic

½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Method

Finely chop the garlic and mix it together with the pepper and salt. Rub the mixture all over the beef. Stand the beef on the rack in the pan, bone side down.

Roast at 450℉  for 15 minutes. Without opening the oven, lower the temperature to 325℉  and continue roasting until the internal temperature reaches 135℉.  Total roasting time is approximately 70 minutes, but ovens vary in their performance, so I recommend use of an instant read thermometer. Wrap the roast in foil and let it rest for 15 minutes. During this time the temperature will continue to rise by another 5 to 10 degrees. Resting also allows the juices to settle. After the resting period, the roast is ready to slice and serve.

Piquant Herb Sauce

This recipe is a variation of chimichurri, commonly used in Argentina and Uruguay. It packs a punch of both flavour and visual appeal, complementing the beef beautifully. A small food processor makes it a breeze to make, but you could prepare it by hand as well.

Serves 4 to 6.

2 cloves garlic, cut in half

1 cup lightly packed parsley leaves (include stems if tender)

2 tablespoons lightly packed fresh oregano leaves

1 small shallot, cut into 4 pieces

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 small red chili pepper, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

Method

Place the garlic, herbs and shallot in the bowl of the food processor and finely chop. Add the pepper, salt, oil and vinegar and process until well combined. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Remove the mixture to a serving bowl and stir in the red chili pepper to add an extra touch of seasonal flair.

Credit for recipe and photos: Marlene Cornelis, Urban Cottage Life.com

 

Middlesex County Launches New Video Series

Middlesex County has just released a new promotional video showcasing what the community, located just outside the City of London, has to offer. 

"We've set out to highlight some of the fun and exciting things there are to do and see, just outside the limits of the City," Director of Economic Development, Cara Finn said.  ”We wanted to show the County in a fresh new light and attract attention to our new website at www.visitmiddlesex.ca"

The video focuses in on a modern family enjoying a day in Middlesex County and features cultural and natural assets, agri-tourism, local dining and recreational facilities.“Partnership dollars for the project were provided by the Southwestern Ontario Tourism Corporation”, said Finn, and the project was filmed across several Middlesex-based municipalities this year.

"When we approached our tourism partners, whether they were conservation authorities, farm operators, museums or small business owners, everyone jumped on board right away to play a role in the film."  We have a lot of people to thank for helping showcase tourism across our County in such an active and inspiring way.

The video was launched during County Council’s meeting on October 25, 2016 and is now playing on the Visit Middlesex website and YouTube. The County has plans to share it extensively on social media and on television stations throughout Southwestern Ontario in the months to come.

 

Get Fresh.... Eat Local Map! 4th Edition

Resident Life Survey

The purpose of this survey is to learn more about the views and opinions of current residents of Middlesex County. This will enable community groups, such as volunteer organizations and municipal government, to better assist you with policy and resources. There will be questions about your reasons for living here, what makes this location special to you, and the ways in which you are engaging with your community. 

This short survey has been prepared by Middlesex County and should only take around ten minutes to complete. This survey is anonymous; none of your personally identifiable information will be collected.

Thank you for your participation and valuable contribution.  

Take the Survey now!