Why I Garden: Aimée of Simple Bites Talks About Children, Chickens, & Her Homestead in Quebec

Garden Tour

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Who gardens here: Aimée Wimbush-Bourque of the blog Simple Bites. Danny, her husband, their children: Noah (8), Mateo (6), and Clara (2)
Where: Outside Montreal, Quebec

I have long admired Aimée, the blogger and voice behind Simple Bites. I love her writing and her warm photography, and the way that she talks about life in the kitchen with her family. I got the opportunity to visit her when I was in Montreal last fall, and I discovered that she's just as warm and generous in person. She also makes gardening and homesteading look very, very easy.

Here's a peek at her garden and chicken coop, and the brunch she made from the bounty of her family's garden. We talked about what it really takes to garden (less time than you might think!) and why Aimée values it so much for her children's sake.

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Aimée lives on a quarter of an acre in a small town outside of Montreal, in the country but close to the city. They've lived in this home for about four years, and they have a well-established garden and chicken run in place now.

Visit Aimée & Simple Bites

Look for Aimée's new book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, in Spring 2015!

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Aimée Talks About Simple Homesteading with Children

Have you gardened every year that you've lived in this home?

The first year I didn’t garden. It took the better part of the summer to build the raised beds, the compost bins and get set up with rain barrels. Plus, you know, life! But we’ve been gung-ho ever since.

How much time does it take every week in the spring and summer to keep up with the garden and the chickens?

Spring is the busiest, only because we are planting and so on. But around two evenings a week and one long weekend gets the job done. Once the garden is in and the chickens are set up, it’s mere minutes a day. I don’t weed, I mulch. I prune and thin occasionally. The sun and the rain pretty much take care of the rest.

What do you like most about keeping chickens?

I always wanted hens for two reasons: fresh eggs and little farmers. The shells on our brown eggs are hard and thick. The yolk is bright orange and stands up tall instead of slumping into the white. As a whole, the fresh egg is rich and satisfying to eat and leaves you understanding why many consider the egg to be a near perfect food!

I also love that the hens provide a daily reminder to my children of where food really comes from. Thanks to owning a few backyard chickens, we’ve had all sorts of excellent conversations with our kids on life, eating meat, raising animals humanely for food, the life cycle and, yes, even unforeseen death (that darn fox!).

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How do the kids pitch in with the garden and chickens?

Owning six hens generates just enough chores to keep our munchkins busy, but not overwhelm them. They take turns delivering scraps, feed and water to the hens daily. They are also responsible for collecting the eggs, as well as keeping track of production. They also eat their fair share!

As for the garden, both rascally boys that love to water the raised beds with the hose (and each other). We plant together in the spring and they each choose a vegetable that is ‘theirs’ to grow and tend. They are out in the garden every second day, exclaiming over the height of the beans or the girth of the pumpkins.

At harvest time, digging for new potatoes tops the list of highlights. I let them climb right in to the raised bed, sandbox-style, with their small shovels. It’s like a treasure hunt every time. Afterwards they wash the spuds with the garden hose, and we prepare them together in the kitchen.

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You have such an amazing collection of jams! Which was your favorite from last year?

Well thank you. We love the classic jams and I don’t really simmer up any that are too wild and exciting. But the best thing I put up last year would have to be a Spiced Fall Fruit Chutney with Québec pears. All winter long we’ve been scooping it onto lamb curries and spooning it alongside roast chicken. We also dollop it atop slices of sharp cheese on grainy crackers. The recipe is in my upcoming cookbook!

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What’s going into the garden this year? Are you doing anything new?

Everything is new this year, just when I though I had a system in place, too. As any homesteader can attest to, there are many a mishap in the garden along the way, most of which are unpredictable. Who could have foreseen that a small tornado would whip through our neighborhood on a scorching July afternoon least year and topple a hundred-foot willow tree onto just-ripening tomatoes and flowering beans?

Some plants survived the crushing weight of all those branches that took out three sections of fence, but there was much less of a harvest that autumn. We learned about garden re-growth and recovery, and discovered the silver lining in the setback: now the raised beds bask in several more hours of sunshine a day, an advantage that directly translates into more produce for us. Or so we are hoping. I am setting my sights on a serious tomato patch this summer.

Thank you so much for opening up your garden to us, Aimée! Good luck with the tomato patch!

(Image credits: Faith Durand)

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