Matt Leger

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since Oct 31, 2018
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A few years ago, we bought my grandparents property in Eastern Ontario with the intention of building a homestead for our family. My grandparents lived on this property for almost 30 years and they did a lot of amazing things here. Now it's our turn to pick up the torch and, naturally, permaculture was the perfect fit for the type of homesteading we wanted to do.

We're still learning, and that will never stop, but we've made significant progress in the short time that we've lived at Maple Grove Farm. So far, using reclaimed materials, we've set up several zone 1 raised bed gardens, a 3-stage compost bin and constructed many hugel mounds with wood chip pathways and swales. We hand-craft gallons of our own maple syrup every spring, we make our own mulch from forest litter and we’re slowly transforming our front yard into a food forest while replacing the grass with productive ground covers. This is all being done using 'whole systems design' principles as much as possible. We try our best to stay in tune with nature, protect our environment and have fun doing it!

Permaculture is a very enchanting concept to us and we find it quite rewarding. That's what pushes us to go further and there's always something new to learn.

Check out what we're up to on social media and drop us a line. We'd love to hear from you! Thank you for reading my bio and for your ongoing support. Best of luck in all your growing and homesteading adventures, my friends! Take care and be safe out there!

Matt Leger, Executive Producer
Maple Grove Productions
St. Andrews West, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5b)
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Recent posts by Matt Leger

Canning & Pickling Basics | How to Make CRUNCHY Pickled Cucumbers, Hot Peppers & Beans [Extended]

Learn how to make CRUNCHY pickles using this easy recipe!

[Extended Version]

Have you ever wondered how the heck people make crunchy pickles? Do your pickles always turn out soggy and gross? Well, fret not, my friend. Maple Grove Productions in here to share their secret recipe with you for CRUNCHY pickled cucumbers, hot peppers and beans. In fact, you could use this recipe for just about any pickled vegetable.

Remember that pickling and fermentation are similar but different in many ways. The process varies significantly. Stay tuned to MGP in later 2019, early 2020 for fermentation videos. We plan to make our own sauerkraut and kimchi very soon and you can count on the fact that we will document our experience every step of the way. Hopefully by then we can pass along some valuable tips and tricks to all the viewers.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know. We try our best to respond to all comments in a timely manner. Thank you for watching and happy pickling!

Click the link below to watch the condensed version of this video.

2 weeks ago
Making Ramp Butter (aka Wild Leak or Wild Garlic Butter)

A simple recipe for ramp butter consisting of ramp leaves, ramp bulbs, ramp stems, butter, lemon juice, lime juice, salt and pepper. That's it! It's so easy anyone can do it. I promise! Give it a shot and you'll see for yourself. The hardest part is just finding a cheap and ethical source for the ramps. Provided you're good at foraging or you know someone who has them on their land, this a very easy and very tasty treat. Split the batch up into single servings and freeze it to enjoy a little bit here and there all year long until next season rolls around.

Foods that come from the Allium family (onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek, chives, ramps, etc.) are immunostimulants, meaning they boost your immune system which helps you fight off infections. With all these novel viruses floating about, there's no better time to add more Alliums to your diet! Ramp butter is an easy and delicious way to do that.

If you enjoyed this video, please show your support by giving us a like, a comment and a sub. We would greatly appreciate it! Hit the bell notification icon too so you don't miss any of our new videos. Your support ensures that we will keep making high quality content for years to come.

Thank you for watching! Stay safe and healthy out there, my friends! :)
3 weeks ago
If you live or work on a farm or homestead, you probably know about turning compost. Nobody wants to do it but it has to be done. Let's just be honest here: it's a B*TCH to do! That said, with a few simple tweaks, you can take some of the back-breaking stress out of it.

For example, having a multi-tiered compost bin helps tremendously! The idea here is that you start with the first tier, let's call it Compost Bin #1, and you put your fresh scraps in there, then cover it with plenty of dry carbon materials like straw, yellowed grass, dry leaves or wood chips. All the while, you're making sure not to let it go anaerobic. We always want to produce aerobic compost - that is, compost that breathes. We never want to produce anaerobic soil that gets stagnant and smells gross. If you made something slimy that smells disgusting, you probably made anaerobic compost and you will need to start over. Regular aerobic compost rarely smells like anything other than soil and any smell that may come off it gets trapped in the carbon layer.

The second tier, Compost Bin #2, would be for compost that's approximately 40-75% complete. Once your first tier has had a chance to heat up and break down for a few weeks, it will almost be ready for the third bin. You'll know it's time to turn your second tier when the compost begins to break down and heat up to the point of almost looking like soil, but still has big chunks in it. It may also still have certain foods and other matter that have not fully broken down yet. This is normal. You can wait until you feel like it has broken down enough and then turn it into the third bin. It's really a subjective decision so trust your gut.

The third bin, Compost Bin #3, is for stuff that's almost done but needs a little bit more time. On our homestead, we rarely wait until compost is 100% done. We need our compost before it's had a chance to finish and, so far, that's worked out for us. But please do your own testing before you try our methods. For us, 90% is good enough and we'll throw that directly on the top soil of our trees and plants and then cover it back up with mulch. At 90% completion, it has the consistency of good, rich, black soil but still has a few twigs and chunks in it that are not quite done. That's fine for us. We figure the rest will happen naturally on top of the soil and below the mulch, until they all amalgamate and become one anyway. That's up to you to decide. Think of what works best for your own environment and individual applications.

If you need to leave your compost in the third bin, that's totally fine. You can leave it there indefinitely. I would recommend putting a tarp below it if you plan to leave it there long term though or else it will just work its way back into the soil below your compost bin. But that's OK too! The soil beneath our compost bins is so healthy that we have used it for compost on a few occasions. In a pinch, when you don't have anything else, it works great as a temporary alternative!

However you decide to compost it is up to you. Just know that it doesn't have to be complicated. You're just making the inside of each pile the outside of the next one. That's all turning compost is. Inside to outside and repeat, while cover it all up with dry carbon material. Over time, you end up with rich soil with not that much effort.

Lastly, keeping your compost pile moist is important. If you live in a dry area, you may want to consider spraying your compost pile before it dries out and also covering it with a tarp. Compost piles need to be moist (not wet, moist) in order to achieve the right temperatures. If you really want to get technical with it, buy a thermometer and stick it in there from time to time to make sure that your compost is still heating up to the appropriate temperatures. Look up what those are. Even during the winter, your compost should be spewing steam. You can even use some of its residual energy to heat your greenhouse! There are a lot of surprising uses for a compost pile other than building material for soil amendments. A few Google searches should generate some interesting ideas for you.

Have fun with it! It doesn't have to be a chore. It can be an important time to reflect and think about new, creative ways to work with nature's cycles.

Thanks for watching! :)
2 months ago
Sometimes as homesteaders and permaculturists, it may seem like all we do is add layers. Layers of income streams. Layers to our security. Layers to our soil. Layers, layers, layers.... ALWAYS MORE LAYERS!

But that's all part of building good soil. We need that carbon to accumulate otherwise our soil would have no real substance. Things have to die and release their nutrients and components back into the soil so future life can exist and ultimately repeat the cycle. We as humans are part of this cycle, only we merely replicate its processes and attempt to speed it up.

Nature, however, will not be rushed. It can be coaxed and encouraged but not rushed. It needs some time to do its thing. Luckily, there are a multitude of different ways that we can promote good soil health as we wait. Not only do carbon sources like mulch help, but so does compost, from both animal and vegetation sources. We can ensure that our soil is properly hydrated and holds on to its moisture as long as possible. We can also ensure that our soil is rich with biodiversity and nutrients by encouraging these things to accumulate. And one of the most important things we can do for our soil is to ensure it has the right elements in its composition.

Now, I understand that the Goldilocks zone of silt vs. sand. vs clay can vary from plant to plant, but generally speaking, we want a balance of them all. It should be soil that offers good drainage while also clumping up nicely. With good soil, you should be able to make a ball with your hand about the size of a tennis ball and it should keep its shape. When you squeeze the ball, it should easily fall apart.

It's a tricky thing to pin down, but in reality, it's not nearly that complicated. Take a walk to your nearest forest, move the sticks and leaves aside and dig. There you will almost surely find "the perfect soil". Why? Because nature has had the TIME to work on it all by itself. The soil should be exactly as described above: firms up nicely but fall apart easily. Not too wet or muddy, but also not too dry or hard. It will also be brimming over with bacterial and fungal life. You will know you have found/made the perfect soil when plants favor it more than other soils. You can then use that, as a template of sorts, to build more soil just like it and the natural cycle repeats.

Hugelkultur is a great example of harnessing this process and one of the best ways to build soil. Replicating nature can typically yield great result. Soil building and soil amendments are no different. We're just doing what nature does, to a lesser degree. That's an important lesson in homesteading with permaculture principles. When in doubt, just do what nature does and you can usually be assured a successful run at it.
2 months ago

Douglas Alpenstock wrote: it's a "metric shit-tonne."

Haha! I stand corrected.
2 months ago
[To be read with an Arnold accent]

Oy hev officiully comb-pleeted da pie-in-ear challenge and got to da choppa! Wut nao?
Quick update on the situation: Last week, a contractor I hired finished putting up a solid cattle fence between the two properties. It's about 4 feet tall, runs all along the South side of our property and was put up entirely with BIG cedar posts and 1 1/2 inch staples. No screwing around! :) The guy did a fairly good job and the price was right, so I may hire him back again to finish the remaining sides. Right now, a one-sided fence is kind of useless, but it's a good starting point. Next will be the front, East-facing property line which would cross the entrance of the driveway and help protect us from the road. This is where I plan to put up a big ol' ranch-style gate that will allow me to lock our vehicles in at night, lock unauthorized vehicles out and would add some charm to our front entrance. It will start to look like a real homestead after that! A ranch gate was something on our wish list from the start, way before the neighbors came along, so it's something we would be doing for us at the same time.

The next stage will be adding "No trespassing signs" to the fence posts (so all their puppy buyers can see we've had problems with them) and expanding our camera system from 4 channels to 8 channels. It may seem ridiculous but we have to film our signs or they will be destroyed like our bark control unit and the cops won't do anything about it (again). To make this even more ridiculous, we have to put the camera way up high in a tree so the camera itself doesn't get damaged by them AND also put another camera there just to film the first camera. A camera filming a camera filming a bunch of signs. This is what my life has become! Haha! I've reluctantly accepted it now.

To tie it all together, we are putting in a full-scale alarm system that will connect to the cameras and provide us with door contact and motion detection for the inside of our home as well. It may seem paranoid and excessive but I assure you, if you all had experienced what we have with these people in the last year and a half, you'd be thinking the same thing... or you would have moved by now, trust me.

Finally, after the fence, camera system and alarm system are up, we're going to finally bring in some farm animals (pigs, chickens, goats, possibly a dairy cow or two, we'll see). I will feel much better about keeping them secure with a perimeter fence and subsequent sub fenced-in areas, plus electric fencing. It gives us something to build on, not to mention many possibilities for vining plants.

That's the plan anyway, and I think it's a good one. From what I understand, good home (homestead/farm) security is all about adding layers, not unlike building soil. The more layers you add, the more secure your property becomes. That's exactly what we plan to do too - add a metric shit-ton of layers. (And yes, that's a scientific unit of measurement here in Canada ;) )
2 months ago

John F Dean wrote:I have been following this thread with interest.  I ran into a crazy neighbor situation when I lived in MN.  Actually several crazies.   It involved firearms, and I decided to move. The reasons for moving involved far more than the neighbors, but they were a piece of the puzzle.  It turned out to be the best decision I could have made.  Each situation is different.  I hope things turn out well for you.

Thanks for the reply, John! I appreciate it. And sorry for not writing back sooner. The business of homesteading life got the better of me. I've been pretty productive to say the least. Part time lumberjack, part time mycologist, part time Dad, full time beater-upper of joints and muscles. Haha. I'm sure you can relate.

Any time there are firearms involved in one of these feuds, it's a serious situation for sure. I'm glad you were able to make the right decision for yourself. We've contemplated moving on multiple occasions. It depresses my family every time I bring it up. We just can't let go of our dream without a fight. We would be giving up all our hard work, a great many traditions (of which we have few these days), parts of our cultural identity and a beautiful property that's been in my family for almost 35 years. If it weren't for all those factors at play, we would have already moved by now. It's also a real shame when scumbags like our neighbors can force us to consider doing something we don't want to do, especially something as monumental as selling our house and moving. But like you said, sometimes it's for the best. I just don't know if it's in our best interest yet and I really don't want to find out through more negative experiences. Looks like that's how this is going to play out though. For now, we're just playing the waiting game...

2 months ago
Homestead Essentials: Compost Tea

Exactly what it sounds like in the title: Compost Tea. You take some nutrient-rich plants (like stinging nettle and dandelion leaves) and bust them up in a plastic bucket. Add some water until the whole thing is completely saturated but you still have some room to avoid spillage at the top of the bucket. After that, just find a way to pump air into the bottom of the bucket. This can be accomplished with a compressor like I did, or a pump from a fish tank, or some type of aerator. The possibilities in design are endless and they are really based on your particular needs and set-up.

You can use compost tea to add valuable nutrients to any plant. Just pour that devilishly-nasty smelling brew over the top soil of your plants. This works especially great for plants that are heavily mulched. The tea will slowly make it's way down to the roots and give them a fast-acting nutritional boost.

While compost tea may not be as effective at delivering vitamins, nutrients and biodiversity to your soil as traditional compost, it does have other advantages. It can be sprayed directly on the leaves as an effective insecticide and deterrent, for example, among many other uses.

Compost tea is great and has many applications.  Experiment with it and see what you can come up with. Let us know in the comments what worked for you and how you use compost tea in your garden or food forest.

Thanks for watching! :)

2 months ago
Hey Michael. Thanks for the reply! This first video was basically just a mishmash of odds and ends. In hindsight it may not have been the best choice for a first episode, but it had to go somewhere. I was trying to capture the basic vibe and ambiance of our property (when the neighbour's 20 something dogs are not yapping). Hopefully some of that made it through.

Our property is about 5 acres, mostly zone 4 and 5. The 3 year old food forest/Hugelkultur now extends into zone 3 and zones 2 and 1 are the kitchen garden and raised beds out front. You'll see a lot more of that stuff in the coming episodes. They will also be much more topic-specific.

The outdoor fireplace was a birthday gift from my family a few years back. I love it! It does minimize on embers quite a lot. Makes a big difference, especially if you're in a dry wooded area like we are.

The blue smoke is probably the result of me showing my daughter how to make a sandwich of punky logs and chopped, dry wood to help keep the bugs away.

As for the lawnmower, I could never mow it all manually. I'd be dead. Even with all the grass we've phased out with other ground cover and wood chips, there is still a good hour and a half of mowing to do each time. But I do own a ride mower. The tire was just broken at the time but it's fixed now. We do exactly as you do. We use our lawn clippings to feed and mulch certain plants once it has a chance to dry in the sun and has yellowed a bit. The peas love it!

Naked soil seems so unnatural to me. Soil compaction is a big problem here so I also try to do the same and avoid stepping anywhere I use for growing. Eventually, the idea is that the entire front yard will be mulched with wood chips and/or straw and I'll only have to mow the backyard. All the while, I'll be build carbon layers in the soil. The only BIG missing ingredient really is animals to take our composting to the next level. We are very close to getting some laying hens. Just gotta work on a good infrastructure and then implementation strategies before bringing in animals. There are a lot of predators around so I want to play it safe and protect my investments.

2 months ago