The McLaughlin Homestead is run in a fashion that Maggie Roque describes as “old-fashioned on purpose.” Situated on 15 acres in northern Ontario and focused around a century-old farmhouse, Roque has used her background in environmental science and a belief in living “a more sustainable and environmentally cautious lifestyle” to shape the venture.
“I think it’s a reminder to take a step back, slow down and really live in the moment,” says Roque as she sums up her homestead’s abiding mantra.
We spoke to Roque about pickling cucamelons and the benefits of slowing things down. We also touched on the joys of floral-infused gin.
The Importance of Slowing It Down
After seeing her homestead, Roque says that people often tell her how they wish they could “live a simpler life like you.” But, she says, there’s nothing simple about running the McLaughlin Homestead.
“Let me tell you, it is the opposite of simple,” says Roque. “I think the word they are looking for is slower. Nothing in this lifestyle comes quickly. You have to do things from scratch, learn the process, plant the seeds, feed the sourdough starter, tend to the animals—and none of that can be rushed. When you try to cut corners, that’s usually when something goes wrong.”
As for the pay-off?
“Slowing down and really learning where all our food comes from and trying to grow [and] raise it all ourselves like our ancestors used to do is so humbling,” says Roque. “But even though it’s a lot of work and takes more time, in the end, that feeling we get knowing we did all this ourselves is so gratifying.”
Earlier this year, Roque posted a photo to social media about an experiment to pickle a batch of cucamelons.
“They were so good!” says Roque. “I will definitely be growing them every year and pickling them.”
Along with snacking on the addictive diminutive cucamelons (which in some regions are also known as Mexican sour cucumbers), Roque says that adding them to salads and turning them into a relish for burgers proved to be hits.
Read more: Farmer Ken talks food forests and his love for cucamelons.
Pass the Lilac Honeysuckle Gin
Infusing gin with lilacs and honeysuckle is another creative project that Roque has attempted recently. She says the concoction was a success and also a cinch to whip up.
“If you have lilacs or honeysuckles in your yard, just add them to some gin or vodka. Let it steep for a few weeks or more and try it out! If you like florals, you won’t regret it.”
A Focus on Flowers
Flowers have become an eye-catching part of the McLaughlin Homestead. “I was never really interested in growing flowers,” admits Roque, “but in learning more about growing veggies, flowers are a super important part because they bring in the pollinators that are needed for some veggies to produce. And to my surprise I loved growing them!”
While this year’s batch was focused around a collection of calendula, nasturtium, sweet peas and zinnias, for next year Roque plans to add hollyhocks, tulips, cosmos and poppies to the garden.
Reflecting on Progress
“The most rewarding part of running a homestead has to be getting to look back at what we started with and seeing how far we have come,” says Roque as she reflects on her journey to date.
“All the hard work we have put in to make all of these big amazing changes in our lives. Thinking about how little we knew three years ago about home renovations, gardening and raising animals. We have a lot of pride when we look at everything we have accomplished.”
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