I remember when I got my first job as an Economic Development Officer in a small town in Saskatchewan a few years back, I managed to pack all my belongings into little Toyota Echo as a minimalist bachelor and made it all the way to Regina.
Fast forward to 2014, after being married with two children, we needed two trips with a 14-foot U-Haul cargo truck to get all our belongings to the home we presently live in – a stark contrast to my moving days while I was a bachelor. Feeling the burden of being saddled with “stuff”, my wife and I switched to purge mode. We got rid of unneeded items on Kijiji, at Goodwill and the Edmonton Recycling Depot. It really made a difference - uncluttering our home, freeing up more space and reducing the amount of cleaning. Purging can indeed simplify ones’ lifestyle but sometimes there are legitimate reasons to invest in storage.
The self storage industry in one of the fastest growing industries in North America. It’s no surprise because we have a lot of stuff, and we like to keep it. Self-storage can be a wise financial and personal move when:
Place For Your Stuff is a locally owned self storage facility in Pro North Industrial Park I visited early this year. The facility is located 5 minutes north of St. Albert, 10 minutes south of Morinville, or 15 minutes west of the Garrison Military Base.
Place For Your Stuff has 854 storage units in 5, 10 or 20 feet sizes with interior LED lighting at lower rates compared to similar units in Morinville, St. Albert and Edmonton – check out their website for current deals. One unique aspect of this facility is the convenience it provides customers – online registration and payments, and 24/7 gates access to your personal belongings. Take a video tour of the facility below.
Jakub, the onsite manager gave me a brief tour and I must say I was very impressed – the site was clear of snow, clean and visibly well maintained. It was also secured with motion sensors, cameras and a computer controlled gate access for additional security. Place for your stuff provides 5, and 10-foot storage units for your contents.
You’ll also be glad to know that they are a member of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce in 2017. If you have an M2M discount card, you could get 10 percent off your storage fee! For more information on storage availability, contact Yakub at (587) 764-0119.
Place for your stuff makes us #SturgeonProud
My visit to First Choice Tree Nursery occurred on a beautiful sunny day when I was just itching to get out of the office after spending several hours at the computer. First Choice is just off Range Road 245 from Township Road 642, East of Morinville. The 80 acre tree nursery is owned by Ron and Deb Cherdarchuk who have owned the business for 22 years. If you have a passion for florals, you’ve probably heard of their son, Cory Christopher who makes regular appearances on Breakfast Television, CTV and the Edmonton Journal.
I was greeted warmly by Deb, who came out her greenhouse with a big smile and her tools – she was clearly enjoying her day working with her plants. It’s quite amazing that she’s able to get back to work after a bout with Hanta virus that threatened to take her life. Despite her slow road to full recovery, Deb is grateful to be back to what she loves.
First Choice Tree Nursery offers caliper and shelter belt trees, including edible and floral container gardens. In case you’re wondering, caliper trees are older and larger than saplings, and require extra care when planting. Shelterbelt trees consist of one or more rows of trees or shrubs planted in such a manner as to provide shelter from the wind and to protect soil from erosion. Container gardening on the other hand is a method of cultivating plants exclusively in containers instead of planting them in the ground. It’s useful in areas where the soil or climate is unsuitable for the plant or crop in question. Ron (Deb’s husband) also provides landscaping services and skid steer work.
First Choice Tree nursery has prairie hardy trees and shrubs in many sizes and varieties, including some exotic tree species like the Japanese Maples pictured on the bottom right. The nursery sells plants in container sizes along with balled and burlap field grown trees. Tree nursing can be labour intensive and a risky venture especially for small producers and is truly a labour of love. Deb spends several hours potting plugs, irrigating, fertilizing and weeding them until they are ready for her clients. With the experience she’s gained over years of nursing trees, you can be confident of the quality of her trees - her customers love her products. So whether you are a rookie gardener in need of hand-holding or an experienced gardener planning a major project, Deb can give you the professional advice and tailored recommendations to ensure your unique project is completed easily, with long-lasting results.
Container gardening is a niche that Deb is rapidly expanding at the nursery – I’m personally excited by this aspect of her business because it allows anyone to change the ambiance of an area by changing the plants in their pot or by moving them around. Take your pick – flowers, herbs or vegetables, Deb has an impressive array of plants that can bring splendor to your balcony, patio or window.
Take a visit to First Choice Nursery with your family. She will show you around the nursery, and around the farm. Even if you don't need plants right now, Deb would be happy to talk about possibilities with you, and share some of her ideas about landscaping. Here is her contact information:
56032 RR 245 in Sturgeon County
Call for an appointment
Late spring and summer are the best times to go on farm visits - longer daytime, warmth and animals that come out to play. Looking for a fun filled visit, I picked up my camera and headed over to Alberta Rose Alpacas which is located just 20 minutes North of Edmonton just off Highway 2, West of Morinville. There’s red alpaca barn is quite noticeable from the turnoff so it’s easy to spot. The owners of this alpaca ranch are Bob and Lauraine Bijou.
Prior to being involved with Alpacas, Bob worked in the construction industry and Lauraine worked as a school secretary in Morinville for many years. They started a farm 20 years ago with a couple of alpacas and continued to breed them until they reached about 150. I have got to admit, the moment I saw the animals, I just loved them. They are so cute and look like a giant stuffed animal – what kid wouldn’t like them! Bob and Lauraine have built up their herd over the years to include prize champion winning alpacas. Breeding genetically superior alpacas is the most lucrative part of the business besides wool products.
Alpacas produce one of the world's finest and most luxurious fibers, known for its fineness, luster, light weight and insulating quality, which is eight times that of wool. High-end designers are flocking to alpaca for its valuable fiber as many of them feel the yarn produced is more luxurious than cashmere and mohair. They are the only animals in the world that come in so many different colors. While similar to sheep’s wool, alpaca fiber is warmer, not prickly, and is hypoallergenic.
Alpacas come in 22 natural colors, with more than 300 shades from a true-blue black through browns-black, browns, fawns, white, silver-greys, and rose-greys
Bob and Lauraine shear the alpacas at the end of April or early May. The fiber is then sorted and sent to a local mill. Just as certain parts of a cow produce prime cuts, so do specific sections of an alpaca produce prime fibers—and that’s how alpaca yarns are sold. Twisted Sisters & Company Fiber Mill and Store in Leduc processes the raw fiber, which they spin into yarns and a variety of other products such as alpaca socks, duvets, blankets, scarves. Alpaca products may seem expensive but they are a good investment because they are far less likely to pill.
Did you know that an alpaca can handily grow enough wool for four or five sweaters in a year?
Woven alpaca scarf, hat and mitts
Bob and Lauraine are in the process of winding down their alpaca business within the next two years; however, their experience in the business has provided many insights that they’re willing to share with other alpaca enthusiasts. They also have a wide range of alpaca products for sale, so whether you’re interested in learning more about alpacas, planning a daytrip for the kids or getting a clothing gift for a friend or family member, visit their website at: http://www.albertarosealpacas.com
In recent years, there’s been a resurgence of consumer interest in local food – it’s fair to say that today, an increasing number of consumers think that local is the way to go whenever possible. If you ask people why they shop local, many reply that it’s fresher, has a smaller environmental footprint, supports the economy and creates jobs all along the food chain that links farm to fork.
I cannot deny the influence of the growing local food movement on my grocery shopping habits today – my eggs, meat, honey and some vegetables are all purchased from local producers in Sturgeon County. The difference in quality of produce from a local farm relative to a big chain store can be quite stark in some cases. Apart from taste, I enjoy the personal connection to the farms where crops and animals are produced. I certainly felt that way when I visited Cardiff Meat and Sausage early this October.
Located near Morinville, Cardiff Meat and Sausage is a licensed and inspected butcher shop owned and operated by Tony and Brenda Rustemeier; third generation livestock producers that specialize in all aspects of the beef industry from cow-calf and seed stock production to feedlot finishing and custom processing. Twenty-six years ago, the butcher shop began doing custom cutting and wrapping for local farmers and hunters and in recent years they have expanded their mandate to provide affordable, naturally raised, high quality beef direct from their farm to local consumers.
Tony and Brenda note that they’ve seen a rise in demand from people looking for an alternative to mass-produced meat. The couple forms a growing number of livestock farmers across Canada who are breaking from the status quo and raising fewer animals, typically letting them graze on pasture. They tend to slaughter their animals in smaller abattoirs, and then sell the meat through a growing network of independent butchers or directly to consumers.
Butchers have always been an important resource to any civilization from the humblest of villages to the most urban of cities. The art of the butcher has steadily evolved to become one of the world’s oldest and most respected professions. The local butcher was a major neighborhood fixture by the dawn of the 20th century. Today, most of them employ their trade at food processing companies and large supermarkets.
However, there remains a small pocket of neighborhood artisans that help us relive that nostalgia of simple times and a sense of connectedness with the food we eat. I admired them both as they worked in their little shop. Tony is a true artisan - with careful hands and a calm demeanor while Brenda pays keen attention to quality and customer service. With high standards for themselves as far as meat products go, the couple has grown a successful business with confidence in their craft developed over years of dedication.
Working in a custom shop where meat is often cut to customers’ orders means the workload varies from day to day and week to week. There are always new challenges, and frustrations, and yet as they cut different parts of different animals, the couple takes time to do it right.
The animals are fed naturally
Though I didn’t visit the Rustemeier farm in the summer, I managed to get a picture of their animals grazing on the rolling grasslands of the County.
Their calves are born on pasture in April and May and then in the fall, they are weaned and fed through the winter on hay and oats green feed. When they mature to yearlings, they are moved back to pasture with a supplementary self-feed ration of grain. This results in a beef product that is rose colored, well marbled and intensely flavorful.
The Rustemeiers additionally use selective breeding to attain specific traits in their beef cattle. An example of a desired trait could be leaner meat or resistance to illness. To achieve the standard of “naturally raised beef”, the animals are raised without the consumption of growth hormones or antibiotics. That’s as close as one can get to the stringent standards of organic meat.
Great meat cuts for a variety of cooking
The chart above shows the types of cuts you can get from a steer and the best cooking method type for each cut.
I would highly recommend Cardiff Meat and Sausage for their locally produced beef – the quality of their product is simply outstanding!
If you’re interested in dropping off game animals (elk, deer etc.) as well, call the Rustemeiers at 780-973-5998 or 780-908-5998. The butcher shop is located on 24512 Township Rd 554 (Cardiff Road) Sturgeon County.
Cardiff Meat and Sausage makes us #SturgeonProud
It was late summer, on one of those beautiful days when you forget for a little while that fall is creeping up on you that my wife and I drove out to Berry Ridge Orchard just north of Gibbons. The orchard overlooks the beautiful Sturgeon River valley, from which it derives its name. Wade Fossum, who runs the orchard along with family, friends, and a few seasonal employees, greeted us with such a warm welcome. It was almost as though he was expecting us. Within a few minutes, we were touring his automated berry picking facility and chatting about his family operation, and had long forgotten our desire to pick our own berries.
Before moving to the prairies, my wife and I had never even tasted saskatoon berries. We certainly had no idea that the saskatoon berry (or June berries, as they're called south of the border) industry has grown to be the second largest commercial fruit crop on the Canadian prairies. (Strawberries still clinch the number one spot). Berry Ridge Orchard has grown right along with the saskatoon berry popularity, planting their first bushes in 1993, now totaling 40 acres of berries! Berry Ridge Orchard is primarily a farm direct service that provides frozen Saskatoon berries to food processors and restaurants in the Edmonton region, but they also welcome visitors like us who wish to buy in bulk or have the more hands on U-pick experience. If you want to catch the pick-your-own season, aim for mid-July to early August. Just don’t forget your insect repellant.
Wade took us on a tour of the farm, explaining how the operation runs, from mechanical harvesting to sorting/grading, bagging, freezing, and then shipping. The mechanical harvester is an impressive machine, standing 15-20 feet tall. It's so efficient - it kind of makes picking by hand look like an incredible waste of time. It simply drives over a row of saskatoons, shaking the berries off the plant and collecting them at the base of the harvester. The collection plates channel the berries onto a conveyor belt where a couple of fan units blow out the leaves and other debris. The berries are then transferred to large plastic bins, brought in from the field, and cooled to 4◦C to preserve the fruit’s freshness. This is where the human work comes into play. Some human eyes and hands are then used on another conveyer belt system to de-stem, weigh, and bag the berries. 10 pound bags of berries are then frozen and ready for market. Berry Ridge Orchard ships between 20,000 to 40,000 pounds of berries per year. That's a lot of berries! Even still, the current demand for saskatoon berries far exceeds supply, so this industry has some exciting potential.
Fun & yummy stuff
Back at home, we get to enjoy the fruits of our labour…ok, the fruits of the farm machinery. My two-year-old son, Sammy, is going through a stage of very picky eating, but he loves his smoothies. And I mean loves! He calls them “me.” "More me? More me, please??" His current favourite is one we like to call the Peachy’toon Smoothie. (See recipe below - and check out his smoothie moustache!). Add a bit of protein powder to the mix and you'll have a fantastic healthy breakfast or an energy boost for your workout. And if you have a picky toddler like mine, throw in a carrot or some spinach! The dark purple colour of the saskatoon berries does a brilliant job of masking the greens! Or, if you're looking for something a little less healthy, there are loads of other recipes out there - pies, muffins, jams - for your enjoyment.
If you're interested in visiting Wade's farm, he'd be happy to show you around.
Berry Ridge Orchard
On a side note, did anyone hear the recent debate brewing about renaming Saskatoons to Juneberries? Check out this article. Share your thoughts below in the comments section!
Start in Sturgeon is about building your business within Sturgeon County. We wanted to create a website that welcomed conversation, included easy to find information and was flexible to work on multiple devices.
We are excited to reveal our new website that we have been working on for a number of months. We will continue expanding on the information and resources that are available on the site, and welcome your input along the way. One key piece of this site will be our new Business Directory. This directory will soon list all businesses within Sturgeon County, including licensed businesses in Bon Accord, Gibbons, Legal, Morinville and Redwater. If you have a business that is currently not listed, please email your business information to Leanne at firstname.lastname@example.org to have it included.
Thank you for browsing through our site, we look forward to expanding on it to include everything you need for doing business in Sturgeon County!
The appeal of a log home is a combination of common sense and nostalgia, which lets one live comfortably, even luxuriously in a work of art, while keeping a traditional craft alive.
The history of log homes
Log homes are often associated with pioneer settlement, but did you know that West Coast Indians used log frames for their large plank houses long before the arrival of European settlers? Immigrants to the prairie west patterned their first log houses after customary forms of their homelands (e.g., Ukraine). In the subarctic forests, log houses provided comfortable shelter for trappers and woodsmen. Their attractive appearance and thermal efficiency still make them popular not only with summer cottagers across Canada, but among many people with a renewed interest in traditional housing.
The log home builder in Sturgeon County
M&H Wood Specialties has been in the log home building and renovation business in the Edmonton area for over 34 years. They specialize in exterior finishing, structural and aesthetic restoration and new builds. I went on a tour of the company’s building construction site with owner, Paul Murray, who explained the various aspects of the operation and the growing desire for natural homes.
I learned that beyond the rustic ambiance and the strong connection to nature, there are other several advantages for owning a log home.
1. They are long lasting – long homes still in use today date back hundreds of years.
2. Tree are a renewable resource – logs are often sourced from forests that are certifies as sustainable and some builders such as M & H can construct home to green building standards
3. Log homes naturally fit the landscape they are built within.
4. Thick logs make the walls warm to touch. If the home is sealed properly, you could have a home is 20 to 30 percent more energy efficient than a conventional home.
5. Your home can be framed onsite faster than a conventional build, which will reduce the likelihood of weather related damages.
6. Rustic does not mean no technology – log home builders are able add communication technologies and other automated features.
7. If you’re concerned about mold or insect infestation, log homes offer a clear advantage of giving you the ability to notice the issue faster than a conventional home with sealed wall cavities that offer hiding areas.
8. Furthermore whole wood products are less likely to affect people with environmental sensitivities.
9. Logs and lumber used in homes sequester considerable carbon; there is less energy required to turn a log into a finished housing component as compared to drywall, vinyl etc.
10. The lifecycle of log homes that may be centuries are much greater than the typical 75 year lifecycle expectancy of most mainstream construction systems.
A few of many eclectic homes built by M & H – take a tour of their building exteriors
…and their building interiors
How log homes are built
I really appreciate the the work of log builders because – log homes are works of art that require immense patience and physical labor. Although M & H uses more intricate construction processes, log homes are typically constructed in ten steps. First, the logs are individually selected to ensure that they are free of dry rot, cracking, splitting and bug infestation. M&H uses hand peeled, air-dried, Eastern slope, slow growth Alberta White Spruce. The logs can be dried from one to two years.
A proper foundation may be constructed with traditional stone or concrete blocks. Creating a basement involves excavating and creating foundation walls, which is much more work. The foundation pictured above shows an example of what a simplified one may look like.
The logs are then put together using a technique known as scribe, fit, round-notch method. This features semi-circular notches cut in the bottom of the logs to fit over adjacent ones to ensure proper water drainage when it rains. Grooves are also cut down the entire length of the log to eliminate air drafts.
Alignment pegs are then installed at each corner of the structure and around every window and door opening to maintain the stability of the log home. When the logs reach the top of the planned window and door openings, the walls are braced and openings are cut out all at once.
The roof on the cabin shown is a combination of purlin and rafter construction. A purlin is a horizontal beam or bar used for structural support in a roof. Purlins are supported by rafters which are a series of sloped beams that extend from the peak of the roof all the way to the outside walls. Once purlins and rafters are installed, roofing boards are put in place and then either asphalt or cedar shingles are used to complete the roof. The doors and windows are then installed to complete the home.
There is a lot of planning that goes into log home construction to ensure safety and longevity and this is where M & H excels. Besides engineering your tastes and preferences to building code, M & H helps you maximize the energy conservation of your new home by placing it properly onsite. They take the extra step in examining the building envelope through modern energy testing.
One thing I admire about the company is their focus on sustainable forestry. M & H harvests timber from designated forestry areas in Alberta and British Columbia, which are then replanted with five saplings for every harvested tree. So essentially, the company not only provides a lasting product for their customer; they are also in the business of rebuilding our future one tree at a time.
If you’re interested to learn more, check out their office at Pro North Industrial Park - 27 Kuryluk Blvd or their website at: www.mhwood.com.
M&H Specialties makes us #SturgeonProud!
Start in Sturgeon is the Economic Development initiative of Sturgeon County, Alberta. The county encompasses a large area of land with several towns and hamlets throughout.
Sturgeon County has become home to 40+ world class companies. Is yours next?
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