At Moira Ridge Farms, home of Heather and Cliff Maclean, and Nanuq, their Alaskan Malamute, you can see a heritage farm which has been in operation for over 150 years, experience a true Old Growth Forest, and explore an alvar complete with fossils. Heather, an accomplished artist specializing in local scenes and wildlife in oils, acrylics, and water colours, and Cliff, past chair of the Hastings Stewardship Council, Vice President of the Quinte Chapter of the Ontario Woodlot Association, and a founding member of The Upper Canada Woods Cooperative, invite you to explore their farm and Heather's studio to discover the natural diversity of this unique part of the Moira River valley.
Here is a photographic account of an May 19, 2013 tour of Moira Ridge Farm by one of Terry Sprague's hiking groups.
Moira Ridge Farms at 162 Leslie Road, was originally established by the Emerson Family from Ireland between 1840 and 1850. The limestone farmhouse, with its three foot thick walls; the bake house, now Heather's studio, with the original 'Dutch Oven' used to bake the bread sold by the Emerson family in the community; and the main barns all date from that era.
The farm presently comprises 80 acres in Thurlow Township and 180 contiguous acres in Tyendinaga Township, with the township line running through the center of the farm. Currently the farm is growing hay, cash crops including organic garlic and heritage tomatoes, and has had an experimental test plot of a hybrid species of hemp.
There are also several tree plantations in the managed woodlot and, occasionally, a number of bee hives on site. The southern boundary of the farm is about a mile and a half of the Moira River. This is part of a preferred route of kayakers and canoeists in April and May during the spring runoff. One of the extreme fast water stretches of the river in spring, it later subsides to form one of the fish nursery areas of the river. There the river offers excellent introductory fishing in complete safety for young sprouts who are guaranteed to catch a small mouth bass and get hooked on fishing. It is also a prime fly-fishing location and lessons are available by appointment for those interested in learning this magnificent past time. With the broad limestone side walk along the north side of the river, the novice fly fishing enthusiast is able to avoid the trees with the back cast and spend most of the time with his or her fly in the waters of the Moira!
One also will see fossils of Cephalopods in this sidewalk, a creature that lived here some three hundred million years ago. You literally tread upon the rocks of time as you wend your way along the beautiful Moira in its pristine original state. A significant portion of the Provincially designated Moira River Karst ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest) is located on the farm. Tours of varying length and duration of the Karst, the Old Growth Forest with its many Carolinian Forest species (some really giant and very old), and the Alvar with its unique flora and fauna can be arranged by appointment. You may chance to see some sights which vary by the season and are not available in many other places in Ontario.
Check here for for an objective assessment of this unique property by Mr Terry Sprague, Quinte Region's resident nature expert. In the spring of 2008,right at the end of Leslie Road on the Tyendinaga side of the farm, Ducks Unlimited completed the restoration of a wonderful wetland in a former beaver meadow. This acquatic gem is fed by cold springs on both this property and on a neighbouring one to the north. Some five to six acres are under water now, and tours through here may see Great Blue and Green Backed Herons which are often seen fishing in there. In addition, Spotted Sandpipers, Red Winged Blackbirds and both Tree and Barn Swallows abound. Some Yellow Warblers have nested there as well as Northern Orioles. Perhaps you will spot a species we have not yet recorded. The wetland is now home to at least five different frog species, which serenade us in the evening. Many Snapping and Painted Turtles can be spotted basking on floating logs, while Blandings Turtles have also been photographed. Multiple species of Dragon Flies and Damsel Flies hunt for their prey all around and several varieties of ducks have nested including Hooded Mergansers, Mallards, Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Teal and likely several others. In addition, many butterflies including Yellow and Black Swallowtails, Hackberry Emperors, Monarchs, and others abound.
Walking along the trails past the hay fields, one will see and delight in hearing the many Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks which nest in most of the hay fields in spring and early summer. Occasionally Pileated Woodpeckers can be seen hard at work in the forested area. Eastern Bluebirds, Phoebes, Eastern Kingbirds, Brown Thrashers, Northern Orioles, Great Crested Fly Catchers, Wood Thrushes, House Wrens, Grey Catbirds, and other species such as Flickers, Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers, Woodcock, and Wild Turkeys are just some of the birds a sharp eye may spot. Time spent on a tour on Moira Ridge Farms is to experience beauty and diversity at their finest as Mother Nature truly puts on a spectacular show here. Ten minutes of walking takes one from one environment into another that is totally different. Large White Tailed Deer abound and if one is quiet, one may also see Coyotes and Timber Wolves on the prowl. You can go fly fishing on the Moira River in season, and take lessons if you like. Or, go on a tour of the Moira River Karst and the Old Growth Forest , and perhaps see some unusual medicinal plants growing there. Alternatively, perhaps visit the wetland restored by Ducks Unlimited and watch the teeming life of this aquatic wonderland, both above, on, and in the water. You will also see examples of how one can farm and manage a woodlot sustainably. If you are urban dwellers and would like your children or grandchildren to experience the natural untouched beauty of Eastern Ontario, bring your family and let your children discover what Mother Nature has to offer in all her splendor.