He was irresistible! I never imagined being eye to eye with a Grey Wolf, but Jacob stood close, panting for play and ready to be ruffled. The rendezvous with the largest canine I’d ever encountered unfolded at Ferme 5 Etoile, a farm vacation resort a few hours north of Quebec where I was a guest for a few days (and hosted by Quebec Maritime.)
The farm is less than a half hour drive from Tadoussac, one of the oldest coastal villages in Canada and about 360 miles (581 km) from Quebec City. The three-hour car trip includes a short ferry ride that gives you a sense of what the whalers and sailors of old saw as they navigated the inland waters of the wide Saguenay fjord. Smart boaters scan the passage waters for signs of Beluga and Minke whales who surface there year round.
The top things to do on a farm vacation at Ferme 5 Etoile:
1. Feed the farm animals and collect eggs
Each morning at about 8:30 visitors collect outside a sprawling ‘hen-house.’ Once inside there are pens with goats, bunnies, game birds and pigs squealing for attention and food. Everyone’s invited to help with the feeding. I tried my hand at gathering eggs.They were covered in goo! I’m such a city girl!
2. Make Maple Taffy and enjoy traditional cooking
Of course, Maple syrup is part of every meal at Ferme 5 Etoile. We had maple butter, maple pastries served with ice cream and I learned to spoon a bit of maple sweetness in my coffee but making the national dessert, Maple Taffy, was the most fun. The snow was patchy and melting in early spring but Jimmy Deschenes, son of the owners, gleefully set a tub of crushed ice on the table and started pouring hot syrup onto it expertly. We caught on and were soon pouring our own, then rolling popsicle sticks in the sticky sweetness again and again.
3. Walk pristine trails and fill your lungs with fresh country air
4. Visit with the farm family and staff
Aside from Jimmy, I spied his mother swiftly moving through the reception parlor one morning but I spent the most time with Delphine Broussard, who fell in love with the farm on a visit from her home in Normandie and now leads morning animal tours in spring. Come summer she’ll be a kayaking guide and in winter she takes visitors dog sledding. Her enthusiasm for the farm was contagious and soon we were cuddling bunnies and tickling baby goats.
5. Bring home unique gifts from your farm vacation
As I fell in love with my first experiences with home-harvested maple syrup, it seemed only natural to bring some home to enjoy. The small gift shop in the main house had little bottles in a perfect size for my luggage (not carry-on) and cuddly toys that made me wish my son was a toddler again.
6. Encounter rescued and rehabilitating regional wildlife
In 1979 newlyweds, Claude and Imelda dreamed of moving from the village of Sacré-Coeur to own land and open an inn. They began farming looked for a chance to be closer to local wildlife. The family of five (the 5 Stars of the name) moved onto the original five acres and by 2000 the farm received a special permit for the “observation of wildlife, which also bestows the role of a refuge for wounded or abandoned wildlife found in nature.”
The care the animals get is obvious. The gracious setting is well laid out. Pens are large and the animals were full of spring energy. I got close to magnificent deer, petted bunnies, stared back at a fierce owl and bobcats but the most excitement centered around meeting the wolves. After visiting the hen house, Daphnie led us to a conference room to outline the procedure and have us sign release forms. She spoke about how the wolves came to the farm and answered questions, then instructed us to take off jewelry and anything we didn’t want to get dirty or knocked to the ground. The two wolves, Jacob, the great Grey and Luna, an Arctic beauty, often give hugs!
Hugging a full-sized wolf is good fun but disconcerting. When we entered Luna’s pen we kept our backs to the fence. She jumped and licked us, nuzzled and snorted as we ruffled her thick coat. It was clear she enjoyed human company. Next door we visited with Jacob. He was majestic, standing high on long legs with a huge head. I loved digging my fingers into his coat and crouched to look at his face. His nose grazed my neck as I pushed deeper into the fur around his neck and a moment later he moved over to inspect another human. What a wonderful encounter.
7. Support a family business and help preserve a traditional way of life
The farm organizes encounters and activities year-round from horseback rides, Quad bikes excursions, kayaking and much more. Plans are underway to increase the corrals and extend the farm. It’s a lot to manage and juggle. While farms have been struggling to survive and winter is a long-term tenant, it was a treat to be part of a family working hard to run everything, create jobs, and make a farm vacation available for city slickers, families, and friends.
Before leaving we followed the sun to a coastal park a few minutes from the farm. As I stood at the inlet park of Anse-De-Roche a pair of ATV riders tackled a nearby snowdrift. I watched a shrinking ice drift bob close to the dock and a pair of men sat facing the bay talking about the weather at a table near the Gazebo. Walking up to a picnic table, I joined my travel buddies as they opened up a bottle of Quebec wine. We toasted to the beauty of Saguenay Fjord and our good fortune to enjoy a farm vacation at Ferme 5 Etoiles.
Plan your farm vacation
- Visit the Ferme 5 Etoiles Website
- Check weather and other activities in the region here
- Take the Tadoussac–Baie-Sainte-Catherine ferry across the channel. Schedule and fees are here.
Many thanks to Quebec Maritime and the 2018 Women in Travel Summit for making these experiences possible.
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