Sunday, September 6, 2015

September 6 Update: Fulfilling

 It's been a while since I even uploaded any photos to the blog, never mind written anything.  We don't have internet at home, so those convenient times when it is too dark to do anything outside aren't filled with the computer (though the time is usually filled with cooking or preserving or bagging or washing veggies).  We plan to get it soon, and haven't really missed it that much this summer, as we spend most of our time at Mom and Dad's anyhow, so the few hundred dollars to set it up and then $80 + a month has been better off in our pockets. 
It's also a good reminder of how much we rely on being connected-- We actually considered making a list of "things to Google", because we'd so often have questions neither of us knew the answer to-- like the lifespan of dragonflies, or the habits of Sandhill Cranes (which we finally figured out are the birds we hear circling high overhead when we are working in the fields).  At any rate, life without Google is possible, and still lovely!

We have started the process of harvesting squash and pumpkins and bringing them into the greenhouse to cure, so they will store well.  It's a big job, as the three rows of squash have erupted into a 60' x 100' swath of tangled vines, which means some of the harvesting is done with one person waist-high in the middle throwing squash to the other, who loads them in our wheelbarrow and carts them over to the truck.  We don't have a truck, but have been lucky to borrow the Brown Sugar truck or occasionally Dad's for this purpose.  There are still hundreds of heavy squash to come in, and we are chipping away at it as quickly as possible before the impending F word-- Frost!-- necessitates this task.  If it were up to Jon and I it would all still be in the field, but luckily Mom's experience advised us that in this climate it is important to get started on harvest as soon as they begin to be ready.  The butternut and Long Island Cheese Pumpkins still have a ways to go ripening, and so we hope that they will make it!  Last week's two days in the +35 Celsius range and all the rain will do wonders, I'm sure.
Joan, our most regular market visitor!
 As I write this, the smell of hot coffee and freshly baking bread come from the kitchen, I can see Samson in the yard chasing butterflies, and hear the muffled beats of Jon practicing DJing upstairs.  I am working at my newly acquired desk, facing our now-cozy living room, which looks more like my Gran's living room because the desk and nearly all of the furniture and accessories in it are from her.  It was such great timing to arrive back in Manitoba in time to visit with her in her last 3 months.  We've also been enjoying seeing Auntie Joan all summer, as she arrived in early June and has been around sorting out Gran's affairs since then.  Gran's photo now honors the wall beside Grandpa Tom's, with a framed message from a card she gave me in 2013, when we visited at Christmas: "No matter where you roam in your exciting life, you will always be welcomed here where you began.  Love always, Gran".  I am so glad to have such a nice little house where all of Gran's things have such an honored and appreciated home.  We will also miss Joan, who returns to the Netherlands tomorrow.

Tomorrow we welcome our first guests from Nova Scotia-- Jem's wife Karen and her daughter Cleo, who will spend a night with Cleo's labradoodle Annie, on their way to Victoria-- a long trek, and we are glad to host them.  I am making Ratatouille Provencale from the Joy of Cooking for the occasion-- also the occasion that we have a few ripe eggplant in the field!   The tomatoes and peppers and garlic and zucchini and herbs and squash and basically everything in the fields right now are stunning, so I am excited to have some visitors and also to get to share the peak of the season with their tired traveler bellies!

Last night we enjoyed a garden veggie pizza and some roma beans, shared by one of our best customers, Greg.  I don't get to cook as much as I would like, but with the help of Auntie Jayne there is lots being put in the freezer for the winter, and I am doing what I can to enjoy the bounty-- Greek or cucumber salads nearly daily, eggs as much as possible, beans with every meal, tomatoes in everything, etc.  Avoiding potatoes and carrots and squash for the most part, as there is lots of time for that in the winter months ahead.  As we near winter, our need for winter employment becomes an increasing reality.  I find myself waffling on what I want to do-- I have an open door with Ben at Remington's, but I am not sure if I can muster going back to serving after 10 years of being away.  I have loads of alternative ideas for making income, but the practical me knows that the easiest and most advantageous winter endeavor would be to just work somewhere by the hour.  It's a means to an end, and will allow us to save some pennies to put back into the farm that we love so much and have just signed an agreement to buy next year (until then, we are renting to own).  So, even if it means doing something entirely fulfilling, farmers Jon and Teri will have off-farm jobs this winter.  Hopefully something I can get excited about comes out of the woodwork before November. 

On the note of fulfilling: that's the word I would use to describe this season.  It's not been particularly easy, and there's definitely room to grow and adjust in future years, but it has been the most fulfilling year of my life so far.  From its start in Nova Scotia in the terrible bitter snow-heavy winter of 2015, lugging vegetables to market with my revered mentor Andrew at Noggins (and wondering often where the heck my life was going), to making the decision to change our plans last minute and uproot to Manitoba-- I've found so much joy in so many things since we made the change and so many little markers along the way that tell us we're on the right path.  We're still able to laugh at ourselves, like these zucchini behemoths that made a lot of customers really happy with their great value ($2 each!), and are a result of us choosing to do many other things rather than harvest zucchini for a few days....  And really, who cares?  We're having a record-breaking year, the farm is supporting the addition of two farmers to the team, we are connecting with lots of amazing customers and blowing folks away with our variety and quality at the markets.  We're in charge of our own destiny, which is one of the major reasons we decided to make the change in the first place: and also the reason why I can choose to sit at my desk today using some of our phone's data to reflect in a blog post rather than being outside harvesting beans (really, it's because it's too wet :P).   Jon and Teri and Manitoba are getting along just fine, and we look forward to many, many great seasons to come.

Plans for the winter include looking into setting up a shoots room in our house, beginning the organic certification process, streamlining varieties and ordering seeds, creating a plan for next season, compiling all the data collected this season to help us make our decisions, collecting all the thousands of photos I've taken this year into a book, and also doing lots of resting and culinary adventures and enjoying of our farm.  Looking forward to it-- Much to do before then!  :)

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