Saturday, April 30, 2016

10 Reasons Series: #2 Brown Sugar Produce

 I'm currently drinking coffee before sunrise on a Saturday morning while getting my computer work done for the day.  A day that promises to be a nice one, so I always strive to get away from the screen by the time it's warm enough to work outside.  I do this most days, and find the hours between 5 - 8 are greatly productive and help with getting organized for the day and feeling ready.  I answer all my emails, look up things I wanted to research from the day before, do my social media and online marketing for the business, and order supplies, pay bills, etc.

But, you know what?  If I wanted to sleep until noon, that would be fine, too.  For a day or two at least, not every day.  That's the thing about being self-employed: I'm the boss, and I can do what I want!  I've learned that it takes a special sort of person who is self-motivated enough to drive themselves as an entrepreneur.  I have that characteristic, so I'm my own worst enemy sometimes: setting unrealistic goals for myself and piling work on and making deadlines and doing things just a certain way because I believe it's the right way.  At the same time, without that drive, it would be easy to choose to read a book instead of weeding.

I may not be primarily motivated by money, but I AM motivated by success.  But, what is it, exactly?  It's not unrelated  to money, because the reality is that we need a certain level of income to make our farm sustainable.  If we make no money, we would go out of business, just like any other business.  Is success selling out at the farmers' market?  Is it attaining our production goals like certified organic?  Is is having a good relationship with my family?

Success to me is days like yesterday.  I had a bunch of errands to run, and so ran into a lot of people that are in my network and had enough time to squeeze in some "pay it forward" actions just because I wanted to.  I connected with a friend who I am growing potatoes for about planting dates, in a quick conversation across a shopping mall.  I picked up a customer's deposit and got some supplements and advice.  I visited Sherman, the man who owns our farm, and learned something new about the farm as I often do when I visit him.  I ran into a friend and found out she had something in common with someone else I know, so I connected them.  I visited the farmers' market and touched in on project progress with our board, and met the new vendors. Delivered cookies to my hard working friends at Patmore's, suggested a partnership to a business I support, got groceries and washed Mom's car.  Then I came home and we weeded the perennials and trimmed the onions and started setting up irrigation.

What a range of different things in one day!  That's what I love most about farming: so many different skills make up the perfect farmer, and none of us are perfect, so that's where teams come into play.  In our farm team, Mom and Jon are best at production.  Not me!  I will do any and all of the work required to keep the farm running, but it's not what I gravitate towards.  Sitting on the tractor feels slow and boring and like I should be working harder than I am.  If I never plant another seed in my life I could care less, so long as somebody does it.  But, take away the farmers' market and I'll immediately notice a gap in my life.

I have consistently been involved with a farmers' market every season except one in the past 15 years.  It started with Brown Sugar Produce at the Brandon Farmers' Market, and so it's come full circle now.  I LOVE the market, I love talking to customers and building displays and making signs and harvesting veggies and washing them and packaging them and coming up with ideas to increase sales and all of that realm.  As an extension of that, I love marketing our produce online, on our website and social media.  I am definitely wired for sales, but I'm also wired for relationships, which is what gives our marketing the personal touch.  I want to connect with as many great people as I can and keep them in my circle, because it's much more effective to connect with people than to try to do it all yourself.

Farming can be isolating, and so I try to get out in the world and meet people when I can.  It doesn't mean I want people around me all the time-- in fact, quite the opposite-- but I love connecting with people.  Finding out what they excel and and finding out where we can help each other.  Sharing what we do and finding out more about what someone else does.  Knowing who I can call for advice when any eventuality happens.  I am still building my networks in Manitoba, but I have made good progress and I am proud of the list of people I have gotten to know.

I love running our business.  My Dad ran his own business for almost 30 years, and so he is a great resource when it comes to planning, systems, accounting, infrastructure, equipment, and maintenance.  Together we watch our bookkeeping and make sure there is money in the bank account and we are achieving our financial needs as a farm.  He shows me how to run equipment and the basics of maintenance.  He fixes things, anything that needs it, and returns anything borrowed in better condition than he got it.  He understands the value in systems and offers advice and feedback in developing our own.  Systems are something that I love investing thought and time into, and I am good at coming up with things that work well for us.  He has a different perspective than I do and thinks of different things than I would, so it creates an important broad thinking that helps inform what we do and why.

My Mom left her career to start the business.  It became Brown Sugar Produce when a family friend commented on Mom's deep tan from toiling outside all day in the field.  From my Mom I get support, encouragement, an insane work ethic, and inspiration to be passionate about what I do.  If you've never seen passion, watch my Mom work.  She tends her fields like the plants are her babies, and the level of pride she has when she brings veggies to market is unmatched.  Her first concern is growing delicious and beautiful produce, and she goes above and beyond to achieve it.  Her second concern is customer satisfaction.  She will do anything for anyone, even if it means she has to sacrifice herself to achieve it.  Restaurant order for salad just before dark?  She'll put on a headlamp and stay up until it's washed and ready in the cooler.  I can't say that I am this devoted to our customers, but it's inspiring to see my Mom's complete devotion to what she loves.

I love our business, too, and I love our customers.  They are why we do what we do.  They are supportive, adventurous, engaged, and committed.  They'll try any new crop we grow because they trust us that it's delicious or nutritious or all of the above.  They'll let us know what works for them and what doesn't and how we can make things easier for them.  They'll make us feel appreciated when we go the extra mile to accommodate their special request.  They support local and they share our ideals, and show it by buying from us.  They appreciate us sharing our day-to-day from the farm, and it's not about sales-- it's about relationships.  In my marketing, I focus on sharing what we are doing rather than what we are selling.  It's been great to have all of our supporters on board for our journey, and just when I think "Man, our customers are great", someone refers a friend to us and another wonderful person joins our fanbase, and I'm forever grateful for that.

I put my whole heart into what I do, and running our business the last year has been the most
rewarding endeavor I've ever taken on.  Putting my energy towards Brown Sugar Produce is like making an investment every day, in something that will grow and change and carry us forward in our goals.  An hourly or even salaried job can't do this in the same way, no matter how great your boss or workplace.  The business is like a living entity, a member of the family, and so it will be a part of our future for a long time, possibly longer than our lifetime if we have kids and they are interested in farming.  I am grateful to my Mom & Dad for welcoming us into the business and working hard to make it work.  Lets be realistic: working with family is tough.  It makes us want to quit sometimes.  But, you can't quit family, and so you try harder and you work at it, and in that process, you learn and you get better.  You lean on your supporters to boost you up when things get hard, and that makes it a little easier.  We're learning and growing and getting better every day, but we couldn't do it without each other and without our customers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A cultivator, two hens, and a horse visit!

My Aunty Jayne and Uncle Calvin live nearby in Strathclair. They have Clydesdale horses and have been a huge help getting us set up at our place, giving us a washer and dryer, raspberry canes, rhubarb, other furniture, freezing veggies for us for the winter when we are too busy to do it ourselves, all those sorts of amazingly helpful time-savers!
 Uncle Calvin had a cultivator for us to use, so we picked it up last night.

And visited the horses, including new baby Dexter (1 week old and all legs!)

Their neighbor is moving and had two hens needing a home, so we got those, too. Meet Henny & Penny!
So happy to have chickens again! And super fortunate to have helpful relatives like Jayne & Calvin!  Aunty Jayne also fed us a nice meal as usual and these are the moments that make me so grateful that we can drive 1/2 an hour and visit!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

10 Reasons Series: #3 Patmore's

As critical a piece of the puzzle all of my family support plays in us moving back to Manitoba, we can't forget Jon's role.  We made the decision to move together, but it involved a huge leap of faith on Jon's part.  He didn't know what to expect here, and in some ways maybe he saw things more clearly than the rest of us who were all wound up with excitement.  Excitement can only get you so far, then real life sets in and you have to live with your decisions.  The decision to leave the East Coast was hard for Jon, but at the same time he could see that we would reach more of our goals more quickly if we were on the prairies. 

We've made leaps and bounds of progress this year reaching our goals.  We both worked full time in the business last summer, and planned to get jobs in the winter to supplement our income needs on our property.  In September I had already started watching the job postings and thinking about what I would resign myself to doing over the winter.  I saw one that was a perfect fit for Jon and shared it with him.  He applied, and Marci & Patmore's came into our lives, just like it was meant to be.  It ended up also being an opportunity for me to fit some casual seasonal work into my schedule, too.

We first met Marci when we participated at their Fall Festival selling vegetables after the Saturday market.  Jon began working at Patmore's in late November selling Christmas trees, and quickly forged a great friendship with fellow plant nerd Marci, who knows personally about life on the farm from her own market gardening.  Jon is the Nursery Manager, so looks after the tree and shrub department, which is great because he gets the opportunity to learn about trees and shrubs!  He's lucky to have great supportive staff this season as he builds knowledge.  Like everything he does, he gives it careful & conscientious attention and works his butt off! 

The busy season for trees and shrubs is complementary to vegetable growing - May & June being the peak for the former, August & September for the latter.  So, Jon will do his own growing at our farm in addition to working full time at Patmore's this summer, a plan that is CRITICAL to our farming future.  We couldn't do it without one of us working off the farm, and because lifestyle is also important to us, we couldn't force ourselves to do something we hate for the sake of income.  So, we are delighted that Jon found year-round work in a related field with a positive workplace.

On that note, Marci deserves special mention here.  She has become a friend as well as a mentor to us.  She has owned and operated Patmore's for about 5 years, and we admire all the hard work she does to run this business rooted in Manitoba's history.  My dear friend Joanna works in the same industry in Calgary and knows many of the trees and shrubs that were introduced to the prairies by Henry Patmore in the late 1800s.  Marci values a positive workplace, and I've truly never worked in such a great environment.  Staff work together to get all the hard work done under leadership that is fair, understanding, compassionate, and consistent.  As an employee, having consistency in a boss is something that I value a lot.  It's hard to work for or with someone when you don't know what to expect from day-to-day. 

Despite being neck deep in the peak of the busy planting season, Marci never expresses her stress by snapping at employees or being in a bad mood.  She may say she's stressed, but you'd never know it from her actions.  As our fearless leader, she is constantly inundated with questions from all of the staff, but she never makes me feel like I can't ask her "just one more thing".  I'm a process-minded person, something that I can't turn off just because it's a part-time gig.  I like to know how and why things happen so that I can understand my part in the bigger picture.  Marci has made me feel like one of the team and is always happy to explain things to me, even more than once!

I had lots of great mentors in Nova Scotia that I miss very much, namely Alyson Chisholm and Andrew Bishop.  These are people I feel I can talk openly to about my hopes and dreams and fears and insecurities, people that are removed from the closeness of family but just as important because of that distance.  My mentors set the example that I hope to follow in my own life, they offer opportunities for me to learn from their experiences, and they support me in achieving my goals.  Marci has joined the ranks of Mentor in my life, as a hard-working, smart, confident businesswoman that I look up to and admire very much.  I respect how she treats people, her business ethics, her sense of humour and how much knowledge she has about plants.  We are fortunate to have connected with her and we are proud to be a part of Patmore's!

10 Reasons Series: #4 Mom and Dad

Just over a year ago, this was our family, separated by nearly 4,000 km and celebrating Easter together over Skype.  I am so glad that we are closer, and I try to remind myself every time I drive 25 minutes from our farm to Mom and Dad's how excited I used to get to come home.  Because it didn't happen very often, and I often went nearly a year without seeing my Mom and Dad in person.

That being said, it's not always sunshine and rainbows and happy faces.  Dealing with family is hard, running a business together often frustrating enough to make one want to quit.  But, the rewarding part with family is that you have no choice but to work it out and move forward.  You're stuck together whether you like it or not, and there's something special in that.  Friends will come and go, family sticks together no matter what.

Mom and I love running the business together!  We have a great time and support each others' decisions and push each other to do better.  When I moved away 12 years ago to attend University, I always said I didn't want to do what Mom does, and that was to manage every aspect of the business from planning to planting to marketing herself.  I knew we made a great team, but I never dreamed I'd be back to work with her again.  I feel like with her skills and my skills we are a fantastic team!
Mom is also an inspiration to me, because I've watched her build a business around something she is passionate about and all the good that has come from it!  She inspired me to follow my passion and we're lucky that we can both do what we love and work together.

My Dad and I are a lot alike, which causes conflict of course.  Getting along isn't something that comes naturally to us and so we have to work at it.  Really hard sometimes!  But things that are worth working for end up being so much more valuable in the end.  We work to communicate effectively with each other and to reach common understanding most of the time, but it gets a little bit easier all the time.  My Dad is a smart businessman and always has a valuable perspective which is usually very different from my own.  He challenges me and as an adult I'm learning to challenge him back.  We are very similar but think very differently and so working to reach understanding helps not only our relationship, but any tough relationship.  The fact is you can't get very far in life by avoiding conflict or not dealing with tough situations, so having to face this constantly with Dad is the greatest lesson of all.

I love my Mom and Dad, and I'm so glad to be back in Manitoba where I can see them all the time and have them as part of my life.

10 Reasons Series: #5 Lifestyle: Farm Life is Better

Our niece Genevieve made this beautiful wall hanging for us this past Christmas, and we hung it by our front door so we always remember that Farm Life is Better!

Days like today-- Sunday-- where I get up at 5 am and drink cup after cup of coffee while catching up on computer work are a good example.  I love that my work can happen at any time and I'm the boss.  Later, Jon and I will pack up a load to take to the dump, cut down some damaged trees, move the rabbits out of the barn, repair a damaged barn door, while soup is simmering in the slow cooker and the washing machine shakes the entire house.  Farm life is a mix of chores and delight in the little things.  While we go about our day we will notice the nettles popping up in the woods, get covered in burrs, run into a few stray cats, check on the pigeon nesting area for new chicks, and get the chicken area ready for the arrival of 2 hens tomorrow.  If this all sounds like work then farming isn't for you!  To me it sounds like a pleasant day looking after the stuff that needs to get done on the farm.

My mentor and friend Alyson Chisholm likens the farm to a living organism-- a dependant one!  She
sees the farm as needing her, and thinks of all the chores as part of looking after this entity.  For everything to flow smoothly things need to be in good repair, well-maintained, clean, and organized.  Keeping the farm this way is something that has been a bit neglected on our property, and so we are putting in lots of hard work to get it back to the glory it deserves.

Summer farm life is an exercise in the farm taking every ounce of effort that you can possibly put forth, and asking for more!  When the crops are in the ground or the greenhouse is running, things take your entire attention and there's more work than one person can manage.  Summer is when we work hard to prioritize tasks, work together as a team, and try to stay ahead of the needs of the farm as much as possible. 

Regardless of the season, I am so glad to be living a values-driven lifestyle, as my brother in law Eugene describes it.  Our primary motivation is building the kind of life we want for ourselves, with the primary focus being lifestyle over money.  We want something different than a 9-5, Monday to Friday traditional career.  We want to have time to raise our children.  We want to be connected to the seasons and nature.  We want to be in the driver's seat of our future.

Is it easy?  NO!  Is it worth it? We think so.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

10 Reasons Series: #6 Gran

Of all the reasons I'm glad we've returned to Manitoba, my Gran is the single person I'm most glad
about.  She passed away last summer at the age of 92, a couple of months after we arrived. 

My Gran was there at the beginning of my life and I'm glad I was there at the end of hers.  I visited on her last day in the hospital and she held my hand.  I will never forget it, even though I'm realistic that it was a side effect of the meds.  I'm just so grateful for the couple months we had while she was still in good health, and that she got to see me return to Manitoba and was proud of me.  I brought her to the farm on Mother's Day and showed her our house and my rabbits and the property, she thought it a fine place for us to be!

A tradition for me and Gran and Grandpa Tom was wildflowers.  Most times I visited Gran I brought flowers, replacing the ones I had brought the time before so she always had fresh blooms in her apartment at Riverheights Terrace in Brandon.  The early blooms were salvia, then iries, then wild ladyslippers (which she loved the best!), and finally wild tiger lilies, which had a special significance to me because of Grandpa Tom

Jon and I visited together often, and would regale Gran with stories of what we were doing on the farm.  She laughed at my love of chickens and told me stories from the farm and her personal hatred of chickens!  She shared stories I had never heard before about the farm.  When I was a kid, I ADORED Gran and Grandpa, and spent as much time as my parents would allow at the farm, which was nearly every second weekend for quite a while.  From them I learned a love of homesteading as Gran and I pushed wet clothes through the wringer washer, shelled peas, picked tomatoes, hauled pails of drinking water from the pump, chased frogs, enumerated bluebirds, identified birds and trees and flowers, drove the grain truck in harvest season, made crafts, baked cookies, read books-- all those Grandma sorts of things.  She made every visit memorable and time seemed to move more slowly on the farm, which was counter-intuitive to my young self who was having such a good time!  The saying "time flies when you're having fun" is less applicable than the simple fact that Gran and I always made the most of our time and thoroughly enjoyed every moment together.  I was never bored there and I learned to observe nature, love plants, and take time for the important things.

After Gran passed away, I got one of her books.  It was called "Nature Notes", and was a calendar to be filled in from year to year with visitors and observations from nature.  I can now look back and see when the robins arrived from year to year, remember visits that she noted, and high and low temperature records.  I bought myself a nice book and have begun recording my own observations in  it, in Gran's honor, and so that someday my own granddaughter may look back on my life.

Gran loved her roses, and I plan to plant one in her honor this year.  I am so glad that we made it back in time for her to see our return and know that we would carry on the family farm here in Manitoba.  I feel like this is what Gran and Grandpa Tom would have wanted most for me.

10 Reasons Series: #7 Follow your Roots

Jon's roots are on the East Coast.  My roots are in Manitoba. 
Wherever your roots are, you know what home feels like.  It's not easy to describe or explain, but it's the place where you just fit.  Things make sense and people get you and you know what's expected.

I loved Nova Scotia, but I didn't fit there.  My pace is different, my accent noticeable, my intuition off.  Moving to Manitoba was coming home for me, to the place where I belong and I fit and things make sense. 

Below my Gran's photo on the wall is a framed card from Christmas 2013: "Wherever you end up in your exciting life, you will always be welcomed here where you began".  I'm so proud to be back, carrying on the family farm tradition that her and Grandpa Tom instilled in me in my childhood.

The reason for following my roots and not Jon's?  I guess I won the arm wrestle!
But honestly - it's all about family.  His and mine.  Of course I have lots of relatives in Manitoba, but we are also closer to Jon's sisters (Seattle & Calgary) and our nieces and nephews.  As we considered starting a family, we realized what a better lifestyle we could have here, where we have family support and can achieve our business goals so much faster than starting out from nothing.

We were fortunate to have my Auntie Joan from the Netherlands stay with us for just over 2 weeks recently.  It was the first time a family member has stayed with me for an extended time, so it was really special.  We had a great time and she fit well into our household routine.  We also hosted a family get together, which was one of the better ones!  My Auntie Jayne who lives about 45 minutes away has also been a huge help, giving us furniture and plants and all kinds of random other things we need (the latest being a cultivator and two hens from her neighbour!), and helping tons with the business.  My Auntie Nancy has been battling cancer for a few years now and so I'm glad to get to spend time with her more often than when we lived away.  I've also connected with a childhood friend who lives closeby with his wife and kids. 

It's so special to me to have these relationships back in my life.  It has made me realize how much I missed them while we were in Nova Scotia.  There's no replacement for family, no matter how well you know someone.  Family sees you through thick and thin, good and bad, and they are there for you no matter what.  Jon's roots will always be in the East Coast, but when we weighed the options we decided this was a better one for us and I'm so glad to have been able to return to my roots, and share these connections with my wonderful, understanding, and selfless husband.

10 Reasons Series: #8 Networks

We had such amazing networks in Nova Scotia, it was the hardest part of leaving!  We had friends, colleagues, mentors, employers, CSA members, peers, and great organizations that we were a part of.  I started to make a list and immediately realized that there were too many to name!  Plus, the most important people know who they are because they're reading this, or they get occasional emails from me when I think about them.

Jon and I at SFM Conference, Jan 2016
While in NS I was on a number of committees for ACORN, Central Kings Community Health Board & Horticulture Nova Scotia, a board member at the Canning Food Bank & Hammonds Plains Farmers' Market, and a few other volunteer boards or committees.  I met such a range of people and learned so much about topics related to my field.
I also attended many, many farming and farm-related workshops, on topics like Financial Management for Farmers, Caterpillar Tunnels, Social Media, Farmers' Market Management, Greenhouses, Food Safety, Marketing etc, etc, etc.  There's a lot more farmers in Nova Scotia at our scale and therefore many more opportunities for learning than in MB.  We knew that going into the move and are so glad that we did spend three years on the East Coast, taking as many courses, looking at other farms, and learning as much as we could.

However, the move has proved less disappointing than I had expected.  The farm has joined Small Farms Manitoba, an organization run by Kalynn Spain which is doing great work in the province, connecting young/small farmers, providing resources, hosting an annual conference and planning awesome events all the time.  There's also the newly formed Direct Farm Marketing Association of Manitoba (DFMAM), and I'm lucky to already know the president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, the provincial policy organization.  Dan has been super helpful connecting me with others and steering me in the right direction when I have questions.

DFMC Keynote speaker Elspeth McLean-Wile from NS!
I attended the Small Farms Manitoba Conference this winter as well as the Direct Farm Marketing Conference.  Both events gave me a great opportunity to network with and learn from other farmers in MB. I have been conservative here with what boards I join (maybe overdid it in NS?!) and so currently I am working very hard for the Brandon Farmers' Market board in the role of marketing, rebuilding a once-vibrant market.  Our networks are growing and the more people I meet, the more people I find out that I need to meet!

At any rate, I'm really glad to have been pleasantly surprised by what is going on in the small farms industry in Manitoba.  We pictured moving here and feeling really isolated, but the more people we meet the better it gets!  We wish there were more growers in our area, so we hope that our success will lead others to settle and start their businesses around Brandon in the coming years!

Friday, April 22, 2016

10 Reasons Series: #9 Time: You're the Pilot

"The bad news is: Time flies.  The good news: You're the Pilot"

If you ask my Dad what the most important thing is, he'll say "Time".  I tend to agree.  Time is all we really have in this world, and so it's all about how you use that time and what you choose to do with it.

Since we moved, I have been able to devote my time to things that I am really passionate about, mainly towards the business which will one day be ours.  I tend to do things with my whole heart, and so in the past my jobs and volunteer commitments took most of my time.  The opportunity cost for me devoting so much of my time to outside things was that there was little left for me to work on my own projects and develop what is really important to me.

When we moved, I decided to make a change and work harder on keeping my personal life organized.  This was a notoriously neglected aspect of my life in the past, but as we put down roots here it's something that becomes increasingly important.  I started a filing system!  I got a doctor!  I got our paperwork in order!  I made sure our documents like health cards and passports were up to date!  Small achievements, things that I never put much pro-active time towards in the past and so they always became detested chores and wastes of time.  By taking a proactive approach and getting things done before they become a huge hassle, I can save time doing these things at inopportune times when I need to focus on other things.

A huge impact of moving closer to family is that there are other people to help us make the most of
our time.  My parents have been a huge help in this regard.  My Mom and I will get groceries for each other when necessary, she has made appointments for me and sorted out phone bills and made supper for us too many times to count.  My Dad has put in many long hours cleaning up our farm, getting water and other systems up and running, moving equipment and cutting down trees, knocking down buildings, talking to lawyers, setting up purchases: the list could go on and on!  By combining our efforts we can squeeze every little bit of this precious resource and make the best of it.

This time is the greatest gift my parents have been able to give us, and we do whatever we can to reciprocate, but it is definitely not an equal relationship.  While Jon and I are busy getting established, we need all the help we can get and have less time to help others.  For now, my parents have sacrificed their own time and busy lives to make space for us, and it's the biggest help that we have.  We're fortunate to have some great co-pilots in our lives!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

10 Reasons I'm Glad Series: #10 - "If you're not from the Prairies, you've never seen cold"

First day on the road leaving Nova Scotia, April 28 2015 - Snow!!
I was thinking yesterday that we're about 10 days away from the 1 year anniversary of when we arrived in Manitoba.  I get asked a lot if we're happy we moved back, and I struggle with that question.  It's not our dream to live on the prairies: Jon's roots are in PEI and I never planned on coming back, and always wanted to live somewhere that was a beautiful destination.  We made a compromise in our lives to come here, and it's definitely never been an easy choice, nor have we always felt like we made the right decision. 

However, when I got to thinking about some of the things we DO have in our lives now, I wanted to share just how fortunate we are.  I started making a list in my head and came up with so many things!  So, for the next 10 days I am going to go through my top 10 Reasons I'm Glad, starting with #10:

Reason I'm Glad #10: "If you're not from the Prairies, you've never seen cold"

Jon noticed something last fall.  Every time he introduced himself or met someone new, they'd find out he wasn't from Manitoba and then say with a knowing and ominous tone "So... You've never experienced a Manitoba winter yet??  You just wait...!".  Unfortunately all those amateur meteorologists picked the wrong year and we had one of the mildest winters I've ever experienced, anywhere.  So, the doom and gloom didn't come true, but it doesn't change the endearing part of the story.  Jon pointed out, "Manitobans talk about winter like it's an achievement"!!

But it is!  Getting through weeks of -55*C, IS an achievement.  At the very least, it sets the stage for a communal shared experience, complaining about your eyelashes freezing together and your car battery icing over and having to melt snow because the well froze over.  We make it through every year and we're proud of it, because we're from fucking Manitoba, where winters are brutal and unforgiving and we still have to get primal and fight a little to stay alive each year.  I think this helps bring us all together, and it was funny to hear people continually express their Manitoba pride last year through ominous weather forecasting.

The other physical characteristic that I love about Manitoba is the big sky.  I could never live in the mountains, it feels too claustrophobic to a Prairie girl like me!  You can see the sun as soon as it pokes over the horizon, and until the very last second when it dips below on the other side.  My Dad's joke is "you can watch your dog run away for 3 days!".  It's unremarkable in a photo, but when you see it in person you can't help but find it breathtaking.  All that flat space, and so much sky.  You can see entire storm systems moving across the miles and miles of open space.

Manitobans are proud of their beautiful prairie landscape, even when it's inhumanely cold outside.  There's camaraderie to be found, even in the less desirable aspects of prairie life, and that's something I'm glad about!


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Death match

I've started looking after the Brandon Farmer's Market facebook page in addition to Jon & Teri's Farming Journey (personal) and Brown Sugar Produce.  BFM and BSP have nearly the same number of likes, so it's been fun to see them battle!  I know I'm competing against myself here, but it's still motivating!  The BSP page has highly engaged followers, and I'm on rebuild mode with the BFM- lots of followers but haven't been engaged.  It's been interesting to see them waking up as more content hits the page!

I am inexplicably nerdy about this kind of stuff-- constantly checking our stats and insights and who's been visiting our website from where.  It serves us well, as I can see A LOT of information from the back end of things-- like the search terms you used to find our website, to how many times you opened an email I sent you and what link where is bringing people to our site. 

Long story, but after a rather traumatic experience in Elementary school, I kinda swore I'd never do a job that involved a computer.  I managed to get away with minimal technology until I got my first work cell phone in 2011, and it's been downhill since then.  What I'm doing now is definitely an improvement over entire days in front of the computer (2013 & 2014), and I'm strategic about it, following theories like Inbox Zero for emails and always researching a new shortcut (Canned responses in Gmail?!  Heck yes!!).  So, it's a love-hate relationship.  I use it a lot and I'm happiest when I'm not.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


 I don't even care... This is shamelessly a bunch of photos of our cats.  I love them and this is my blog!
 Samson has a social issue and doesn't get along with other cats.  I think he is too attached to us (my fault!!) and being overprotective.  He can tolerate little Blondie, so we've slowly been making progress.  Will sit beside Gremlin now without attacking her, too.

 Dark versus Light!

 Two ginger dudes!
I love when he rolls himself up into a little SamSam ball!

Finished upstais renos

 The renovations are complete on our guest bedroom, now open for tourist season 2016!  I'm actually way behind on posting photos and our first guest has already arrived: Joan from the Netherlands!  She is in the middle of a 2-1/2 week stay and loves the new room!

 What a difference fresh white paint makes!  I'm happy with the shade of green, too.  Picking our tinted paint is terrifying for a person like me who struggles to make a decision!  Thank goodness a friend and one of our Veggie Lovers works at a paint store.  I invested in high quality paint and think it was totally worth it!  One coat and you're done.  Thanks Andrea!
 Snowstorm moving in Sunday afternoon
Home sweet home!