Tag Archives: okanagan living

New realizations about the “Dream” – August 2010

New realizations about the “Dream” means making sense of life and events at the end of August, at the end of a summer of hard work and harvesting, and trying to keep up with the
processing is challenging.  Learning every day, not having enough time to pick, clean, store, process, cook, clean and then attend to the
rest of my life is challenging.  And, of course, I forgot rest. 

What I feel is a deep tiredness, deep calm, a physical strength that is not quite enough for the amount I have chosen to do. And then
there is the partnership and the fact that I insisted that if we moved to Canada that I have a family farm. But the irony is that we don’t have a family anymore. We are just an older couple and this does not a family make in the context of a farm. 

I realize why farmers had many children because many hands do the make light work.  I realize now why the farmer’s wife did not work off the farm, or, if so, only part time.  While the farmer is cultivating, sowing, cultivating, harvesting and storing, she is tending the family garden, taking care of the chickens, processing the food and putting three meals a day on the table for the farm hands. This was the life of my grandmother. Interesting that they call them farm hands because it is the hands that we need. The extra hand  is what I need now as the universe has really sent Mark the message that he is not to spend time on the farm. This is not his joy, his life desire, nor his purpose. 

In the past two weeks he sprained his ankle so that he could
not even walk for a week and hobbled for another.  And just as he started to get around and was harvesting the garlic he experience a freak accident where a garlic stalk went straight up his nose and cuts the wall of his sinus cavity.  The blood was atrocious. There could not have been two more clear signals that he must spend his time doing what he is good at and what makes him happy.  Even though the sprain occurred while playing softball, I really believe it has more to do with the farm.  He is out of his element. 

Now we really need to get smart and attract woofers and apprentices to the farm to help share in the dream of stewarding a farm back to plentiful production. 

Alison

Visit the website at www.ravensviewfarm.ca<a href=”http://www.blog.ravensviewfarm.ca” target=”” class=””>

Second Summer on our Okanagan Valley Farm

It is the beginning of June.  Actually now it is the exact end of June, tomorrow being July 1 Canada Day. It is our second summer in the Okanagan and on the land we are calling Ravens View Farm.  It is hard to believe how much two middle-aged novices have accomplished in our ambitious and slightly, well more like very naive endeavor of becoming farmers and developing an organic farm. It is overwhelming how much there is to do on a farm, but the correlate is how much there is to learn and that makes it exhilarating.

I had an intern once who grew up on a ranch. When, even before I had moved and the reality of our undertaking had fully emerged, I pondered, how, at my age, could I take on something so daunting? She responded,“Don’t you know that your body, your strength, and your stamina grows with your garden?”  I think of her and this insightful comment often these days. With each passing week, I get stronger.  At first I could only do three hours of hard labour. Then it was four hours and, with a rest, an hour more. Then it was five hours and now it is up to six or eight if I take the midday siesta.  I am fueled by water, which I now drink in profusion. I believe what they say that dehydration leads to fatigue. I am able to work much longer, but I drink a giant glass of water many times throughout the day.  I am also fueled by the fruits of my labour. I have learned that you do what needs to be done at this moment on this day during this season.

There are also many lessons to be learned.  For instance, if you don’t know what the particular plant is don’t cultivate it.  Get rid of it!If it is meant to be there it will grow again and even if it is meant to be there it will surely come back.I am referring to weeds. For which my favorite definition is simply a plant in an unwelcome location.But then we have the “noxious and invasive” plants that gardeners across North America are trying eradicate. And there are plenty on our six cultivatable acres.  It has been a season of identifying the most invasive and prevalent plants (leafy spurge, knapweed, teasel, which they refer to as Salsify and looks like giant dandelion and the beautiful hounds tongue which turns into obnoxious burs and finally creosote bush then of course there is baby’s breath) and weeding them out before they go to seed. Then of course some of them are beautiful and so you don’t realize that they are an invasive and unwelcome species.  The other lesson about weeds is once identified just pull everything as you go. Last summer I just pulled out knapweed as I walked by and it is amazing how many fewer plants there are this year. Keep you mowers in good condition and keep mowing if you don’t have sheep as this helps as much as anything. This has turned into a summer of reclamation and observation.

I am cultivating my skills of observation. I am observing myself and all that is transpiring around me. I have learned about my own personal rhythms of work and attention to work. I realize how distracted I truly am by things that catch my eye. IT is in all aspects of my life that I need to cultivate greater concentration

Today Fourth of July we are harvesting the sour cherries. It has been an opportunity to stay focused and follow through in harvesting every cherry on every branch and clear the tree and stick with it until the tree has been harvested. Then they must be processed immediately as they begin to discolour and must be popped into the freezer.45 minutes to pick and an hour to get into freezer bags.

Got to run.

Alison

 

100 Year Event – Coldest Spring on Record 2008

It is a cool cloudy spring day which is par for the course for this “100 Year Event” coldest spring on record in the Okanagan.  But given that we are having a huge septic system installed which is digging trenches over irrigation lines so we can’t water the many fruit trees which are just finished blooming and did not get caught in the killing frosts of two weeks ago, it is a relief. I can spare the sun for a few more days until the septic is in and we have dug up and checked more than 75 sprinkler heads around our six/seven acres.

It has been a trying and wonderful eight nine months. I suppose when spring finally arrives my gestation period will come to an end and I will have to enter into my new life as a farmer for better or worse and I love it (at the moment) which is accompanied by unexpected tulips and forsythia appearing in beds which I thought barren.

So by now you know that we are pretty sure that the farm will be named “Ravens View Farm” you will get it once you sit on the porch with a glass of wine and watch the ravens soar from pine to pine cawing and clicking to each other with the Okanagan Lake spread out below you with views all the way to Naramata. The Cottage has the best of what the septic guys call a “million dollar view”. I made a joke that we are going to call the garage when it is renovated the “Rook’s Nook” Sound like a guest house already. Don’t know how much will be done by the time you all get here as every construction worker is busy for MONTHS! We do have a lovely guest room and there is tons of places to stroll, to sit and read, and hang out.

We were able to research and secure “eco-lawn”seed, prepare the septic field and spread and water the seed along with wild flowers. Then we were able to get a lawn mower and mow the peach orchard.  Obtain more than enough of the miscellaneous parts that are required to piece together our irrigation system after the septic system installation and finally we prepared and planted an 80 x 3 foot bed along the top of the peach orchard for our first vegetable garden.  Needless to say we made good use of all the time this long Victoria Weekend and we are utterly exhausted.  Thank goodness for this cloudy showering weather today.

Alison

Springtime on a Farm

Today, April 5, I realize it has been seven months since I arrived in Peachland, BC and took up residence on our beautiful farm.  Mark and I are experiencing the joy that comes with the beginning of spring after what felt was a long and was in reality a dark winter  (dark because we reside above the 49th Parallel and because we have a huge lake at our feet, which produces the “lake effect cloud” above our heads all winter).  So much is happening every day every week around the grounds, on the ground that surrounds our new home.  At the suggestion of an organic farmer we met at a dinner party last night to keep a farm journal, I took the 2008 “week at a glance” Herbal Journal Calendar my sister gave me at Christmas to begin to note what we have been doing this winter and what is happening.  So in between the sunny April showers that have sprinkled across the valley off and on all afternoon, and which, at this very moment, has produced a rainbow that is rising out of the lake beyond our pines, I have begun to note my observations of what is budding. These range from the little starburst flowers of pale lavender that have nudged up and through the years of pine needles and leaves that have provided a carpet of mulch hiding them from sight until now.

It is amazing how much is happening outside our windows from the small birds that have returned that we are slowing over time going to identify from the Oregon Junkos to the Towhees and the house finches. They don’t have purple finches in BC. The magpies and the pair of Bald Eagles have been keeping us company since January. The chipmunk has become bold and scampers across the porch in search of seeds and other sundry items

As I walk the grounds and stroll in between the trees in the orchard, I can see the impact of the elements that comprise this particular ecosystem. You can see where the water has flowed generously and the effects of lack of water both overhead which cools the branches in the heat of the summer and the water that ran freely from broken sprinkler heads to nourish the trees from below. I can see the path ways of the bears when I ponder why one whole avenue of plum trees are leaning to one side and the branches on this side have been pruned away. The telltale marks of their claws scratching across the bark to create permanent scars are clearly evident. Then of course there are the trees that have been attacked by the smallest mammals on the land our voles or moles that gnaw the bar in the winter under the protection of snow. I expect that as the seasons progress and we spend a year in this orchards, we will see the effects of other pests even smaller larvae, insects their larvae and the fungi. Not the mushrooms that have grown in the waterways of the broken sprinklers heads either.

So much to do that I must run.

Alison

Happy New Year 2008!

The theme of this “Musings from Peachland” is “the more things changes, the more they stay the same.” 

I am captured by the reality that with all the things that has engaged me over the past year and with all the dramatic changes in Mark’s and my life things are much the same. How can that be? It simply boils down to,as we all know, you are who you are. You can change countries, time zones,homes, jobs, avocations, clothing styles, and hair (no I didn’t dye my graying head) and you still wake up to yourself in the morning with your same old hopes, dreams, beliefs, worries and, most of all, habits. So the more you change, the more you stay the same.

In this new country with new friends and colleagues, I am still perceived as energetic and enthusiastic, even though I am in my fifties.I am thought to be upbeat and positive. I am still huggable (Artistic Director, David LaHay doesn’t miss an opportunity to show his appreciation for hard work and engaged dialogues about the future. One of the affirmations that accepting the position as Development Manager for Ballet Kelowna was, after a week orientation and about 25 meetings, when I put out my hand to shake

David’s he just wrapped me in bear hug.) This new job is definitely a good “fit”. David is passionate about creating a preeminent Canadian Ballet Company and I am passionate about art, especially dance, and this young company is nothing short of amazing. An easy sell for someone who thrives on communicating the best of what I believe in.

But this brings me back to the more things change. I live on a farm and I work out of a home office. I am close to easy beautiful walks and a refrigerator. But when I start to work, I forget to stop for lunch unless I have a lunch meeting and I had best eat something before I start in for the day. Little habits I had developed in the workplace have established themselves at home (and I think, no I know, I drive Mark a little crazy.) Like, I tidy the office, now house, before I sit down to work. Everything needs to be in its place so I can focus on work with no distractions. The Boulder County Arts Alliance office was always tidy and ready for drop-in visits by artists. Well,no one is dropping in on us now, as it takes an effort and more than map quest to find us. This might be one of the few things that have changed. So far I like it. I think that I am ready to have a little bit of uninterrupted time. I feel less frazzled and more grounded when I am not jumping up and meeting and greeting folks. It may explain why the Ballet Kelowna board seems impressed with how much I have accomplished in four short months.

Another thing that has definitely changed is the weather. Although the Okanagan Valley only gets 9 inches a year, the lake is filled by melting snows in the mountains above us, it is cloudy from November to, or maybe, through March. (They say the sun shines the rest of the year and we get HOT summers.) For Mark as a Coloradoan and me as a transplant with 16 years chronic sunshine under my belt, it is quite depressing.  Mark is thinking of taking up sunbeam chasing, following the one shaft of light that comes through the “lake effect”cloud every other day.  This is more grey sky than we bargained for so we now have a “blue lamp” and are taking vitamin D and we run outside anytime the sun shines to prune a tree just to soak it in. Another great reason to work out of the home when we live on a farm. 

We are attending Kelowna Friends Meeting, which is under the Vernon meeting.  Mark and I make the tenth and eleventh attender in Kelowna. It is just like our first meeting,just as small, intimate and, yes friendly, as the Quaker Springs meeting in upstate NY. We have been welcomed with open arms and feel blessed as we share our contemplative experience of the morning over food at the end of the often”gathered” meeting. Two members of the Meeting are in their third year of homesteading just north of Enderby and have taken us under their wing,mentoring us in the ways of pruning, heritage seed/ vegetable cultivation and other farming activities we are now, or soon to be engaged in.

This is the big change in our lives and has become the calling that brought us to Canada, if you don’t count, what we politely refer to as the militarist fascist policies of the United States that saddened us so deeply and led us to make this move of conscientious objection. Pruning an orchard has become a new “practice” as it is slow methodical and is an art as well as a science. This is a wonderful way to become grounded and experience renewal. After the leaves pop and the blossoms show, we can measure our success against our inexperience.

Cleo is barking to get in after barking for what seems like, and could well be hours, at all the wildlife. She is diligent in protecting our orchard and her farm from any illegal trespassing by deer or coyotes. I hope it effective against the bears when they come out of hibernation and want to see what is cooking at 5010 Elliott Ave in Peachland.  We have a pair of bald eagles cavorting in the skies above the ravine that are clearly unaffected. I fear for the lives of my yet non-existent flock of chickens by these birds of prey and have decided to wait to get beehives started until we get our Great Pyrenees and I am sure we have deterred the bears. 

Well it is another cloudy day, but a good one to draft grants and write final reports in addition to Peachland chronicles for friends and family. 

Best wishes in 2008. May we experience more and lasting peace this year. 

Love, Alison

 

Impressions of future life in the Okanagan Valley

I am exhausted. First, from the fact that I always have to get all of my work done in the office before I leave for a week.  The other because we have done something precipitous, buying land in Canada before we have the permission to live and work in that country.

But here I sit on the edge of the front lawn, looking past the jumbled flower bed of various planted and volunteer perennials, over the rows of peaches descending across the lawn to the mature Plum tree to be rewarded by a spectacular a view of Lake Okanagan. Over the Deep Creek ravine filled with tall standing pines some tipped with red, which protects the bark beetle that is invading both our countries over the past five years of drought.  The weather has been picture perfect, even a little too cool with its gentle breeze and cloud specked sky. This is just about the ideal, made-to-order, place for me.

 Why?

 It is at the very end of a dirt road atop Princeton Hill that is straddled by cherry orchards, which are simply breathtaking in spring with blossoms and gorgeous with the ripe red fruit in June and July. Although we can hear the faint drone of the farm equipment across the hillsides and an occasional seaplane leaving the water, it feels very remote. Because ravines on each side surround us, this little piece of farmland is a peninsula surrounded by forest and has become “my own private Idaho”.

 I was just about to shut down this computer when I couldn’t resist the temptation to add a few last words on my last morning. Yesterday was an amazing day of meeting cherry growing neighbors giving me warnings about trusting folks and a volunteer at the arts center in Summerland so encouraging but warning me about the pot growing operations (the biggest income source for the province). And then I go to a party and have a wonderful time learning about the key areas of Canadian history from a delightful professor.  And a BC citizen who immigrated from to Canada 30 years ago after working with draft resisters in Puerto Rico.

Travel in the Okanagan.  Making sense of the private Idaho’s in different lands. Wondering if this is the right thing. I guess I couldn’t have asked from more encouragement that I have gotten yesterday despite tales of hangings in adjacent properties and interesting shakes of head about the people of Peachland.  When everyone says that this is the destination of all people in Canada because it this country’s.  Shangri La and Palm Springs all rolled into one.

It is interesting when one travels alone you have the ability to engage folks in conversation that you don’t otherwise. Everyone should pretend they are moving every ten years just to clear out all their stuff, I also think that couples should head out individually and pretend they are new to a community and learn what people have to say. I guess people are all pretty encouraging about the community in which they live because they have chosen to make their lives there.  You wouldn’t disparage a place that you have determined to make your home.  That would make you a fool.  So I look forward o sending Mark up here next and tell him to go meet folks and make friends on his own and begin the network of friendship making.

I am experiencing an odd mix of emotions when I sit on top of the beautiful hill looking at they gorgeous lake and at the same time viewing the promise of what will be the work intensive fruit trees orchard. I also wonder about the huge amount of development going on all around the area without any design consideration with chock-a-block little houses.

 Ah, the little birds are chatting in the beach trees. I have seen more than my fair share of Gold finches and I just wish I could identify all these sweet little birds. Redtail, Osprey, Raven’s and Bald Eagles, I can identify on my own, but it’s these sweet little warblers and others that I don’t recognize. Someday.

Well it is time to get ready to go because I want to walk down and listen closely to the sound of the water rushing over the waterfalls through Deep Creek.

Alison