Tag Archives: Okanagan Valley

THE DAY AFTER THE ELECTION 2016 – Red Sky in Morning, Sailors Take Warning

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Those who have visited my blog Immigrating to Canada know I am an ex-patriot American, now a dual citizen of both the US and Canada, who left the United States with my husband after Georg W got re-elected in 2004. We left motivated by the Quaker Peace Testimonies and the need to leave a country that had perpetrated a war against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq under the false pretenses of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s) with over a million lives lost. This war continues today more than a decade later. For me, it has been nearly a decade of attempting to make sense of our life-altering decision to “walk our talk” and follow our moral compass north to British Columbia and Ravens View Farm.

I have been crying off and on for several days. Only after 24 hours did I realize that I am suffering from my own posttraumatic stress disorder, which originated on election night 2004 when Kerry, who looked to be winning, lost to George W late in the evening. The grief and near hysteria I experienced was a result of the pledge I had made to Mark, to leave the country if Bush got re-elected. This was now to become a reality. The loss of that election was extremely personal as I was soon to leave my family and friends, my home, my community and all that I held dear. (This experience is captured in  IMMIGRATING TO CANADA blog post Reminiscences Before And After The 2008 Us Election.)

Many FB posts and letters by celebrities say in essence “It is our duty as Americans to stay and fight for our beloved country.” This is because half of the citizens of the United States are united in fear and they are aware that during the Viet Nam war many conscientious objectors sought asylum in Canada refusing to fight in that unjust war. Many threatened to leave the US if Bush got re-elected, but few of us actually did. The difference between then and now is that we waited until the next presidential election  working daily, calling and walking door-to-door in an effort to get out the vote and elect a president that would lead the country mindful of the ideals of our democracy outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

It takes an enormous amount of courage to leave your homeland, your country. It is not a decision to be made without a great deal of thought and consideration. And for those who left, not from fear, but from a need to speak our truth through action, I hope that we demonstrated that there are in fact many ways to voice discontent, and emigrating to Canada is just one. Freedom of speech and to gather allows for peaceful civil disobedience to protect earth’s gift of water at Standing Rock and protesting in the streets of our cities. However one chooses to take a stand, it takes deep courage and conviction. This election has given rise to both and the nation will be better for it. And remember, no matter where you live in this age of technology, you can take a stand and you can fight.

If you are considering coming to Canada,  you can rent The Cottage at Ravens View Farm for a week. I will cook you farm-raised organic roast chicken dinner and share our experience with you  over a bottle of Okanagan Valley wine.

The end of another season at Ravens View Farm 2015

August 31 2015 – It feels like the end of another season at Ravens View Farm

This has been the season of all seasons. It started way earlier with a warmer winter and then a warmer spring, which continued to deliver the hottest summer on record not only for the Okanagan, but the world, and possibly the driest, but that is not altogether unexpected in the Okanagan Valley, which is a dessert after all with only 9 inches of precipitation annually.

However clouds, not the smoke from Washington’s wildfires, have rolled in the past few days and the temperature has dropped with the light rain we received. Last night in fact held a maker for fall when I put on an extra sweater because the evening breeze was chilly. With the overcast skies I slept until the dogs awakened me at 6:30. But after feeding them and letting them out I went back to bed with a cup of tea to finish the book for book club tomorrow evening.

There are still some jobs to complete on the farm. Aren’t there always? But my sense of urgency to get out there before the day gets too hot to work has diminished, because my body, which is fitter, firmer, leaner and meaner than ever before, is craving rest, the deep rest that comes with fall.  And this is speaking louder than the demands of the farm.

Fall has never actually been a favoured season here in Canada, unlike my years in the lower 49 states, because it portends the temperature inversion that brings the blanket of cloud that put the orchards and gardens to sleep for the winter. It also foretells of the much shorter days to come above the 49th parallel beginning on the Equinox just a few three weeks away. This may be why I love the bears that are our constant companions this time of year. Their search for food in ours and the neighbors’ orchards, instigating the encounters with our dogs to get the plums, is a reminder of the coming season of hibernation – a reminder that there is a time for bodies to relax, for minds to release and spirits to rise.

This year I find myself looking forward to fall. I have grown weary of getting up with the birds that began to stir at 3:45 am and were in full song by 4:00 calling me out of bed by 5:00. But what a glorious way to start a day with the mating songs of so many species of birds that decided that Ravens View Farm, whose ravens had moved up into the cooler mountains, was the place to call home for the summer. With our daily refreshed birdbath and a constant rotation of irrigation on the fruit trees, they were assured a good source of water and as it turns out food as they proceeded to take a bite out of every fourth peach as they ripened.

This was a also season of new pests, from tent caterpillars to the dreaded spotted wing drosophila fruit fly as well as many diverse pollinators I had never seen before accompanying my favourite insect the honeybee. It also marked the arrival of more creatures.  We have seen more lizards and garden snakes and rubber boas this year than ever before. It feels like we created an oasis in the midst of the intense drought when their natural habitat became too hot dry and food became scarce. The insects and mice and rats (both Pack and Norwegian) and of course the snakes, lizards and spiders have all come along to savour the “fruits” of the farm. So this is a year of all kinds of abundance in the midst of our experience of global warming. With it however we lost a higher percentage of our peach and plum crop to birds who created the seconds that I and my customers turned into jams and chutneys. We fed the rodents a fair percentage of the chicken feed.

Now I have to address the spotted wing drosophila that has become the scourge of the fruit growers in the northwest and British Columbia.  My most important chore right now is to rake all the rotten Italian prune plums into black plastic bags and heat them up to kill the larvae and determine what I can do as an organic farmer to ameliorate them in future seasons. Without our annual cold snap that kills off so many of the hibernating predatory larvae in the ground beneath the trees we will be inundated again next year earlier with even more. So plans to finally renovate our heritage plum orchard through deep and strategic pruning are already underway with marks being made on the branches to be cut come winter. The result will be less fruit but healthier, easier to harvest in a timely manner at the just prior to full ripeness to avoid the fruit fly. I will probably end up with just what I need to sell to ensure the farm remains viable. I look forward to a more manageable orchard next year and the feeling that I have restored and reinvigorated the old plums.

At times I feel a distinct other presence in the orchard. Mark has identified it as the fairies that live in the trees. Now while I am in the old orchard cleaning up and contemplating which branches to prune, I am sensitive to the fairies that guard and protect the trees. I believe they invited us here in the first place to save the orchard and they have been watching ever since to be sure that we are good stewards. In that spirit and perhaps with their guidance we will endeavor to do the plum orchard justice and the peach trees as well.

There’s much more to recount of this growing season here at Ravens View Farm, but my cluttered desktop now beacons me to begin the process of filing months of papers that have been accumulating, lying in wait for this cloudy cool day to be addressed. And of course this is the year that the farm will be assessed by the Farm Bureau to be sure that we are indeed a working farm and deserving of the small tax breaks and lowered water rates that farm classifications bestows. There are always chores to do on the farm and now I get to dig into my least favourite, the paperwork.

Until my next moment of procrastination, enjoy life and all it has to offer as I seem to do here on Ravens View Farm.

 

 

Musings on Pruning in Peachland on Ravens View Farm

Pruning in Peachland on Ravens View Farm.

With 45 old plum trees and 35 young peach trees on our small organic farm in the Okanagan, the month of March invites us outside to begin the process of cultivating the farm by pruning the orchard. We get to study each individual tree and consider its future health, productivity and hopefully shapeliness.  For a person who takes time to carefully consider each decision in order to make the best one, pruning takes practice and pruning has become a practice. I am practicing my ability to stay present in the moment, I am practicing my memory of the key principles of pruning, and I am practicing decision-making with every cut.  Mark has been fantastic at cutting the water sprouts and dead wood each year and ensuring the overall shapeliness with his artist’s eye.  However over time the ends of
the branches have begun to criss-cross and overlap because I have not tended to this refinement for the past several years.  So it is time and my turn to cut away the branches from underneath. With the meandering tendrils of fruiting wood intersecting, I am forced to determine what to cut and make sure I am not cutting more than the
recommended 1/3 each year.  At all times I am testing the branches for strength, because the greatest damage to our trees are the bears in the night who indiscriminately pull down on the branches until they break to feast on the fruit at their convenience. With this in mind I must add that I am pruning the tree for strength.  It is this final consideration that eases my mind when I wonder, have I cut too much?  I am remembering the words of our first pruning mentors who came the first winter with chain saw in hand and startled us by valiantly cutting away the large inner limbs that sheltered the rest of the tree from the valuable rays of the sun that ripens the fruit.  “Be Brave” they said.  With this refrain echoing in my mind I realize that pruning is a seasonal practice for cultivating courage.  

Permanent Residency Achieved! October 2010

Permanent Residency Achieved! October 2010. I am pleased to announce that, upon my return through the Kelowna International Airport Immigration last week, I received my permanent residency in Canada!  This process has taken three years to come to fruition beginning August 11, 2007 when I received my temporary foreign worker permit.  Thus began Mark’s and my journey north of the 49th Parallel and embarking on a whole new learning experience including, but not limited to, cultural differences, (new spellings of the English language), restoration of a six acre farm and orchard, a new geography with whole new points of reference. I am delighted and honoured to be welcomed into Canada to continue my work with Ballet Kelowna. Mark arrives later this week to complete the process. Much thanks goes to the Central Okanagan Immigration Specialist Woody Cross who helped guide me and the organization through the process over these past years.  My thank you testimonial is included on their websiteNeedless to say, I have much to be thankful for this Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday.  Thanks to all of you for your continued friendship and your support during this time.

In gratitude, Alison

Visit us at www.ravensviewfarm.ca

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

 

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