Tag Archives: organic farming

Musings on the Equinox March 2013

Equinox March 2013. An amazing day.
Master teachers and yogis advise their students and disciples to observe the phenomenal world.  When was the opportunity to ponder more inviting than on this spring’s equinox?  It is a day of balance when the amount of light is equal to the amount of darkness; the day that marks the beginning of spring.  And what marvellous weather did Mother Nature share with us to proclaim the change of seasons?  A dark cold cloudy morning just like
all the others that preceded it all winter long; then a break in the clouds and an incredible bright blue sky beaconing people to come outside! 

And then a snow squall and brilliant sunlight, and yet another snow squall and gorgeous blue skies, then corn snow bouncing off the still dormant earth, and again the blue skies of spring.  Wow! It was a day to celebrate the seasons, a day to let us know that things are changing, but not quite yet, a day to wonder about opposites, dark and light, sun and snow. One might consider this equinox as a dramatic display of opposing forces or one might consider how
perfectly planned this whirlwind of weather, bundled into one day, the equinox, was to encourage us to pay attention to our phenomenal world.   

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

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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

 

It’s been a year since immigrating!

It’s been a year since immigrating! It was Labour Day 2007 that I took off for Canada, for a new life on a farm in a new country with a new job.  It has been a year of making new friends, developing new routines and learning new things. It is hard for me to believe that it has been a year, despite living on a farm with an orchard where the seasons are pronounced and the passage of time is told by the piles of pruned twigs and branches that grew through the winter, the blooms in early May, the slow and gentle growth of the fruit through the spring into the summer and then the ripening sour cherries, apricots, peaches and now plums that have been picked and processed from mid July til yesterday. The day we arrived we saw a big black bear which had been foraging in our orchard and he came to visit last week, but this time Cleo, our dog, was on guard courageously enacting her role as protector of the land and been keeping him at bay, giving us time to harvest the last of the fruit.

The winter was long and dark literally and figuratively. Our beautiful Okanagan Lake creating an inversion cloud that hung over the valley for most of the winter from late October to April. Combine that with one hour less sun than the lower 48 at winter solstice. Thank goodness for a little wood stove with a glass front so we can seethe flame and our funny electric fireplace that creates a little fake flickering flame with lights and mirrors and a small fan that pumps hot air through hole at the top. This winter we will paint the kitchen and dining area a bright yellow and paint the bathroom a warm red.  We bought anew comforter to get us through the winter with a bit of more warmth. And a new Heat Pump will replace our old oil furnace to ensure a more ecological and economic winter.

Last spring was a “hundred year event” colder longer and wetter than anyone in the Okanagan can remember.  It was a blessing for our orchard giving us time to get trained in irrigation repair by local “friends”, Alan and his son Fred who works in the oil fields of Alberta as a Piper layer during the winter when the earth is frozen and the trucks can cross the scrum.  Mark was a natural and in the ensuing weeks repaired well over 20 sprinkler heads and a myriad of broken lines. The majority caused by anew septic system ensuring that we could handle all the guests we had visit this summer. Twelve sets in all.  A brother and then a sister both who dove with their respective partners all the way from Southern California but only 200 miles further than Colorado.  And lots of other good friends who willingly helped us tackle a project on the farm each day.It is a relief to know that we don’t live that far away and people are intrigued by the award-winning wine country of the Okanagan Valley.

When sharing with colleagues at Ballet Kelowna my amazement at how the Okanagan Community has welcomed Mark and I into this valley, one said that is the culture and nature of the Company, which is open, engaging, and feels like a family. However, when I told this to Mark’s mother she said, “What do you mean?” Reminding me that we have been welcomed into the Quaker Meeting as if we were just returning from a lengthy time away. (I am becoming a member this fall) Mark is the new “kid” on his passionate softball team which plays a double hitter every Tuesday and Thursday. Our Friends Jock and Carmen who we call “Mom & Dad” have adopted us and include us into their circle of friends. The other organic farmers in Peachland Joe and Jessica are always available with advice and a trade of vegetables for fruit. And we could go on.

At last, with the help of an irascible tenant who never paid his rent on time and complained about everything, we decided to sell our beloved house in Boulder. Despite the valiant efforts of friends who were property managing for us, it is simpler not to have to deal with troublesome individuals. I just think that we were supposed to sell last year and embrace our new life, but I just couldn’t cut all ties to Boulder; another lesson about “attachment”. Our lives will be a bit simpler each month and there is so much to attract our energy.

That has been my motto both at work and home: “Simpler is better”, which is quickly followed by “Patience is a Virtue” when restoring an old family farm and building a Ballet Company.

Finally, there is much that I miss, which just as I began to enumerate, I decided that I don’t want to think about how wonderful the past has been. I don’t want to feel sad as we can’t have everything from the past in the present, but I carry it all in my heart and in my memories. The reality is that I am creating another wonderful past every moment. I am staying present with what the universe continues to provide us and being grateful for an adventuresome life shared with a wonderful partner with support from family and friends old and new, near and far.

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