I often wonder if industrial farmers have as many adventures and as much excitement as I do here on our tiny little farm. What a crazy time!
Maybe it’s because I have a two year old to provide me with a daily dose of perspective on life, or maybe my life is just a bit sillier than others . . . but either way it seems there is always something bizarre or beautiful happening around here.
I drove through my old neighbourhood yesterday on my way to a meeting downtown. Popped into my favourite bakery with the boy for our old regular treat, a french eclair.
The pangs of homesickness caught me by surprise. I can’t believe how much I miss it.
I’m calling on all my online girlfriends, farm gals, bloggers, readers, urban farmers, renegade homemakers and anyone out there who values local food, real food, saving farmland, heck – if you just like to eat, these folks need and deserve your help!
Please help me spread the word about an amazing group of people from a little town called Sooke (pronounced SOOOOOk, not Suk) outside of my hometown on Southern Vancouver Island who are trying to save a large tract of endangered farmland from development and turn it into a thriving farm cooperative and eco-village.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Vancouver Island is a gorgeous island off the southern west coast of Canada, just north of Washington State. It features beautiful, rugged coastline, old growth forests and a temperate climate that makes it lovely for farming. Sooke is growing fast and this swath of farmland needs our help to be saved.
As a young mum who has just bought a farm (much smaller than this one), I can tell you it is an insurmountable financial challenge for many families. Land in our neck of the woods is highly sought after and the prices reflect that, even for farmland. These folks are facing that challenge by joining together to create opportunity and a legacy for their community at large. I think that deserves our support.
The farm will cost 1.6 million dollars to purchase. They need to raise $35,000 in order to secure the farm. They’ve already raised nearly $15,000 but they have a long way to go, and not much time left to do it.
We have been on the farm for two full months now. Already I know my neighbours better than I did in the city.
It makes me want to sing from the roof of the barn. Hallelujah! AHHHHH!!
It has occurred to me very quickly living out here in the sticks:
For the last five years or so I’ve struggled to be a homesteader in the city.
Wrestling to put by hundreds of pounds of tomatoes with only two hands, having to buy all our own equipment, working double-time to run the house while pregnant, chasing children, facing a mammoth to-do list come planting and harvest time, and on and on and on.
I’ve realized since living here; this lifestyle isn’t conducive to the modern, isolated individual model of “community”. It just doesn’t work.
The first time Jeff took me home to meet his family on the other side of the country, he checked in on his guns. Cleaned them, oiled them, put them away. He tried to teach me about them, wanted to show me how to hold them, shared memories and family history.
I refused to so much as touch them.
Fast forward to a clear, cold November afternoon and I’m asking if he will teach me how to shoot.
What the . . . ???
We laughed, because it really is ridiculous how far I have changed in the last 6 years or so since that first trip home.
But, circumstances change and so do people. I would never in a million years have said I would want to hold a gun, never mind learn to shoot one.
We both immediately brought to mind a line from one of our favourite plays Wingfield Farms. If you haven’t heard of Rob Beattie and you farm, you must watch.
The story follows a Toronto stock broker who moves to the country (not far from where my hubby grew up) and tries his hand at farming.
You will wet your pants laughing. We saw this show live a few years back and we were the youngest ones there. It’s a one man show. Just sublime.
Anyway. There is one scene where he is having trouble with a protected species of hawk killing his livestock. He can’t shoot the hawk because of it’s protected status and goes through quite a bit of trouble trying to figure out what to do.
Then one day he comes home and the hawk is suddenly gone.
His wife simply states, matter-of-factly :
After 3+ loooooong months we finally sold the house last week. I can finally stop worrying about that. Now a whole new kind of anxiety is setting in.
We move on September 29, which gives me a whopping 2 weeks to pack! Ack!
I am being uncharacteristically anal about the whole thing – colour coding boxes and labelling like a mad woman. Box by box our little place in East Van is slowly transforming from a home into just a house again.
It’s bittersweet, but I’m glad. It will make it easier to say goodbye.
The farmhouse was built in 1892, which likely makes it one of the oldest homes in this part of Canada. Thankfully the character of the home hasn’t been abused; it retains many of the original features and feels like a turn of the century farmhouse.
Unlike other places in Canada, like Southern Ontario where my hubby is from, century-old farmhouses are a rarity here. We feel so blessed to have had this one find us, and so close to the city at that.
There is a 40′ x 50′ barn with a double hay mow, multiple pens and a greenhouse on the south side.
EVERYWHERE there are blackberries run amok. It will take a herd of goats and a small army of sows to root them out, I’m sure.
However, under the brambles there are sour cherries, hundred year old apple trees, hazelnuts, grapes, roses, magnolia . . .
There is a tiny crick running through it, leading to a perfect spot for a future pond, shaded by willows and more hazelnuts. There is a gravel road for bikes and pickup hockey games, a sunny south-facing patio. There are fenced pastures with soil that springs back with every step, full of dandelions. There is a deep well full of sweet sweet water. A small meadow in a tiny birch forest, perfect for picnics. The huge vegetable garden is drenched in sun. Buried beneath the weeds I spotted rhubarb and rich soil.
It is going to be a lot of work. A LOT of work.
We have a season of serious pruning ahead of us, followed by four or five years of the same. Nearly every woody plant in sight needs a major renovation. The hazelnuts have grown into huge thickets, the apple trees with knuckles like gnarled old men.
All I can say is thank goodness my husband is a builder. Jeff specializes in heritage restorations in the city, and our window company will be able to have perfect wood replicas of the windows made to modern energy standards. We are lucky that we can look at this tired, well-loved and worn home and see it for what it can be again.
It is teeny-tiny – only 1300 square feet. (I think that’s probably generous.) The front half of the house is original, one and a half stories and has two “big” rooms down and three bedrooms up. The back half of the house is an addition, from perhaps the 30’s, and contains an open room with the furnace, kitchen and bathroom. There is a covered porch on the north side and a weird little drop down on the south where another porch used to be. It is strange and quirky and bears the fingerprints of 120 years of families.
I love it.
I feel so blessed knowing we are going to be able to breathe new life into this beautiful old home, and do so properly. We are going to start on the master bedroom and chip away from there. Little by little, we’ll get there.
I have so much to learn about being a farm girl. Farm insurance, farm tax status, all the regulations surrounding livestock and selling food, the practical issues that come with living on a well and septic system, the long drives, the colder winters . . . All these things are both daunting and exhilarating.
I can’t wait to get to know beautiful, historic Fort Langley, get some chickens busy in the fields and watch my son settle into the best kind of childhood I can imagine for him; one full of fresh air, wide open spaces, good food, hard work and plenty of trees to climb.
Time to get packing!