CBC radio announcer’s voice drifts through my thoughts… “The cold snap continues – with no relief in sight!”
A cruel high blew in from the north, bringing with it a bone chilling -32 C wind. The snow from last night and this morning isn’t going to be enough to keep the kale alive, I worry. So I’m still out harvesting, now with long handled loppers to cut through the rock hard frosty stems, in the swirling snow.
I knew it was coming. “Dear”, I said to Terry, my ever-loving honey, “Can you hook up the bale buster? We’re going to have to spin a couple of bales of straw over the Brussels sprouts – to make our own insulation from the subzero forecast. Damn weather”.
We harvested as much as we could. The potatoes safely stowed away in sacks, the onions drying on greenhouse benches, and the beets and carrots, resting comfortable in the cooler. The leeks, turnips, and rutabagas – all hidden in a quickly dug root cellar – smuggled below a couple of big round straw bales to keep the cold out.
Brussels sprouts, collards, purple sprouting broccoli, mostly clipped and carried away. Leaves rigid, crisp and crunchy from the freezing temperatures – a full 25 degrees below normal. We loaded their stiff bodies in the back of the cube truck and then parked inside the south Quonset.
A solid wall of cold blows from the northern fields and beyond. We rolled the door down tight. It’s time to hunker down. The heads of trees look like pedestrians shouldering into the coming storm.
It’s winter. Searing, blustery, and finally bursting through the fall that wouldn’t end, where we inhabit a space of unfinished harvest – with row after row of canola swath lying untouched in the north quarters.
The farm moves toward early winter on the crest of a summer’s worth of cloudy, wet, cold weather, still fretting from ill-timed rains.
A record-breaking snowfall in October, which melted into a pumpkin mud fest, produced the highest incidences ever of weather related harvest failures. It seems we re-scale the farm every hour, reducing to only the most indispensable.
The question: What more can we shed and still remain?
The snow, cold and rain humbled us. We’ve learned a tremendous amount over these last ten seasons. But what I know most of all is that my knowledge is diddly in the face of external forces.
Aw – Snap! It’s beyond my control…
I know that this year I’ve never felt more at the whim of forces greater than I. In the early years, my hope, energy, entrepreneurial spirit, and love of the land were enough to inspire. The dream was the focus. In time, Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm, and I, became shepherds for the local food movement, for farming, for a lifestyle, and for sustainability. We lived the experience, walked the tight rope of the learning curve, gaining knowledge and wisdom, and fumbling along the public way. We grew quickly to fill a place in our community, as providers, as proponents, and storytellers.
But as with plants, winter is the time to die. Winter came. And die, we did.
The great circle of life – never more evident. The pumpkin vines died, followed the pumpkins left out in the field, the tender potato tops, the corn died. The rows of tomato vines. Even the hardy Swiss chard died.
And my Mum died.
Some of my hope died. Some of my faith died. Some of my love and vision died.
Truly, a part of my soul died. I no longer felt at one with my purpose, or the purpose of the farm. When I would speak for a tour, or walk the land, I received a drench of spirit. But the facts and figures, reports and protocols gave me frostbite.
What was… what is the dream?
Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm is my place to grow. Our mission is to cultivate, educate, inspire. Grow food. Grow love.
With the attention to the business of the business, with layoffs of most of our staff, the furlough of the remaining staff, except for the indispensable. The reduction of our offerings and the winter sabbatical from the fields – it feels as if I’ve lost the life to do all that needs to be done.
What is the path? Where will it take me next?
But when I see the joy in the faces of visiting children and their excitement for Santa, or the palpable relaxation among adult guests as they settle in to the space, enjoying a long-table dinner – with produce from my field to their forks – I know we have something worth growing.
I feel like I am the snow swirling in the wind, the branches enduring. Like the Aurora Borealis, dancing above. Like my Mum. I am learning to accept and forgive mother nature.
Like the Brussels sprouts, all tucked under the straw. With a little help from my friends…
“Frozen trees” from free images.co.uk