A letter from Farmer Tam
It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to sit and write. It’s been a furious, tumultuous, crazy spring season. Scatter the seeds. Plant the onions. Plant the tomatoes. Transplant the pumpkins. Rain! Weeds. Grow.
Now that spring has come and gone, it’s with a heavy heart; I share the news that my Mum, age 82, has been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. It’s been a confusing time, season, and place.
But here in this place, in the garden, I know myself. Here in this place, I am home. The apple trees blossomed through a dry spring; there are just a few baby apples on the branches.
But, the blessed Rain came. The drought – broken. More rains come – timely each week. The gauge has measured almost five inches since the first spring shower. Last night, a wild rumbling thunderstorm. There was a downpour – another inch of rain. A spackling of hail, but only pea sized, and not in enough volume to damage. Good thing, as the strawberries are laden with blossoms and green berries.
We’re past the brink, Summer is here. Stuff is happening. Things are growing! Time is in hyper-drive. Moving swiftly – oh so swiftly.
Summer solstice brings incredible hours of daylight. My daughters are back to the farm, done school for the summer. I loved to see our girls have adventures in this space, when they were young. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s why I started this farm – so that they could experience a wild space and make it a home. I think that is also why my Mum wanted to be a farmer, in Alberta, in Canada, some 5,000 miles from her birthplace. To be wild and free from the trappings of an urban, stuffy, grey London. To see blue skies the breadth of the universe. To have the summer sun on her shoulders.
When my girls were younger, they came to ‘work’ with me every day, the same as I did when I was a child – with my Mum, on the farm in Rolling Hills. Like my Mum, I didn’t create games for the girls. I let them seek the outer stretches of the property, the secret spots, the hedges, the sunflower valleys, the bale jumps, the places they could re-create themselves, where they can still most truly be. It is, in fact, the same reason I came to farm. To create a greater awareness, love, and understanding for myself, which in turn helps me revere all that is wonderful in this world.
It’s why I invite you to come to the farm and discover it for yourself. The vegetables are just an awesome side bonus.
The wet and the heat, the longer daylight hours supercharge everything on the farm, including the weeds. Hands-on farm work is meaningful work. Weeding is one of my favorite farm activities. If we consider weeding editing, I’ve gotten good at that too. What weeding does is this: eliminates the excess – prompting healthy fruitful growth. So straight forward. Grow the things you love. Weed the things you don’t. How can we know what we love unless we sit in silence and listen? How can we measure our growth?
My wardrobe, my free time, certain foods and drinks, events and invitations, relationships have been weeded in the name of growth, and the inevitably of change.
I heard the song of a Meadowlark, loud and clear, yesterday, while I weeded rows of corn, in the solitude of the weeds. I have never seen Meadowlarks this far north – they’re usually only in southern Alberta, where I grew up.
Perched on a fence post by the dugout, his haunting summer melody – reminds me to go home, back to Rolling Hills – where they sing from every fence post. Spend time with Mum. To Live with Joy. To Live with Love.
Mums’ teachings: when we were kids, we once rescued a baby Meadowlark, with an injured wing, from the driveway. Mum helped us, painstakingly nurse him back to health. I cried when we released him to fly back to the wild.
“Wild and free, is much better”, my Mum said, “than living in a cage.” We heard Larky singing joy from the fence posts along the garden at the farm for years after. A free spirit, watching over us. A lot like my Mum.
More of Mum’s teachings: live with passion. Live with confidence. Live with exuberance, live with conviction and opportunity. I hope – reflected in my life’s work with my daughters. I am my Mum is so many ways. So she reminds me, gently, we are not immortal. We all grow. We all die. But the ripple we leave – grows. And our spirits fly. Yes, this is Summer. Fall is terrifyingly close, with winter barking at the heels of the next chapter of our lives.
Back to weeding. Attention and attendance are my preferred methods of weeding. Paying close mind. Minding my own business. Being present in the moment. Like the plants in the field, I am happiest when engaged with the soil, grounded down into the Earth; I bask in the gracious sun. I observe and honor the elementary needs, to grow. To weed. To fly.
What I’ve learned is that what I focus on – grows. And so I must focus on my relationships with my children. I grow in love and appreciation for my husband. We grow our farm. I grow our CSA. I try to grow a kind life. I grow older. I grow beautiful. I grow poised. I grow devotion. I grow acceptance. I grow myself. I focus on growing joy.
Many of the things that no longer bring me Joy are gone. It’s so simple. Grow the things you love. Weed the things you don’t. I don’t have time for anything else anymore.
Ask now, in this time of quickening, from one end of the sky to another… what must I weed; how will I grow, how will we all spread our wings?