Unforeseen Moments on the Farm- Kaitlin Baronas

When I arrived at Prairie Gardens, just over two months ago now, I didn’t think many things would be different. I have lived in rural farming country my entire life and so when I got the apprenticeship here in Bon Accord, Alberta I thought the weeds would be weeds, the soil normal, the weather similar if not colder in the winter, the garden pests tiny little bugs, and the cucumber operation less interesting. With these assumptions of my new home I definitely had a transition period to life here on the farm. During my time here I decided to record a field journal everyday to record my learning and experiences as an apprentice. These instances have become moments of surprise that either took getting used too or piqued my interest. In this article I will share parts of my journal entries that reflect these moments.

June 13th

Was a cold night, the complete opposite of the climate in Ontario. When I left home it was usually around or above 30oC everyday. Here in Alberta it is around 20oC during the day… My first task for the day was to remove the dandelions and other weeds from a row of garden chives, as well as transplant any in a double row to just one. Used a garden fork and the new hoe Tam sharpened in the tool shed to dig out the weeds. When she mentioned weeding the dandelions on the phone before arriving, I thought of just the small yard dandelions from home. Boy was I mistaken! These were monsters in comparison, taller than the chive plants and up to my waist in height. I am in shock.

June 15th

Rained last night and is cloudy today. Digging the soil up today to plant garlic chives but the soil is just giant clumps of clay, not crumbly at all- which is what I expected. I guess I did not really think the soil would be that different from home but their soil here is black soil, the best in the world they say.

June 17th

Another wet day however my trailer got tuned up today. With the best news of all, which I forgot to mention, was if the climate control panel was working in my trailer. However, I decided to try it and it works now!! So excited because every morning is so cold that I wake up shivering and not wanting to get out from the covers because the air is so cold.

June 23rd

Today when we were driving back to Prairie Gardens from the field we stopped and picked some rhubarb for Amy. Had no idea rhubarb was so easy to pick before now. My mind is blown! Picking the rhubarb is the easiest thing in the world. At home we cut it with a knife but if the stalks are ready then all you do is grab the stalk at the base of the plant and pull. It pops right off… Ended our shift with thunder and rain again today.

June 27th

Before the end of my shift today got to learn how to prune a tomato plant. Also, had to pick any ripe tomatoes on the plant before the slug population got them. I never knew slugs were a thing let alone an infestation problem. By picking all the ripe tomatoes and stepping on the slugs it helps manage their populations and also instead of the slugs getting the produce, we can consume it or give it to the livestock.

June 28th

Another rainy, cloudy day.

June 30th

Today was another rainy and wet day like Saturday but I got to be inside the greenhouses working most of the day.

Wednesday July 1st

Happy Canada Day! Another rainy, wet day here at Prairie Gardens. We picked ALL the ripe tomatoes today so that the slug population didn’t get them. Slimy creatures. Had to step on so many slugs today I didn’t even bother counting. Alongside the MOSQUITOES, so many creatures! The rain also continues to come so we can look forward to more still. While today the cucumber project started coming along. The strings were being tied up and I helped wrap the cucumbers up the strings. I am weirdly loving the cucumber process, almost meditative just carefully wrapping the string around the cucumber plants. Later after work we had a little celebration before it down poured with thunder and lightning to end the party.

July 2nd

This week has been rainy or wet everyday. When I think of the number of sunny, warm days we have had I don’t recall many. Continuing the cucumber project today, I officially want my own cucumber greenhouse. So, satisfying, fun, and of course yummy!

July 5th

Day off today, I did a lot of cooking and decided to finally use my stinging nettle. Cooked it too long but I wanted to make it into a pesto so the sliminess didn’t matter so much. I almost threw it out, towel and all, because of just how displeasing it looked. So happy I didn’t! Took all the leaves off the stems and threw it all in the blender with about 7 small garlic cloves, canola oil, cumin powder, salt, pepper, and a third of a fresh lemon squeezed. After that I added my cheeses, I just used the little I had left in the fridge: goat and feta cheese. Added it to my pasta and my first homemade pesto was a great success!

July 8th

It rained NON-STOP last night and into this morning! Holy cows! At some points I could hear it really down-pouring. Tam mentioned that they already had 10 times the rain then a normal year. Last night we got about 2 inches. Pretty much what I am saying is that it has been wet here almost everyday, even on the sunny days cause it rains the next day anyway.

July 10th

Today we finally had no rain! Last night we had rain fall but today was a beautiful summer day. Visited Rosy Farms for are first Haskap berry experience. Pretty sure none of us knew about Haskaps until Tam mentioned we were going to pick some.

July 17th

Last night it rained again, places that were getting nice and dry were either wet or puddles again today. Getting use to all the wet weather though, just another part of working with nature. I do find that weeding and planting are nicer the morning after it rains at night. Especially if the soil is rototilled before planting. It is so cooperative- it’s a dream.

That about sums up my moments of surprise at Prairie Gardens to date. I hope to enjoy more surprises and excitement as the season progresses and look forward to experiencing it alongside my fellow apprentices and mentors. It’s a busy, fulfilling life here on the farm.