The first tent dinner deserves a steak this big. Also chocolate.
Last week I discussed the people with whom I’ll be living with next year. This week, I’ll be describing the place itself. For those of you who are patiently waiting for me to finish introducing my plans for next year (which, quite honestly includes myself at this point), I’m hopeful that Part 3 will be a single post… which means we are almost finished this series!
Russet House farm is named after the Russet apple tree that sits prominently in the middle of the garden. It’s been there for a very long time and is nearing the end of its life, though it still provides a few apples every year. The prior owners of the property were very interested in sustainability, and used their farm to model and to teach many different technologies. The house itself was originally built in the late 1800’s, though it has been renovated and added to throughout the years. It is completely off-grid, powered entirely by a photo-voltaic system and heated via a beautiful old wood stove situated in the old farm kitchen. A solar water-heating system is perched on the roof of the house and a small wind turbine stands majestically in the garden… though neither of them currently work (Brian and Sylvia are not convinced that the solar water system ever actually worked, and they have found almost all of the magnets from the wind turbine in the garden over the years, magnets which should, ideally, still be located in the turbine itself).
When Brian and Sylvia bought the land several years ago, they originally purchased it with a community of people, though not everybody necessarily lived there. Instead, it was used as a “meeting place” of sorts, with a beautiful little cob cottage being used for sabbaticals and as a writer’s cabin, and the land itself being used to host a number of different conferences. Through the years, all the other owners left for a variety of reasons, and Brian and Sylvia are now the sole owners of it. Much of the land is still forested, with trails winding through it and little hidden surprises awaiting those with eyes to see.
The farm is primarily a market garden, and Sylvia is dreaming of implementing permaculture methods in the near future. The garden is having a form of sabbath, as the farmers are taking a break to focus on the book that they are writing together. They are still working the land, just not as intensively, giving a much needed rest to both it and to themselves. They have a small herd of cattle (one cow and two steers when we visited, though they have possibly slaughtered one of the steers by now), a few ducks for eggs and a couple of horses for their daughters to ride.
The neighbourhood nearby has deep significance for my family, specifically on my father’s side of the family. Not too far away is the remnant of the cabin that my great-grandmother was raised in, and also the place that my grandmother grew up on. A few kilometers up the road from where I’ll be staying is a farm that my father spent many summers as a boy working on, a farm that my aunt and her family lived on not too many years ago. I remember spending a week or so there every summer for quite a while.
A short bike ride away (or run, or walk) is the Victoria Trail, a converted rail trail that conveniently (for me) goes directly into Lindsay, giving me a beautiful way to commute to school every day. Even better, it goes straight through the Ken Reid conservation area, an area I am really looking forward to exploring and getting to know. The land is near Sturgeon Lake, which is part of the Trent Severn waterway, which, hopefully, I’ll be canoeing on as soon as the ice is clear.
I could go on with more details, but I think that, for now, I have set the stage of where I’ll be staying well enough, while giving myself ample room to explore specifics and expand on many of these themes as I discover more about them. Next week, I will hopefully be sharing the end of the Introduction series.
First of all, a very happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian readers. Having worked in the gardening/farming world now for four years, I’ve spent a lot of time considering this holiday, which, for the record, may be my favourite holiday of the year. Like many people, I spend the time leading up to it counting my blessings and realizing how thankful I have every reason to be. I won’t create a full list here, though I think there is merit for taking the time to write that stuff down. Rather, I will share one specific thing that I’ve realized I am very thankful for, something that I never thought of before I began farming.
As I mentioned last week, I love farming and all the physical and mental and emotional work that goes with it. And so, this Thanksgiving, this harvest time… I’m thankful the growing season is finished for the year. This may seem bizarre, after all I’ve been waxing on about how much I enjoy working the fields… but right now, I’m looking forward to not have to pick and pull and bend and sweat and to being able to have dirt-free hands and… I’m looking forward to the blessed rest from farming that autumn and winter bring. And I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year.
Also, a very special shout out goes to my Mom. Who “liked” my last post on The Facebook.
And herein begins this week’s post…
Starting next January, I will be attending Sir Sandford Fleming College in Lindsay, Ontario, for their one-year, post-degree program in Sustainable Agriculture. I like saying post-degree as I feel it lends an extra element of credibility to my choice to go back to school. “Sure, I’m going back to school… but this time, it’s a post-degree program. Kind of like a PhD.” I also like saying it’s for sustainable agriculture since it makes me look especially hip and earthy. Certain segments of the population actually think I’m a hero for wanting to becoming a farmer. Another segment (largely though sadly made up of disillusioned farmers) thinks I’m quite stupid for doing this. In a way, they’re both right.
The program itself is a one-year program, as mentioned above, which is nice because I am getting old(er) and don’t have the interest to spend too much more time in school. The first semester seems to be a bit of an introduction to sustainable agriculture, which is nice because the word sustainable can mean a number of things to a number of different people. The second semester is an internship on a farm of my choice. The final semester is spent figuring out all the really exciting details, such as legal and business matters. At least that’s my idea of what it will be like. I suppose I’ll find out more in January.
Back in 2011* I decided to tour the program while on a trip to Uxbridge to visit my family. I managed to sit in on a lecture and meet and chat with some of the students. It was a very exciting time for me (the lecture was on sustainable grazing methods… I remember this because I am a dork. I actually still have the notes I took that day. See? Dork.).
Afterwards, I went on a private tour of the campus, which has a lot of really interesting sustainable systems (green roof, living walls, massive composting system, gigantic wind turbine/sundial…). The gentleman leading the tour was one of the primary administrators/founders of the program, so it was a great opportunity to ask all sorts of questions.
That’s when I knew I would be attending in 2014. I’m going to be a farmer!
* I’ve been trying to figure out what year I toured their campus and met the students and the program administrator/instructor… I thought it was earlier than this but it must have been this year… I believe it was late spring/early summer.
Well, it has been over a year since my last post. I tried to publish this post on the exact anniversary, however my computer time is blessedly limited, so it got delayed a wee bit. Part of me wishes that I had got this one published at the one year mark, just for the sake of symmetry, but alas it was not to be. I’ll get over it I’m sure.
Since I first created this blog, my goal was to use it as a vehicle to share my experiences as I learned to better live in my place. That phrase is a loaded term of course, to “better live in one’s place.” and I will not delve into it now, though I will jot a note down for myself so that I can explore it better at a later date. Needless to say, looking back over my two posts thus far, I am not sure that I can exactly consider this entire experience a completely successful experiment.
So what have I been doing for the past twelve months? Life mostly. I have been living, working, worshiping, playing, and celebrating, each to a certain degree. And I have been laying low. I have, largely though not entirely, “disappeared from the grid,” which is a phrase I use with glee, and something that you, dear reader, will soon hopefully appreciate as much as I do in very short order. Since my last posting (or perhaps even before my last posting) I decided to temporarily remove myself from The Facebook and had given my phone number out to a very select few people. I was still reachable via e-mail, but sadly and interestingly enough, that mode of communication has become somewhat obsolete except for spammers and select institutions*. Now, to be clear, I have recently rejoined The Facebook, albeit in an extremely limited capacity, and have given my phone number out to more people, yet still, over the past year, I have remained a relative recluse.
It should be noted that this is not because I don’t like people. I generally like them very much, though I will admit I like some people more than I like others. This usually has more to do with whether or not they like me first, though I digress. The reason that I have almost vanished from the social scene is because I was tired. Not depressed certainly, but tired. And I needed some rest. I needed a way to revive myself after five beautiful years in The Academy, a sort of Sabbath for myself. I needed time to consider the future, to plan, to prepare, and to begin something new, something exciting and something that is possibly so utterly bizarre that only an individual whose passions include sustainable agriculture, camping, and Benedictine traditions could possibly think it is even remotely a good idea.
But that post, my dear readers, is for another day.
* As a somewhat related aside, I was recently told by a friend of mine that they have no way of reaching me. I asked them if they had my e-mail address. They did. I asked them if they had me on their Facebook list. They did. I asked them if they knew my phone number. They did. I asked them if they knew where I lived. They did. It turns out that, due to my complete dislike of texting culture, I refused to get a cell phone. Which meant that they could not figure out how to reach me.