late november, 2019
2019 dawned with my addressing some pressing physiological issues that had arisen in my family. the large chunks of time devoted to the successful recovery from these issues was still not enough to silence the persistent narrative in my brain ... how was this all going to affect the growing year? during the long first five months of the year i was haunted by my disastrous annual field which lies in clear view of my back door and allowed my constant fretting about how the deeply rutted, water-laden mess was ever going to be overcome charge on unabated. then, as seems to have become the norm these past years, a little mini-drought around the third week in may allowed the 165 to gain access to the field without incurring any further damage and it was tilled to perfection. it's from about this point that it all becomes a blur!
i do know that i spent more time in my fields this year than i have for many a long year. and it really showed! in the early spring i was able to plant over a hundred native trees and shrubs around the property. the native plants that i chose all produce a fruit that are helpful to both birds and humans ... highbush cranberry, hawthorne, saskatoon berry, elderberry and the most stunning (year-round) variety of malus called indian sunset. i also planted 200 bayberry shrubs so that i can continue my obsession with plant-based waxes. bayberry is a native shrub and they thrived from the second they hit the soil - it'll be a few years yet before we make candles from our bayberry shrubs but already we are one giant step closer. and finally, for shade and screening, i planted 10 comfort sugar maple ... yes, these trees were grown from seeds from the amazing comfort maple in fenwick, ontario ... the largest/oldest/prettiest sugar maple in all the land!
in the fields, i planted another elderberry grove as well as a 40-strong saskatoon berry planting. i was happy to relinquish parts of my fields to these plantings as not only will we be able to do amazing things with the fruits from these native woody plants but it leaves less space for labour-intensive annuals: the thought of reducing labour becomes, as the years pass, as appealing as it is necessary! just think though ... two all-canadian, true-native superfruits?? stay tuned to how we will use the amazing phytonutrients from these babies!!
now, not to brag, but another paragraph is absolutely required to discuss our cut flowers this year. we have always had something lovely and fresh on our market table so the idea was to expand what we were already doing for sale at markets. what a fun project this was!! you have to know that growing gorgeous flowers for skin and hair products is COMPLETELY different than growing flowers to be admired. on the one hand, botanicals grown for vauxhall products are either immediately distilled or placed in the drying shed and on the other, you have cut flowers that are harvested before they peak and must be preserved in a way that will ensure they last a good long time. they also have to be artfully grouped together as a bouquet and be displayed for all to see. it was just such a great challenge all-round and we are grateful for not only the response but for the lessons learned. eyes wide open in 2020 for mastering our cut flower craft!
blessings passed forward
at this point in my recollections, we are in mid-july and we are about to return to markets. if you have digested the above few paragraphs, you might have thought 'wow, that's a lot of things going on over there in grimsby'. not only were there a lot of things going on but the fruits of our labour were beyond delightful. there were times that i caught myself gazing upon one lovely thing or another for long-periods of time ... i discovered that hoeing one 175' row without interruption would gain me 15,000 steps ... most days i would dash into the house to grab something to eat and then find the prettiest spot to dine al fresco ... and, without fail, ending every day sitting on the back porch til all light faded from the sky before going into the house. in a word, i had become, for all intents and purposes, feral.
although i do not remember how, we pulled ourselves together and got back to our twice-weekly markets in toronto on july 20th. i clearly remember thinking on that day, when the temperature in the don valley swelled to over 40 degrees, that if i made it through that day i could basically do anything! with the lovely elena at my side at brick works and my very best squirrelfriend kristyn at sick kids, we have flown through summer and fall and are now deep into the run up to christmas.
still a few weeks to go in 2019 but i wanted to try and give a quick, on-the-fly account of our year thus far. many of the people i meet is due to the fact that they have given up on mainstream personal care products and they like the idea of knowing that what they use on their bodies every day is from a trusted source. on one hand it seems crazy that a plant-nerd like myself who finds herself floating around this farm in a state that seems so disconnected from the mainstream, that i have become the 'trusted source' for so many. however gratifying it is to hear praise, my greatest reward is the opportunity to, in kind, reward my little farm with native rehabilitative plantings and the opportunity to continue exploring the potential of the plant world and the vertical integration of it. 2020 is beckoning ... are you coming along for the ride?