Looking Forward, Looking Back

What a season it’s been, friends!

We’re away from the farm for a handful of days to take part in a family wedding, and, ta-da, a blog post! Ironically, I often find that the only time I have to write about the farm is when I’m not working it. When we’re on the land, we’re working, sunup to sundown. Travel affords us a chance to sit back and reflect on the whirlwind we’ve just stepped away from.

Like so many folks across the Canadian Prairies, we had a very changeable summer. The weather went from an early spring to a hot summer, to rain, to early cold. Nights are hovering around 5C now, just above frost, and the geese and sandhill cranes are already massing to leave. What?! When did that happen?

We spent the summer improving the market garden, extending the beds for next year’s flower farm, building additional patios around the cabin, and working on the road and the pond. Each improvement felt like a satisfying way of deepening our commitment to this place and to our future goals as we work with the land.

As the season turns, we’re already beginning the harvest. Preserving, which has occurred in small batches during the summer, is kicking into high gear: dilly beans! Dill pickles! Spicy carrots! Beets are being harvested for soup, potatoes for the cellar, and kale and carrots are turning into different vegetables altogether as their sugars heighten during the cold nights. We’ll enjoy them through the shortening autumn days in all sorts of comfort foods.

Fall is the time we put up our food for the winter, which in northern Canada can last seven months. We can, freeze, and dry just about all of our vegetables for the dark months so that we don’t need to buy in much. It’s incredibly reassuring to be able to turn to the cellar on the coldest -50C nights of dark and windchill, grab a jar of canned garden soup, and pop the top to scents of summer. Plus, it really helps the wallet while we’re scrimping and saving every penny for the coming year’s projects.

Fall is also the time we finish bucking up the wood we felled and stored during the previous year. We’ve had loads of beautiful poplar, tamarack, and birch curing under cover, and now is the time to make sure everything is split down and stacked for the long winter. We heat only with wood, and with many nights hitting -50C (-58F) with windchill, we really need a good woodpile! Plus, chopping and stacking wood is amazing meditation, as well as the instant gratification of a stack done right.

Finally, we’ll bundle up our bees for the cold, dark months ahead. The hives are insulated and roped together for additional warmth, and then all we can do is sit back, visit the girls during the cold months to listen at the hive entrances for life, and keep the ice off the hives as best we can. The bees are left with 100 pounds of their own honey each winter, as they’ll have to last seven month on their own before we can open up the hives to give them additional food in the spring. We’re especially excited for our Blue Hive, which has a strong queen and some beautifully calm bees. We’re hoping to do some splits off her hive in the coming season.

To round off the summer, we thought we’d share some images from our garden as it moves toward harvest. Here’s to you, friends, and your own home places as you turn the season on the land you love.

Tending the lovely ladies of Larch Grove, our small (but growing) apiary of four hives.

The perennial garden by the patio really came into its own this summer and provided a beautiful backdrop for farm visits.

Sharing the farm with friends, particularly young ones learning to garden, is a highlight of every summer.

Our garden is in a pocket of Zone 1 (Zone 2 with good shelter belts), so cherries have always seemed beyond our reach. This summer, though, the sour cherry trees taught us that they are hardy things indeed! Crimson Passion cherries made amazing pie.

We trialed dahlias for the first time this summer in our cold garden, and they worked magically well. We’re looking forward to planting them next year, too!

The pond filled up and is ready for landscaping next spring. It proved a favourite bathing spot for the moose!

Last summer, we sledgehammered apart the 1970s truck trailer we lived in for our first four years at the farm, and built this cook shed in its place. We finished it off this summer and installed the master controller of Larch Grove Farm: our Field Notes board to keep things organized!

We hauled 44 tonnes of road crush in the Vermont cart to lay new patios and top up our road by the cabin. Great workout, and there is something incredibly satisfying about the clean new road bed.

The harvest is beginning to come in, and it’s a beauty. It’s good to know that farm food will be nourishing us, our families, and our friends this winter.

Commentary

  • Don Perkins
    August 26 2016 · 19:11:28

    Thanks for the album, Jenna. And, yes, I was a bit startled to hear and spot the sandhills going over while out on my patio in Edmonton a couple of days ago. Seems way too early, but they did have a handy cold front to ride out on. I associate that sound more with Thanksgiving in Saskatoon.

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