The Adventure of Visiting Parents

We are halfway home again this morning and I am still thinking about how wonderful it was to get a good visit with both of my parents. It is not easy to catch them in the same photograph as they tend to be like bees and busy working away on their separate tasks until mealtime or if one or the other needs help with something. But this morning I caught them having a brief conference about something or other that needed doing. This is mom (Nell) and dad (Jack) who are now in their early 80’s and still farming with a large garden, hay fields and 40 head of beef cattle in rural north central British Columbia. They were getting a bit pained with my snapping at this point as I had already taken a few with my big camera.

Dad got the last of the hay turned and baled in the field before the rain settled in. We had our first feed of corn without the frost getting it. The car is loaded with a large bag of potatoes, a few beets, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers for snacks. We also ate farm beef and more vegetables from the garden while we were there and even a few peas and raspberries that were hanging on. But it is definitely fall. I couldn’t help but be able to imagine the fields full of snow and the warmth of the wood stove keeping the cold out.

Dad turning the last of the hay in the field closet to the river. There was still a small amount right by the house to finish up when we left. But he has to wait for another chance to get it, if he gets it. The fall rains, heavy dew and fog sometimes have a different idea.

Mom is puttering as she calls it, watering her various flower containers. Everything is reused including this old car and many other items that I will do a separate post about in the next few days.

The view from the top field looking back down to the farm house and buildings by the river is always a pleasure. I had bear spray on my camera belt (just in case) and kept singing and making noise (which is a practice we had as kids as we had no bear spray).

The next day, we looked back up in the field and a beautiful big black bear was standing right where I am now taking this photograph. I think it was the same one we saw at the top of the hill on our way out as well but they do live there and it always something to keep in mind when out hiking or poking around. Mostly, they are shy and will scoot off when they see you. But just in case they don’t, well, mom suggested I take the bear spray.

The greenhouse my cousin did for my mom and dad now has the old windows from the house in it. There is tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers eggplant and a few other things in there with more herbs in the the old watering troughs at the back.

These beauties are the large brandy wine and small chocolate tomatoes on a platter ready to go to the house for supper.

This morning, I make my own coffee, instead of dad handing me a cup, and I tuck into my own daybed, instead of curling up under a blanket on my parent’s couch or at the end of their bed. I am home again. My Mayne Island home. But this childhood home, a full 900 km away, is not far from my thoughts as I gather together images to see if I can give you a wee taste of what it is like go the last 10 km or so before I get to the river.

The last half of the 40 km from Vanderhoof is a well cared for gravel road that can get mucky after a rain (Red Rosie can tell that story this morning) as it has that stuff on it to keep the dust down. There are farms and rural homes on the way out. But, once we are this far, they are set way back off the main road. I always think when I make it to here – not long now!

And it isn’t long at all before we are heading down a narrow track of a road for another 3 km and a bit. This is where we saw a black bear on our way out at the end of our visit. We thought it might have been the same one we saw in the field a couple of days earlier. No photos. The bear ran away as all bears should when they hear you coming.

We keep going down the sand hill and up the pipeline hill until we get to the beginning of the property.

I can smell the over-ripe high bush cranberries in the stand of poplar. I ask my husband David if he can smell them. He says – no. I am a bit puzzled because the aroma was strong. Then I realized he didn’t know what he was smelling. So I tell him that they smelled a little like a wet dog (my mother corrected me later and said more like a wet bear ;). David says – then yes, I can smell them!

We cross the big fields I showed you above.

I pay little mind to the haystack as we pass by.

I pay no attention to the tractor either and pull up to the house, watching for mom and dad to come out to greet us and help carry things in. There are hugs all round first of course!

I hardly glance at the large garden and save it for exploring later. Now that I have said hello to my parents, I have one thing in mind.

We head for the house with our bags and up the steps.

Past the onions drying for winter.

I drop my bag in what I still think of as “my bedroom” though I am sure my baby sister feels the same way. We shared this southwest bright bedroom for a few years after she was born while I was still at home. After that, she had it to herself until she left home. There is a solar light beside the tissue box and a regular flashlight on the windowsill. There is no electricity on the farm but, things are so well set up, one hardly notices.

Then, as soon as things are quiet enough, I gather my camera and head back out the door. I squeeze through a gap in the fence, just beyond the apple trees, and take the last few steps to the banks of the river. It is what one might anticipate from a landscape painter I suppose.

This is the Stuart River and this is Sturgeon Point Farm. The point is visible on almost any map if you know where to look. Two days of driving and, halfway up the province of British Columbia, this spot seems to settle the gritty edges of travel immediately!

Now back at the beginning of my journey, I shall go for a long hike with a friend this afternoon and do this same kind of “settling practice” here on Mayne Island.

This annual trip is like stitching up holes in a favourite well-used sweater of my life. There are still likely a lot of good years left in it yet, if I take care of it! Life is like that isn’t it? We never know its length but the richness of its depth is ours to deepen and to discover the mysteries in each day, from the time we open our eyes until we close them again.

May you have an ordinary day filled with small discoveries that remind you of just what a special miracle you are in this beautiful world we live in!

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A Friendly Farm Gate Chat

Dear readers, how would you like to go shopping with us today? Remember, I can see when you roll your eyes. I promise it will be a shopping trip like no other you have likely been on recently. Today is the opening of Mayne Island’s Farm Gate store.

Farm Gate is the dream and shared vision of Don and Shanti McDougall who own and operate Mayne Island’s Deacon Vale Farm. Striving for local, organic and the best ingredients, the Farm Gate Store experience is about getting beyond either or thinking. When you have a love for food and community like the McDougalls this is no surprise.

At  the storefront we stopped to look at a great new sculpture by local artist and cob home expert Pat Hennebery.

Here we are at the Farm Gate store’s side entrance. A family has arrived ahead of us on bicycles to Mayne Island’s newest food place at the edge of the woods.

We are thinking maybe we will go by bicycle next visit. As we go inside we are greeted warmly by friends and neighbours and the store owners alike.

There are no strangers at the Farm Gate Store. Only new friends.

Customers decide between all of the quality choices local to “the islands” and British Columbia and a few exceptional import goods.

Locally, in our northern hemisphere, this time of year there are mostly  kale, mushrooms and a few greens and winter vegetables.

And please don’t tell anyone but I dislike kale. I know that is not very back-to-earth of me but I just can’t help it. To have the best eco-friendly variety and a balanced diet is to eat what is local, organic and in season closest to us.

Okay, so opening morning, one hour after being oriented on a new check out system that has just been installed, can be a little daunting. Though the learning curve is steep for the tellers, even young customers are happy to chill.

After all, this is the event of our day – no need to rush out the door to plant the spring peas. They will wait.

So let’s see some of the things we brought home. I have laid them out on a Deacon Vale Farm apron I was given in the check out line up.

I did not need a gift for waiting but I shall treasure it for its thoughtfulness and to remember the pleasure of opening day at the Farm Gate Store. We mostly bought celebratory foods. Partly because we know we can go back again for “a real shop” and partly because today truly was to celebrate. We wanted to have a friendly Farm Gate chat to welcome the Farm Gate Store as neighbours to neighbours.

Hum, I suppose I must confess that the hippie chip purchase was mostly for their name …… but they are also delicious!

See was I right? Are you not glad you came shopping with us today? If you are interested, there are more photos and information on the Farm Gate Store Facebook page.

Three cheers for community supported agriculture! Remember, the closer the greens are from the garden to your plate the more tasty goodness.

Sprout question: What locally grown foods feed your creativity?

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From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada