Thursday, August 7, 2014

Farm Roots

I really love having a circle of friends that share and take freely; information, skills and material items.  Kind of a early settler, barn-raising mentality.  When my friends said they were looking to rehome their wine making setup, I thought it over for a few days then snatched up the opportunity.  Last night I went and picked it all up.  Hundreds of wine bottles, a corker, 6 demijohns, thermometers, fruit buckets, bottle rinsers and dryers...you name it.

That funny extra storage space in our basement, we finally figured out that the person who built the house probably designed it as a wine-making room. It's a completely windowless, temperature and ventilation controlled little room with a sink, long bare countertops and oodles of cupboards and shelves.  Up to now, we were just storing our sleeping bags, suitcases and winter parkas in there.  Yesterday I reorganized the stuff, aired it out and wiped everything down with vinegar.  Even hung up some of my map collection to brighten up the dark brown panel walls.

Of course, I checked with J before the acquiring of this equipment.  But when I came home with it, the sheer volume was a little overwhelming!  With a little bit of awe in his voice, he was like, "We've really crossed the line into Homesteading Crazy now, honey..."  (As if our compost collection didn't have us there already?) 

So we moved everything in with room to spare.  Let the wine making craziness begin!  I'll be posting more on it as we make progress.  (As long as you overlook the brown panel walls and burnt orange shag carpet in my photos.) 

It does seem like we're getting more and more do it yourself around here.  It just feels so good to work hard, eat real food and make things from scratch.  But then, even though J grew up in the city, that's his heritage too.  We are both children of farmers, grandchildren of real homesteaders who had to grow it, make it from scratch, or else starve.  I don't have many photos of J growing up, but I have lots of me as a kid, soaking up my farm roots! 

For your entertainment, I offer the following in non-chronological order:

 Making applesauce at the kitchen table.

In Granny's pea-patch at Hylo as a baby.

Making pies as a teenager.  My Granny who lived on the same farm (but in a different house), taught me to make the crust and raisin pie filling from scratch.

Our little bantam chicken flock.  Much prettier and more charming than the white hulking broilers we raised for meat.  If I remember it right, my mom named the rooster King Solomon, with all his little hen wives and concubines.

Granny usually kept a milk cow or two and I loved the calves.  I remember at this age, wanting to be a veterinarian when I grew up.  Granny taught me how to work the intricate cream separator and wash all its complicated parts carefully every time.  With the milk and cream, she would make yogurt, cottage cheese and butter in her Bosch mixer (which I have and use now).  

Picking wind-fall apples in Kelowna.  My brother and sister's chunky sweaters were knit by my mom's mom.  She kept us warm and well-dressed in homemade sweaters for my entire childhood.  I wish I'd learned to knit while she was alive.  

Riding Aunty Norah's old horse bareback because I wasn't strong enough to lift the saddle.  And if I didn't ask someone to help me, no one would tell me NOT to ride the horse.  Although I never wore shoes in summer if I could help it (still can't stand socks and shoes!) and one day big Blaze was being stubborn and stood on my bare foot while looking me right in the eye, all several hundred pounds of malicious horseflesh.  I'm surprised my foot survived, although the soft grass and dirt probably took a lot of the force.  

Cauliflower from our greenhouse, which was a framed structure annexed to our house, covered with poly-plastic.

With my patient and always quiet Grandpa, my mom's dad.  Who loved his farm at Hylo, his animals and his Bible.  I don't remember him ever saying much but his eyes would twinkle at us over the breakfast table and if we weren't too noisy, he didn't seem to mind having us visit.  When we were too noisy, his eyebrows would go up to furrow his forehead and he would sigh deeply and go out to check his pigeons.  

With my little sister B and a cute baby bunny on Aunty Marj's farm.

I look scared to be on this skittish black pony but I only ever remember wanting to be on every horse I ever saw.

Making oatmeal cookies with my mom.

It was a year for BIG potatoes.  I remember that old pale blue pickup truck that was shared by all my uncles who lived on the farm, and the sturdy brown one that succeeded it.  Our garden was huge.  My dad would regularly push the noisy old Troybuilt rototiller up and down between the rows and it would fluff up the moist, cool dirt and we would race up and down after him, sinking deep with every step.  We grew peas, potatoes, carrots, beans, zucchini, strawberries and flowers.  The main rasberry and saskatoon patches were at the Other Farm, where my cousins lived across the field, just a mile or two away.  

This little kitty does not want to be held, despite my good intentions and I recall being scratched up something fierce on my tender little hands.

Grandpa and Granny's farm at Namao.  These white chickens were not kindred spirits. 

With my visiting-from-the-city friend Jordan R. on a sunny spring day.

Our driveway was so long and slippery in the winter that we would skate on it!

Here it is, the little piece of farmland I grew up on.  My dad, uncles and Grandpa mostly grew barley, field peas and canola. Although there were years of lush, flowering alfalfa fields for hay, and a few wheat crops.  Something sweet and funny - my Dad was the only one of my farm-uncles who wasn't color blind, so it was his job to tell his brothers every fall when the crops had turned from green to just the right shade of golden brown, and that it was time to begin the harvest!  

 That poplar bush you see past the house contained saskatoons, high bush cranberries, wild raspberries, and very occasionally Morel mushrooms.  Also coyotes, beaver, rabbits and random passing moose.  We made hideouts everywhere, rode our bikes through the more beaten down paths and read books under trees.  A creek ran through, connecting Bear Lake to the Pembina River and with a parent's company only, we could go explore the creek banks or skate on it in winter.  We never once swam in the water though, having a horror of the dreaded Beaver Fever (NOT Bieber Fever...)


And that, my friends, concludes my little tour down memory lane for today.  Wow, I feel like I really had a privileged childhood, despite the hours we kids spent resentfully picking pails of raspberries to make jam and preserves!  

Maybe now you'll understand my predilection for patchwork quilts, homemade bread and gardens.  And if I start making my own soap soon, don't be too surprised!