This past Sunday Josh and I met up with members at the Squash Barn before a short walk to the cherry orchard. Along the way we admired the tomatoes under the hoop houses, failed to spot any pigs hiding in the shade, waved to neighbours, and noted that the tide was out.
Josh continued the tour at the orchard with a bit of a safety lesson. I was surprised to discover that the cherry orchard was more of a fortification. Low level electric fences, live capture traps, simulated owl and crow screeching, and my favourite, the cannon! I felt like we were entering a game preserve. Some of the younger children were a bit reluctant. Josh explained that he is basically trying everything he can (including some Nova Scotian innovations) to keep critters out. He said, "Everything wants to eat cherries." I understand why.
The orchard has a bunch of varieties. I walked the entire length of rows reading all the signs, but can't recall a single variety. I was distracted by the canopy. Branches drooping with huge bunches and clusters. And incredibly shaded. It would have felt like a scene from a pastoral art film if it weren't for the screeching monkeys and bird deterring fireworks.
After some chit chat we all got down to business, filling pints to take home. I filled three pints standing in one place, from one branch, and I didn't even lift my arm above my shoulder. I believe that's what's called, "Good pickin'" on the farm.
The cherry orchard tour and u-pick was the highlight of my week. We always hope people can find a chance to visit the farm, to see, participate, and get a feel for the place. Thanks to those of you for coming this past Sunday, and to all CSA members who continue to support the farm. If you haven't made it to the farm yet, we will create an excuse to get you here. See you all soon. Maybe at next month's corn boil, or Open Farm Day in September.
Coming back from dropping off water samples in Kentville today, I knew where I'd find Gerald-- In the onion patch! Sure enough, he was out weeding, and when I mentioned how good the section he had already weeded looked, he pointed to the section he was working on that is particularly weedy, and proclaimed "Oh my geez!". The onions are grown through black plastic mulch, but the pathways and the holes still require weeding efforts. Gerald has gone through the entire field once and is now working on the second round. He says that onions are his favourite crop to grow on the farm, and he likes planting and growing them, but not weeding them! I asked why he likes growing onions and his honest answer was "I don't really know! I've been doing it so long, it's just what I do."
I asked Gerald if he had any nicknames, and he said when he used to work in Alberta there were too many Geralds, so they called him Jerry. That was back 10 years ago, before he started working at TapRoot. He told me the story about how he and his wife Louise came to work at the farm. 9 years ago, Gerald was over at his father's house and the phone rang. It was Josh, looking for Calvin to come back to work at the farm. Gerald asked if he could take a message, and the rest is history! Gerald joined the farm team that July, and Louise joined him in August.
Give Gerald a field ripe beefsteak tomato in August with some salt, and he's happy: It's his favourite crop to eat. When back home in Grand Bank, Newfoundland, Gerald also likes to go out in the country on his ATV in the winter and go ice-fishing, and he mentioned that he and Louise are going to fit in some camping when they return this October.
Thanks to Gerald for showing me the onion patch this morning and telling me more about himself!
Jem spends Tuesday mornings at Canard loading the shares for the city deliveries. I caught up with him cleaning out the van and getting ready to drive over and pick up the fruit shares from Noggins Corner.
Jem's real name is John, but as we already have a Jon on the farm, and it's such a fitting nickname (he's a true gem!), we couldn't imagine Jem by any other name! Jem has worked at the farm for just over 4 years, and has only lived in Canada for about 4 and a half years. He moved here with his new wife Karen who came from Port Williams to work in Ireland for a year, and they met and fell in love. He is originally from Holywood County Down, Northern Ireland-- and mentioned that he played on the same golf course as Rory McIlroy. At the farm, Jem helps to prepare share boxes, loads the van, and delivers to the city one day per week. He says his favourite part of the job is doing deliveries, especially when there's a chance to chat with members.
Jem has had a pretty easy adjustment to living in Canada, though he says he's had to replace a few European vegetable names with the Canadian version. Courgettes and Aubergines, to name a couple (Zucchini and Eggplant). He mentioned his favourite crop that we grow is basil, and we chuckled over our different pronunciations-- My hard Manitoba "A" says "BAY-SIL", but Jem says the also popular and correct "BAA-SIL".
Jem and his wife Karen love to travel, and are just about to jet off for a three-week trip to Ireland, France, and Germany to visit friends and family. When around home, Jem says he is so glad to live near Wolfville where there is loads of live music and entertainment, places to dine, and good films. He also loves living near a tidal river. When he first arrived he thought the sights around Karen's home were crazy, and would often sit on the dyke watching the tides come in and out. Jem also likes to work outside in the garden, where he has a good view of the Cornwallis River.
We are glad to have Jem to regale our farm team with stories from the sixties and Ireland, and all the places he's traveled, with a calm demeanor and a hearty chuckle!
Each morning, Aliah and I pass on the Wellington Dyke Road-- me in the car, she on her trusty bicycle! Aliah bikes to work every day from her home in Canning. This week Jocelyn and Justine are both away and so Aliah is filling in as the lead for wholesale. This means in addition to her regular duties of washing, bunching, and packing, Aliah is also ensuring that the harvest crews are in the loop about what is needed, that deliveries are coordinated, and the packing is done to specifications. This is a big job, but Aliah is not worried and said "It's fun. I like it!"
Aliah first came to the farm as a babysitter when she was only 13 years old. She has moved into becoming a vital part of the farm team over the past couple of summers, usually bunching or packing, but she does anything that needs to be done around the farm. She doesn't have a favourite task, but says she likes everything. Aliah's favourite veggies that we grow are sweet potatoes and sweet corn.
In her spare time, Aliah is a talented dancer. She does contemporary and modern dance. She's been dancing for almost 12 years, and will continue her dance education when she attends Concordia in the fall. Aliah says she is excited to live in a city, but she will miss the valley because it's so beautiful. I agree! You know a place is really special when someone who has lived their whole life here like Aliah has, and still finds the scenery stunning when biking to work everyday. The valley will be a little less beautiful when Aliah leaves to attend school, and we will all miss her!
Jill was bagging freshly harvested basil when we crossed paths. Josh came downstairs and they discussed the recent planting, which Jill described as "a joy to pick!": She is definitely in the right line of work! This self-identified "herbie" (as we've started fondly calling our herb division) also names her favourite crops to eat as herbs, specifically cilantro and basil.
Jill started in May and works mostly in the herb production at TapRoot. She came to the farm to gain more experience with large scale agriculture, and TapRoot was appealing because of the people, location, and the fact that it's organic. Jill is originally from Halifax, but currently lives on the farm in what she and her neighbours call "The Trailer Park". She says it is cozy and wonderful, and she likes her neighbours Calvin and Brodie!
When Jill is not being a herbie, she is a drummer in a jazz/punk/new wave/no wave band. When I went to snap her photo, she mentioned that she feels like she is re-learning how to smile after a tooth extraction yesterday-- these farmer gals are tough as nails! Jill also runs a small garlic and herb CSA with two friends in Grand Pre, and has for the past 6 years. They also make salves and dried herb blends.
I've decided Jill really IS tough-- her favourite crop to harvest at the farm is stinging nettles. She says she likes going out to the far, wild regions of the farm after this crop, and is generally interested in wildcrafting. Jill's skills and love of herbs is evident in the gorgeous bags of basil she was bagging up for wholesale today-- coming to a share box near you very soon!