Seeds of hope, rural roots

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Irish Cobbler potato plants looking good, June 7

Let’s look on the bright side again.

Let’s plant some seeds of hope.

Let’s do what we can, where we can, while we can.

Here at Cathedral Drive Farm, surrounded by Hope in reality and spirit, the garden is starting to look good. I can look out my second-floor office window and see multiple rows of sweet corn that a week ago emerged, including quite a bit of seed left over from last season.

This is good. It’s better than good: it’s cause for celebration, compared with last year when a late, cool spring forced me to wait until the first week of June to plant my untreated seed.

This year I rolled the dice in the midst of a few days of warm, even hot, weather in and around the late-May, Victoria Day holiday weekend and hoped for the best. But it’s cool again going into the second week of June. Apparently this is the new reality: climate change has disrupted the equilibrium of high altitude, northern winds including the Jet Stream. It has plunged south again, bringing cold, northern air with it all over southern Ontario. I find myself wondering . . . No, perish those discouraging thoughts.

On the bright side, it has rained here. But these single-digit (Celsius) temperatures are not doing any favours for those heat-loving crops I planted in hopes of continued warm weather.

Bush beans don’t like cool weather at all and, though some have germinated, others may not. I think I may have to replant. Corn on the other hand is a tougher crop. Despite the dry conditions last week it found enough moisture to germinate; the roots first go down surprisingly deep to find the moisture in the spring soil before sending those distinctive, green shoots up into the above-ground world. And as long as there’s no frost those brave little corn plants should survive until the warm weather returns.

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Brave little sweet corn plants on a cool day

We can learn a lot from corn in that regard, about the importance of being well-rooted¸ and toughing it out when conditions are less than ideal. They always are, of course. But gardeners and farmers, as in life in general, have an important role to play in spreading good feelings on the land being planted. Yes, indeed you have to give the soil a chance, with proper care – not too much cultivation, and nutrition in the form of organic matter like last year’s cover crop of buckwheat. But, trust me; don’t bring bad vibes into the garden or the field. Sooner or later you will pay the price.

So, at a certain point while planting multiple rows of sweet corn by hand and when it started to feel like nothing much more than a chore, I took a few moments for a spiritual break. I looked up into the clear, blue sky, and then around at the natural beauty of the Hope Ness surroundings. I took some deep breaths, and told myself to enjoy the moment. It worked. I got connected.

In what I call “the new garden,” a piece of land I worked up last spring for corn, I noted with satisfaction and some relief the well-sprouted Irish Cobbler seed potatoes I planted this spring in early May were doing very well indeed. They’ve since been hoe-hilled and mulched with straw to deter potato beetles, the major pest of potato plants. Several rows of peas were up and already asking for stringing. Rows of other cool-weather crops – spinach, beets and onion sets – were looking good too.

During the recent, short drought I spent a couple of hours every morning for more than a week watering multiple rows of the most needy plants by hand from two, old dug wells. It was a lot of plain, old-fashioned grunt work, and it’s not as if I don’t have enough to do, far from it; but, on the bright side again, I’m still able to do it. And that too is a very good thing.

The brightest side of all is the increasing presence of children and grandchildren visiting to give “Grandpa” a hand with his chores and generally enjoy the opportunity to come up to “the farm.”

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Lila Marie has started a flower and herb garden

I heard on the news recently the restored, long-term 2016 Canadian census will likely reveal current trends in farming are continuing. There was a time not that long ago when Canada was a predominantly rural, farming community, when government policies regarding agricultural were high up on the list of national priorities. Even as sons and daughters moved increasingly to cities to get a higher education or to pursue careers in other fields, as it were, the connection with “the farm” remained. But that’s no longer true for the vast majority of Canadians.  Food comes from supermarkets, not the farm.

The 2016 census is expected to show two continuing trends: bigger, highly mechanized, industrial farms on the one side, but also a growing number of small-acreage farms. The announcer used the expression “hobby farms.” That may be, even in my case here at Cathedral Drive Farm and “Grandpa’s Garden.” But, not being rich, I sure am hoping to supplement my income selling produce.

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Mirabella, gardener-in-training

And I’m also hoping to show interested grandchildren how to do it, as well as gain appreciation and respect for the work, intelligence, and spirit that goes into it.

That is a precious thing to be able to do at this point in my life.

If you are in a position to do something similar, make the most of it by all means.

It’s something your children and grandchildren will always remember you for, and surely that’s a pretty good form of immortality.

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