Tag Archives: canning

Summer vacation in September

Many of my teacher friends have been somewhat all-consumed by the strike.  They post articles on Facebook and organize rallies.  They support each other in turns, for as one’s energy and optimism wanes, another’s peaks.  I’ve felt distant and removed from the whole situation, mostly by choice due to my job situation – I didn’t feel emotionally prepared to deal with teachers complaining about how they wanted to be back in their classrooms when I didn’t have a classroom to be back in.  So I, for better or worse, stayed on summer vacation.  To be honest, it was almost completely for the better.  I arranged flowers, spent innumerable hours canning, and read books.  I knit (of course I knit… probably less than I would have on the picket line though).  Certainly I read the articles about the strike that had been posted, and if I ever went to town anymore I would have gone to the rallies.  But I haven’t gone to town, so I didn’t go to the rallies.  I talked to people about the strike, and encouraged others to get involved.  I wrote letters to the Education Minister and to Christy Clark and to my MLA.  But I stayed home and hung out in my hammock and farmed.  I went to the beach.  I continued to spend time in the sun.  And I felt a little guilty, but not enough to do anything about it.  I think if the weather had been different, or if the farm wasn’t so awesome, or I didn’t have a million things to do to keep busy I would have been more present in the strike.  But it wasn’t.

Until Wednesday when I was offered a job, which made today the last day of my summer vacation.  As Jeremy said, I get to ease back into working life… I’ll be going to hang out on picket lines, but I won’t be doing it all of the hours of the day.  I’ll still be able to knit lots.  I’ll be hanging out in the sunshine (or the rain, but thank GOODNESS it’s not snowing here, like it was in Calgary or in Fort Nelson).  I am certainly grateful to have a job, but the end of summer break is always a bit of a heartbreaker too.  I don’t feel like I’m exuding as much excitement here as I should be… I wasn’t able to write this yesterday because I was so happy.  This morning, the first thing I said, while I was still half-asleep was “I got a job!”… so if you read this and think that I’m being indifferent, read it differently, or at least realize that’s not where it’s coming from.

My job, for those of you who care, is a 4/5 at Miracle Beach Elementary.  English classroom, not French (crazy!).  Yes, it will be a further commute, but it also gives me continuing status, and it’s a job which will pay for me to go to University.  Plus, the school is pretty much on the beach.  Tomorrow I go to meet some of the staff.  Maybe one day I’ll even get to meet my students.

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The problem with fantastic plans

Jeremy left today to go to Powell River for his uncle’s birthday.  We’d decided a while back that I would stay behind, do the market, hang with Mia and get some quality alone time in.  Sounds like a fantastic plan.  I think it was probably my plan.  Totally fantastic plan.  I often come up with these “fantastic” plans… plans that would be fantastic if everything went the way I imagined in my head.  I imagined a leisurely Friday harvest in dappled sunshine.  I imagined the perfectly clean vegetables in perfectly clean bins in the creek, waiting for me to wake up Saturday morning and load them in the perfectly dry truck.  I imagined coffee and cake.  I imagined knitting.  I think I always imagine knitting.

* Please realise that there is no cake, and there is rarely cake on Saturday mornings.  Also, please realise that the vegetables are NEVER perfectly clean, nor are the bins, and the truck is never either perfectly clean NOR dry.  I don’t know which set of elves was supposed to ensure the plan went off as I imagined, but they obviously didn’t get the memo, because…

There was no dappled sunshine.  That’s really where everything started to go wrong.  There was rain.  And not just pitter patter rain.  Torrential downpour rain that caused everyone I know to wake at midnight and question whether we were finally being invaded by whomever invades our nightmares.  This wasn’t an August rain.  This was a January rain.  Jer and I weren’t expecting a January rain in August.  The truck’s windows were all open.  The tailgate was down.  The hammock and pillow were out.  So were tools, and bins, and bikes, and boxes of canning, meticulously labelled.

Now don’t get me wrong… we needed the rain.  The veggies needed the rain, and Jer and I needed it.  It makes going away (both him this weekend, and the two of us together on Tuesday) WAY easier.  It makes the trees happy, and it makes our fellow islanders who were running low on water breathe a little easier.  It’s good for the birds and all of those other critters.  But it bloody well sucks for harvesting, and it sure made a big old mess.  The house is FULL of stuff in various stages of drying.  The truck is soaking wet, and will hopefully dry out before winter.  I changed my clothes 4 times today.  The first 3 sets are lying in a pile in the laundry room.  I kept thinking I was done harvesting, but the harvest just didn’t want to end… especially after Jer left.  Now I just hope that it doesn’t rain at the market tomorrow, because that really isn’t as much fun as… well… as the market in the sunshine.

 

The juxtaposition between being a teacher on vacation and being a farmer

Summer  vacationMaking bouquets is a bit of an oxymoron around these parts… summer is the furthest thing from a vacation on a farm, especially with the growing season that we’ve been having.  As long as we keep everything watered (and by we, I mean Jeremy), which takes at least 3 hours a day, we are going to continue to have an incredible amount of food.  We’ve come to that part of the season where therThey're ripening!e’s hope for new spinach and radishes and turnips, but all of the delicious fruits and vegetables full of sugar are ripening too.  I could write an ode to the perfect tomato, but I won’t.  Maybe you should instead.

Anyways, about that vacation thing.  Sure, I take some time off in the summer.  I read lots (in the heat of the day), swim lots (in the heat of the day), and spend time with friends (often in the heat of the day).  But our alarm goes off at 6 am and I spend a lot of hours working.  I am not on summer vacation for at least 4 hours and often 6, every day.  Except, of course, for Pickathon.

Pickathon sails over a horse paddock

Pickathon IS my summer vacation.  It’s wheThis is what summer vacation looks liken I get to go away and reflect fondly on being a farmer and being a teacher, but when I don’t have to actually BE either of those things.  It’s a music festival outside of Portland, and I’ve been for the past 3 years.  I get to bask in the sun and swim in the river and listen to music and dance and sometimes even enjoy a mash pit.  I wasn’t sure I was going to get a summer vacation this year, but I did, and it was awesome.  I’m going to hold out hope that I can do it again next year, in the midst of my Master’s, but we’ll see…

Hungarian purple peperAnd, as is true with most vacations, coming home was one of the best parts.  My dahlias are starting to bloom, and EVERYTHING is ripe.  Beans, tomatoes, basil, onions, cucumbers, peppers, the endless zucchini.  We pickled zucchini today.  We have zucchini cake in our freezer and had zucchini pancakes with zucchini relish as a garnish the other day for dinner… so faStrawflower - helichrysumr we’ve stayed on top of our zucchini, but this is going to become increasingly difficult as we begin to experience a glut of other things, especially tomatoes.  We even had our first corn this week… but that might be a secret, because I don’t know if we have enough to share, so don’t tell.

But one of the other things about coming home from my summer vacation is just that… that I’m home, which means that my summer vacation is over (many of you know that Jeremy and I happen to go on a kayak trip every summer as well, but we do that together, so that’s OUR vacation… here I am strictly speaking about MY vacation… obviously).  Which, of course it isn’t… but it is.  There’s crazy things starting to happen outside, and the crickets are only a small part of it.  I can pretend to notice that the days aren’t getting shorter, or that the mornings don’t have a bit of a chill-factor to them, or that it’s AUGUST 10TH ALREADY.  I can pretend not to see pumpkins turning orange or apples starting to ripen… I can pretend a lot of things, but the quantity of things is starting to arrive at that precipitous place where I don’t know how much longer I can pretend for…

Finishing setting up

So in this moment, I’m going to go do more vacation things, like read my book (Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver) and knit socks.  Tonight I’ll do more farm things.  I am certainly NOT going to do school-year things like wash my feet or have a shower.  There really aren’t that many more days when I’m allowed to have feet that look the way mine do, and I’m going to take advantage of every single one of them that I have.

Shade sails at Pickathon

We posed!

It’s hard to weed with your eyes closed

I was lying in bed early this morning, wishing that I was sleeping, trying really hard not to think about how I don’t have a job for next year and failing miserably.  I decided, as I have many times in similar situations, that I really need to start meditating again.  I remembered the place I was in in the spring of 2008 and how 10 days of silence, attempting to clear my mind and feel everything in equanimity changed that place.  I remembered the peace and the feeling of satisfaction that spread through me.  So I sat up and spent 10 minutes trying to find that place… then I heard the coffee percolating downstairs and whatever clarity I was muddling towards vanished and was replaced with the fog that precedes my morning coffee.  So I got up and drank my coffee and forgot about meditating, and about not having a job for that matter.

I ended up in the garden, and wandered around aimlessly for a bit.  Jer was gone for the morning, and as I haven’t been around a lot lately, physically or mentally, I am not sure of the priorities.  I know that blueberries are to be dug, I know that everything is to be watered, I know that lots of things are to be seeded or transplanted, but I don’t know what or where or how to do it so that it doesn’t have to be done again.  So I sat down to weed the onions.  I pulled grass and buttercup and thistles and bindweed, and I did it slowly and peacefully (if one can call causing the death of many living plants peaceful).  I got dirt under my fingernails and between my toes and it made me feel better.  Not all better better, but some better.

I went to get a massage recently because my carpal tunnel, caused by treeplanting, compounded by knitting, revigorated by gardening has flared.  My massage therapist asked me what it feels like when I stop knitting and stop gardening.  I looked at her questioningly… stopped knitting?  Stopped?  Like took a break?  I knit when I read, when I play cards, when I’m sitting on the ferry.  Sometimes I knit at red lights.  Stop?  It made me think about whether I glorify the act of being busy, but I don’t think I do.  I choose to do slow things, like knitting and growing organic food.  I choose to sit on my bum and weed onions by hand.  I choose to do lots of things that keep me busy, but they’re meditative for me.  I don’t know if actual meditation – the kind I did in Bolivia, sitting still for an hour to clear my mind – is what I need.  I think I just need to get dirt under my fingernails every day.

Here’s some pictures.

The pictures pretty much tell the story of our lives lately – it’s been hot, so Jer jumped in the pond.  Some plants are doing well, but it’s hot and dry, so lots of others are struggling through.  The kale’s not so juicy, and the salad greens are confused.  We had our first farmer’s market of the year, but for a long variety of reasons we didn’t have many vegetables… so we made jam.  Frogs are filling up the pond, and that’s about all of the exciting details!

Getting the crazy back

I know that I haven’t been around a lot lately.  I don’t know why, but I know that I’m back right now.  A lot has happened – Jer got sick, we fell behind, I finished knitting a new pair of socks, our Milbert's Tortoiseshell butterflyphone died, things started growing and blooming like mad, it started raining, our neighbours’ goat had babies, we went to the first market of the year, friends came for the weekend, the BC election went up in smoke – you know, the usual, but I’m not going to do an update post because that’s not really my style.

I went to Strathcona PRobin's eggark Lodge last week with my students.  I spent a lot of time at Camp Chief Hector , near Calgary, when I was growing up, and I knew a number of people from Hector who had continued their Outdoor Education lifestyle at the Lodge.  Hector was really important to me – I spent weeks there when I was in high school, as a counsellor for grade 5 and 6 students.  I spent weekends there during the year working with moms and children who Last years' bird nest - empty when we found itwere living in homes in Calgary.  I spent time there every summer.  I learned about myself, about the earth, about others.  I learned a lot about group dynamics and how people act differently in stressful situations.  I learned how to canoe, how to kayak, how to rock climb, how to hike.  I learned how to pack a backpack, how to tie a knot, how to set up camp, how to hang a bear hang.  Camp was instrumental in building my character.  I knew that being in an environment that was very different but employed many of the same people would probably bring about some nostalgia.  I didn’t realize the extent of it.The canning season has begun!

Being at the Lodge made me a little wanderlusty.  It made me miss my 20s.  It made me miss the camp craziness, whether it be from Hector, tree-planting, or somewhere else.  I miss the youthful energy, the fanciful freedom, the mountains and rivers and forests.  These feelings were exacerbated when I was told that the job I was feeling confident about for next year fell through, and now I’m worrying about not having a job…Tomato starts!

I came home and shared these feelings with Jer – he has a much different feeling about summer camp (he went once and didn’t like it much) and about Alium in bloomtreeplanting (same as above).  Maybe it’s the group dynamics, maybe it’s the food or the sleepless nights or the noise… camp has never been his favourite place.  This isn’t to say he doesn’t love to camp (heck – he’s the one who spends every day, all day, outside with his hands in the dirt), but that there’s something about CAMP itself that isn’t him.  He gets it though – he knows that I’ve got crazy in me that he doesn’t have and that’s one of the reasons we work.  He figures that working 5 days a week, and commuting off of the island every one of those days is beating the crazy out of me, and it’s not making me happy.  We also talked about getting a trailer so that we could start bringing in WWOOFers in an attempt to get some of that crazy back (I can see our ad now – Please apply if you shave your facial haPurple irisesir into ridiculous moustaches, or appreciate the men in your life who do.  Only people whose favourite holiday is Halloween are appropriate).  And I’ll keep applying for jobs, and maybe I’ll find one that’s not full time, and I can spend a little more time being crazy, or at least being whole in the mountains.

Starts!  Lots and lots of veggies!

So I came back from camp a little sad, a lot nostalgic, and a little nervous about how to go forward from here.  Now that a couple of days have gone by, and we had our first farmer’s market of the year (which was a blast and where I felt supported and understood by my community), we visited with friends from Victoria who made me laugh hard, we swam in our lake, we missed the birthday party of a lovely friend which we’ll make up soon, and we visited with our neighbours who make living on a little road on a little island the best, we have an idea about where we’re going, and I’m comfortable about the choices we’ll make to get there.Mama goat and baby goats