I live on a small farm and I love it. I am never more at peace than when I am on the farm. I’m in love with country living. But what is the special attraction for me?
Well, it’s several things all in one. It’s the fresh air. No city smog. It’s the peace and quiet. No roaring motor bikes or horn blowing 18 wheelers. A real lack of congestion. It’s the various comforting scenic views in the area. I have many acres of rolling fields with a river meandering through the nearby woods. Aromas of nature in the air. There is a sense of freshness, cleanliness and crispness throughout the farm property that is rarely a symbol of urban Canada. And with the open fields there is also the sense and sound of the gentle caressing prevailing winds from the west that thrill all my senses. The vastness. I simply don’t feel jammed into a tiny one or two acre lot. And when i look out any of the farm house windows there is no house or high rise condo next door. It denotes privacy in a real and personal sense.
But, you may want to ask, on this dream farm, what about the livestock. I don’t have chickens and ducks. Don’t have cows and horses any more. We don’t raise pigs or sheep, so should I really call it a farm? And I’m not into growing grains and oil seeds.
Well, my country hideaway consists of hundreds of acres, has productive hay fields, silvacultured forest lands, Christmas tree operations, vegetable and herb gardens, and, of course, flower gardens. Many of them, of different shapes and sizes. The different colors, variety, sizes and types of flowers paint a kaleidoscopic landscape that provides exciting new looks and feels about the property each week.
Let me look at this whole thing a little more closely. It seems to me there are specific things that bring happiness and joy when I’m on the farm. Yes, and each of the four seasons has its own special charm for me. Let me mentions just a couple. As I write it’s early October. The days are sunny and warm and the temperature cools down for the evening. It makes it pleasantly crisp and delightful. During the day, I love sitting out on the deck in a rocking chair with my sun glasses and a book , listening to nature, occasionally watching the deer, who already have their heavy and darker winter coats, constantly feeding and frolicking in the large hay field. At this time of year you can see them almost anytime from sunup to sundown. It’s wise to expect them anytime. They are constantly grazing on the rich green grass in the fields building up their body fat for what could be a long, cold, punishing winter. They are cute in the sense that a baby seal catches your eye and touches your heart. They have an excellent sense of hearing and smell. They can catch your scent from long distances and if you’re walking in the woods, they would be long gone before you could see them. I love seeing their unique built-in signal of danger, the use of their large white tail that suddenly juts into the air just seconds before they gallop off at tremendous speeds. It’s an incredible sight to view. I never tire of watching them as you can guess. It’s an example of their powerful instinct to survive.
Another thrill on being on the farm in Autumn is that it’s harvest time. It’s the time of year to reap benefits after all that summer hoeing (while surrounded by thousands of black flies and mosquitoes), of constantly watering your plants and vegetables in the dry season, and, finally, there is the never ending pulling of those weeds that always grow faster then your plants. Those noxious weeds love to devour all those precious nutrients from the soil that your plants need.
In the harvest there are always dozens more of everything for your own household use than you reasonably could have anticipated. Yes, a gross excess of carrots, kale, beets, zucchini, squash, cucumbers and most of all tomatoes, red ones, yellow ones green ones by the bushel. What to do with them all. With tomatoes, I have several recipes given to me by my mother for pickles, relish, soups, ketchup and most of all Ripe Tomato Jam, as she called it. It’s my perennial favorite. Wonderful on meats and fish. I will provide the recipe.
And, of course, it’s not really work pulling and harvesting those potatoes, turnips and peppers because of the view:— that is, the heart warming mosaic of brilliant Fall colors from the leaves on the hard wood trees bordering the fields, and particularly the colors produced by the rock maple. You just have to look up and gaze over this forest of radiant color to know of Gods love for us.
And there’s another great comfort I derive from being on the farm in the fall. It’s also pickling season. And as part of my love of cooking, it’s October that I continue to make preserves, jams and jellies for winter, a process I started earlier in the farming season with rhubarb-strawberry Jam in early summer. It’s rhubarb then asparagus that first raise their heads in the late Spring. The strawberry activities are usually followed by raspberry and blueberry jam as the berries come in season. But now, in October, with an abundance of cucumbers, cabbage, onions and tomatoes, I fondly recall the kitchen aromas both at home and on the farm from the combined essences of boiling sugar, vinegar and spices like cinnamon, allspice, cloves etc. You don’t have to question that you are in a farm country kitchen. It’s mustard pickles, bread and butter pickles, green tomato chow, and many more. Yum.but more about food and the conversion of a 1940’s kitchen to the 2000’s in my section coming later on cuisine.
There is an environmental component to farming that I also try to adhere to. Everyone wants to increase quality and yield ( quantity). But it must be done in an environmentally friendly way without impacting negatively on the bottom line. I, for instance, want better shaped Xmas trees, that grow faster, have better needle retention and maintain the wonderfully unique fragrance of a balsam fir. But more on that later when I write about operation real tree.
So here’s my mother’s recipe for her Ripe Tomato Jam.
- 12 large ripe tomatoes.
- 2 1/2 cups white sugar.
- 2 cups white vinegar.
- 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves and salt.
Wash and blanch the tomatoes and remove skins. Mash and boil tomatoes for 40 minutes. Add sugar until, while stirring, you feel it starting to thicken. Then add vinegar, salt and spices. Continue to boil until just about thick enough for Jam, stirring constantly so it will not burn. Wonderful with meats and fish.