There’s a deeply ingrained ritual here at Northbrook farm. On weekends, or other vacation-y times, somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00 the children are invited to watch television. This frees up the parents for Northbrook cocktail hour. Most often this happens on the side deck where we can both look out at the back garden and keep an eye on whatever is on the barbecue.
At that time of day the light is lovely, from spring to fall. There’s a pinky golden warmth illuminating our drab grey barn, and the back fields somehow look as though they are resting in the sunshine. Not infrequently in these moments, the Workhorse will turn to me and ask, “how’s your farm?”, to which I always reply, “it’s perfect.”
Northbrook has been very good to us this summer. The garden has been generous and bountiful.
- Last night we made our fourth batch of pickles (6lbs per batch). I’m happy to report that I was able to keep up with the cucumbers with enough dill, onions and garlic this year.
- The determinate tomatoes are offering up beautiful specimens, and although I was supposed to use them for salsa, I’m doubtful that any will be left when salsa making happens. The indeterminate tomatoes are making stunning and delicious, improbably large offerings to the salad plate.
- There are bushels of potatoes.
- We’ve got hot and sweet peppers.
- The freezer is full of green beans (probably my favourite crop for low input-high output).
- The leeks, carrots and parsnips are still in the beds.
- The beets only flourished in one of the locations I planted them but they were beautiful.
- I did manage to grow peas this year, but harvested them too late – delicious still, but maybe a victim of being a weekend gardener only.
- I got much better at succession planting the herbs, so we’ve had a constant supply of cilantro, basil, parsley and dill.
- The garlic was not only delicious, but also lovely to look at in the garden, which made up for the small onions again this year.
- We’ve managed to avoid powdery mildew on the summer squash and have enjoyed patty pans as well as zucchini.
- I’m optimistic about the asparagus, which seems to be filling in even though I broke the cardinal rule and moved it last fall.
- I wasn’t as good at keeping lettuce going in the garden as I was the herbs, which is just ridiculous considering how easy it is to grow, but there is a bed with tiny seedlings of lettuce, arugula, spinach and kale, which I hope to add to the September and October plates.
- After months of waiting and almost pulling it out, the broccoli is finally flowering.
- Of course the pumpkins, winter squash and melons stubbornly refuse to grown, but at least the sunflowers have done my bidding this year, making for a great backdrop to my garden bench.
- The apple tree is struggling under the weight of all the apples. I’m predicting lots of apple crisps, apple sauces, apple muffins….
One of my favourite things about the garden this year is how noisy it is. I planted more borage this year because it’s beautiful and happens to like living at Northbrook. It’s a great companion plant and the edible blue flowers dress up of a plate of sliced vegetables like no one’s business. I didn’t realize how popular it would be with the bees. The garden is so full of bees and other insects that it’s bordering on the excessive. The cilantro I let go to flower is probably the second favourite insect spot, followed by the mullein weed that snuck in but which I couldn’t bring myself to pull out since the bugs seem to like it. The giant sunflowers are just about to open, which might bring some relief to the borage.
We’ve also found toads and frogs, which is a good sign of a happy garden. There is no evidence of the toads living in the homes we made for them…yet.
Of course the farm wasn’t entirely perfect this summer. We battled with our two-year neglect of the water system and got the dreaded unsafe water test result. This meant weeks of bottled water, lots of calls and trips to the city health board, and getting the local water company on board. The good news is that we now have not only clean and safe water, but also a handle on the system.
There were multiple power outages. One caused us to lose all the food in our fridge and freezer, the other was responsible for cancelling the Boy’s birthday party.
There was lots of work to do around the farm. Weeding, clearing, planting, painting, schlepping, cleaning and so much more. Despite it all, Northbrook gives us much more than it takes. Beyond all of the vegetables, we’ve enjoyed all kinds of nature. We’ve had two sets of babies this summer on the front porch – sparrows and robins. A pair of bluebirds flew around us all of July. Our many hummingbirds love to come by at all hours. The corn in the front field has given us privacy and quiet, and the flowers have bloomed all over the farm giving us colour and beauty. The hollyhocks grew to more than 8 feet tall and were stunning.
Mostly though, Northbrook gives me peace, room to breathe, and a place to be centered. Perfection to me, indeed.