All of this tranquility comes from the heart and soul that our team puts in to making the farm what it is. We have beautiful gardens, happy chickens, delicious food all because we place immense value on those things and pride ourselves in being somewhat self sufficient. We plan our year around two things – what’s happening in the studio and what’s happening in the garden.
Our year really begins in February when we start to prepare our garden beds for the summer. We clear the beds and we get our mulches for the coming year. We give the chicken yard a good clean out and give the soil a good feeding before our spring planting begins in earnest. For those of you living in colder climates, it’s probably a little surprising to hear that we can safely begin to plant in March.
Incidentally, February is also when we hold our first retreat of the year. It can be wet and rainy on the west coast at this time of year, but we just spend more time indoors after class with a nice glass of wine by the fire, or a heated game of scrabble. In February, the studio enters its “spring”, and really comes to life.
As the wheel turns and the seasons progress, we plant, prepare, and weed as most gardeners do. In April, we start to see some of the harvest. We cut our asparagus and spinach and begin to incorporate those into our meals. Tender spring greens find their way onto our plates as well. By May we can add some spring peas, lettuces, and finally a good and steady stream of eggs! Our girls tend to conserve their energy throughout the winter and we are just fine with that. In the studio, we are able to enjoy our breaks outside more and more, and our clotheslines where we dry our hand-dyed yarns and finished projects start to become increasingly colourful.
By June and July, we are in full swing. Rosemary’s desserts begin to feature two of our star fruits, the strawberry and raspberry. We are enjoying new potatoes, onions, peas, chard, and greens. We begin pulling last winter’s garlic crop to allow ample time for our bulbs to dry in the summer air. Our neighbours in the valley will take their first cut of local hay from the fields as well. In July, we also welcome our broiler chickens to the farm.
Summer on Salt Spring Island invites students to take in the sights and experience the island to the fullest. In the past, we have organized kayak excursions, walks and hikes, and spent time at the various markets that appear during the summer months. We never hesitate to take an afternoon stroll along Walker’s Hook, or visit one of our famous Salt Spring Island cheese makers, which is always a highlight.
In later summer, we begin to put up the harvest. Tomatoes are made into sauce or stewed, beans are blanched and frozen, all in the expectation that these will become a part of our shared meals for the rest of the year. The hot days of summer also offer up a massive harvest of blackberries. All this jammy goodness before the autumn harvest of tree fruits.
Once the last apple is picked, the last plum is made into jam or into a fantastic dessert by Rosemary, we begin to wind the season down and put our gardens to bed. Our broiler chickens are now full grown and are harvested for the freezer. We bake, preserve, and freeze hundreds of pounds of food and we are honoured to share it with our students and guests.
When the rains come, we welcome them with open arms. It’s when we turn our attention inward into the home and studio once more and with any luck, spend some time designing, weaving, and resting up.