Hope, and a Small Farm

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I admit, some of my posts have been a little bleak lately.

The end of August, blurring with the beginning of the academic year makes me cranky. As do neighbourhood propane explosions and the epidemic of cancer.

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So last Friday I hopped on a Go Bus, paid $8.50, and ended up in the lovely little town of Uxbridge where a woman named Elizabeth picked me up and took me to Willo’ Wind Farm. I was staying there for a couple of nights in order to get some more writing done on my new manuscript, but I have to say that this trip also gave me back a sense of hope I’ve been needing for awhile.

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Snuggled amid gentle rolling hills, this is a small, multi-purpose farm devoted to organic farming. Chickens, hens, roosters and geese stroll around companionably, while a pig snores volubely in a pile of hay.

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We found they live longer when they’re allowed out of the pens, explains Elizabeth as she serves me a breakfast of farm fresh eggs my first morning there. They always come back, she adds, with a smile. Farming and hosting a bed and breakfast is more than a commercial exercise for these folks. People from the city need the smells, and the memories, of a farm, she tells me, her blue eyes glowing.

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Indeed, though I’ve told her I’m a city person through and through, I can’t help but be reminded of my mother’s village in Ukraine, where geese rule the roads and small handcrafted cottages abut onto fields of potatoes, presided over by weather worn matriarchs wielding hoes.

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From time to time, Willo’Wind hosts weekend retreats for teens, whose philosophy is inspired by the Catholic Worker Movement. The kids are asked to leave their I-Pods, MP3 players and cellphones on the school bus, and made to think about food, where it comes from, who has it and who doesn’t, as they walk through the farm. Elizabeth quotes one kid who said The. Only. Walking. I. Usually. Do. Is. From. The. Car. To.The. Mall.

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I suspect there’s a not-so-hidden agenda in this incredibly affordable and welcoming place – hospitality and generosity, laced through the food and the ambience, are bound to make guests more aware of the relationship of food to market and table, and its potent mixture of hard work and love. As I write, I see Elizabeth and her son Adrian through the window, picking vegetables under a gold, lingering sun. Just like Ukraine, where long summer nights meant longer hours, keeping ahead of the weeds and bringing the harvest in.

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Elizabeth encourages me to walk through hers and the neighbouring farm, and so, between bouts of writing, I do. Hovering rain clouds paint the sky with watercolour wash one evening; the next afternoon sees wide, expressive blue skies and billowing cumulus overseeing whispering cornfields and groomed shady paths bordered by apple trees. The onerous, clashing agendas of my coming semester – pedagogy; writing; filmmaking; community – begin to find some harmony in my mind.

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On my last morning at Willo’Wind I’m fed homemade scones still warm from the oven. Elizabeth shows me a book she’s reading, Silences, by Tillie Olsen. We zoom out of the farm and back to Uxbridge, where I drop by the Uxbridge farmer’s market before catching the bus home.

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Adrian and his friends stand proudly behind their leeks, carrots, beets, kale, chard, beans, potatoes and pickled eggs. I notice they’re the only organic booth at the market and realize what a brave, necessary and hopeful enterprise this is.

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7 Comments

  1. Wow Marusya — I always think of you as a writer, so I forget what an amazing visual eye you have as well! Love those fat hens, and the gorgeous kitty. If only my spine could do that. :)

    Your blog is an inspiration.

  2. I’m Elizabeth’s eldest son, Luke. Thanks for posting the beautiful words and pictures. You’ve really captured something of the spirit of the farm!

    P.S. Just as a point of clarification, I run the retreats with my mother and brother and sister-in-law. I work for Development and Peace, but the retreats are our own endevour, not sponsored by D&P. The retreats are mostly inspired by the philosophy of the Catholic Worker movement (www.catholicworker.org) of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. As Maurin said, we are “building a new society in the shell of the old” (think he stole that one from the wobblies)

  3. Lori,
    Since the photos on your blog are exquisite, I’ll take that as a compliment!

    Minal,
    Yes, there’s nothing like a fat hen…

    Librarian,
    You might enjoy this place as a getaway sometime.

    Luke,
    Thanks for writing in and clarifying – I have duly made some corrections in the piece. I’m glad that I was able to capture the spirit of the farm, and hope to visit again sometime.

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