MEEEERRRRY CHRISTMAS! Yep that’s right, today was Christmas at Wicklow way, except minus the cold snowy weather, the red and green lights, and a roast beast. We decided to have a spirit day at the farm, with a Christmas theme, just in time for Christmas, five months from today! Greg and Elaina decorated the dining tent, and indeed we did have a roast beast, but it was free range organic Thai spiced chickens! The rest of the meal was prepared by my Indian roommates, of lentil daal and aaloo gobhi (potatoes and cauliflower). Our lovely field manager Emily brought triple chocolate ice cream, and when we were stuffed to the brim, we exchanged secret Santa presents. It was a blast and everyone was giggling and bursting with gift receiving happiness. We wanted to have a holiday to show the Indian boys partially what Christmas is about in North America, and also to welcome our new team mate Chelsea to the farm.
I have been writing my blog for about a month now, and haven’t properly introduced all the Wicklow Way staff, (I’ve always been bad at introductions). So now is the perfect time, and here we go.
Gregory Hill bought the property in the small hamlet of Wicklow, just east of Grafton years ago for a comforting place to escape Toronto with his friends and enjoy the country. The property has many acres which Greg has cut out trails and built a small cottage in the middle of a tiny meadow, which now the artist garden is. Once he met Elaina they moved here full time and started developing the land for food cultivation. Greg is an excellent builder and has constructed all the structures on the farm, which includes his barn/workshop, chicken and goat homes, two small cottages for guests and our vegetable wash station. He is a talented man and takes care of all the infrastructure on the farm, which means he plows our fields with his beautiful Farmall red tractor, appropriately named Ruby. But ruby isn’t his only love, he adores his wife Elaina. His loves Elaina so much that he built her an outdoor brick oven in which to bake bread a few times a week for markets and csa boxes.
Elaina Asselin is also a Toronto escapee, where she worked in fine dining restaurants since her schooling in 1990. She has also spent many years being a baker and enjoying her quiet early mornings shaping dough. Now we find her Friday evenings preparing sourdough bread; four different varieties for markets on Saturdays, which are increasing in demand. Elaina is an extremely busy woman on the farm, and wears many hats. She milks her goats twice a day, makes our lunch every day, bakes cookies, grows sprouts, makes cheese, writes for the local magazine and the newsletter for CSA members, takes care of her young hyper puppy and over sees all tasks on the farm. With Elaina being the lovely queen bee, she works in partnership with our fantastic field manger Emily to make Wicklow Way successful, despite this weird weather we are having this summer.
Emily Keller is the sweet and smiley field manager of Wicklow way. She has grown food her whole life with her grandma when she was young, and on her own as she got older. A few years she has had her own market garden and sold roadside. Her and Elaina are the straight rows type of gals! Emily works extremely hard to ensure that everything runs smoothly; sowing seeds, taking care of the greenhouse, transplanting into the field, weeding, and harvesting, packaging, and organizing for csa boxes, the farmgate stand and markets. She carries a lot of responsibility and is always lovely to us, even though sometime she thinks her bark is worse than her bite. She is a soft gentle soul, and thanks us everyday for working hard. THANK YOU EMILY for being the best leader and so patient with us, your graciousness is appreciated. It’s not an easy job having a million things on her plate a day, and serving up staff, two if which are not from Canada.
Wicklow way has two interns from India this year, who are here attending Sir Sandford Fleming College in the Sustainable Agriculture program. Both the boys come from large conventional farms in the state of Punjabi and are here to learn organic practices to take home and convert their family’s land.
Simrat is a funny character and also the resident gangster! He likes to talk in different voices, make jokes and act silly. He is extremely smart and can always answer my questions about plants, name the latin names and most often their functions. He enjoys washing his hands before lunch, and is responsible for making Indian food for lunch on Thursdays. We have eaten well under his turmeric spiced spoon and he has taught me a lot of Punjabi cooking’s, including rice pudding, samosas and chapattis. Also he makes sure I learn Punjabi words, while I teach him Canadian slang. Simrat has a lot of family in North America and keeps in touch with them daily.
Gurpreet is the strong silent type. He speaks less around the farm, but when he does it’s most often something sentimental. Greg has taken Gurpreet under his wing, since he knows how to operate heavy machinery from home, and is eager to learn new things. Gurpreet is responsible for watering the fields, squashing Colorado potato beetle and tying up the tomatoes. When we get home from work, Gurpreet and I normally go adventuring around the property we live on, to find treasures washed up on the beach, skulls from deceased animals, roaming the barn, or planting things in our own garden.
It is fun to have a companion on my wild adventures. We live in a pretty secluded place, where not a lot happens. I am used to it and try to make the best of it! I have picked up the interest of wild edibles, and live in the perfect place for it. My backyard doesn’t have grass, only weeds, so it a food forest back there. I am also intrigued by permaculture, which simply explained is working with the landscape, and realising that every element affects every other element. Permanent culture.
Our new farm intern Chelsea is also interested in permaculture. She is from Colborne, which is the next town over, and where the big apple is located on the 401. She is a horticulture student from Algonquin College in Ottawa. While doing her studies she lost interest in being a perfect grass cutter or weed remover, but realised that a lot of the plants are edible and have a purpose. She is a small girl with a great work ethic, coming from a family of 10 children and employment in kitchens. She fits in with our team quite nicely, especially because she travelled to India and has lots to talk about with the boys.
The females now outnumber the males at Wicklow Way and I have to say, also out work them. The boys have mentioned that they are impressed with the woman in Canada, because we are strong and independent. Gurpreet has told me that woman would never enter the field in India, and I feel very proud for the profession I have chosen, the place I work, the sun on my back and the gorgeous food I help produce.
I want to thank all the staff at Wicklow Way for making this one of the best summers of my life, the most beneficial farming experiences I have had, and for being a great team. I am proud of us all! We are the team of the century; as Emily likes to call us.