Farm Project: July

This past weekend, my sister Elaine and I were out at the farm again to take photographs. My brothers were busy with swathing (barley and rye) as well as baling hay. Combining started this week so that will be the next thing that we take photos of. All told, they have 1,100 acres to harvest, as well as 275 acres of hay to bale. The rest of their land is pasture, and it supports somewhere around 300-350 grassers (Warren’s) as well as a 120-130 head cow herd (Gordie’s). According to my dad, the crops are suffering from the extended heat wave and yields are expected to be down.

In the meantime, my mom is handling a harvest of her own (with a little help from my dad). Her vegetable/fruit garden is in full swing and over the weekend we enjoyed new potatoes (so GOOD!), heritage Belgian peas and beans, beets and raspberries. Aside from that, she is growing tomatoes, corn, carrots, onions, leek, rhubarb, strawberries, grapes, nanking cherries, plums and crab apples. Every year, my mom makes her own jam and freezes enough vegetables to last her and dad through the winter.

As well, my parents immense flower garden is in its peak viewing time (FYI: my parents welcome visitors from mid-July to mid-August in case you’d like to see it in person). Mom and dad have always had a flower garden, but around 2005 they got serious. Their garden is a mix of perennials and annuals. Each year, they grow all of their annuals from seed… starting them in the house, and then transferring them into the greenhouse that my dad built. In an average year, they grow approx. 2,500 – 3,000 annuals.

My parents garden is so beautiful that in 2008, they won both a district award and a provincial award for Best Farm Home Grounds. I like to call it a mini Assiniboine Park (referring to the gardens there of course).

Elaine and I have really enjoyed going home (our first home) every month. It is giving us so much quality time with our mom and dad, our brother Gordie and our brother Warren, his wife Nicole and their three kids. In a normal year we don’t end up seeing them as much, so we’re both really thankful to this photography project for giving us more reasons to get together.

It means a lot to me to learn more about the farm too. I left home as a teenager (only going home for weekends and holidays) so I’ve lost a lot of the farming knowledge that I gained as a kid. Also, the equipment they use and the way they farm has evolved. This project is reaffirming the respect and admiration that I have for my family (and farmers in general). From what I know, it’s a tough but incredibly rewarding profession. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like had I not moved into the city. I’ve ended up an equal mix of country girl and city girl, and I’m happy and comfortable in both spaces… but I do wonder.

Note: The two swathing photos and the photo of mom and grandkids in the garden were taken by my sister and fellow photographer, Elaine O’Keeffe.

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