Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Big Fat Farm Life


If ever there was a time that I felt like I belonged somewhere it was last Friday at the Farmer’s Market in Woodstock, New Brunswick. We were running late (as seems to happen to us) and when we arrived about an hour later than usual we had already missed some customers who had come to buy our product. It is unfortunate that we missed them, yet at the same time I felt good they had come early to see us! My bread specifically! We were welcomed warmly upon arrival, a few jibes about being late, as well as some concern that we were ok and going to be there.
Of course Glenn was sure to tell me he knew I was coming, he could count on me, he just also knew I work on my own time clock. I laughed and told him “Hey, I did not move all the way across the country, from a busy urban life, to a quiet rural life, to rush for ANYONE! My new life involved being more laidback.” He replied with something to the effect of “with my time clock, I couldn’t be much more laid back.” I told him, that is why I always liked to be the boss at work, no one to question me! It was all in good fun and I know that he was glad to have us there.
Since I started to work with Glenn he has helped me and Len in more ways than I can say. He has given us farming tips and advice; he has given us materials and supplies to get started; he has given me some bake ware to run my little baking operation; he has even given us an old barn! Len has to tear it down and rebuild it, but it is a huge god send and we are incredibly grateful for it. There is an amazing 50 year plus steel roof with little rust, which with that alone we are ahead, yet there is also plenty of useable recyclable lumber to build our own barn. Just today I was telling a neighbour I don’t know how we will get it all done when she suggested a good old fashioned barn raising! How cool is that? And us not even Amish!
Glenn was also instrumental in getting us involved in the farm market. Without his nagging and pestering us we wouldn’t have followed through. Here we are, signed up for our second month, asked to join the farm market board (which we politely declined – still in volunteer rehab!) and we are having great success at the weekly market. PLUS it is lots of fun!
              As if that was not enough, we had a lovely newspaper article written about us that brought in new customers. We were filmed by a journalist student as part of his story on the market – it may or may not be played on TV and we have gained a steady customer base week by week. I plan to do it as long as it is fun and successful, so expect to see us for a long time to come! I have met some sweet people at the market, customers and vendors as well as the remarkable Ramona the market manager. What more could I ask for?
              Well, I didn’t ask, but I guess I had mentally “put it out there” and it came to me. Since working with Glenn and Edna I have had the pleasure of using a large floor model bakery size professional Hobart mixer. I know it is a sin to covet something, but I did. I coveted that mix master that holds about 20 quarts and was so heavy duty it requires oil changes and two people to move it. I knew it was not something I could ever afford but thought I would start to keep my eye out for a used one. Just Friday morning I had told Len and Glenn how much I liked it and thought I had to get one some day. Glenn told me how much they liked theirs and how much use Edna had got out of it over the years. Up to this point I have been making everything completely by hand. Mixing, shaping, kneading, etc. I really like the kneading part too!
              Well on Friday my coveting was rewarded! Mmm maybe it isn’t a sin? Or maybe it depends on what you covet? (I can assure you I did NOT covet my neighbours wife! Just his mixing machine!) I received an enormous gift from a couple that I have grown fond of very quickly. They come say hello to us every week; they always buy some of my baking and apparently they helped to found the market 30 years ago. They have since retired, no more baking of their own to sell and all of the animals gone. They have downsized and moved into town and no longer have need of… Have you guessed? YES! They are GIVING me a Hobart bakery quality heavy duty professional mixer!!! No, it is not brand new, but that is ok – saves me $3,000+ to buy one! Keith wrote a tremendous story about us a few weeks ago and Ellen comes and gives me support and positive feedback – now this! A gift from heaven or at least heavenly people!
              I was so excited, at first I thought she was offering to sell it to me and I said YES!!!! I will buy it! Ellen proceeded to explain the history of the machine, how it started in a bakery, then a family member had it, then it was hers and she baked with it for the market, they tried to return it but the family member could no longer use it. (They even drove it all the way to Philadelphia to give it back, took up a huge section of their minivan – and the owner didn’t pick it up, so they came home again with it.) Now she said, she would like to see it used by someone who would care for and appreciate it – she is even throwing in some tried, tested and true recipes! My day went from running behind, to feeling good to absolutely marvellous! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Keith and Ellen! I can’t wait to pick it up and clean it up for use. The Hobart machine shall remain in my kitchen until I can no longer bake and pass it on to some other baker who will use it well.
              Back to reality, we left Woodstock about 1:30pm Friday, April 1 and drove to the border crossing. We were driving home via Houlton and had to fuel up. As we left Woodstock there were a few snowflakes tumbling down. We approached the border crossing and the snow was heavier but it was a bit windy and it wasn’t sticking to the ground. We went to Houlton, got fuel and picked up a few things. In less than a half hour the snow went from not sticking to sticking hard and fast. Before we even left to hit the highway home (normally about a 40 minute drive) the roads were slick and covered. About 10 minutes out of town we were following a vehicle that travelled about 50kmh and we were glad to have him in front of us. 10 more minutes and he pulled over, he no longer wanted to lead and I was stuck out front, with little visual, unable to see more than about 30 feet ahead of me, no snow plow or tracks to follow and I concentrated on staying in the centre of the road.
              It was scary. Len and I watched ahead as I reduced speed to about 40kmh and plowed the road ahead of me with my tires. The snow was about 8 inches deep or more on the road. We had to make the turn left from Hwy 1 to Boundary Rd. to head to the border crossing. It was close, we almost made it, but we slipped and slid and managed to hang over to the edge of the road/ditch. Fortunately we were far enough over, even though we crossed the road sideways to allow the SUV that was following us to get by. They couldn’t stop to help us, even if they wanted to, or they might not get any further.
              We were discouraged and tried to manoeuvre the truck out, to no avail. Luckily a pick up came by about 5 minutes later and the kind Samaritan hooked the chain to the front of the truck and gave us a pull. Neither we nor he were confident it would work, but happily it did. I drove the next 3 miles very slowly and carefully and again had (now about 10 inches of snow) to plow a track to move on. I was so thankful to see the border crossing ahead.
              We pulled up to the border crossing with the expectation that with the awful weather, blizzard in fact, snow covered roads and time of day that we would be waved through fairly perfunctorily. No. THIS was the day that our friendly Fosterville border crossing guard decided to search our truck. We have been going through 1-4x a month for 8 months and today, amidst the storm, we were searched. They went through our grocery receipt, searched between the seats, in the console, the glove compartment, opened my purse and looked through, opened the canopy and searched the driver’s area. Yay. It was one of the moments that you were indebted to the universe for telling me NOT to smuggle, not to give inaccurate or incomplete answers and for helping me be an honest person. Whew!
              As if this was not enough, the private contractor was busy plowing the parking area for the border personnel and we could not drive forward. The contractor was not looking around, simply plowing the area. The guard asked us to please pull out and drive away. We politely refused since there was no way we needed to get hit by that machine. They thought we would be ok, no thank you we replied. They had to finally ask him to stop so we could leave. Duh?! Of course this left us with a slow moving truck headed up an unplowed, slippery hill… again, we were stuck.
              Yes this was a fun day! I had to keep reminding myself how happy I was about the gift I was being given… my Hobart machine! Take a breath, keep the wheels slow, put it into first gear and , yes, have my 69 year old husband with his bad back, stand on the road, in the snow… pushing the truck! Oh! Why did our 4x4 NOT work??? We made it home, barely, as we inched up our hill and literally slid off the road into our yard, I said “this looks like a good spot to park!”  By now our 40 minute drive had taken an hour and a half, we had gone off the road twice, been searched and got out of the truck to about a foot of snow around our legs…
              The girls arrived home about 40 minutes later than usual and told us how the bus driver had yet again kept them safe… Thank you MaryEllen! Glenn called later that night to make sure we were ok, he is well versed in our truck troubles. Thank you Glenn. Anita messaged me later to make sure we got home ok, Thank you Anita! I love my neighbourhood and neighbours! Yes, my friends and family back home would have done the same thing and checked on us, but we are the new family (probably for the next 100 years) and to have been so wonderfully accepted so quickly – that is the biggest gift of all!

Well at least we didn't get two feet of snow! I guess it will be another month before my crocus’, daffodils and tulips push up out of the ground! Happy Spring New Brunswick!

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