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Season of Pruning and Trellising

On leaving room and creating space.

On pruning and trellising.

On learning about learning.

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“They’re called ‘suckers’ because they suck energy from the plant. Also because they just suck.”

(Gaelan, teaching a friend’s little sister about what he calls “the theory behind why we prune tomatoes”.)

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Aaaaand… we’re back!

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Well, it’s been awhile, huh, Fresh Roots cyber land? I’ve missed you guys! I’ve been out ‘n’ about since the end of my Schoolyard Farm Internship last season, immersed in the good things of academia, and family, and such. I’ve been back with the Fresh Roots family, in a slightly different role and capacity. This growing season, I’ve been gardening with a group of students at Windermere Secondary School, growing food together and selling it at a weekly summer market stand! (Shameless plug: We’re at Collingwood Neighbourhood House every Tuesday from 11am – 2pm in July and August. Come say hi!)

On paper, I am a garden coordinator. The #Windermeregarden crew is amazing in many ways, of course gardening being one of them! My job is to support them in that. In the beginning days (sometimes now too) I wondered to myself, “What does that even mean?? look like? feel like? taste like?”  “How does one ‘coordinate’?” “Empowerment is a great word and all, but how does one walk in it, practically, in the everyday kinda things that the inspirational speakers don’t have time to talk about?”

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In the process of all this new learning, messing up, adapting, and becoming… My hands, they still get to work the soil, plant seeds, and yank out weeds. My head, often is in a buzz and bubble of uncertainty-laden AHHH!-moments, but so too soul-happy Ahhh 🙂 -moments. My heart, oh my heart, is continually being nurtured and challenged to grow into new capacities, to hold onto peace, to allow and embrace processes of pruning.

Tomatoes.

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The very first thing I grew tried growing. I have a pair of handmade earrings (yay for sculpty clay!) that are tomatoes, in honour of that life event. The poor tomato plant weathered a couple bad storms, got bushy beyond recognition, and tried with all its might to have its measly fruit survive. Granted, we got a handful of cherry tomatoes off of it. But, indeed, it was a sad plant.

And then the students at Windermere teach me about pruning. Brave new world.

This season, we’re growing A LOT of tomatoes at Windermere. Tomato pruning has become a regular thing for us. Heart-level, I’ve been reflecting on how this new role as a coordinator/facilitator involves a lot of pruning, but also trellising. There’s the oft-times stressful process of having my mindsets re-adjusted, my words revised, to honour, empower and leave room for student learning and leadership – pruning. But then there’s also the support of a string or a stake that helps hold me up, helps guide my stalks and arms as they reach up higher – trellising. In this role, I am supported, encouraged, and enlivened by the Fresh Roots team, by the neighbours who visit our market stand, by the students who never cease to come up with witty veggie puns, and naturally and effortlessly create a culture of creativity and good times that I love being in.

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It’s a season of pruning. It’s a season of trellising.

And I am still learning. So much.

On letting go, on balancing to-do’s and to-play’s, and fostering farming and fun. On letting old perspectives and boxes be pinched and pruned away. Leaves and suckers – endless task lists, overbearing efficiency, perfectly executed plans. Some things can (and should) be held with an open hand, so that we can focus on growing and maturing the fruit – student ownership and leadership, confidence and creativity, skills and silliness, joy!

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Well, perhaps some of that had some semblance of sense and logic. I’m not too sure yet what shape this 2nd iteration of “Hands, Head, Heart” will take on, but I hope you will join me in reflecting on the roles that we play in our communities, and in the diligent work of pruning and trellising tomato plants – in our garden beds, and in our minds and hearts and relationships.

Before I sign off, some scribbles from a day back in the spring, when all this first began. Such is the tone of this season, I think… to hit those low notes.

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March 15th, 6:40pm. On the bus heading home from the garden.

If I were to describe what I’m learning in one word, it’d be this:

Humble.

Be humble—always ready and attentive to learn, change, shift your mindset. Quick to listen, and slow to speak (or instruct, or suggest). Know and be ok with knowing that you know not everything, that you do need help, that you need encouragement, and support, and a community to grow in. And know that it’s a good thing, this not-knowing-it-all-from-leaf-tip-to-root-end, that you need not burden yourself with aspiring for perfection and clear lines in all that you do, in all that it feels others depend on you to do, and do well.

“It’s important not to let perfect take away space for just okay.” (- quoted loosely from Marc Shutzbank)

Sometimes just okay is okay.

Sometimes it’s better than perfect.

Because in those spaces there’s then room to grow, nuggets to dig up, and reason to reflect, and think, and enjoy the loopy jaddegness of swirly lines.

On paper and in planting rows.

Through the avenues in my mind that new neurons fire through,

Excited by novelty.

 

When I feel that I’m a hopeless bumble, it’s really just good times to practice being

Humble.

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Negative Food Stories: Opportunities for Relationship

Food is nourishment.  Food is connection.  

Good days, bad days, celebrations, mourning.  Food is there.  It can be a burden, an obligation met by busybody, overstressed workers, parents, caregivers.  It can be a relief, a comfort, a joy; a refuge to hide away, to spend all the time one’s heart desires to craft the shapes, and flavours, and undertones of a remembered but distant dish–of remembered people, places, experiences.  

And of new ones.

Food can be the poverty of an empty table.  It can be the extravagance of waste and excess.

Food can be dreaded.  It can be hoped for.

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I attended a [food-]storytelling workshop yesterday.  Parts of the words above came from my scribbled thoughts to the free-write prompt: What does food mean to you?

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Food is fundamental and vital for life.  We need it (and we need to grow/gather/cultivate it) to survive, to live, to thrive.  Food can be a source of nourishment not only physically or biologically, but also for the soul.  Traditional foodways and meals can bring back good memories and warm fuzzy feelings.  We like to eat.

These things we know.  And often we hold them as universally applicable to all.  After all, everyone eats, right?

Enjoying a potluck lunch with the crew

Enjoying a potluck picnic lunch with the crew

Talking with a friend at the storytelling workshop about our personal stories of food and “food stories” in general, the topic emerged of Hey, wait a minute.  Not everyone has a positive relationship or association with food.  

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Being at Rest

It’s a Pro-D (professional development) Day at David Thompson today.  Oh, how calm it is.

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Guess what?  I got my rainbow carrots photo!

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These past two weeks, we’ve had a bounty of these colourful root veggies.  I can’t help but be in awe of their beauty.

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The Constancy of Change

“I hate change.”  Hanne and I are wheeling back from the compost bin just before lunch.

“I LOVE change!”  Hanne exclaims.  Sometimes I wish that I, too, had a slightly stronger predilection for change and transition.

I remember this brief conversation that we had a few weeks back, with a smile and touch of nostalgia.  

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Harvest News

Remember those rainbow carrots we’d been waiting on?  The first harvest of those guys happened last week!  Sadly, it was also the week that school started, so I missed that glorious harvest day.  But the important thing is… RAINBOW CARROTS!

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This week, we harvested some pretty handsome komatsuna, green onions, and a big batch of beautiful beets!  Amongst other fresh goodness.

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Heart in my hands

Well, school has officially started, and that means that I’ll be at the farms less.

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Revenge is sweet like beets

Rain Kissed

It’s on cold, wet days like these that I am thankful for the standing water in my tub that drains at the speed of a drunken tortoise.  I am thankful for the extra moments of lapping warmth that my numb feet get to soak in.  I stop, and I stand for a minute to enjoy it.  Wiggle my toes in it.  Ahh.

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Harvest News

The spinach is back!

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We were suppose to be offering it as “baby spinach”, but… after the crazy storm this past weekend, it kinda wasn’t really baby anymore.  More like humungous spinach.  “The spinach got drunk on water,” Gerson said.

Spinach bed post-harvest. This is pretty much how big the spinach was last week, before the deluge...

Spinach bed, post-harvest. The spinach wasn’t much bigger than this last week, and then the deluge poured down over the weekend…

Harvesting spinach this week had a touch of poignancy for me.  Spinach was the very first crop we as interns learned to harvest–pick each leaf one by one near the base of the stem, check underside for ickiness, check for yellowing on the leaf edge, practice a two-handed motion, leave the tiny leaves for regrowth… I remember feeling so sore in my shoulders and back from bending over the beds so much to pluck spinach.  Over the season, my body has gradually gotten used to it.

Dennis and Scott harvest parsley in the sea of green and rain

Dennis and Scott harvest parsley in the sea of green and rain

Big beautiful beets are back, too!

Big beautiful beets are back, too!

Hanne, Gerson, Cass and I reminisced about another wet day early in the season when we harvested spinach.  We took turns going inside the school to run our hands under warm water, and ended up bringing a tote full of it outside.  From March spinach, to September spinach.  The leaves taste of the same heartiness, only rain kissed.  Seasons do come full circle, they do.

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Cass stands triumphantly with our expatriated weeds and retired bean plants

Deep Roots Draw Up: An Epic.

I’ve just returned from a week-long family road trip to Alberta.  

The land of wild roses, giant dandelion-like globes that I am mystified by, and glacial waters that call my heart to calm and new breath.

Returning

The body – in need of a readjusting to the rhythms of the farm.  

To lifting, and bending, and yanking.

The soul – inspired once more by weeds.

They kinda are my thing.

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Kingdom of My Heart

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9 o’clock.

Wheelbarrow filled with buckets hungry for expatriated weeds, hands ready to hit the soil,

I plop to the ground beside the bed of rainbow carrots,

Knees up against the damp alleyway strewn with grass-suppressing burlap.

Ready to weed, I am!

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Big and Small

Big and small.  

Small and Big.  

Never one-size-fits all.

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Harvest News

A smaller harvest this week meant enjoying the unfamiliar feeling of being unrushed.  ‘Twas much appreciated!

Getting ready to swish-swish frisee

Javi and Cass – getting ready to swish-swish frisee

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Harvest blades

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A Green Bean Story

“Look!  A four-leaf clover!”  Alicia finds a rare gem hidden in the bean bush.

“You should keep it!”  

“No, I’ll leave it here so that its gene pool can remain… maybe there’ll be more four-leaf clovers.”

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Harvest News

Many of the usual culprits were arrested from the field this week: carrots, kale, chard, lettuce, parsley, spring mix, mustards, turnips, radishes.  So guilty are they, each week, of being beautiful and yummy.

Raxe

 

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Scott and Ilana harvest some human-sized chard!

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