Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hearts full

As we sit and wait for Otis to wake from his nap so we can head to the airport, I'm full of gratitude. I recognise how entirely fortunate we are to have spent a month on the road, surrounded by loving family and friends, and by beautiful country.
Flamont-love at the Regina Folk Fest
Otis is a traveling superstar. He's not crawling or walking yet, so he basically just hangs out where we leave him, so long's we provide him with something to get his hands on. He is happy to be held from his many adoring family members. We figure he hasn't learned to scoot around yet because there's always someone to pick him up or entertain him when he gets bored with his near geography. Firstborn issue, I gather.

I'm going to miss being part of the pack. And I know that Otis is going to miss all these loving faces. He lights up when his cousins enter the room, and there's always someone on hand to help when we need it.

We're back in Regina and we've covered quite a distance. We've explored rural Saskatchewan with the zeal that must belong to city folk who know they get to return home to conveniences all too soon. I had a brief flash of seeing the threads that connect my son to his family, though he's oblivious to these introductions "this is where your grandpa was born". I do, however, understand Brian's underpinnings a little better. Piecing his family puzzle together town by town, person by person. A few nights ago Kate (sis-in-law) hosted a cousins party where I was happy to sit and witness the reunions. Otis is the youngest offspring by over a decade - where we're beginning, many cousins are planning their empty-nesting pre-grandparent time.

Not so on my family's side, but that's another story.

What I feel is full of family. Spending time with my Grandma Dorothy (Councilwoman of Churchbridge) & Arni, and time on farms with multiple generations helping out. I suspect it will feel strange to be back home in Victoria where it's just us 3 again. That being said, I am so excited to be home. So looking forward to routine (and maybe better Otis sleep?). So looking forward to hanging out in the garden and to seeing friends that we've missed over the last few months. It's always one of the gifts of traveling: returning home.

With gratitude and a heart full of prairie, I sign off for this trip. Until next time!

Friday, August 09, 2013

A farmer's life for me!

Farming is really hard work. 
The kind of work that greets you as you wake, and multiplies as you sleep. If you live on the farm there's no escaping it. What I couldn't wrap my head around was that the grass was mowed around the home and the kitchen garden is in high production as well as all the everyday farmwork that gets done. Heck, we hardly mow our lawn in the best of times. A couple of Brian's cousins still farm their family land. We checked out the farm that Kevin manages (the farm that Harry, B's Dad worked as a kid), a conventional grain farming outfit. The machines were incredible.

Kevin explaining how the machines work

But what thrilled me was the organic farm that Brian's cousin runs. We drove in past a giant garden, rows of kale, carrots, corn, squash, and greens greens greens. We were met by Keith who led us straight to his leaf cutter bees who pollinate his alfalfa - integral to an organic farming outfit. He laughed when I enthused over the gorgeous huge garden he keeps. He later showed us the many many more rows of tasty delights he keeps out in the fields. The grass fed cattle roam in the back pasture and chickens turn up the soil in the moveable henhouses.
Etomami Organic Farm - LOVED it! 
We ate like royalty there - everything on our plate came from the farm. Steak, potatoes and a salad that counted more vegetables than most grocery stores. I was in heaven. Keith runs a year-round CSA program for folks in Saskatoon, Regina and a couple other communities. He's still looking for a few more members - know anyone who wants in? If he was running this in Victoria he'd have to turn people away. I gather than the organic food security approach isn't as widespread here as it is on the coast. Hippies that we are.

I told Brian that if he decided he needed to farm that I'd support him. (There's very little likelihood of this happening, which makes this a safe offer. I'm pretty sure this whole picture in the winter time would elicit a very different response from this west coast girl). I'll be happy to stick with our own humble front yard garden.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

In search of a homestead & a story

I've walked around my great-great-grandparent's homestead. I wasn't even hoping for such an outcome, thinking instead that finding a gravestone or some evidence in the town hall would be most likely. Craik is halfway between Regina and Saskatoon, and the administrator of the Rural Municipality Office was happy to oblige when I called ahead and asked him about the Kemsley family. They weren't in the computer, but they were in the town history book, complete with a photograph of my great grandmother as a young girl. We found the section where they homesteaded, and it was occupied. The administrator said that we'd be very welcome at the Schollar's who have been living on that land for the last 60 years. So we did.

Evelyn, the youngest, is my Great Grandmother
 I knocked on the door hopefully, and was met by an elderly farmer who invited me in before I had even introduced myself. I sat at the kitchen table and told him who I was and that my husband and kid were in the car (city people that we are, I figured they'd just say "yep, this was their farm" and send us on our merry way). He told me to bring 'em in and he called out the front door to his wife, Mrs. Schollar. He offered us refreshments and started to tell us about the Kemsley's: my great great grandparents and their offspring. He told us about where the barns and original house were and about the state of the well when they first took possession of the farm from the Kemsley descendents in 1954. He told us about how they paid for the road to be built to town even though the town didn't support the idea. $400 it cost. Better than the road that ran through the field, sunken with potholes and seasonal sloughs. Mrs. Schollar came in and took over from there, offering us cookies and Otis toys to play with.

The Schollar's just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. One week after the marriage of one of their great-grandchildren.

She brought out photo albums to show us glimpses of the original house, behind photos of her children. My great great grandmother, Susannah, was the midwife of the area. They settled 8.5 miles from Craik (farmers here still talk in miles) in 1907. By 1910 the Kemsley's lived with their 5 children in a two room house. We saw the original house, with a top floor added and by this time listing eastward. Full of the flotsam of farming - old tires, clamps, wood stove and ample evidence of small wildlife.

This was the original home, with the addition of another homestead tacked on after the first couple years. Still not sure how they did that. 
Retelling this I feel like the experience was surreal. But while at the farm itself, it just felt natural. Of course this couple knows the story of their farm. Naturally they'd be happy to tour us around the farm, even taking us down the grid roads past great great uncle's farm, and past the home where my Nana visited her grandparents when they moved from the original homestead (leaving it to their daughter) in the 1920's. We felt so welcomed, and I am so grateful to Ellen & Sterling (whose middle name is Otis!) for their lesson in warm hospitality. I can't wait until I can pay it forward.

We went looking for roots, and we found them. I don't know yet, how this makes me feel. Do I feel more connected to my Nana's side of the family? Do I feel more connected to my story as a Canadian - how at least part of my family became Canadian? What about Saskatchewan? It's curious, but I just don't know. Maybe I need to leave this province and go back home to feel it. I'm definitely eager to sit with my Nana and talk to her about this. And would you believe, after all this homesteading my great-great-grandparents moved to Victoria in the late 1950's and spent the rest of their lives there! It looks like I'll have some more exploring to do back home.   

We have been travelling merrily since - visiting Brian's family and exploring his haunts. I will write about this leg of our journey when I next have a moment (Saskatoon, Hill family farm & all-organic-all-the-time). We're currently in Churchbridge with my Grandma Dorothy & Arni - and every moment counts: the goal of this visit? "Have fun every day", says Grandma.

Until then :)