April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain….
– T.S Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922
* * *
In like a lion, out like a lamb, right? This March has been one of the strangest and soggiest, weather-wise, of recent memory — it has been raining for weeks on end, and everyone I know is getting a bit stir-crazy! We went by the farmer’s market this morning, and a good-sized crowd of tenacious farmers and customers were braving the weather for the sake of local food. I love how the rain is no obstacle for the Auburn Farmer’s Market — it has only closed once in its several decades of operation, and that was for a rare snowstorm earlier this year!
My favourite spot for a rainy day: our barn, with its rusty corrugated-tin roof that amplifies every sound of the storm. It was built on the foundations of the old homestead barn which stood here long before my great-grandfather bought the property; the hand-stacked rock wall at the back of the barn is more than a hundred years old. One side is open to the orchard’s gentle slope, making for the perfect spot to watch a storm blow through our little valley.
We’ve been taking turns lately reading David Mas Masumoto‘s wonderful book, Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm. He writes about his journey to resurrect his family’s Sun Crest peach orchard, incorporating sustainable techniques and resisting the growing pressures to grow the “modern” peach varieties that trade flavour for shipping and storage ability. The history of family and place, the risk of investment, the devotion and work; the struggle to sell old-fashioned varieties in a marketplace that prizes uniformity and durability, the satisfaction of biting into a perfect piece of fruit that you have grown — all these things are inextricably woven together, the beautiful with the frustrating. It’s a story that resonates with all of us: my grandfather told me, “That’s an important book.”
And it reminds me how lucky I am to have a lovely old barn to sit in, a barn built by my grandfather and great-grandfather, with a view of a ninety-year-old orchard in the rain.
A patchwork of wood and metal makes up the barn roof…
And sometimes, a few odds and ends will arrange themselves into a painterly tableau.
You’ve met Brenda, our barn cat — she tiptoes over piles of rusty junk without a sound, to perch on a rickety shelf. The girl knows how to pose!
The trusty field lugs are stacked behind the barn. These boxes date from our farm’s heyday in the 1960s, and we still use them to pick fruit every year.
A break in the rain, back out into the orchard — and a tiny reminder that, weather notwithstanding, it really is Spring after all.