Amish Country

Photo: Rosemary Covert

Photo: Rosemary Covert

Lodi is situated in an area populated quite heavily by people of the Amish and Mennonite faith. Ever since I can remember it was a common occurrence to pass a horse and buggy on the country highways around Lodi.

In recent years there has been an influx of even more Amish and Mennonite families to the area and so the chances are very good that you will need to make a wide pass around a buggy carrying a couple, sometimes with curious little ones peering out the back window, their young faces framed by the traditional bob haircut and black-banded straw hat.

This increase in the Amish population of our area has meant nothing but a boon to local food and gardening aficionados. Among many different kinds of businesses that serve the Amish and non-Amish populations there are several excellent produce sellers that grow a lot of their own fruits and vegetables in greenhouses powered without use of electricity.

We’ve been buying fresh produce from our local Amish produce stand for many years but last year we also relied on them heavily for the plants that started our garden. In addition to having excellent quality produce and plants their prices are often the most reasonable you’ll find in comparison to grocery stores and farmers markets.

Last year we were thrilled when our garden tomato patch was spared the blight that was sweeping the countryside. Many of our friends and neighbors had their tomatoes wiped out completely but our tomatoes were blissfully unaware of any of that nasty blight business.

The story we heard was that the blight affected plants that went through the industrial food chain and were purchased at places like grocery stores and Wal-Marts. Since ours came from small independent greenhouses we were in the clear and enjoyed many pounds of tomatoes. (It actually wasn’t the best year for tomatoes blight or no blight, but that’s beside the point).

The population of Amish fits the rural farming landscape perfectly. Teams of six to eight Clydesdale horses farm on properties adjacent to those farmed by the most technologically advanced farming equipment. Seeing them at work in the fields gives us a glimpse at how perhaps our ancestors lived on and worked this land.

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The Seed Catalogues Have Arrived!

Seed packets

Seed packets

A few months ago my aunt suggested that it was time to order free seed catalogues in order to prepare for the coming gardening season.

I scoffed and retorted that until I am a more seasoned gardener I won’t be growing much from seed. A few failed experiments last year were enough to (break my heart and*) reassure me that my gardening skill needs a helping hand in the form of pre-started plants.

However, I did take her advice for no other reason than ordering seed catalogues in winter has the same affect that the Sears Wish Book used to have in September: you flip through the pages slowly with pure wonder and joy imagining what great times lie ahead.

I also decided that the seed catalogues would be a great way to do research on different varieties of plants and to solidify what we can plant next year. This “planning” took the form of me cutting out pictures of all the things I’d like to consider growing (again, Sears Wish Book flashback). I roughly chopped out photos of crisp pickling cukes, luscious ripe strawberries adorned with tiny white flowers, handsome husked tomatillos and adorable orange cherry tomatoes while I flipped right by things like broccoli, cauliflower and page after page of squashes and gourds.

Now that I have all of these funny little cutouts I intend to paste them into a scrapbook or perhaps (if I get really organized) a to-scale plan of the garden so that I can see what this garden-to-be might look like. I admit this whole idea is a bit grade 3 arts-and-crafts but it’s giving me a visual representation of my dream garden. And it doesn’t hurt that looking at lush greenery helps take the mind of the many days of flurries and overcast skies that we must endure before getting to the time we’ll actually breaking ground on our garden.

*Ok, saying my heart was broken by my failed seed planting is admittedly a bit melodramatic, but somewhat well-founded. I took it in my head last spring that I wanted to replicate a lovely flower bed that my grandma had tended for years but which now sprouts only a few valiant tulips every spring. I was seduced by the colours on the seed packets and drawn in by the promise of bright, spiky dahlia, cheery shasta daisy and fragrant blue sage. And what did I get? Nada. Zero flowers even sprouted and the dream of gardening in my grandmother’s muddy footprints evaporated.

My other failed seed planting is a two-time lack of sunflowers. Sunflowers seem like a no-brainer: everyone has them. They grow like 8 feet high. And the two times I’ve planted them from seed I’ve gotten no where.

I love sunflowers. Their constant cheerfulness at their slightly absurd height is downright heartwarming. I want to grow them! But sunflowers remain my great white whale, though I vow to conquer them oooooone daaaayyyyy *stands on deck of ship shaking fist in air*

Golding Farm Redux

The Golding Farm

Front door of Golding Farm

Last summer we did a lot of work on the Golding Farm House to make it habitable for folks. Fortunately for us at that time the folks were friends and not paying customers. They didn’t mind the fact that we’d covered up the cracks in the walls with “tapestries” and that there was one room that still had giant holes in the ceiling among other issues.

We’re starting now to get more serious about getting the Golding Farm ready for real visitors, perhaps even vacationing renters. There are a few major jobs that need to be done: a new bathroom needs to be installed upstairs and the small room adjoining it needs to be subsumed into that bathroom. The room next to that room needs to be turned into a hallway and the room with the holes in the ceiling needs some, um, work too.*

There’s something really special about this house, but it’s hard to put your finger on what exactly. We really love it. None of us has ever actually lived there, but there’s just a really warm and special feel to this house. There must have been a lot of love in this house over the last 150 years that we can sense somehow.

Sadly I remember when this house was not treated with a lot of love–we used to rent it out to a series of families that didn’t treat the house or the grounds with much respect. I remember more than one occasion when we hauled out loads of junk, cleaned off caked-on grime from many surfaces and washed windows that hadn’t been washed in decades.

Over the last 3-4 years we’ve worked slowly at it and the improvements have been incremental. Many of us have done this work: my Mum and Dad, my brother of course who lived there last summer, my aunt and uncle and even my uncle Floyd before he passed away. Maybe that’s why we love this house, because so many of us have invested in it.

My Mum put together an amazing photo album that documents the transformation of the Golding Farm. Here’s hoping that we’ll be adding to this album soon with even more gorgeous photos of the newest set of improvements

*Please note that not all Covert family members agree on this plan of attack for the re-configuring of the top floor. I am a fan of this plan because it preserves the size of the stunning master bedroom which is huge and lovely, in my humble opinion. Stay tuned to see if I get overruled.