Friday, July 31, 2009
'Woofing' is a term used often in these parts and refers to an organization of labourers working on organic farms in exchange for room and board. I think the actual term WOOF is an acronym for 'Workers on Organic Farms'.
We have known several people to enlist a 'woofer' or two during peak gardening season here in the Kootenays, and the farm here is no exception. This summer, the resident woofer is a lovely girl from Quebec named Ani.
Brenda and Gail are terrific people to work for it seems and they have people clamouring to 'woof', several of them that come back again and again, many of which become like family. We met Ani on the day we arrived, and I am sure she had no idea what she was in for - living amongst a gaggle of children, all under the age of 5. She came out from Quebec, having finished her first year of college and in search of a summer experience different from out east, and I have no doubt she got it!
She's been a huge help in the garden, having had no previous experience, she's come a long way she ensists. Her english is really exceptional, and she works hard to correct herself when she slips, as that was part of her reasoning for coming west, to learn to speak better English. We do our best to make sure the children don't drive her too crazy, perhaps making up somehow by providing yummy meals. She really knows how to flatter me, by always raving about what is being served up, whether it's cabbage rolls or fresh baked bread.
One of the best parts about eating from the garden is coming up with exciting meals with as fresh as it gets ingredients. Right now it's all about the broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage heads- larger than my own.
Ani has many talents herself, she is a wonderful musician, loves to sketch and her latest skill that we discovered was her ability to catch mice, with her bare hands! I am totally not kidding, she came to me this afternoon, looking quite thrilled with herself and exclaimed that she had caught a baby mouse that had run across her path into her bedroom. I was curious how the heck she had actually caught the little rodent, but more disturbed that it was a baby - which means there are likely more somewheres in the house. We realized we had a difference in opinion when she insisted on letting it go free a good distance from the house, while I on the other hand would have let Lizzie the cat have a nice treat for supper.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Some days it feels as though we never left the Slocan Valley and that our Utah adventures were all just a hazy dream. But then I take a look at my bank account and am rudely reminded that that isn't the case.
But regardless of the red, we know what we've taken on will be worth it in the end, that we will have experiences and meet people that we will hold on to forever. In the meantime however, it does feel great to be amongst all things familiar: the swimming hole, the coffee shop, the gas station/liquor store etc. And our cherished house made of straw on the mountainside. I do miss it. We know it is in good hands though which makes a huge difference. Cam has even been making improvements to our place where he can between his full time work as a contractor and his own ceramics career.
One thing that has been invaluable is that Robin was welcome to come back for this break and work in his own studio. Cam and his roommate Amanda made space so that Robin could come back and crank in the studio for a month, and that is exactly what he has been doing. Since we came back from our unexpected trip to Oregon he has been in the studio everyday and some nights. He is getting ready for a studio sale that we will be participating in on the 15th of August. It is part of a larger studio tour or artists and art venues in the greater Columbia Basin region, hosted and organized by the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance.
So he pumping out the pots this month in the hopes to make some income to help fund our ongoing adventures south of the border. It's sweet to see him in his own space again, slightly altered by the newcomers, but with the same plastic lined walls, behind that same muddy wheel, cranking out the work.
We have however been able to tear him away most days late in the afternoon to join us for a swim at that favorite local swimming spot. By 3 p.m. the heat of the afternoon is almost debilitating and a plunge in the river feels amazing. Isla and Roscoe have both frequented this sweet spot since before they were born, when I used to float around in there with my emerging pregnant belly attempting to try and beat the heat. And they are loving it at this age too, happy to throw rocks, eat snacks and take the occasional dip in the cool water.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Sue and her boys have gone off to enjoy a few days (and nights) of music and madness at the Starbelly Jam Musical fesitval on the east shore of Kootenay Lake and she has left Ani and I in charge of all things garden-related.
One of my first chores this morning was to get up early and check the basil plants in the greenhouse. Sue and I had picked a good deal of basil almost a week ago, and I learned all about how to properly harvest the plant to ensure it doesn't flower and to be careful the underleaves are not picked to encourage further growth all summer. With the hot weather we've been having, the plants were already due for a second major picking and I spent nearly an hour trimming and piling up the delicate leaves.
By the time I was finished I realized I had picked an enormous stainless steel bowl's worth of basil, organic basil to boot! The next step was to grind it up with some pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan cheese to make the freshest tasting pesto I have ever had. Isla and Roscoe were big helpers by picking the stems and working the Braun handheld mixer.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
We're in the thick of summer here and that means it's hot, hot, hot and the garden is going off! I've found the best time to work in the garden is in the early hours of the morning before the kids have woken up and the air temperature is a bit cooler and more bearable. Although, even by 9 a.m. these last few days it has been 30 degrees outside and even warmer in the green houses.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Thankfully, we have learned so much from our friend Tom and his wife Kathryn in the 12 years that we have known them and I am certain that we won't be the only folk to 'live out the gospel of Tom', as Kathryn put it. Robin and I spent much of the two day return drive to the Kootenays remembering Tom and talking about the urgency to live fully.
We made it back safely to our idyllic summer retreat and have spent the last couple of days decompressing and catching up on sleep. The garden is in full bloom and our biggest decisions of the day are what to harvest for supper. We've also taken our intentions to heart to spend time with those that we love and have had some great visits already with friends, both new and old.
A close friend of Tom's who had also made the trip to Oregon for the funeral, Martin and his wife Andra and their two kids, Ben and Freya, came through and stayed with us enroute to their home in Saskatchewan. They overnighted here and we were happy to spend a few hours showing them around the gardens, picked some raspberries and took them on a tour of our home and kiln, down the highway before they deadheaded it to Alberta.
The kids have been blissed out to not be strapped in their carseats anymore and to be able to run through the sprinkler, jump on the trampoline and help pick (eat) ripe berries, all while we've got in some great visits with my friend Josee, Grandpa Wes and the delightful Druitt family that spent the entire day with us here today. I really do feel lucky to be spending the summer in this beautiful place with so many of our loved ones close by.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
We arrived in Pleasant Hill, OR on Tuesday to celebrate Tom's life and to embrace his spirit and passion for all things celebratory. Tom was Robin's very first ceramics instructor at Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, AB (96-97) and undoubtedly the friend and mentor that sent Robin off on his trajectory towards a life of clay. We will miss him immensely.
But we'll keep Tom alive in our hearts through our cherished friendship with his equally inspiring life partner, Kathryn Finnerty. We love you Kathryn and are so grateful for all that you mean to us.
Peace, love and pots. - Rohr
Tom died of a heart attack on July 8, 2009. He was born in Detroit and raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Tom received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, apprenticed with John Glick at Plum Tree Pottery, and earned an MFA in ceramics from Louisiana State University. After teaching pottery and making pots in Montana, Colombia, Spain, Alaska, Calgary and Winnipeg, he moved to Oregon in 2000 with his wife, Kathryn Finnerty; together, they founded Pleasant Hill Pottery. In 2004, he became a pottery instructor at Lane Community College. Tom taught and mentored scores of young potters in the U.S. and Canada, and designed and built kilns in Michigan, Alaska, Winnipeg and Oregon. Tom’s pots have been exhibited throughout North America, published in ceramics books and magazines, and featured in the film The Go-Getter, for which he was a creative consultant.
In addition to being a celebrated and beloved ceramic artist and teacher, Tom was a gourmet, gourmand, musicologist, sports aficionado, adventurist, master of ceremonies and world-class bon vivant. His joy was contagious, his wit superlative, his hospitality bountiful and his spirit immeasurable. To meet Tom was to know joy, to know Tom was to learn it.
Tom will be celebrated and enormously missed by his wife Kathryn, his mother Ann, his siblings Margaret, Sarah, Matthew, Lisa and Martha, his nephews and nieces Casey, Claire, Mike, Laura, Stephanie, Dan, Teresa, Anna and Emma, father-in-law Tom Finnerty, brother-in-law David Finnerty, godchildren Freya Tagseth and Ian Bruggeman, and hundreds of other colleagues, friends and relations. He was predeceased by his sister Mary and his father, Richard.
Tom’s funeral Mass will be held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Eugene on Tuesday, July 14 at 12:15 PM. A celebration of his life will follow directly afterward at Tom and Kathryn’s home in Pleasant Hill. (Map) In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Food for Lane County and Studio Potter Magazine.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
We have been blessed with the most incredible opportunity and fortune to be staying at our very dear friends small scale organic farm, just 15 minutes up the valley from our own strawbale house and property. It didn't seem right to ask our friend and tenant Cam to put us up (or put up with us) in our place for the summer, and when we heard Brenda and Gail might need a few extra hands working in the garden and tending to the chickens, just a ways up the highway, we jumped at the chance to housesit and help out.
Brenda and Gail have headed out on the highway for some well deserved vacation time, as they have already put their hard work and time into a bountiful season of planting and sowing. We will be the lucky ones to enjoy the fruits of their labour and help with harvesting their incredible garden. Under the lead of their son and daughter in law, our very good friends Sue and Krispen, we'll be sure to weed, pick, stake and water whatever needs weeding, picking, staking and watering.
Their property, surrounded by mixed forests and cupping a bow in the Slocan river, is a stunning example of what 30+ years of dedication and intent can create. It is both inspiring and daunting, as I think about what we have begun just a short ways down the highway... there is plenty yet to do at our property, and we've got a few projects in mind that we hope to get to this summer. Little by little, who knows what we'll create one day.
For now, I'm ecstatic to enjoy what they have created here, for I know herein also lies that same fondness for this place we all call home.