Saturday, 6 August 2011

Mariposa Organic Farm

For the past eleven days I've been at Mariposa Organic Farm in the Similkameen Valley, one valley west of the Okanagan and known as the organic farming capital of Canada. The farm is run by Karl and Sarah who live here with their two teenage children and their French farm manager Coco, with Karl's mum Lee living in a small house on the farm too. Mariposa was one of the first organic farms in the area and is now surrounded by organic farms and vineyards, as well as the desert's sagebrush scrub.

I start work usually at about 8.00a.m. (once at 6.00a.m.) before it gets really hot. My tasks have been picking courgettes (this I do most days), packing courgettes, wrapping cucumbers in cling-film, sticking labels on cucumbers, packing cucumbers in boxes, catching and cleaning squashes, packing squashes, picking spinach, picking chard, stuffing chard and spinach into bags, picking parsley, sorting rocks, sifting sand, raking sand on the driveway, being driven around on a tractor and often being told I work slowly (it's that INFJ personality...).

Here farming is all about speed. It takes me five times as long as anyone else to wrap a cucumber. Probably three or four times as long to pick the courgettes and perhaps twice as long to pick the Swiss chard. And although I'm told my picking is beautiful and my cucumber wrapping the best they've seen from a WWOOFer I can't help getting the feeling that I annoy them with my lack of pace. I'm beginning to think I can cross being a farmer off my list of possible occupations, I just can't do things so quickly. I'd much prefer to garden for pleasure, to have time to enjoy and marvel at the process as well as sustaining myself.

On the farm they have a greenhouse full of cucumbers with Swiss chard, spinach and herbs growing underneath them. Outside are the courgettes, yet more cucumbers, normal tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, several different varieties of squash, some maize, various kinds of pepper including jalapeƱos, chilli peppers and bell peppers, a few old peas, herbs such as the parsley, an area of clover (where they'll plant the crops next year), the four horses, two turkeys and some chickens. I have learnt that a green pepper is actually an unripe red or yellow pepper, I can't believe I've gone this far through life without knowing that. It makes sense now, because they're cheaper and don't taste as good! As well as the vegetables there are two small patches of raspberries and some apricot and peach trees. Everyday I eat cereal for breakfast with peach and apricot from the farm and when I wander in that direction I can pluck a few from the trees. This really makes me smile.

I'm staying in a little cabin above the river with two beds in it, internet access and lights. It doesn't have the same rustic charm as the A-frame at White Spruce Farm, but it serves its purpose and having internet access is great for staying in touch with the outside world and getting on with this blog. Next to it is the outhouse with an unobstructed panoramic view of the river below. I've dunked myself into the river a few times to cool off, but it scares me a bit as it has fast currents- Similkameen actually means treacherous waters. My glasses were swept away by the current and are currently making their way down the Similkameen river.

After stealing my glasses the river gave me something in return though. On my birthday I woke up, opened the birthday cards that Jenny, my granny and mum had sent me. The one from Jenny had a black bear on the front and inside it wishes that I would see a bear. I then looked out the window to see a black bear swimming across the river. Sighting my first black bear was the perfect birthday present. I wont have to lug it around in my backpack or worry about it having been made in a sweatshop in China.

Yesterday I went on a river 'float' with the family, Sarah's brother and his wife who are visiting the area (their little puppy Rosie is staying on the farm), and a whole troop of teenagers. We drove to a bridge further up the valley and then got in the river to float for about four hours on inflatable rings back down to the farm. It was really peaceful and enjoyable just to float down the river and the currents didn't seem so bad since the water level in the river is falling with the heat of the summer.

I've also been on a few walks into the hills above the farm and down the road here past the vineyards. I've spotted snakes, deer, mice, rat type things, a chipmunk and many birds, sniffed at the sagebrush which has wafts like English public toilets, had hummingbirds hover above my orange headscarf, admired flowers, perhaps got a little dehydrated, avoided the black widow spiders so far, and got impaled by a cactus. Overlooking the border with the US I admired the view and listened to recordings of the BBC's Costing the Earth. It suprises me that with all this abundant sunshine here no-one seems to have solar panels or photovoltaic cells on their roofs. The outhouse here has a solar powered light though and Sarah and Karl are building a new house on the hillside which will be off-grid.

No comments:

Post a Comment