I’d just donned my winter nap-cap in that little resting place between 2020 and 2021, when there was a knock at the door. To my sleepy surprise, it was some manner of Cosmic Carnie, advising me he’d just collected ticket stubs from my entire family, loaded them onto a star-speckled Tilt a Whirl; and smacked the button marked Cape Breton. In the time it took to rub the sleep out of my eyes, he was gone. But it wasn’t long before I began to suspect that 2021 wasn’t going to be the ”pause” 2020 had been. When the Carnie says keep your hands inside the ride, you best keep your hands inside the ride.
It was the craziest thing. First Challian crashed through the darkness, swinging from Orion’s belt, just in time for Winter Solstice. By February, my father and sister Maria had spilled out of the now-tilted cart, landing less than ten kilometres from the farm. They arrived in a snow storm with four dogs and all the giddiness of two people who had been scooped up in one galaxy and dropped through space into another. My sister Yvonne soon stumbled out of a still-spinning cart and found her footing just over the hill from the farm, at the end of June. We’re not talking holiday homes and visits. They Moved. For Real. In May, Indigo and Josh popped up at the farm with the fiddleheads, after saying goodbye to their apartment in Halifax. The carnie was no where to be found by then, but I did notice stardust in their hair.
While we were all busy sorting ourselves out (lining up first by age, then by height and finally by level of disorientation), the Farm sprang back to life from the seeds of last year’s dreaming.
Indigo conjured up our seedling sale, and we connected with professional growers for larger quantities of soil and supplies. We knew better what veggies were in demand, and Indigo timed the plantings meticulously. We had three weekends of plant sales, and sold out of almost everything.
The chaos of keeping 600 super-needy seedlings alive, moving them in and outside the house each day almost did us in. But it didn’t do us in. Nope. After a brief rest and some important conversations about sustainable pacing, we could see that something cool was about to happen. Beside the carrots and radishes, the farm was growing a cafe!
It started with a household espresso maker and offering coffee and baked goods, during the seedling sale. Challian was an awesome barista, and Indigo had a great flair for social media, project management and setting a chill pace for guests and ourselves. Josh helped us get all ready for Saturday mornings and enjoyed welcoming guests; assisting with parking and delivering their orders to them, as they relaxed in the gardens. I’m an early riser with occasional insomnia, making me an obvious baker. It just all seemed so natural to continue. It was so wonderful to see friends and neighbours relaxing among the vegetables.
Yvonne developed and delivered the Soul Power Bowl- an amazing plant-based lunch option featuring some of our farm produce, and Maria helped prep all the veggies for it the day before. Indigo and I honed recipes for scones, cinnamon buns and apple pie bars. Indigo delighted with her french macarons and Babka. We tried a different brownie recipe each week.
Friends began to arrive, adding their gifts and energy to the evolving farm. Seasonal shennanigans ensued. Julien took to harvesting and learning how to care for plants; Anne taught us all how sour dough was done, and built us a bean-bag toss game, fearlessly using power tools for the first time. Rose often helped us get ready for the day and run orders on Saturdays. All lifted us, with their positive attitudes and genuine enthusiasm for being here.
Neices Molly and Claudia both visited during the season. Claudia learned to press apples for cider, and we cooked up a batch of farm-fresh beet pickles. Molly helped in the craft tent, inspired us greatly in the art department, and was all about the goats. Oh my goodness, the goats arrived, and we had a craft tent! When will I ever have time to tell all the stories?
Our dear friend Elaine and her daughter Claire visited and plans to spend more time in Cape Breton were hatched. We visited Magic Cove to watch the sun set into the sea. There were others who visited, too many to mention. All who gifted us with simply being themselves and adding their energy to the farm.
With the addition of family, friends and neighbours, the cafe came to life before our eyes. Without exception, each Saturday built on the Saturday before, and by the end of the season, we were welcoming well over 100 visitors to the farm each weekend. We sold produce at the same time, putting out whatever seasonal veggies we had that week, after called-in orders were filled.
I’ve always been a bit of a seize- the-day-sort of gal, but I swear I neither stacked the deck nor counted cards. It unfolded like a love letter from the Universe herself, and it seems all we had to do, was read it.
Autumn came, and this season, everyone stayed until the end of October. We got on board with a community event to celebrate Halloween and the end of harvest. A grand finale to attempt to express our gratitude to the community that supported our first season.
Our dear friend Kate brought her apple press down to the farm, and together with generous donations of apples from neighbours and friends , we pressed and shared nearly 200 servings of cider and harvest soup with the community on our final day of the season.
The Mull River Farm Scarecrows were on hand and superheroes and goblins wandered the trails and gardens throughout the day, taking in live music at the campfire and sitting by the river. Fairy doors were crafted in the makery tent, and games of Corn Hole and bean bag toss were had on the field. This final day of our season was a shooting star at the end of the northern lights show.
When I arrived to Cape Breton almost four years ago now, I used to joke that it was only a matter of time before I discovered I was related to someone here. Isn’t it just the best, the way the universe works? Now, I can say, surrounded by my actual family, that I really am.
I have to add that the Universe didn’t forget my lifelong adoration for the musical family who led me (with their gift of song) to eventually find this beautiful place I now call home. I may not hang on their family tree like I always joked I might or could or should , but we did have the opportunity to grow some heirloom and gourmet vegetables for the Rankin Family, to be served at the beloved local pub they own and operate. And that sort of makes them feel like family to me.
If 2020 was all about pushing “pause,” 2021 was all about pushing Play.
If you see the Cosmic Carnie in your travels tell him I say thank-you from the bottom of my heart. Now I’m going to see if I can get a little nap in, before the 2022 season is upon us.