A GARDEN'S WORTH
I've been out in the garden for the last couple of days,
Listening to the corn and the tomatoes, and what they have to say.
I touch the soil, I feel the sweat and I breathe the air.
I've got dirt on my feet, on my hands, my legs and knees and all in my hair.
I love to be there in the garden, even in the hot summer sun.
To some people it's hard work, but to me it's the finest fun.
Time doesn't matter in heaven or in a song,
And my garden is a heaven, where I can sing along.
With the chorus of live to which I've given birth.
Some people stop and look and wonder, "What is that fellow's garden worth?"
They say, "Tell me neighbour, is your garden's worth the things you eat.
"Oh no, that's just a small part of its celestial value.
There's even more wealth in listening to your little choir sing to you.
It's about the pleasure of seeing beauty spring up from the earth,
The flowers, the worms, the sweat, the fragrance and the toil,
And being alive and so close to the soil.
It's about saying hello to my neighbours who are out for their daily walk,
And stopping anytime during the timeless, to lean on my shovel and talk."
© Joe Bowman, 2011
About the Farm
Deer Park Haven Farm is an agro-tourism destination, offering farm stays booked through Airbnb, and a place for learning and experiments in sustainable agriculture, and lifestyles. It is situated on a southeast facing hillside, with spectacular views of Mount Hope, Kawkawa Lake, and Mounts Hatfield and MacCleod and just a short drive from downtown Hope. The air is clean, wildlife abounds and the water comes from an aquifer that is buried 200 feet deep in solid granite. It's just around the corner but a world away.
Non-consumptive, low impact recreational activities such as; Biking, Canoeing, Kayaking, and Snowshoeing are provided by Sasquatch Moon Outdoors. Fresh Farm Produce is for sale on site and there is secure parking for RVs while on tour.
Canoe, Kayak and Mountain Bike rentals are available by the hour, day or week. Complete planning and outfitting for one day or multi-day trips by Canoe or Kayak to isolated pristine mountain lakes: Ross or Nahatlach, starting at $250 for 2 people for one day, includes transportation and everything you need to be at home in the wilderness. (Meals are not included but can be arranged for a very reasonable additional cost.) We also deliver boats to nearby Kawkawa Lake, Silver Lake and Lake of the Woods for hourly or daily rental starting at $40.
If hiking is your preference we can help you plan a hike, and transport you to an optimum starting point, on one of the multitude of mountain trails that have been used by First Nations' People for thousands of years and fur traders and prospectors during the colonization period. Place Name Tours along with stories of the history of the area by First Nations guides can be arranged but must be booked well in advance to allow us to dovetail into the guide's itinerary. Specialty custom tours, including 4 wheel excursions can be arranged to suit your need to experience the real Canadian Wilderness.
We are building a farm out of a mountainside. We came to the farm in June of 2012 and, other than the house, the whole property was covered with forest and there was almost no level ground. I spent the first 3 years clearing and leveling land and building up garden beds on top of rock. In 2014 we started taking our first WWoofers and only had a very small garden that year. In 2015, with the help of a lot of great Wwoofers we were able to greatly expand our growing potential and had a great start on the season. That summer was one of the worst droughts recorded and I had to turn under a lot of the garden. In spite of that we still had a very good garden and produced a lot of food, but our big challenge was finding a way to market our product.
In 2016 I had a bad lung and sinus infection that knocked me out for about 8 months and I was unable to get anything to market. That year we had what was said to be the worst winter in 35 years. Then 2017 saw a drought even worse than the one in '15 with extremely high temperatures that made the lack of water even more critical. We have had just about everything go wrong that could go wrong but we have still made progress. Every year, I have been able to look back and see that we have moved forward. Water is a major challenge for us. I have 10,000 litres of storage now and am hoping to get a 70,000 litre reservoir completed in time for this summers garden. We have plenty of extra water in the winter and spring as long as I have a way to store it until we need it in the summer.I have been building this all up from nothing for 5 years now. I have had over 100 Wwoofers, from 21 countries. Whenever anyone looks at the pictures of the transformation that has occurred their mouths usually drop open. I applied last year for reclassification as a farm. In January an assessor from the BC Assessment Authority came out to inform me that my application had been denied. I took him out for a walk around the place and showed him what I was doing and told him what my plan was for the farm. Even though the place was covered in snow, he said that he was sufficiently impressed to reconsider my application and a week later we were approved.
We started keeping poultry for eggs this year and that has been good. A bigger problem than either weather or illness, in the past, has been finding a way to market our produce. I seem to be the first person in the community to attempt this type of small scale bio-diverse farming, targeting just the local market. I am open to correction on that statement. We have had no farmers' market here though to sell our procuct at. This year, with the egg sales, I learned that the scourge of social media is good for something. We have been using social media to get the word out in the community and the response has been great.
We have over 100 young people from 21 countries on 4 continents stay with us over the past 4 years as a part of the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) program and the comments left on the site by the Wwoofers have all been awesome. One of my favourite Wwoofers said, "Make no mistake, this place is not normal but there is no place I'd rather be."
It looks like this is going to be a rocking year around here. There is a lot of great stuff going on in the community as well as here at the farm. Our hens have been producing eggs very well through the winter and we are building a good base of customers through social media. We are putting in somewhere between 3 or 4000 garlic and doing a major garden expansion. We will be doing work on a number of buildings, doing some land clearing and reclamation, cutting firewood, and building a water reservoir. I have started my first batch of seeds in my heated and lighted potting shed and expect to have fresh greens and herbs by April and we might have our first indoor tomatoes and cucumbers by May. March will find us moving bedding plants and seedlings to the greenhouse and cold frames. Around that time we will be starting work on a new house for the birds as well and preparing garden beds, landscaping, and planting some early crops. In May we will be starting to sell bedding plants and planting/harvesting will be ongoing from them on.
We have what is considered a significant population of bats that live here. We work in cooperation with biologists from the Bat Project in Abbotsford to monitor and support the population. The biologists come out two to three times during the summer to do a count and this year we will be collecting guano to help monitor and test for WNS (White Nose Syndrome) that threatens bat populations in North America and if I can get my strength back enough to do some tree climbing this summer we will be installing 2 bat houses. While building our farm and business we want to enhance our own eco-system and assist native populations of wildlife.
When I started growing here I had no idea how I would sell my product. Although we are not far from Vancouver and we have every major highway in BC going through our town we are somehow still isolated in a lot of ways. Not because of any effort of mine, but perhaps because of some synchronicity, we are seeing the beginnings of a local small scale bio-diverse agricultural community being born. Every day I am discovering new people who are committed, in one way or another to a vision of a self reliant community. We have a new food collective and will begin to function as a catalyst in the coming year and out of that a Food Security Advisory Committee has been formed. The district has struck an Agricultural Advisory Committee to help coordinate, encourage and direct small scale agricultural development in the area.
I learned many years ago that one crop farming is a dangerous enterprise. What we practice here is what is now called, I think, Bio-diversity. Many people are also interested in permaculture these days and I use a lot of practices that would fall under this category. I also use a variety of composting methods that are now preparing soil for me that I will be able to use for the next 10 to 20 years.
Although our farm is not certified 'organic' yet, all of ours farming practices are compatible with that model. What is just as important though is the aspect of bio-diversity. We grow primarily Heirloom crops when the seeds are available. We don't use any chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. All of the products that we use in our farming come from plant or animal sources.
When I was 21 and a young, what people called 'hippie' I went to live on a farm were the old farmer allowed me to build a cabin and plant a garden. He didn't offer any assistance, we had to survive on our own, but he was a wealth of knowledge. I built myself a 12 X 12 shack out of salvaged lumber and nails. It cost me $15 dollars to build and 25 years later I went back to live in it and it still had the same roof, which didn't leak, and it was still standing level. I didn't buy one nail. I removed all of the nails and after supper, which we cooked over a campfire, my girlfriend and I would sit beside the fire and straiten nails by pounding them with a hammer on stone. I only had a hammer, a dull and bowed handsaw, a small wrecking bar and a square to build it with. I cut large beams for the foundation all by hand. I started the cabin just after the labour day weekend and moved in on the Celtic New Year, October 31. We lived the whole summer in a hay barn up until then and cooked all of our meals over a campfire. Each day we had to gather wood for our cooking fire. We had no other help outside of our own effort except for the friends and neighbours who would help transport the lumber, that I salvaged from and old abandoned mill town, to our building site.
We lived in that shack for two years with no electricity, no running water or refrigeration. We didn't have a car, a TV, a radio, the personal computer had not been invented yet and our only transportation, other than hitchiking, was on horseback. We didn't have a key for anything an there was no reason for us to carry identification. We didn't have any money either, so when we went anywhere we had nothing to carry in our pockets to burden us.
The 'old farmer' (who was only 4 years older than I am now but seemed 'ancient') had farmed the land for 23 years without any machinery or hired help. He had scraped a meager living out of the land by providing a variety of farm products to the small isolated community that he lived in and was very proud of the fact that he was the only farmer in the area who had never had to work off of his farm and who's wife had never taken a job. He didn't have to pay off ahy heavy machinery. The mechanical device he used was a roto-tiller. I don't use those because they kill too many worms. I do have a medium size tractor but thats is for clearing land, building roads and other heavy t asks but it is not used for tilling or maintaining the garden.
All of these experiences helped me learn how to look for inexpensive alternatives to the common methods used and to make use of resources that other people might see as 'garbage'.
Stay at the log house and relax on the front porch
Sit by the fire and socialize or read a book.
Take a walk in the private forest.
Relax on the front porch after the evening meal.