Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Alli did it seven times, Z eight, I’m just going to blather on.

In a way I come from a farming background, but not immediately. My great grandfather was an entrepreneur. Believe it or not, he held the original patent for ultraviolet lithography. He and his brother initially invented it to produce better printing plates. It’s a process that’s grown and morphed in a million different ways. Most particularly it is how printed circuit boards are still made today. In a small way, you can say that how you live could not have come into being without my great grandpa.

He developed a bad heart, and in those Victorian times the treatment was to retire to the country. So, he left the company they’d founded to his brother (it still exists today, run by a third cousin) and moved out West. Its what you did then, except being the man he was he didn’t just by a cottage with a few roses, he went large.

The ranch has been broken up, its now a suburb of a city in British Columbia. At its height over 10,000 head of cattle ranged over 6,000 acres of the Okanogan Valley. You have to know the region to understand, it’s a hilly area between the Rockies and the Coastal Mountain ranges. Dry as a desert, the hills are parched, but the lowlands have huge lakes fed by run offs from the mountains. So, the cattle where kept to the hills, but there where large tracks of planted fields. Tomatoes, cucumbers, you name it, its perfect warm sunny land with lots of water.

Enter my Grandfather. The world is moving on, and to keep the family business alive he starts a canning business to cope with all the vegetables. Transport isn’t quite good enough to cope with shipping fresh veg to Eastern Canada where all the people are. In time it becomes the largest cannery business in the Commonwealth. The troops in both wars where fed by my family (which was a problem really, the soldiers came home, saw the same label as they saw in the canteens and asked the wives to not buy it please).

Given the shift in family fortunes, my grandpa didn’t directly farm any more. That was left to a younger brother. Yet he grew up on the ranch, so their house always had large gardens. I still remember as a child going out to pick fresh asparagus for lunch, or these huge beefsteak tomatoes that you’d eat still warm from the sun.

My dad’s escape from the family business was to enter the ministry. Us true protestants don’t have bishops and popish foppery, but as close as you can figure, my dad was an archbishop (regional coordinator, but hey). I grew up poor as a church mouse, literally. We lived off the kindness of the congregations we lived in, but there was always a garden.

Yet as I aged, I didn’t do much gardening. I’m four generations removed from it actually. I tended to live in the cities, without much greenspace. I didn’t even keep pot plants much. Yes, I grew up with gardens, and enjoyed it. I left it behind easily though, it wasn’t a driving need of my soul.

All that changed when I met LL. She, as I did, grew up with gardens around her. Its what you do isn’t it? Yet for her, it’s a passion. I don’t think my LL could cope without good earth to run her fingers through. Our house is filled with plants, and the garden is alive with flowers, fruit and vegetables. I help out, joking I’m just the jobsworth in the house. Yet I love it really, it takes me back to times of joy and happiness. We raise the kids outside as well. They all have plants and parts of the garden that are theirs.

Plus, and perhaps most importantly, it gives us this. When I sit with a big cup of tea and toast of a weekend morning when the weather is right, this is what I see. Kind of makes it worth while.


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