Writers, Take Note: The Fancy Farmerettes’ Vivacious Oasis
Written by: Valérie Kaelin, guest writer and honorary farmerette
It is exactly a week since my overnight stay at the Fancy Farmerettes homestead in Scotland, Ontario, and the sense of rejuvenation after two and a half years of pandemic shuttering remains palpable.
The happy flock of chickens ran up to greet us like a pack of excited puppies as Irene pulled up the car from the trip to VIA Rail train station in Brantford to pick me up. (It must be said that VIA is a brilliant reclamation of the TTC travel experience. There is no equivocation. One has the assurance that all staff members and passengers will be masked whether in the stations or on the cars. So, the trip was free of anxiety and remarkably pleasant between Toronto’s Union Station and Brantford. Staff was cheerful and attentive.)
The magnificent Charles must be the size of a turkey, if missing tail feathers because of ongoing skirmishes with the young Fritz, whose adolescent hormones must be borne by the flock or managed by Veronica, who gives him some well-deserved time-outs. But Frida, his sister, lays magic white eggs, smaller than all the others, though their orange yolks are as large as those of store-bought extra-large graded eggs, seeming to grow in my cast iron pan as they cook!
Dusted but unwashed eggs from this diverse flock last at least two weeks on a countertop without refrigeration, which is a blessing, since they are as beautiful as a grouping of ovoid ceramics from burnt umber stoneware to Goryeo celadon.
My urban sleeping quarters are spartan, so the guest room, with mattresses through which no princess could be bruised by a pea, is an unparalleled luxury, and the morning crowing forms but a distant aural texture to my dreams. It occurs to me that this room with the guest bath across the hallway would make an ideal writer’s retreat! Veronica’s delicious meals are meticulously prepared, with special attention to her guests’ sensitivities and just plain preferences. With spoons, we tasted a honeycomb bee frame glazed by the bees themselves. So long as a guest is of the get-into-the-routine sort, how fun a stay is! It is the perfect getaway for this workaholic, exchanging fretful screen time for sensuous farm chores.
The house and its outbuildings occupy an acre and a half of micro-environments: Veronica’s thriving vegetable and fruit garden—though she has had to rabbit-proof it; the apiary of 14 colourful hives, almost condo-like, with the lower floors reserved as the private quarters of the bees and the upper floors and penthouse from which their molten gold is shared with humans; a fine, streaming, aerial bee trail to stay clear of; a sweet maple reaching sugaring maturity; and works-in-progress, including the upcoming vegetable stand. For children, or even just the children in adults like me, a vintage gumball machine not far from the coop and its chicken run has been retrofitted to crank-spill treats for the flock to insure those lush yokes.
I’m drawn to memories of traveling between Bordeaux and the village of Saugon, the family tethered between city and country, to experience a feeling of profound well-being. And I am so proud of my brave, vivacious friends growing in their farming practice. Always authentic, they prepared a long time for this venture, in a program of life-long learning that included Irene acquiring her M.Ed. with a specialization in Environmental Sustainability and becoming a certified apiarist. Veronica channels the garden-to-table artistry of her ancestors. She moves easily between English and French as she cooks, labels jars of honey, or decorates beeswax candles with dried flowers to fold them in brown tissue paper. She is the writer and bookkeeper of the enterprise. They flow effortlessly between mind, heart, and hand; scientific inquiry, aesthetics, and manual labour.
The generous Irene and Veronica grow ever enmeshed with their animal family and farming community, learning from both. Fueled by purpose, curiosity, and thoughtfulness, they fill every day with the quotidian panache of my late parents, at once erudite and humble, whom I miss a great deal. Like them, they embody conscious living. This is what mindfulness is. Their joie-de-vivre continues to infuse my days since the visit and I am grateful.