Opening weekend at the farm is most often Mother’s Day weekend. This winter has been especially long with cold days, lots of wind and crazy interjections of ice and snow at unexpected times. Emerging after all these months we have spent weeks cleaning, trimming planting and cleaning again as wind and dust from the fields brings in layers of debris back into the barn. We are all so thrilled to get outside and enjoy the sunshine again goats, chickens and people. The ice on the paths into the forest is the last to melt even after the fields are beginning to turn green there can still be hard snow left along the trails. I ventured into the forest earlier this week to see if wild leeks are up yet and happily they are, along with trout lilies, watercress peeking through the soft soil, even signs of wildflowers.
When I was growing up, we most often spent Mothers Day weekend at home in Vermont. School was still going on and our vacation time was limited. It’s been many years since I’ve been anywhere but home either in Toronto or here on the farm with my daughters. They most often made breakfast hoping I would stay in bed long enough to drink coffee in bed. As they became teenagers, their wake up time was just too late into the morning to wait. But we all had breakfast together; it was and still is the best way to start our day. We are busier here on the farm now and breakfast time together has been harder to manage but we all do try to make it happen.
The one thing that we can be sure of this time of year is that the weather is unexpected and that rhubarb is peeking through in the garden. My grandparents lived in Michigan, on the west side of the state near the lake. They owned a 100 acre farm mostly very sandy soil but near the house, there were lots of fruit trees, mostly cherry but a good mixture enough to make an abundance of preserves for the entire year. There was always lots of rhubarb. My grandmother had a beautiful collection of Ironstone dishes and she would serve fruit in little “fruit nappies.” It was something we got used to at her breakfast table. I now have those Ironstone dishes – there are not many of them left and they have the streak and patina of age in their glaze. They feel sturdy in your hand. They may not look glamorous but they have a beauty and simplicity. I don’t have enough of all of them to set the table when all my four daughters are home but I have enough to mix and match for a breakfast table.
For a mother’s day breakfast at home we might have a plate of farm fresh eggs and the familiar side dish of fruit and even in Michigan in May, it wouldn’t be more than fresh rhubarb and possibly the last frozen strawberries from the freezer or jar in the cold cellar. At my table – we celebrate now at the farm with our barn full barn of guests for Mother’s Day and rhubarb is on the menu. My daughters share the celebration with me when they are home. They are somewhat reluctant participants preferring to be at home alone as a family but that is our life now – we share the farm with others so that they may enjoy the beginnings of Spring on the farm. We spend time setting a lovely table and making sure that the barn is in top shape, the grounds as ready as can be as there is no rushing the real Mother. She will give us whatever weather she wishes.
My very first Mother’s Day celebration here at the farm was spent in snow, sleet and rain. Needless to say it was freezing. The entertainment was a belly dancer which seemed like a good idea at the time we talked to her but I felt nothing but pity when she danced through the barn in the cold. Shawn and I made pizza’s from the stone oven the dough often blowing off the pizza boards; one of us shielding an umbrella while the other carried flat breads to the barn. I vowed that I wouldn’t be tempted again to offer an event so early in the season. Then the next year comes and off we go, presenting another Mother’s Day brunch at the farm….who knows when I will learn my lesson. Fortunately this year, the cold has turned and the grass is green and our tulips and daffodils are blooming. It’s such a lovely time of year.
(menu illustration: Carlyle Apps)