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Friday, October 31, 2008

A Visit with The Farmer's Wife, Wyn Thompson

A few months ago, Darcy Thompson – who used to cut the hay on our farm - stopped me in the grocery store to tell me that he enjoyed my column. He said that it reminded him of his grandmother, Wyn Thompson’s column. “The Farmer’s Wife” ran in the Chesterville Record for years. Decades, even. I decided to take a drive out to Chesterville to get my hands on some of her inspired writings.
I fully expected to read about the daily details of life as a “real” farmwife, including taking the garden’s bounty and efficiently turning it into stews, jams, preserves and pies. I prepared myself to read about the hardship and gratefulness of a farmwife much heartier and knowledgeable than I. And I did read those things. But there was so much more.
Wyn Thompson was a writer. And she loved her life on the farm. She put her appreciation of the country life into beautiful words so that others could share in her joy.
Here is an excerpt from her column the first week of October, 1992:
“Then came October, full of merry glee. It is the eighth month of the old Roman year and the Slavs called it aptly ‘Yellow Month’, from the fading of the leaf.
A matchless October day – the best a weather system can offer. The early frosts are over, the fall heats are passed, and the day is like a full-blown mellow apple clinging to the bough. The day is retrospective, full of tender memories, and wonderful promise. As bewitching as a moonlit pumpkin patch is this month, with its full harvest of enjoyment.
I pot the geranium and coleus slips in the deceptive heat of the afternoon sun, and move the pots indoors. The family room resembles a tropical garden but it will be a treat for the eyes as the winds howl around and about Hill House.
As October’s end approaches, I’m ready not only to cocoon but to burrow – the new buzz words for staying close to home and hearth. Intrinsic in my genes I acknowledge, for when I’m alone I can be myself, no pretences.
I can smile if I wish, frown if I like, do as I please when the spirit moves me. I can tell the barn cats what’s on my mind when they come to call. I can tell Lady what I think of her (she also named her farm animals, I see).
Since the Farmer is at his work all day, I have blocks of solitude to enjoy, and enjoy them I do. It’s selfish no doubt, but not to worry, life is not long enough to do all you wish to get done. But, what a joy to be alive, regardless of all the horrors, how beautiful this world is! As I said, it’s Thanksgiving, a time to acknowledge it!
I went for a walk in the woods today and was reminded of Thoreau who said, ‘Nature is our widest home.’ He spoke so often of finding solace in Walden’s ancient oaks.
Stopped in to see Amanda en route and came home with hot peppers to make Salsa sauce – so good on cold meats and hamburgs. She had jars of it lined up on her counter cooling and she remarked as she bottled the last jar of how well Sam likes it.
‘In fact, he likes it so well he’d put it on his morning toast if I set the jar out,’ she laughed. ‘A little hot for me at that hour of the day,’ I replied.
She had also been busy cleaning up her garden, except for the turnips, potatoes and cabbage. ‘They stay out until Thanksgiving Monday and then they are stored in the root cellar and I’m thankful the season has gone full circle. When the last cabbage is laid on the shelf and I enter the kitchen, the roasting turkey smells really good. I’m ready for hearth fire, soup kettle, books, sewing, knitting, long walks, all the things I’ve had to forego during the planting, growing and harvesting time of the year.’
‘You’ve got it right there,’ I laughed, as I swung off home to make some Salsa.”

Wyn Thompson is no longer with us, but her words remain to remind us of the importance of moving slowly through this season, taking a deep breath of sweet Ontario air, and feeling grateful for all of our blessings.
In the South Gower cemetery, a stone bench bears the inscription “The Farmer” and, at his side forevermore, “The Farmer’s Wife”. There they can sit, with a good view of rolling farmland.
Thought for the week (borrowed from Wyn): He is only rich who owns the day. There is no king, rich man, fairy or demon who possesses such power as that…The days are made on a loom whereof the warp and woof are past and future time. – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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