When I was young I received a gift of a family of dolls called the Sunshine Family. They consisted of a Birkenstock, gingham dress clad mother, a long haired hippy father and a little blond, blue-eyed baby. I stole the Sunshine family’s sweet baby, stuffed the hippy mom and dad under the bed and let her be raised by the more glamorous and well- dressed Barbie and Ken dolls.
After many years I realize that I did indeed prefer to raise my family as the Sunshine family. Although, it didn’t occur to me that our family was a bunch of hippies until we recently moved to a big city. I thought everyone raised chickens, wild foraged for stinging nettles in the spring and made their own soap. Living on a small Gulf Island for so long must have blurred our vision of the real world.
I often read articles about food and health and try to apply it as best I can to our modern life. In my perfect world I would raise all my own farm animals that I would kill humanely and grow all our own food. I would can tomatoes in glass mason jars and have dried withered fragrant things hit me in the forehead as I wade my way through my kitchen.
Now that I live in a city and have to cut corners. I can’t always buy organic produce. I read somewhere that in the top ten list of what an oncologist wouldn’t buy is non organic apples. With the rise of the cost of food, I found myself once again buying the cheaper sprayed non organic variety. But since I have read a memoir-The Orchard by Theresa Weir, I will now willingly pay the extra money for that plastic bag of organic apples.
This book is the true story of a woman who married into an apple farming family and how the constant use of pesticides lead to the death of her husband, her father- in- law and many neighbours. The first chapter drew me in right away-it began with the legend of a travelling pesticide salesman who has his young daughter drink a glass of the pesticide as a sales gimmick. I always love to peer inside another family’s life. But this memoir has everything-love, dysfunctional family dynamics, and the eerie insider’s account of how apple orchards were run in the 1970’s.
The sound of crop dusters are a constant sound – Weir makes you smell and feel the chemicals in the air. “The heavy odor of pesticide crept in through the car vents. It touched white slacks and hair that had been set on rollers. It fell against soft cheeks and dark, shy lashes.”
I know that the pesticides used today are not the same as in the 70’s. But I have a friend who has property that overlooks a large orchard and he said he was shocked at how much they spray. He no longer will buy non organic apples.
I have recently put my name in to rent a plot in a community garden. I can’t wait for a prairie garden crop. This fall I will be able to can tomatoes in cute little glass mason jars.
I am happy to join the urban farmstead revolution. And perhaps because of that gift of the Sunshine Family, I am still a hippy at heart.