poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘summer on the farm

small scale economy – picking berries

with 6 comments


'five blue berries'


small-scale economy


my box of berries spilled

on the footpath,

between leaves

of Kalmia and wintergreen

hawkweed and cow pies


the cousins, their boxes brimming,

stood gawking, dismayed,

I was certain they were thinking

dumb city girl, spilled her berries

box only half full anyway


instead, they gathered around me

sympathy in every hand

scooped most of the berries

into the box

added a few from nearby bushes


seventeen cents he paid me

half the value of a box at full

the cousins had picked a crate or more,

remembered the wasted berries, left on the trail

and wept at the loss



Published as: ‘small scale economy’, Canadian Stories 16 (94), December 2013/ January 2014

Copyright 2014 Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

March 24, 2014 at 7:14 am

swing in the orchard

with 4 comments

On this cold and snowy day …

'willow swing'



in the orchard


the old swing

soothes its child

its ropes fray

squeak with laughter


if you hang around under apple trees

you understand the patchy shade

the reason the grass grows only so high


in summer, the boy ties the swing high in the tree

and the mower moves under

brings Timothy to its knees


spares field mice and bedstraw

makes mounds of hay to land on



Copyright   2014   Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

January 20, 2014 at 7:25 am

gathering eggs

with 6 comments

When we visited my grandfather’s farm in the 1960s, boredom was never a problem.  Every day brought a new discovery or learning.  One of the best activities was to help in the gathering of eggs.


gathering eggs


first breath after rooster presses

crowbar under sun catches

dew in the three-angled strawberry leaves

and light pings sapphire,

red, amber, emerald to opening eyes

I see Dandy waiting

black and white counterpoint to rainbow


he greets me, ignores

the chickens scratching

along random lines, we trek

to the barn together

push the man-door, open the pen


Diane has promised a gather

of eggs, shows me how

to shoo the hen, part the straw,

roll the egg into my hand,

build the stack in the basket

set each in a three-angled

cradle of eggs


Dandy watches the rooster

red comb and wattles,

amber neck, iridescent tail

ignores white eggs and chickens



Previously published as ‘gathering eggs’, Canadian Stories 15 (84), April 2012

Copyright  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

November 5, 2012 at 7:26 am

growing and gathering – value

with 10 comments

These days I am working to complete my manuscript of poems on the subject of ‘growing and gathering’ local foods.

As I sort my poems, I find several are about the ‘value’ of wild plants as food.

Sometimes this value is simple value for money.  Every cup of blueberries I pick is one I don’t have to buy.  When I pick enough berries to freeze, I can have blueberries or blackberries when they cost a fortune to buy fresh at the store.  I am also bringing the warm summer and its memories forward into the chill of winter.

A few of my poems focus on the value of substitution.  For example, I will never run out of tea leaves for my daily tea break.  I have Pineapple Weed, Sorrel and Sweet-fern teas to make.  Thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, and my own little herb garden, I have a rack of fresh herbs drying, including Camomile and several varieties of Mint.  If I run out of salad ingredients, I have a stash of salad greens just outside my door.

Storage is the subject matter of a few of my poems.  When I was young, my Mom showed us how to collect Spruce Gum from the trees for a sticky but tasty chew.  During my project, I learned that some woodsmen make little wooden boxes for the gum, to keep it for later use.  I also have a few poems about making jelly and jam.

Thinking about the value of food, I can’t forget the people for whom growing and gathering local foods is an occupation, not just a ‘hobby’.  I have written poems about the people who sell shad and fiddleheads and lobster from their roadside trucks, about children who earn their summer money by picking and selling berries, and, of course, about the farmer.

Last but not least, there is just the joy of finding or producing and eating your own food.  I always say, the best part of a home garden is the taste of the first carrot or the snap of the first wax bean!

What do you think is the greatest value associated with growing and gathering local foods?

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

©  Jane Tims  2012

playing the parlour organ

with 12 comments

Within my grandfather’s house were rooms we were not allowed to enter, except under very special circumstances.  One of these was the parlour.

My ‘need’ to practice the piano allowed me access to this sanctum.  For each day of our vacation, I was allowed to practice on the old pump organ.  The organ belonged to my grandmother and my Dad could remember sitting on her lap while she played.

I was not an eager player and spent a lot of time testing the effect of the various ‘stops’ on the organ.  These were white knobs with mysterious black words printed on each.  When you pulled a stop, various connections were created to make the organ sound a certain way.  Now for a memory I am not sure is true or only something I imagined – one of the stops, if pulled, would make the keys play an octave below where I was playing.  They moved of their own accord and made me feel I was playing a duet with a ghostly partner!

One of the songs I chose to play on the organ was Evening Chimes.  It was an easy song and made a good impression.

'Evening Chimes', Michael Aaron Piano Course - Grade One. Mills Music Inc., New York. 1945.

Since I knew Evening Chimes by heart, my eyes could wander over the embellishments of the Victorian-aged organ as I was playing.  Its designs included flowers, leaves, exclamation marks, serpent-like creatures and four stylised figures of an octopus!  This last I could ascribe to a childish imagination, but since my sister now has my grandmother’s parlour organ,  I can verify the existence of those odd oceanic figures on the front of the organ!



Vox Angelica 8 Fţ


practice required

repeated bars and D.C. al fine

the E flat I could never

remember, stretch that little

finger, make it behave, do

tricky slurs and grace notes


to coax these from the organ

was like pounding on felt

and my feet

unused to pumping

supplied inappropriate pace


so I played Evening Chimes, folk song

over and over

rang church bells

imitated angels, impressed

my pious grandfather

and demonstrated piano prowess


© Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

April 13, 2012 at 7:01 am

a moment of beautiful – a swing in the orchard

with 18 comments

the space: in the shade of a tree

the beautiful: an old wooden swing

The sight of a swing hanging from the solid limb of an old tree recalls happy hours of swinging when I was a child.

On my grandfather’s farm, the swing was a swing-chair, and I spent hours pushing the old swing to its limits (see ‘in the apple orchard’  the post for August 9, 2011, under the category ‘my grandfather’s farm’).  At home in Ralston, Alberta, the community playground had an adult-sized swing set, strong enough to withstand our approach of ‘stand on the seat and pump’.  And, when my son was little, we had an old-fashioned board and rope swing – it was a little off-kilter and seemed to go side-to-side rather than forward-and-backward but I remember he and I had lots of fun.

My own childhood story about board and rope swings is bitter-sweet.  My Dad built me a swing and hung it from the rafters in the basement of our house in Medicine Hat.  I loved it, but … one day I let go of the ropes and fell backwards, hitting my head on the concrete floor.  I can still remember the intense pain and the big black star that dominated my vision for a moment.  People who know me will say this explains a lot.



swing sway


the old swing

hangs frayed from a limb

of the apple tree


hips as she waits

for the downtown bus

rocking learned

in baby years

when rhythm brought peace

and a quiet evening



© Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

March 31, 2012 at 7:05 am

a conch shell doorstop

with one comment

Do you have a conch shell for a doorstop in your home?

If you visit a farm or home museum in the Maritime Provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island), look down as you enter the house.  You will often see a large sea shell used as a doorstop.  These are usually a conch-type shell (the Queen Conch is a large Caribbean sea-snail).  The shells were usually brought to maritime doorways by seafarers who collected them on their travels. 

My grandfather’s house had one of these shells, a large white conch with a pearly pink interior and whorls of spines.  Always on duty at the door of the glassed-in porch, it was an imported marvel of the exotic seas. 

I remember my Dad holding it to my ear, saying, “listen”.  From deep within the shell came the steady hum of the ocean, like the sound of waves advancing and pulling back from the shore.

This shell was part of my Dad’s life, growing up in the big farmhouse.  As an adult, Dad gradually built his own collection of sea shells, large and small, usually buying them at auctions.  A couple of the large shells are now in my own home.  When I am far from the ocean, I can still lift one of those shells to my ear and hear its eternal roar.     





kitchen door kept

open with a conch shell



spines cropped

by incoming and outgoing

careless cousins



complaining ocean

captured roar



© Jane Tims 2011

Copyright Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

December 18, 2011 at 7:00 am

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