Rural lifestyle skills encouraged by Fall Fairs

Start growing vegetables with your children for fun and life time habits.

As grocery stores – and even Big Box stores – take over providing us with  all of our food needs, we become less concerned with growing and preparing our own. It’s a little frightening.

I’m glad that gardening was important in my family’s life. We moved from the city to the country on purpose: we wanted country living – close knit community, neighbour helping neighbour, winter evenings beside a wood heater, and months spent considering how to, when to, what to garden. Seed catalogues arriving in January and February roused our interest in new vegetables and varieties while snow was still on the ground. Spring meant shovels, rototiller, hoe, and garden shoes were dusted off and hoses unwound when the water turned on.

When he was three of four, one of my sons brought freshly pulled carrots and beets to me in the kitchen. He was helping to get dinner ready. We went back outside where he was delighted to learn he could play with the water hose while cleaning them.

All of the children helped to peel tomatoes and peaches, wearing their little aprons while standing on a chair at the sink. As they got older, the tasks grew more difficult and involved more responsibility: slicing the peaches for pie and placing them into freezer bags.

The local Fall Fair was the icing on the cake of garden and food saving chores. One year we succumbed to the desire for huge pumpkins and had giants that we donated to the decoration of the hall for Hallowe’en. Took several men to get them there in a truck. I was glad I didn’t have to make that much pumpkin pie.

All over North America, where fall fairs have been happening for over 200 years, hardworking neighbors come together to talk about their gardens and to share their handicrafts: blankets, quilts, mittens, jackets, dresses, pictures, and more. Children receive ribbons for their efforts at raising vegetables, flowers and livestock and creating things with their hands.

I know a wonderful fall fair when I see one. There’s a great group of people here – young ones, too! – who spend some winter evenings around a table planning this one day of celebration for Ashcroft and area. They are concerned that every detail is done well and that the entertainment is really good and that the children have a safe place (times have changed!) to play while the adults have a chance to visit and wander through the displays and begin to imagine what they might create during the winter.

And now it’s springtime. New seasons of TV shows begin or old ones end, hockey playoffs and golf games are on the schedule. But it’s springtime and children and their parents and their grandparents may need a reminder that they need to schedule in soil preparation in the early morning before school or work begins, or weed pulling in the evening  for time to reflect about the day just finished, or a way to be near the children as they play and get a bit of exercise by planting seeds and creating the excitement of a growing garden. It needs to be done now if you’re going to have carrots ready for the fall fair or a zucchini so large it fills your arms like a baby. How will you have dill pickles or sweet ones, pickled beets or jam ready if you don’t plant now?

Consider putting something into this year’s Fall Fair. It’s not really a competition although ribbons are given out. It’s a celebration of creativity, purpose, food reliability, life-skills that are becoming fast forgotten, and imagination that brings out the community to wonder and applaud and feel skillful and hardworking. Surrounded by all the displays that say ‘we can feed ourselves with good food grown by ourselves locally and put our winter hours to constructive use,’ the entertainment is relaxing and happy, surrounded by our neighbors.

It’s true, we can buy anything cheaply now without any effort – it seems amazing, actually. But we give up so much by doing so. Consider supporting the Fall Fair by entering just one thing that demonstrates your creativity and your self-reliance to provide your own food or clothing. Share it with your neighbors. Times are continuing to change but one day we may need those skills once more. Let’s keep them alive.

Does the Fall Fair need any new display categories? Let Jessica know at 250-457-7128.

I wonder at how attending the Fall Fair brings us all together to relax and learn together.

I can’t wait to see what entries the community, young and old, will provide this year at the Ashcroft & District Fall Fair on Sunday, Sept. 14.

Alice Watson

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