Ste. Elizabeth

Life on Deerbank Farm near Morris, a prairie town of 3,000 in the middle of Canada, is vastly different than it was in California’s Silicon Valley. My pace in the last lane was still in the fast lane in San Jose, but on the farm it has slowed.

In the Valley I was surrounded by mountains underneath which lie the San Andreas and Hayward faultlines, one under the eastern ridge and one under the western range.

From where I lived in California I went on interesting trips.

West across the Santa Cruz Mountains I viewed the Pacific.

South past the Gilroy garlic fields I visited Steinbeck’s Salinas, made famous in Grapes of Wrath.
East up a winding road to Mount Hamilton I went to look through a world-famous telescope.
North beyond San Francisco I was awed by the unsurpassed beauty of the Napa Valley.
But on the Prairies it is different. I look in the four directions. South I see a field of flax, north a field of wheat, west barley and south canola.

In spring the flax is blue, making a field look like an ocean. Canola in spring is bright yellow. In summer all the fields turn lush green, and in fall they ripen for harvest. In winter they lie dormant beneath a blanket of white snow.

The Prairies are flat. Looking out in all directions from a knoll on my farm, the horizon is a straight line all around. If I were to use one of those cameras that pivots on a tripod and takes a circular picture, the horizon line would stay steady through a full 360-degree sweep.

The farm where I live is tidy, kept that way by farmer Wayne Jorgenson. Sometimes I help him with the yard. I get the little John Deere out of the shed, start it up, fill it with gas and cut the lawn. Once there were more animals on the farm, but now there are just 40 laying hens. The only chore is gathering eggs.

My neighbors are Hutterites on the Oak Bluff Colony. They are far more progressive in their lifestyle than Hutterites were when I was a boy, when with my Dad I visited nearby colonies.
Back in those days when I was growing up on a farm in southern Manitoba, we often got visitors from far away, sometimes from California. I remember the time my cousin Ray Hiebert and his two brothers came with their parents from Los Angeles. Ray was barely 10 at the time and his brothers were younger.

They were fascinated by farm life, but sometimes horrified, too. Take, for example, this one thing. They watched the milking procedure, following the white liquid from cow to separator to pitcher on the table.

They would not drink milk from that pitcher…it came from a cow!
The next day my Mom put the milk in a store-bought glass bottle and placed it on the table. Then Ray and his brothers drank it.

During these last three years that I have lived in the Silicon Valley, I have attended Lincoln Glen Church, where my cousin Ray attends with his family. We have often laughed at his visit to the farm. “He learned about farm life later on,” his wife JoAnn said. She was raised on a mixed farm and prune orchard just outside San Jose before it was taken over by developers and realtors as the computer industry grew to become Silicon Valley.
Ray and I played in a combo at church; he was on the string bass and I was on the tenor sax. We played a lot of gospel and a bunch of oldies including “Do you know the Way to San Jose?” Now I have to content myself with playing solo in my apartment at the east end of the farmhouse to the accompaniment of a “music-minus-one” CD.

I like living on the Prairies. But the pace is so slow I might become a snowbird, living six months of summer in the North in Canada, and six months of winter in the South in California.
Do I still know the way to San Jose?

You bet!

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