The winter was especially long — deeply cold days with lots of wind and interjections of ice and snow. It’s only once we think the bad weather has passed that we begin again, stacking wood, planting, trimming, and cleaning the layers of dust that have accumulated in all the nooks and crannies. This year we found birds inside the barn making nests, and it’s been impossible to shoo them out. They are happy to be surrounded by music and the commotion of people. The goats and chickens enjoy all the activity, too, strutting around the property and performing for visitors.
Although the sun has cleared the fields, the ice on the paths into the forest is always the last to melt. Even after the grasses begin to turn green, hard snow is left along the trails. I ventured into the forest earlier this week to see if the wild leeks were up yet. Happily, they are, along with the trout lilies, and watercress and wildflowers have started peeking up through the soil, too. Mother Nature is busy bringing in the new season. It won’t be long until everything is in full bloom.
At South Pond, spring also brings the anticipation of our opening weekend for Mother’s Day, when we greet our first visitors of the season. It’s been a tradition around here since 2012 . We make sure that the barn is in good shape and that the grounds are as ready as can be. We set the tables, prepare the menu (there is always rhubarb), and bake the bread. As hard as we wish for good weather, we know from experience that the ultimate Mother will do as she pleases.
I’ll never forget our first spring at South Pond. The good weather came early, and we all relished in the warm breezes and early blooms. We were so excited as we prepared for our inaugural Mother’s Day celebration. We had booked a belly dancer to entertain our guests. The day finally arrived, as did the people — in the snow, sleet, and rain! I felt nothing but pity as our belly dancer shimmied through the chilly barn. We baked flatbreads in the stone oven outside, and even though we had one person using an umbrella to shield the other person carrying them to the barn, we lost so many servings to the wind. I vowed I would never again be tempted to offer an event so early in the season.
But time passes and warm weather in May makes me feel optimistic. It’s a perfect time to celebrate Mother’s Day! And so we begin again. For Mother’s Day this year, we planned a whole weekend of celebration at the farm: A morning to bake breads and an afternoon to create seasonal wreaths with foraged greens. We ended the weekend with a Mother’s Day brunch in the barn. It was wonderful — warm weather, delicious food, our Mason jars overflowing with tulips, and a barn full of happy people.
This year I was also excited to be launching my new South Pond book series, the first of which, Mother, celebrates all of the strong women and mother figures in our lives. I really wanted to find another way to share how we do things on the farm. In the first book, I feature a spring menu I’d make for my own mother. I also include some special tips on setting the table, arranging flowers, and generally creating the right ambiance for a special meal together.
My partner Shawn always says “It will be spring when it is spring.” It’s just another one of his crazy expressions. But of course, he is right. Fortunately this year, the grass is green and our tulips and daffodils are blooming. It’s such a lovely time of year.
I’m Danielle French, founder and owner of South Pond Farms. South Pond was founded in 2008 as a small food delivery business. I would grow food in my garden, make prepared meals and deliver them all over the GTA. Since then, the farm has been slowly restored and converted into a culinary destination, offering special events, weddings, workshops and corporate retreats all set in our restored century barn in the rolling hills of rural Ontario. My vision is to create a connection to the land, the food we grow and prepare in our kitchen to bringing people together.