Sunday, August 15, 2010

Steveston Museum park shows off local needlecrafters, spinners, and quilters

Have you ever walked down the hushed hallways of the Richmond Art Gallery? At the top of the curving staircase, behind glass windows, you can see women stitching, spinning, and quilting. Sometimes they lift their eyes to peer at their instructors. Sometimes, there's a burst of laughter as they split themselves over an inaudible joke. Always, I wondered what wonderful things were being stitched, spun, and threaded on the other side of the wall.

One sunny spring day I got my chance to find out. As I walked past the Steveston Museum park I noticed several tents set up in the shades. I had seen people congregating under the trees before and always assumed that they were vendors selling local art work. That day, however, the gathering was purely a show-and-tell community event.

Closest to the white picket fence facing Moncton Street were the quilters. "Textile Arts Guild of Richmond" proclaimed the banner hung from the blue tent. Spread out on tables laden with yellow cloths and suspended from the supporting poles were samples of their projects: a cheerful bright traditional patchwork number, a soothing green quilt covered with graceful curves and pale blue flowers, a rectangular brown piece with bold outlines of trees, and a smaller one sporting horizontal waves of airy reds, whites, and greens that vaguely resembled an Impressionist painting. All of them looking fluffy soft and practically begging to be touched. But I knew better.

Just off to one side were two women, one of them sporting a very charming hat, huddled over a spinning wheel. Now, I don't know a fly wheel from a drive band, a treadle from a footman, but the set-up reminded me of Sleeping Beauty as she extends her royal hand towards that poisoned needle. Well, I know at least one spinning wheel that had escaped the royal decree and didn't end up in the fiery pit.

Lastly, I crossed over to a table attended by two members of the Dogwood Needlecrafters Chapter. Here I lingered over the fine pieces of cross stitching, needle point, petit point, and canvas embroidery. I admitted that I had dabbled with just about every type of needlework in my younger days - before university, marriage, children and a career overtook over my life. However these years of distraction had only deepened my appreciation of the care and dedication that had gone to every project draped across their table. We also shared a laugh about how as we got older, we had to relinquish the finer work to younger eyes and embrace projects that are less demanding on our eyes.

The next time I visit the Richmond Art Gallery, I will feel just a bit more connected to what goes on behind those doors. And, who knows, one of these days, you might find me behind the glass windows, hunched over a spinning wheel or diligently stitching two square pieces of fabric together. You'll know me because I'll be the one with a smile on her lips.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Sharing Farm volunteers bring fruit, vegetables, and knowledge to the community

It was an uncharacteristically bright and sunny morning for the Steveston Farmers and Artisans Market. Having crossed the dusty and crater-riddled gravel lots, I finally reached the paved parking area where the festivities were already in full swing.

The second tent on my right was abuzz with activities. A display board spelled out "The Sharing Farm." Next to it, a man with a warm welcoming smile stood looking eager to chat up potential customers. I was at the point of skirting away from the hub when we locked eyes, which started a very engaging conversation for nearly twenty minutes.

Even as Mr. Wilson was telling more about the Richmond Fruit Tree Project, I was enveloped by whiffs of heady scents.There, loosely arranged in disarmingly informal bouquets were stalks of lavender, spearmint, Ricola mint, and spearmint – freshly picked from The Sharing Farm. Who needs to go to a spa when they can just stand next to these plastic and wooden tubs and lose themselves to the most potent aromatherapy nature can provide. A zen moment indeed…

Yes, back to the conversation.

Mr.Wilson was educating me on the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project and, unknowingly reawakening my long buried desire to grow fruits and vegetables in my modest personal green space at home. His inspiring narration of what the project was all about also scratched an itch for volunteering that had flared on and off for the past few years.

The colourful and fragrant bounty on display was but a minuscule sample of what is harvested through the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project. According to their website, in the nine years the project has been in operation, 200,000 pound of fruit and vegetables have been collected and distributed to the needy. The project also provides workshops on food security and farming practices and seeks to link up with similar projects to share initiatives and resources.

The Sharing Farm project is located at two sites: at the south end of Gilbert Road (beside the City Tree Nursery) and in the Terra Nova Rural Park at 2631 Westminster Highway. There you’ll find a greenhouse, hoop houses, a seeding room, an apple orchard, and of course, rows of planted fruits and vegetables. Although there are volunteers aplenty, there is always a plea for more community spirited Stevestonites who can plant, cultivate, harvest, and help with workshops, tours and special events.

I walked away from the market feeling determined –not only to feature the project on this blog but also to turn my backyard to a virtual Garden of Eden. Over the course of many years, naturally.

P.S. Did you know that the Institute for Sustainable Horticulture, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, in cooperation with the Richmond Fruit Tree sharing Project, the Richmond Food Security Society, and the city of Richmond, now offers a program on basic farming? The Rich Farm School debuted this past spring and has two major components: core classes and the practicum. Find out more about it by visiting May be you will get inspired too!