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OXFORD MILLS, Ont. /Troy Media/ – The farm is a retreat for city people. It’s a place to try out your new rubber boots, go for a hike in the forest and get back to nature by feeding a cow an apple.

At our farm on any given Sunday, you can fill your belly with home-cooked food, and nourish your soul with good conversation and the love of family and friends.

When we first started hosting family dinners on Sunday, we made it sort of a command performance for our girls. It was a be-there-or-be-square kind of a thing. They had to have a really good reason not to attend.

As they got older and had work commitments, we occasionally had to excuse one or another of them. But as they also started to bring boyfriends home around the same time, our gathering grew in number.

Our musical daughter brought starving musicians home to dinner. Well, they likely weren’t starving but they did appreciate a good home-cooked meal. And, to be honest, most of them were pretty thin. And vegetarian.

And you know what they say: Don’t feed the musicians. We joked that they kept coming back for the free food but we were the real winners in that deal. Many Sunday sunsets were accompanied by acoustic guitar sing-alongs on the back porch, with farm animals occasionally providing harmony.

I think we’re really lucky that our family wants to spend each Sunday with us. The Farmer is a creative, experimental cook and other guests bring special contributions to the meal. No one leaves hungry.

But I think it’s far more than the food and good company that motivates family members young and old to make the trek out to the O’Neill Road at the end of each week and the start of the next.

I think it’s the farm.

If we lived in a small bungalow on a street in town, there wouldn’t be the same draw. The farm has an appeal all its own. People don’t just come to see us and to eat our food. They come to see the farm. They come to smell the honeysuckle on the fresh, sweet air. They come to hear the geese honking their way up the creek at dusk. They come to watch the cattle return to the barnyard, single file on a crooked diagonal path across the pasture, mooing in unison.

I do believe we get a bigger crowd when they know the baby will be here. But like everything else on the farm, she brings you down to earth, demands your undivided attention and helps you appreciate the simple things in life.

The Farmer and I were married on the farm 10 summers ago, and we host a big farm party every year, in addition to our weekly dinners that average 18 guests and our Easter and Thanksgiving gatherings that top out around 43.

We have accumulated the trappings of hospitality that make these events easier. He built a three-season room that accommodates a 16-seater picnic table made by his uncle Bob. We have been gifted serving trays and utensils, extra place settings, dishes, glasses and mugs, as well as chafing dishes (I didn’t even know that was a warming plate before I met this man). We have extra folding tables and chairs, eight table cloths, 24 cloth napkins and cutlery for 45.

But still I don’t think it’s the fact that we’re set up for this sort of thing that makes people gravitate to the farm for their special occasions.

This weekend, we celebrated the lives of two very special women on the farm.

My uncle came from Florida and his late wife’s family came from Calgary, Quebec and Toronto to celebrate her life in a memorial service. He wanted to have it on the farm because he knew it would be comfortable, casual and meaningful. He knew this because he had attended a memorial service for his brother on our farm two years ago.

We also celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday on the farm this weekend. We had about 10 people more than we expected but we were able to accommodate them with a bit of shifting and adjusting. Lorna’s short-term memory is deteriorating and crowds confuse her, but she seemed to understand what was going on and appreciated the festivities.

She even had a piece of cake, which she is allowing herself to do a lot more often these days.

She understands that life is too short to pass up cake on a special occasion. Or to miss another gathering at the farm.

Troy Media columnist Diana Fisher is a freelance writer living on a 200-acre farm along the Kemptville Creek in Oxford Mills, Ont.

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