January 2020 – Lynn Culhane
The Biker Who Bakes
For the last four years of her career – rain or shine – Lynn Culhane biked to work in the summer.
Five days a week back then, those nearly hour-long bike rides took her straight through the Central Experimental Farm in the early morning. The air was fresh as she biked past leafy trees and greening farm fields. After work, she’d reverse the trek and do it again.
“Your mind just forgets about work,” she says, remembering those bike rides through the Farm. “You don’t take your work home with you at the end of the day.”
Lynn is an avid biker and an outdoor enthusiast, especially now that she’s retired after a busy 40-year banking career spent indoors.
These days, she still bikes to the Farm in the summer but that’s where her rides end. Her office days are long gone. For four years, she has helped as a volunteer with the Friends of the Farm, gardening with the Perennial Team. Sometimes, at the end of the season when the perennials beds are finished, she helps the Shelterbelt Team too.
According to Lynn, it’s a happy group of amateur gardeners that meets at the perennial beds every Tuesday morning from May until the end of the summer. About fifteen volunteers gather weekly to garden for a few hours. They’re responsible for weeding, deadheading and sometimes splitting the many flowering plants and ornamental grasses that grow in profusion.
She shares a little team secret. They’re even happier when Lynn, a home baker as well as a biker, brings her homemade apple whiskey cake to share. She has tried other recipes and offerings too but it’s that apple whiskey cake that seems to put everyone in a good mood. Many ask for the recipe.
In fact, a tradition has evolved that many members of the Perennial Team like to bake. Others bring muffins, granola bars, squares and cakes to share at break time as well. Who says gardening needs to be all work and no play?
After a morning break however, it’s back to work for these volunteers among the blossoming beds filled with iris, peonies, daisies, sedum, hibiscus and other much-loved garden favorites. Some annuals, including tall sunflowers, also burst onto the scene during the summer.
She notes that the staff deserves credit too. They share the workload; busily carting away the weeds and debris piled high by the volunteers, especially as summer draws to an end.
“Those kids work really, really hard all summer long,” she says.
Then cold weather sets in and the team gathers to say goodbye for another season.
Lynn and her husband are left to cycle indoors, keeping fit by taking spin classes at a local gym. It’s a different kind of biking, for sure.
Meanwhile, her summer friends at the Farm have no choice but to endure another long winter’s wait before that apple whiskey cake gets passed around again.
By Julianne Labreche
Photo by Polly McColl