Celebrating: Blossoms and blooms on a dreary weekend

It’s rained every weekend for the last three weeks, making it impossible for me to put into action any of the many gardening projects I have been dreaming of ever since the Fall.  Actually, most of these plans were dependent on two patches of land we first attempted to rototill with something that looked like this:

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After a day’s worth of worthless work (and one square foot “done”), we gave up and called in the pros:

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I spent the next two weeks removing many a wheel barrow full of rocks and boulders away, hauling bags of compost up to both sites, and doing my best to “prepare the soil” exactly as my gardening manuals required.  We covered both areas with tarp to prevent weeds from taking over, and I thought that was that.  May gardening would be easy as anything, since all the hard work was done.

Clearly, I have a lot to learn.

We opened up the farm in April, only to discover that winter snow and winds had ripped away and torn the tarps to shreds.  Weeds are happily growing and thriving in all that soil I had worked so hard to improve.  Also, I had been doing some research of my own and discovered why so many neighboring farms seem to have these:

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Clearly, I have a lot of work to do.  In the meantime, I am enjoying the blossoms and blooms planted by previous residents of our farm…people who knew what they were doing.  I celebrate them.



Winter at the farm


It’s been snowing at the farm, I hear, and winter seems to have arrived up there to stay. Every morning, I wake up and compare notes: what it’s like outside my window in New Jersey, and then what it says it’s like upstate…on my phone.  Not the same thing. Not nearly.

I imagine that the valley is wrapped in veils and coverlets of snow; I imagine that snow now obscures the slate rooftops of all our barns; I imagine that there is even snow on our porch.

The wood stoves sit cold and quiet.  The old glass panes reflect wintry sun and grey skies.

Our farm is alone this winter.  I feel it’s absence, and am alone, too.


The comfort of old stone walls

The woods around the farm are replete with tumble down old stone walls.  They wend their way here and there, a broken and haphazard chain without rhyme or reason.

We catch glimpses of walls through curtains of ferns in the Summer, and under blankets of russet leaves in the Fall. There is always something unexpected about the sight, and yet something comforting.

I love the way they seem to catch the light, no matter how weak.  I love the dense green mossiness that looks as old as time.  I love their constancy.  I love the stories they hide, of farms and homes that stood where there are now only woods.

They have been here long before I arrived…they will be here long after I am gone…still wending their way here and there.



Going to Walden

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“Going To Walden”
by Mary Oliver

“It isn’t very far as highways lie.
I might be back by nightfall, having seen
The rough pines, and the stones, and the clear water.

Friends argue that I might be wiser for it.
They do not hear that far-off Yankee whisper:
How dull we grow from hurrying here and there!

Many have gone,
and think me half a fool to miss a day away in the cool country.
But in a book I read and cherish,
going to Walden is not so easy a thing as a green visit.
It is the slow and difficult trick of living, and finding it where you are.”

Walden may well be a state of mind; and I have known that kind of Walden, too.  An interior Walden to  retreat to when the world becomes loud and intrusive.

But, the other kind of Walden, a physical place of earth and sky, that was something new. Loving the farm and calling it home is not a new feeling – I guess it’s a newish feeling, since we’ve only been able to call it home relatively recently.  Home it is.

Last Sunday, coming up the valley with bread and eggs for breakfast, I caught sight of the farm from some distance away.  The trees are bare now, and all the cornfields have been mowed down – there is nothing, as October fades into November, to shroud the view.  I had to pull over and stand by the side of the road to take it in.

There, coatless in the early morning chill, I felt the warmth of Walden…and knowing where I am.

Celebrate this week:…back at the farm

Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get!



I’m celebrating being back at the farm this October weekend.  Fall is making itself known in russets and golds, and our lush valley now glows gently under a grey sky.  We are bathed in amber light as we wade through deep carpets of yellow and brown speckled leaves. Sophie chases her army of squirrels, who seem to have assembled in force just so that she stretch he legs and give chase with abandon.


The stresses and strains of the work week waft away in the chill or the early morning breeze.

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We are back at our farm, and I celebrate that.


Church neighbors and Sundays

About a mile down the road from the farm, whichever way you turn, you will find a church: Presbyterian on right, Methodist on the left.  The spires of both rise above the tree line, and their slate roofs reflect the rising sun every day as it it slowly makes its way over the Green Mountains of Vermont and follows its path high above the Black Creek Valley and the hills of Washington County.

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Photograph by Jon Katz

We don’t see much of the Methodist church from our farm until late Fall, when all but the evergreens have shed their leaves.  But every Sunday, we hear its church bells ring out at 8 a.m., calling their virtuous in for prayer and fellowship.

But, the back of the Presbyterian church is in full view of our lower pastures, and from our deck there we can see most of the comings and goings of the church and its members, who are also called to their Sunday service by the pealing of bells…although that takes place at the less-virtuous-by-an-hour-and-a-half 9:30.

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From our vantage point, we have seen several wedding receptions take place in the fields behind the church.  There is excitement in the air the Friday before, when tents go up, a platform for dancing is laid out, and stacks of chairs are arranged around tables large and small.  Last summer, a dairy farmer was married to a school teacher, we know this because the emcee of events tested the young marrieds with a quiz about dairy farming (for her) and teaching Kindergarten (for him).  They danced to Sam Cooke’s “Don’t know much about history” and Willie Nelson’s  “Milk Cow Blues”, and by the sounds of all the laughter floater up our way all evening, a good time was had by all.

I love watching the parking lot fill up, and kids chasing each other here and there even as parents try to corral them up the path to the church’s entrance as quickly as possible so as to keep them as tidy as possible.  And I love watching kids burst out of the back entrance of the building when services are done with, and they can whoop and holler and get messy to their heart’s content.  It feels like recess at school to me, or those warm days late in the school year when we go outside to “read” and my kids can hardly stand how full of Spring fever and joy they are.  It seems such a sin to keep them contained and quiet in a classroom.

By now, 11:30-ish, every car has left the parking lot.  Farm stillness descends once more, I can hear the cornfields swish and sway, although I can hear a tractor start up in the distance somewhere – farmers, I have learned, have no time for rest…even on Sundays.


One year later…I celebrate a summer of gratitudes

Our second summer at the farm is coming to a close,  a summer of blessings and gratitudes to celebrate.


I am grateful that all the cleaning and painting of last summer has brought this lovely old farmhouse to life.  Each room has retained something of its quirky old charm, and its endearing imperfections – the marks of a house that has seen a long and eventful life. There were a few moments last year, when it was unbearably hot and there was still yards and yards of wall to paint, when I had a fleeting sense of “what have we done?”.  But those thoughts have vanished this summer: the farmhouse looks as it should – a well loved, well lived in home. I celebrate that.

I am grateful that the farm became a place for family and friends to gather.  We’ve watched misty mornings, lilac sunsets, and pastures bathed in summer sunlight.  We’ve broken bread, prepared meals together, and raised many a glass in toasts to love and in celebration of being together.  We’ve shared books we’ve read, books we are trying to write, and books we’re planning to write.  We walked the grounds, taken in the views, and come to share a collective bond with this special place. It has been a gathering together kind of summer, and I celebrate that.

I am grateful that our children love this farm, and feel deeply connected to it.  I love that the farm has become a place of peace and solace to them, a place that calls to them every bit as much as it calls to me.  I love that they notice and take pride in every little addition and improvement: a painted floor, a little rocking chair, a new flower bed – they pay attention to it all, acknowledge the work that it takes, and I celebrate that.

I am grateful that the farm has become a place to remember and retell our stories, and create new ones anchored in this lovely, verdant spot.  I love that life on this farm has become a part of our family’s story, and I celebrate that.

Tomorrow, I pack up our van with all that I will need for the school year ahead: books, notebooks, this and that which I have collected for my classroom in my wanderings over the past two months.  I am ready for another school year and another group of students, for the work that I love.  But I am grateful to be able to take summer memories and summer views with me, and I celebrate that.