A Remarkable First Year at the Farm

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It’s been a long time since I have posted here.  I’ll try to do better next year.  But hey, we’ve been busy on our first year here at the farm.  But I do have this blog, and I should be writing more.  So, like all blogs, especially at year’s end, I’ll do some navel gazing.

In no particular order, here is who and what mattered this year.  It’s long.  Don’t feel compelled to read it all.

People who shaped our year

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I think I can say that literally every week we made at least one trip to Bridge Street Pizza.  Courtney, Chris, Trevor, Josh, and the whole crew were welcoming, charming, hilarious, and inspiring with their energy and optimism.  Not seeing them each week left a void we just don’t care to have.  Just as often, we went to Briquettes, where Tara, Shane, Andrew, and others we know less well always seemed genuinely happy to see us, would always have Chris’s turkey reuben order memorized, and would add a genuine happiness to our week.  Every visit to Salon 1020 was a warm and candid one, with Yeah Yeah and Shannon seemingly always there and always upbeat and always with the scoop on Bridge St.  The baristas at Harbor Perk were always smiling and serving up the best fresh coffee beans I have ever had.  The crew of servers at Bascule–Molly, Allie, Kylie, Bri–were always funny, focused, and full of stories.  We still miss River’s Edge Diner and Ryan’s masterpiece of a monte cristo and Erin, who made us feel like good friends from the first time we met her.

Friends we had before we moved to Saybrook continued to be remarkable and ever so important to us.  Christy and Chris, who made the long trek out more than once and who inspire us with their positive energy and drive.  Jane and Ray, both with such quick wit and true care in their words.  My manager and mentor Vida, a true inspiration to me in many ways.  My team at work, who made every day fun and important and meaningful.  Valerie and Jamie, ever welcoming and able to pick up a conversation we started months prior.  Rose Ann and Dave–the definition of dear people.

Two friends who inspired me for many years prior, and who passed away this year–my closest friend in adulthood, Bob Lee, and my college mentor and stalwart friend for years, Scott Crom–both shaped who I am and how I view the world.

And our family was remarkably important, as distant as they may be, whether counties or states away.  My many nieces and nephews, some with kids of their own, and some not yet able to say much, continue to be a source of joy and pride and amusement.  My stepdaughter who, as my first ever renter, provided me with so many stories and head-scratches that I was never wont for a tale to tell at work.  My two older sisters and their husbands–though they may not know it since I rarely say much directly–both in what they taught me in the past and in what they show through their actions.  My in-laws, who have been truly welcoming, supportive, kind, and caring.  (And they compliment my garden a lot.) My Grandma Yucus, who taught me so much about hard work and appreciating the little things; I’ve only recently come to realize that when I was born she was 90 (she lived to 108).  And most certainly, my Mom, who speaks to me at key times from the heavens, who taught me my love of gardening, the importance of laughter, and the true healing and hope that only a hug can provide.

And then there are those people we barely know, but they shaped our year too.  The mail lady who always picks up Chris’s packages with a smile.  The farrier, Holly, who takes care of Buck so happily.  The neighbors who loaned me random tools and appreciate us leaving one another alone.  The servers at South River Winery who always remember us and who share our dislike of bridal showers.  The Beckwith family on Twitter and their truly hilarious banter, well beyond any sitcom’s attempts at humor.  A person on Twitter who sent me a jar of homemade salsa.  The residents of Ashtabula who, to a person, do not honk their car or jacked-up truck horns other than to say Hello when driving by.

The Animals and the Vegetables

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A year ago we had three dogs and a cat.  Pokey the cat moved to an old folks home, where he is certainly happier than he was here (the feeling is mutual). We still have the three dogs, though Tasha took a vacation for a few months in Euclid, which was blissful for Sammy and Stout (and us).  We bought six chicks and four ducks when they were two-day-old-fluffballs, all intended to be hens, but we ended up with one rooster and two drakes in the mix.  One Pekin was slaughtered by a raccoon, reminding us that we had to want to protect the birds more than a hungry animal wants to eat them.  We later added four more ducks that needed a home.  The hens have layed very consistently, and we’ve eaten many delicious eggs and have given away at least as many.  In early summer we added Buck the mini-horse, who weighs just about the same as I do, and he is equally stubborn. He and the dogs provide great joy and periodic frustration, but don’t we all.  Next year, we will probably add a feeder pig and a turkey or two.  Everyone wants us to get a goat, but we like kids that visit and then go back home.

The garden was quite something for the first year, ending up yielding about 750 pounds of vegetables.  Putting the garden in the old barn foundation provided a fortuitous choice, as the soil made from years of rotting manure and hay was remarkably fertile.  The sweet potatoes didn’t like it, but everything else did.  And the kitchen garden was also quite productive.  I grew all heirloom varieties and learned that the best tasting tomato Chris and I can recall ever having is one named very close to our street name: Nineveh.  Lessons were learned, and in 2015, the garden will expand, the asparagus will have its second year to grow, and we will add more saplings to our orchard, something we will enjoy in retirement if the deer don’t destroy it in the next decade or so.

Things stored

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A few batches of beer made their way to bottles.  I made my first ever batch of wine: a quickly disappearing 29 bottles of riesling.  I have a merlot ready to bottle in January.  I tried and failed at sauerkraut, but I will try again next year.  I made my first ever cheese, a farmhouse cheddar.  I’ll try some others this coming year.

We canned more tomatillos than we could eat in a lifetime, plenty of tomato sauce, and chicken stock.  We bought a small freezer to hold dozens of bags of tomatoes, beans, and peppers.  We won’t be through them before I am picking fresh ones.

After two months of trying to figure out where to build a cold storage room, I remembered we already had one that the prior owners sealed off.  So, I opened that up and stashed away shallots, garlic, pumpkins, potatoes, onions, and zucchini rampicante (a remarkable squash that is a summer squash unless you let it grow into a winter squash).

Things built

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A coop for the chickens under a soaring stairway by the garage.  A hut for the ducks nestled in a safe spot by the house, much more raccoon-proof than the dog house we first used for them.  A shed for Buck that he never used until the winds got cold and he now naps in every day.

And, though not quite done, a studio birthed from a pavilion, a sanctuary for Chris to create her increasingly epic-sized work.  In a year she has gone from creating art the size of a dinner plate to art the size of a dinner table.  The concrete floor she hired someone to do.  The rest, we have done–sill plates, studs, sheathing, weather barrier, sleepers, underlayment, barn wood floors, stone hearth, pellet stove and chimney, five patio doors for windows.  Soon, it will be a remarkably unique, functional space for a remarkable woman.

Marriage

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And it was, for all intents and purposes, our first year of marriage.  The most remarkable year of my life.  A year in which I was wholly myself for the first time ever, spending every day with my best friend, the love of my life, and my partner in this remarkable adventure of life.

Oh, and the remarkable sunsets

If I had written on this blog all year, you would already know everything above.  Maybe next year.  For now, I leave you with one of the many remarkable, humbling, awe-striking sunsets we experienced this year.  The heavens smiling down on us.

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