A Local Farm Tour, Some Thoughts on City People & Beautiful Summer

family, personal essay, photography, small town life

Recently, we met some lovely people who live nearby and they offered to take us on a tour of their farm, where they primarily raise chickens, sheep, and pigs. It was a gorgeous day, and I am always up for tramping around outside and taking pictures of things. There were also a lot of City People on the tour, and that brings me to today’s post, which is a lot of opining about the effects of CPs on our small town.

Oh, and a lot of pictures of chickens.

DSC_6992

We live in Columbia County which is a 2.5 hour drive north of New York City. For years, City People have been renting or buying weekend homes up in our bucolic locale so that they can attain rest and relaxation for their weary selves. Their presence is an ongoing joke to locals, who affectionately (or not…) refer to the transplants as “Citiots” and happily share stories about the bewildered Manhattanites.

DSC_6869

It is hard to describe to the uninitiated just how strange City People are. It will sound like I’m being unfair or cruel or hyperbolic. BUT NO, I am not! They are so often…so very…weird. Let’s look at some of the common threads that unite typical CPs.

  • They almost uniformly wear clothes that they think “people in the country” wear. Layers of breezy white linens, floppy sun hats, expensive fleece, chic Sperrys, and sandblasted pre-worn denim. People in the country do not wear those things.
  • Ditto with the cars. What we actually drive (I look out the window at the 2005 Saturn VUE with 170,000 miles on it) is very different from the Hummers and huge shiny Jeeps that appear on Friday afternoons as the Northward Migration begins.
  • They like to say that this area has a lot of “really cool people here now” by which statement they are in fact referring to themselves. They also like to talk about how the locals should move away, and I once heard a lady from the city say that we needed to “clear the swamp” of locals. Ouch.
  • They aren’t very nice. (See above.) Now, that is a blanket statement for sure, but on the whole it holds up. New Yorkers are famously brusque, and that attitude is exacerbated when they are walking up and down Main Street not smiling or saying hello to anyone at all.

DSC_6926

A common theory around these parts as to why they are so uniformly odd is that they have too much money and it makes them go a leeetle bit crazy. I think this is a pretty good theory. For example, there is a lovely old farmhouse down the road and it was restored to original condition. A movie producer from NYC pays many thousands of dollars a month in rent to be able to have a country home, and she comes up here from Manhattan roughly three weekends a year.

 

IMG_2831

We sometimes like to play a game called “CITY or LOCAL?” It is best played on Friday evenings at the local grocery store parking lot. It goes like this:

Me: How about that guy? *points to a well-dressed man in loafers getting into his shiny, expensive new Jeep with a bag of artisanal cheese and a baguette*

Everyone: CITY

Me: How about that guy? *points to two men walking into the store with a small, brand-name dog-suitcase-carrier perched below the shopping cart, from which interior a small dog peers out helplessly into the world*

Everyone: CITY

Me: How about that guy? *points to a guy standing next to a beat-up old minivan and getting changed in the parking lot*

Everyone: THAT’S JOE!

DSC_7012

Okay…they’re not all weird, but it is fun to point out the spectacularly weird ones when we see them traipsing down Main Street wrapped in linen and fleece with their little tourist maps pointing out the architectural details of what we know used to be a run-down store but is now a gourmet cheese store run by a lady from Brooklyn.

DSC_6874

Main Street used to be full of businesses owned by locals, and catering to locals. Now, there is a Yoga studio, the aforementioned artisanal cheese shop, four art galleries, a bespoke linen goods store, a craft-beer brewery and a couple antique stores. Instead of the locally-owned one-screen movie theater with its syrupy soda and three-month-old blockbusters, the theater is now city-owned and renovated and primarily shows extremely artistic Indie films.

None of those things are bad in and of themselves, but there is no getting away from the fact that they all cater to weekenders and the town has changed so much that it would be unrecognizable to my grandparents.

IMG_2808

One good thing the CP’s have brought with them is the money which has gone toward revitalizing certain areas. Rural America is struggling right now, but up here we have had this influx of wealthy Manhattanites who buy some acreage and try their hand at small-time farming; who bring delicious new foods or locally-roasted coffee; who invest in local businesses to make sure they stay open.

The farm we visited is one such place; financed by some out-of-towners and run by some very kind people who open the farm up to tourists on the weekends. We tagged along. It was an extremely beautiful day and the animals were on their best, photogenic behavior.

DSC_7024

There were City People, of course. And they were suitably garbed in many layers of fleece and linen and prepared to be wowed by the agricultural happenings of a small farm.

  • “Oh look! The cow is peeing!”
  • “Do you have thistle growing here?”
  • “Is that a road or a lake over there?”
  • “What do you do with the chickens when they get bigger? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU KILL THEM? MOM I AM GOING TO BE A VEGETARIAN.”
  • “Ooooh look, the cows are just bunched together!” <–grown man in his fifties.
IMG_2814

Sister reacts to the cows being “bunched together”

I had a conversation that went like this:

City Lady: “So where are you guys visiting from?”

Me: “We live here.”

CL: “Where? HERE? What do you mean?”

Me: “I mean we are from here. We live here. My family has lived here for about 200 years.”

CL: “Wow. So you’re a local?”

Me: “Yes. And you’re a City Person. And never the two shall meet.”

CL: *brushing back her linen dress which was billowing in the breeze* “What? Really? But if you come up here a lot and then you buy a home, then you become a local right?”

Me: “No.”

 

IMG_2813

Please note the layers of clothing in the background.

It’s complicated though, because on a deeper level, their presence in our county has provided a lot of industry and work for all kinds of local businesses. Plus, they have brought certain establishments of art and culture with them that add a lot to our little town. Not to mention…there are a lot more restaurants, cafes, and good coffee available now that there is a bigger and broader audience for those places.

Still. It is hard to see the size of the incoming school class shrink more and more every year. As property values skyrocket, the local population is pushed out into neighboring counties and areas because they simply can’t afford to live here anymore. As a result, the incoming class at my old high school this year is somewhere around 60 kids, while my graduating class hovered just above 100. So, it is fun to laugh and make jokes with other locals, but it’s also true that the fabric of our small town is in the process of completely changing.

IMG_2829

It’s also hard to escape the feeling that the influx of moneyed New Yorkers would very much like the locals to clear out so they can have this place to themselves. Except, obviously, the ones that buy them groceries, stock their pantries, and clean up when they go back to the city.

And, you know, it’s a strange state of affairs for me because I have spent so much time living elsewhere that when I come back it’s kind of nice to see new and more sophisticated offerings until the owners aren’t very friendly and you realize the repercussions on all the people you grew up with.

The place has changed, there’s no getting away from it. One thing that hasn’t changed? To me, it is the most beautiful place in the world, and it is Home.

DSC_6884

Who wouldn’t want to live here, right?

Swimming Hole!

family, friends, friendship, personal essay, small town life

I bring you a quick trip to a local swimming hole.

IMG_2150 2

Brother T and his then-fiancé–but NOW HIS WIFE– (we need a name…Sister K? Katey? KT? WEIGH IN, PEOPLE!)–Sister and I drove to the town hall, walked down a tunnel of illuminated greenness, climbed down a slope and ended up at a perfect swimming hole under the old railroad trestle.

IMG_2165 2 IMG_2175 2Despite my best efforts to convince people that if we just believe hard enough summer doesn’t have to end, I will here and now admit that some of the leaves are starting to shift from green to yellow, orange, and red. They are so magnificent here in this part of the world. I’m planning to take the camera out and document the changes, and maybe try my hand at painting some of those colors. There is something about the red-orange leaves against the bluest autumn sky that makes any painting seem insignificant.

IMG_2161 2

Anyway, summer is shifting to fall, whether I like it or not. And, actually, if summer would shift to the loveliest of autumn days, and then slowly fade to a holiday- and cheer-filled winter and then QUICKLY MOVE INTO SPRING AFTER ABOUT SEVEN DAYS OF PICTURESQUE SNOWFALL, I would be okay with all of that. It’s the knowledge that winter is long and cold and often dark and often dreary that makes me want to hold on to these long summer days as hard as I can. It’s not easy for me to just sit back and enjoy the change and enjoy the transition. THE PASSAGE OF TIME IS JUST NOT EASY FOR ME, PEOPLE!

IMG_2160 2IMG_2167 2

 

Well, that’s why I’m posting photos from this past summer, since I’ve been lax at updating on time. That’s okay though…it was better to just enjoy the moments and take pictures for later!

 

IMG_2181 2

The Redwoods and Route 1

culture shock, family, friends, friendship, personal essay, personal growth, photography, small town life

Okay, so it has been a while!

In the six weeks since I last posted, I have been indulging in the relaxation of being home, of having family around, and of picking grape tomatoes from the garden. I have had time to update the blog but I just haven’t done it because I’ve been enjoying the slow, good life here in my small town in the middle of nowhere.

IMG_2915

A bunch of doofuses

There are lots of posts to write and photos to share and stories to tell, but I’ll be honest, I may not get to it. Instead, I thought I’d just share a highlight of the last few months which was a quick, quick trip out to California to see Brother T get married. We were busy with wedding stuff most of the time, but on Thursday we got to take a trip to Big Basin State Park which is where some of the world’s biggest trees reside. It was breathtaking.

DSC_7053

The photos don’t even do them justice. Redwoods live to an average of 500-700 years and some of them are up to 2000 years old. Imagine!!!

DSC_7130

Earlier this year I read the book Valley of the Giants by Peter Kyne. It was written about one-hundred years ago and focuses on a family of loggers and mill-owners out in California from 1850-1917-ish and how they deal with an underhanded business rival etc. It has some beautiful, beautiful descriptions of the redwood forests as it centers on the family who is milling them. It’s an odd thing, but while I read it I felt almost sad thinking of the destruction of something so grandiose, so ancient and so irreplaceable. Ninety-five percent of the old-growth redwoods have been cut down in California (and there are still a lot, so I can’t imagine what it was like before), and the remaining ones seem to all be in protected national and state parks. The trees are about 300 feet tall (91 meters).

IMG_2941

More doofuses, above and below 🙂

IMG_2954

IMG_2928

Yours truly, posing with a tree. (Not a doofus.)

DSC_7146

Driving up the mountains on a winding, single-lane road, you look down off the steep mountain-sides and can’t even see where the trees begin, and when you swivel your head and look up, you can’t see the top either. They are massive, massive, massive trees, and so stately and lovely. The smell is delicious and fresh and woody, the air is cool and crisp, and the silence is almost overwhelming. I was happy when we got to the park check-in because there were a few other people around chatting and making noise; we all tried to keep totally silent for fifteen seconds and it is so quiet that it presses in on your ears.

DSC_7306

We were on a tight timeframe and we left Big Basin to head down to the Pacific Ocean, taking Route 1 North toward San Francisco. It was gorgeous.

DSC_7322

There are beautiful cliffs the whole way up and down the coast and it is spectacular. There are little beaches you can pull into the whole way up. It was lovely until we reached Traffic. Oh Traffic. I do not miss you.

DSC_7335

DSC_7392DSC_7352

America is so BIG, you guys.

IMG_2872

Look close and see the quilt-like squares of cornfields somewhere over Kansas

IMG_2891

Yuck. Ugh. No. No. No. (Las Vegas.)

It took one whole day of travel to get to California and another whole day to get back. We flew over canyons, fields, flatlands, prairies, the Rocky Mountains, rivers, deserts, forests, cities, and vast open wilderness to get to the other side of the country. There are so many languages and people and foods and landscapes and so much beauty. We all commented that it felt like we were in a different country after so much time in the air and with the different landscape and climate.

IMG_2953

It’s easy to get swept into a constant need to check the news and social media, but my life has personally become much more peaceful since I gave up Facebook and stopped looking at the news, and then when you go to a place like the Redwood Forest, all the other stuff seems to fade away in the face of something that has stood so peacefully and so tall for so long, and it reminds you that God is bigger than all of our squabbling and just how beautiful His creation is, and I’m thankful for a glimpse of that.

DSC_7557

That is the San Francisco skyline from the hotel in downtown Oakland. Each morning it seemed the whole day would be foggy and overcast but then the sun would burn through and it would be bright and sunny for the rest of the afternoon. It was much cooler than it currently is in New York.

DSC_7501

The above bird is a California Scrub Jay. It was hopping around the trees and rocks of the house we rented and then it very nicely agreed to pose for a picture for me.

 

Finally, I know I need to get back to posting regularly! Even if the posts are primarily photos and not so many words, there are lots of things to share and remember about this summer!

Thomas Cole and Bad Mexican

family, friends, humor, personal essay, photography, small town life, Uncategorized

Today, the three of us siblings which are present here in New York went adventuring (the fourth sibling unable to make it as he currently resides in the far-off land of Kansas. HI J!).

We drove thirty minutes south-west-ish and crossed the mighty, winding Hudson River, and ended up in Catskill. We were hungry after all of that pre-adventuring, so we thought we would look for a cute cafe or a tasty-looking treat.

IMG_0999

One of the last remaining places with a functional fax machine.

Alas.

There was no cute cafe and there were no tasty-looking treats. We settled on a Mexican joint, and we don’t need to talk about it much as we shall not be returning there. Nor shall we be returning to Catskill in the near future.

But then we wound our way to the Thomas Cole Museum!

DSC_5275

The view from the porch. Wowwee.

Thomas Cole was one of the leaders of the Hudson River School of art, which originated right around here in the Hudson River Valley. The museum was smaller than I expected, but had stellar views off the front porch and some nice flowers. There were a few rooms open to the public and since we were too late for a guided tour, it didn’t take long to see the contents of them.

DSC_5214

Nice flowers

DSC_5256

DSC_5252

Re: the Hudson River School of art, I’ll quote Wikipedia, because that is the easiest thing for me to do and it’s late and I’m kind of lazy:

The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters whose aesthetic vision was influenced by romanticism. The paintings for which the movement is named depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and the White Mountains.

DSC_5236

I will forever have a soft spot for The Hudson River School, in part because I grew up with those landscapes saturating my mind, and in part because both my Mom and my teachers did a great job exposing me to local art and history as a kid. The art that came out of those landscape painters was idealistic and romanticized, but also beautiful and idyllic.

DSC_5232

Back to the Thomas Cole Museum: there was a lot less art than I had hoped for. The house is decked out with cardboard-y reproductions of the paintings that hung when Cole lived there. They are not very good reproductions. However, the “New Studio” has rotating, temporary exhibits and they were featuring some works of Sanford Gifford, who was one of the leaders of the Hudson River School.

DSC_5197

“Going Sketching in the Catskills” Sanford Gifford, 1866

DSC_5189

Details of oil paintings by Sanford Gifford

DSC_5192

There are other famous painters from the Hudson River School around here–I was so lucky to grow up in a place that is so steeped with history! Olana, the home and studio of Frederick Church, is only 25 minutes away, and we visited it a lot when I was growing up. It is a beautiful home full of interesting architecture, although the last time I visited, it was full of contemporary, experimental art which I found really jarring in the 19th-century surroundings. Also, as you will see below, Mr. Church and I have a bit of a history.

DSC_5177

Maybe this is just me, but if you’re at a museum dedicated to one of the country’s foremost landscape artists, should you at least paint feet onto the guy?

The following things happened at Olana:

  • I had many, many, many amazing picnics with my mom, pizza bagels, and siblings
  • I learned from Patty O that I could cross one eye and make the other one go in loops. This is largely a useless skill.
  • I loved those picnics and the pizza bagels
  • Frederick Church put in a heart-shaped pond for his wife, which I thought was the most romantic thing I ever heard of when I was about 10. Now I think it is kind of impractical and hard to see the shape clearly? But good for him!
DSC_5283

In Thomas Cole’s “old” studio

Once, on a school field-trip, our class went to see Thomas Cole’s “The Course of Empire”  which is a thought-provoking series of five paintings depicting the rise and fall of human civilization. The Internet tells me that their permanent home is in NYC, but I think it must have been a temporary exhibit around here, because I don’t remember going to The New York Historical Society, which is where they live. It was a memorable experience and I’ve thought of those paintings a lot over the years.

There were also a few Frederick Church paintings at that same exhibit and, guys, I don’t much like it when people tell me what to do. This was in the pre-moving-around-the-world era of my life and I think I hadn’t been to many art museums, so when they told us not to touch the paintings, the inside of me basically crawled inside-out and demanded that I touch a painting. I chose a landscape by Frederick Church which had lots of little, bumpy green leaves, and I looked to my right (covertly) and saw the museum guard glance away, and I DID IT. I reached out and touched it!

I JUST WANTED TO AND I DID.

I can’t believe it. Present-day Alex would NEVER DO THAT.*

I think the guard saw me and told me not to do it and I had a secret thrill and then I went into the next room and saw that civilization was destined to crumble anyway, according to Thomas Cole, who based his series on a poem by Lord Byron, who is not someone I want to base anything on.

I digress.

DSC_5258

Anyway, in summary, we had a nice time out and learned a few things** and we saw gorgeous views of the Catskills. I also saw a piece of dust adhered to an oil painting and I longed to reach out and brush it away and also touch the painting. Instead, I just weirdly blew on the painting a few times, watching this giant dust bunny flutter around, and then I realized that hearing me suddenly breathe loudly in the very silent New Studio probably sounded super weird to the elderly couple behind me.***

Kindly old man: “Excuse me, I noticed you were quietly appreciating the paintings, but now you are loudly huffing and puffing. Are you having an asthma attack?”

Me: “No, I just saw that there is this clump of dust on the painting and it’s really bugging me, so I thought I would just try to loosely, like, you know, blow it off of there…”

Kindly old man (fumbles for his wallet, rifles through it, withdraws business card, holds it out): “Here, this is the number of my psychiatrist. Maybe he could help you.”

DSC_5193

Why yes, there is a large piece of dust affixed to this painting. Perhaps someone should blow it off or something?

*but she still kind of wants to

**like avoid Catskill and the Mexican restaurant in Catskill

***because it was super weird

A Country Drive

family, personal essay, photography, small town life

Last night, Sister, Brother T* and I decided to take advantage of our post-Chicken-enchilada happiness and the late-sunset-glow and go for a long, meandering country drive.

DSC_5121

Claire pretended to be a Calvin Klein model

We call it the poor man’s entertainment. There’s a lot of, “Ooh, look at that house–NO, look at that house!” and they are usually giant, beautiful old farmhouses with picturesque barns.

DSC_5104

Isn’t it beautiful?

This is how we got here:

1. We drove up Main Street and took the third exit

DSC_5096

2. We drove and drove and drove until we got to the Mythical Hamlet of North Chatham

DSC_5091

3. Then we took a right and drove for a while

DSC_5126

4. We came to a fork in the road…

…and went left…

…and drove and drove…

DSC_5132

emoji with heart eyes x 3

5. Then we accidentally left the county! So we took the first right, which happened to be the most charming, delightful back country road I’ve seen in a long, long time. Look at that.

LOOK AT IT.

DSC_5145

6. We meandered along, stopping for photos in the perfect golden sunlight. Trevor came perilously close to touching the electric element of the fence.

DSC_5155

7. We disregarded signs.

DSC_5157

8. And we wandered home as the sun set, stopping at DQ for Brother T, who requires at least one (1) cookie dough blizzard daily to energize his magnetic personality.

 

 

*Famed cult leader

In Memoriam: Buddy the Opossum

humor, personal essay, small town life

YOU GUYS

As may have become clear through my posts, I live in approximately the middle of nowhere. There are bears around, and TONS of deer, and raccoons, and there are groundhogs and rabbits that live in our yard, and there is a big hole of an as-yet-unidentified animal in our front lawn.

Buddy (center) in his younger days

 

There are also opossums, which are weird little guys that play dead and carry their young around on their back and hang from trees by their tails and live their lives at night under the cover of darkness.

Well.

The opossum population now has one fewer member.

BECAUSE I HIT ONE WITH MY CAR

AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Buddy, earlier this winter, thinking over future career choices after graduating from New York Opossum University (NYOU)

There I was, just driving home in the deep, dark, black of night. We had our headlights on and were driving the requisite 30 mph. There are no streetlights because, again, we live in the middle of nowhere.

And then what should I see shining ahead of me but the GLOWING EYES OF AN INQUISITIVE OPOSSUM RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD.

 

GET OUT OF THE ROAD, OPHIE! (Buddy’s sister Ophelia, lost last year in a tragic garbage truck incident)

There was no time to do anything but carefully center the car over it and yell, “JUST DON’T MOVE, LITTLE GUY!”**

But…

he moved.

Buddy’s graduation photo (2017)

 

And there were quite a few thumps. Sister and I screamed and stamped our feet while Brother T laughed at us and also wept.*

I hope Buddy the Opossum had a good, happy life. I hope he got lots of free rides on Mama Opossum’s back, that he played dead and tricked all his opossum friends, and that he loved hanging upside down from tree branches. I know there was some confusion at the end over whether his degree in Russian literature would come in useful, but as it turns out, it doesn’t really matter.

Buddy is predeceased by his sister Ophelia, all eighteen of his brothers except Louie, both of his parents, his grandparents, nearly all of his aunts and uncles and all but three cousins. All were killed in car accidents. In lieu of flowers, please subscribe to my blog.

Until tomorrow, Buddy.***

Buddy the Opossum, third from left, having a great afternoon (Ophelia the Opossum  second from left)

*or words to that effect

**or something to that effect

***when I pass your dead carcass on my way up to the post office****

****AGHHHHHHHHHHH

PS: Look what I found as a result of writing this post!

CULTURE SHOCK

culture shock, family, friends, personal essay, photography, small town life

Good morning! A short post to start the day, and then maybe like eight more posts because the internet has decided to upload pictures? We’ll see.

I thought I’d show you a few of the things that have inspired culture shock in the last two weeks since I’ve returned to America. There are always things…not the ones I expect…that throw me for a loop. Sister and I often discuss how we are back in our own country, but having spent so many years overseas, we don’t quite fit in. There are…apparently…many things that we should just know, but we don’t! Such is the life of a third-culture-kid.

America is BIG. The big-ness of it hits me in different ways. When it comes to driving somewhere, you have to drive FAR, and that doesn’t faze anyone. Any place within an hour’s drive in any direction is considered do-able and local. The hills and the meadows stretch on and on and on. This is the big-ness which I love. I like that it makes me feel like a small part of a huge thing, and I like that the roads are overgrown with wildflowers and more trees than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I like that our history is so upfront and personal, that America is still fairly wild, that there are far, far more birds that fly past my window than cars.

IMG_0841

This is a giant bear claw mark on my Aunt’s house, about a mile from our house. Bears are making a come back around here!

And then there is the big-ness that I don’t like.

Our area has a population of 5,402 spread out over a lot of land. Two miles up the road from us is the grocery store, which used to be a small-ish, manageable, slightly run-down place. Then they replaced it. With a fortress. It is the size of a small airport. For all I know, it is ALSO a small airport. It is open 24/7. There is just no reason that anyone around here needs to run to the local store at 3 AM and I have personally only been able to bring myself to go inside it a couple of times because it is just SO OVERWHELMING.

There is a big-ness in the book stores, the grocery stores, the construction stores, the clothing stores, the stuff stores, the more stores, the even-more stores that I can’t tolerate. Things are cheap. If you want cheap, there is cheap. Walmart is KING of the cheap, but this is what happened to me when I made the mistake of venturing into Walmart.

IMG_1131

Sister found me here, on the verge of a panic attack, hiding behind the cooler.

There are so many options. The options sprawl out in front of me and I–who am not good at making decisions–find myself paralyzed.

Here is how you buy a loofah in Europe: You go to the store and if they have a loofah, you buy it. If they don’t have a loofah, that is to be expected, and you will be fine.

Here is how you buy a loofah here in a small town in the middle of nowhere:

IMG_0503

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Yes, the following options are available:

  • textured
  • net
  • scrubbie dubbie
  • delicate
  • exfoliating
  • charcoal-infused
  • and men’s, which are not different from the other ones.
  • on a stick
  • on a different kind of stick
  • on a stick that is ergonomic
  • on a wooden stick with a sponge
  • on a wooden stick with a different kind of sponge

And Target. Oh my goodness, let’s not go THERE ever again. Behold what Target hath wrought:

IMG_0380

Poor Sister. All we wanted were chips!

And then there is tipping. Let’s save that one for another day. But America, just pay people a living wage! It would make everything so much easier!

 

The other day we met Aunt K thirty minutes away for dinner and WONDER WOMAN. (I loved Wonder Woman!) We went to a place called the Recovery Room, which made the following bold assertion:

IMG_0875

It says: EVERY GAME EVERY DAY.

While you’re eating.

Here is what that looks like, and pretend you’re not good with sensory overload:

IMG_0881     IMG_0882

 

 

 

 

 

SCREENS EVERYWHERE. This was just from my seat at the restaurant. Some of the TVs had four different screens within the screen. Every sport imaginable! Lots of people talking at me! SO MANY DIFFERENT SCORES.

The menu did not have any vegetable untouched by cheese or meat, haha, and because of the decision-paralysis discussed above, this is how my ordering went down:

Waitress (SUPER PEPPY): Have you decided what you’ll be getting tonight?

Me (paralyzed from the menu, points to childhood favorite): The chicken strips?

Waitress: GREAT CHOICE. Okay, will you be having that with a special shake spice blend?

Me: …what?

Waitress: Will you be having that with a special shake spice blend? We could do ranch, or adobo, or habanero, or–

Me: No.

Waitress: And what dip will you be having?

Me: …I…thought it came with the honey mustard?

Waitress (positively chipper): IT SURE DOES, but you can get another dip, too! Ranch? BBQ? Sweet and sour? Or maybe–

Me: –HONEY MUSTARD IS FINE THANKS

Waitress: SURE THING. Okay, and would you like regular fries, onion rings, sweet potato fri–

Me: –JUST THE NORMAL THING. JUST THE THING THAT EVERYONE GETS. THE REGULAR ONE.

Waitress: SOUNDS GREAT. Okay, and to drink?

Me (going crazy): Iced tea.

Waitress: Regular, lemon, raspberry, sweetened or unsweetened?

Me (puts my head down and begins to sob uncontrollably).

IMG_0884

I think four chickens had to die for my meal.

In no particular order, a few other culture shock moments:

IMG_0769

The deer ate ALL THE FLOWERS. Ughhhh.

IMG_0379

There are yard sales everywhere.

IMG_0369

Finding the car battery and figuring it out made possible thanks to Uncle M.

I can hear Brother T and Sister in the other room cackling over Parks and Rec, I am drinking coffee with half-and-half, and later I plan to go and buy the best burrito I’ve ever had in my life. There are beautiful things here. It’s just better for everyone if I don’t go into a box store ever again.

IMG_0475

We are coming for you, Taste Box.

Picking Out Plants & the Mortgage Lifter

family, friends, friendship, garden, gardening tips, personal essay, personal growth, small town life
IMG_0381

AHHHHHHHHHH IT IS TOO BEAUTIFUL

Here is how last Saturday went:

 

I was trying to change my shoes while driving the car. That’s not the point of this story, though, it is just essential background information. Sister went into the local coffee roasting place* and when she came out, she had a free mug! So, I decided I would go in and get myself some organic dark-chocolate-covered cherries and a free mug of my own. I went inside and was glad to see the place had expanded and was full of people picking out coffees and nut butters.

But something felt weird.

I looked down.

And yes! I had two different shoes on!

Me: I have two different shoes on.

Lady behind the counter: You sure do!

Lady behind the counter: Would you like a free mug?

IMG_0399

Here is also how our Saturday went:

We were driving up to Target** and SUDDENLY it seemed there was a plastic bag floating up over the hood of the car.

Sister: Alex? Is that our headlight?

Me: Why yes Claire, I believe it is.

And INDEED IT WAS. So we bought duct tape and taped that sucker on, because we are nothing if not resourceful and also good at driving old cars.***

IMG_0565

Here is how our Saturday proceeded:

We went to Uncle Gee and Aunt T’s house and followed them over to the Country Caretaker, which is their favorite garden center. There are so many garden centers! I LOVE THEM ALL.

IMG_0388

I confessed total ignorance to the nice people that worked there and they helped me out by talking about different kinds of tomatoes. We bought: Grapettes, Beef Steak, Brandywine, and one called the Mortgage Lifter, so called because the guy who created this type of tomato apparently used the proceeds to pay off his mortgage! The garden center tomato person told me they will turn red, and then yellow, and then gold, and will be delicious. Can’t wait!!

We got some cucumber plants, peppers, flower seeds, snapdragons, arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, and yellow squash. I CANNOT WAIT TO EAT THEM.

Uncle Gee also lent us a bunch of garden implements and tools which have proven to be essential.

IMG_0382

 

IMG_0389

Look! There’s no dirt on my face!

Following that, our Saturday continued thusly:

Sister and I went to what used to be a church and heard a solo piano concert by Ben Cosgrove, who composes beautiful instrumental pieces inspired by landscapes. It was an hour well spent. There were a few odd ducks there. And by “few” I mean everyone seemed to be wearing loose-fitting linen clothing? But the music! So, so beautiful. Here is a link, go listen to him and buy his new album:

https://bencosgrove.bandcamp.com/album/salt

IMG_0564

 

IMG_0612

The plants are living here until the garden is ready. We figure if they’re up close to the house the deer will STAY AWAY FROM MY PLANTS, YOU HEAR ME, DEER?

Here is how our Saturday ended:

With a visit from Aunt K, who we were so happy to see, and a nice, fun chat in Aunt W’s living room, and a pizza. It was a good day.

*Whenever possible, I am trying not to go into stores. There are so many of them here. They are so full of THINGS and it’s overwhelming. The stores I like are Garden Centers, Produce Stands, and Hardware Stores. Those, I can handle. Everything else needs to get drones to drop things off at my front door.

** Hoo boy. There’s a place to send you into paroxysms of culture shock.

*** This seems like a good time to reference the little local news tidbit I read in the paper this week. It is called LIBERATE THE EARTH and involves a group called the Artichoke Dance Company. Here is the blurb: “There will be a Wearable Art/Costume Workshop on Friday, May 26 at 7pm…Participants will create beautiful wearable items from recycled plastic bags to serve as costumes for Saturday’s performance. Please bring plastic bags to the workshop.”****

****NO!

 

Fence Posts 

family, friends, friendship, garden, gardening tips, personal essay, personal growth, small town life, Uncategorized

I’m falling behind on my garden progress posts. But this morning it is RAINING and due to rototill-ing (coming to a post near you shortly!), I can’t move my arms, so I will catch up on my garden progress.

IMG_0491

Pre-Posts. Back when we thought there were only 10-13 rocks in the garden.

One thing is for sure: we could not be putting a garden in without friends and family helping us out! They’ve given us tools, time, and expertise, and I am so grateful for that.

The post holes that Bill helped us dig just weren’t deep enough, so I was trying to figure out a solution to the post hole problem, and it was looking like it would cost $150 to get someone to drill holes for us. No sooner did Cousin P hear about that than he sent me a text saying he’d be here the next morning to help us dig. Did he want me to rent an auger to make it easier? No. Apparently, we hadn’t earned the auger yet. Ha.

Actually, I just checked, and what he really said was:

Me: Maybe renting the auger is the way to go

Cousin P: Part of learning to dig holes is you have to dig several successfully before you are allowed to use an auger. Or you are a city person.

Obviously, being a city person is not an option. That is yet another post for yet another day. City people. Gross.

IMG_0518

Does this look like a city person to you?

Cousin P and A and their kids pulled in around 10 and by 12 we had fence posts in the ground! Wow, it is hard to dig post holes!! I kept thinking they were the requisite 27 inches deep, only to find out that they were closer to 18. Also: rocks. But that is another story.

The kids were so helpful 🙂 J, who is 4, brought his shovel and went to work immediately. R, who is 2, carried rocks back and forth, got totally covered in mud, and then took up temporary residence in a post hole.

IMG_0506

I love these kids!!

We also played a fun game called, “Alex, find this worm a home.” This was brought about due to the necessity of not having all the worms manhandled and bleeding to death*, so I told the kids the worms were homesick and we had to let them go home. “Going home” involved me digging a hole and J stomping on the dirt to really, really make sure the worms got home.

There were a lot of homesick worms out there.

IMG_0510

Not a city person.

Following our adventure of digging holes, Uncle M stopped by and he and Sister discussed lawn mowing, which is Sister’s favorite thing to do. He had to take it home with him, and take apart the carburetor** and put it back together. Sister says we could have done that if we knew what a carburetor was.

 

How right she is.

IMG_0537

All she wants to do is go mow the lawn.

Then we got to stapling up the six foot, vinyl-coated, really-heavy, galvanized steel, deer-proof fencing. (Did you know that we have so many deer here in Upstate New York that I see deer EVERY SINGLE DAY. And did you know that they carry TICKS which carry LYME DISEASE and that I had Lyme Disease when I was in fourth grade and I don’t want to have it again, people.) I WILL NOT HAVE DEER IN MY GARDEN. I WILL NOT.***

Okay, then we went and had bagels.

*BAGEL BREAK*

And then Sister saw a dead mouse and freaked out. And then we picked up a couple garden tools. And then we went to the local hardware store and got stakes for the tomatoes. All of this was to put off the inevitable: ROTOTILLING. It is hard work, people.

Look at me. That is the face of someone who is covered in dirt, and who takes her pet rototiller everywhere.

IMG_0498

Just me, a lot of dirt, and my Mantis.

Did you know gardening is really dirty work???

So, I rototilled and Sister mowed the front lawn, and then I ate pizza.

 

IMG_0549

Fried eggplant, artichoke hearts, tomatoes. AMERICA, I LOVE YOU.

IMG_0558

Intensive scrubbing took place shortly after this photo was taken.

Cousin P: How is garden project going?

Me (boastfully): I got blisters so it was authentic work. I had work gloves on. I used to have soft city hands.

Sister (scornfully): Now you have soft city hands with blisters.

IMG_0548

Yes, there is dirt on my face.

IMG_0539

*apparently giant, bleeding worms are interesting to two-year-olds 😉

**it took me seven tries to spell carburetor correctly

***I WILL NOT

Geraniums, As Promised

family, memorial day, personal essay, small town life, Uncategorized

The Ghent Union Cemetery has a very old hand pump and a watering can. It’s about half a mile up the road from our house, surrounded by land that used to be the Gilbert farm.

IMG_0641

Mornings were so painful for me as a kid. In fact, they still are! Yuck. I hate waking up. I mean sure, they’re beautiful, and everything is quiet and new and peaceful, but…I really like sleeping.

The bus came around 7:35 when I was in middle and high school. J and I would stand out at the end of our driveway in the chilly morning air and Mom would wave at us from the window and we would watch the bus appear around the corner far down the road and get bigger and bigger as it came closer. I’d sit with Jessica and when we were little, little kids we would play Miss Mary Mac and always hold our breath when we went past the cemetery until we passed a white house and then we could let it out again. Why? I don’t know.

Mom: Why are you holding your breath?

Me: You are supposed to hold your breath when you go past graveyards until you get to a white house.

Mom: Don’t do that, it’s superstitious.

Me: Okay.

(but sometimes I still did it, anyway)

IMG_0636

I used to see cars there, and people, and sometimes backhoes. It was a club I didn’t belong to–having someone there I knew and loved. Now I do belong to that club. Yippee. I’d like to return my membership card?

IMG_0643

Some things about the cemetery:

  • It is a very peaceful, pretty place.
  • The old pump is pretty cool.
  • I recognize so many of the last names on the headstones!

IMG_0646

  • There is something about the idea of knowing where you’re going to be buried before you die. I saw a headstone–so elaborate!–and it is a husband and wife and it has their birthdates but neither of them have died yet! And their headstone is ready for them. How strange. For a long time now, I haven’t even known what country I’d be in from year to year, but Nana knew where she would be buried, and so did Doris. They knew where they were going after they were buried, too, and I’m with them on that one. Thank goodness I can look forward to seeing them again. Death is too hard without that hope. In fact, it’s too hard even with that hope, but would be unbearable without it.

IMG_0642

  • The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) association puts flags on the graves of any serviceman. There are also plaques for where they served. This is my grandfather’s, he served in the Navy on the USS Texas in WWII and was at the D-Day Invasion. My other grandfather served in WWII as well, in the Pacific. History!

IMG_0649

 

IMG_0644