Nostalgia presents itself in many forms. As we grow older, some of us look back on our past and find that we are following the patterns and paths of previous generations unconsciously. Even as we actively try to rebel against them, those creature comforts, traditions and familial lore seep into our lives, making us feel like a kid again, full of wonderment and simple joy. Now, we certainly don’t carry forward everything; some things are meant to stay in the past or to be completely forgotten, (and we all work hard to do so); but most people find themselves perpetuating some sort of behavior that they learned from their parents, grandparents, and if you are blessed with amazing genes, great-grandparents.
Me? I was raised in the hills. Bumpkin? For sure. Dirt poor and full of smiles, songs and gumption? Yep. A home full of frugalities and a family that relied on the earth and each other? Uh-huh. Grandparents a short walk away with land and a home filled with adventures, escapes and open to all forms of creativity? Oh yes (along with a ton of lessons and hard labor, you best bet.) And what did I do? I left. First when my mother remarried and we moved to ‘the big town’ (it actually had a grocery store within a 15 minute drive! *GASP*) and I changed schools for a district MUCH different than the one I was used to (no music department? WTF?!?) Then after several other moves that didn’t take us necessarily farther away… I just became…. distant. Like, I REALLY left. Perhaps it was a stage. Teens generally loathe ancestry and following in anyone’s footsteps. Whatever the reason though, I definitely distanced myself from the girl playing in the rolling fields that I once was.
I went to college, graduated and got a fancy job. Left that job and got another one and rebelled more. Eventually moved far away and did even more rebelling. In my mind, I was living the youthful days that I was owed that were not enjoyed back home in my 20’s. Eventually, I even moved to Manhattan and became what I could never have foreseen all those years ago: a city girl. But a funny thing happened after I finally found my happy space in love, life and self in that big city: I started doing things my Grandmother and Great Aunt did.
WAIT. What could a country bumpkin, raised in a mobile home on 12 acres of hilly New England farmland, who moved to Manhattan in her 30’s REALLY DO that was so grandmotherly? Well first, my fiancé and I stayed home a lot. Not really a HUGE marker of change, you say? Well, NYC was outside our doorstep. If you’ve ever lived there, you know that is not a normal thing – to stay home. We also started making cocktails at home. Weird stuff, with Chartreuse and Allspice dram. Could it have been part of the ‘craft cocktail’ craze that took over the metropolitan nooks and crannies during that timeframe? Possible. Lord knows we had many-a-friend who either opened, ran, was employed at or often frequented these sort of establishments. Not that my Gramma had Allspice dram either, but she definitely would have used it if she had it. We also cooked at home, A LOT. Soups, stews, home made pizza weekly, roast chicken… we even tried to emulate the things we love like pazole (thanks, hubs!), tom kha gai and even home cured gravlox. We also started hosting Sunday dinners and Friendsgiving. I also got the gardening bug. Planting tomatoes in our one ridiculously small NYC window that got light, shopping at Farmer’s markets, making our own sauces and jams.
I had started a small craft candy company and sold my goodies on different web platforms. Being in Manhattan, I was able to share my sweets with many entrepreneurs, icons and taste-makers giving me what at the time I thought was great exposure, but ultimately was unable (or possibly unwilling at the time) to take the full plunge into self starting a business. I attempted to ‘do it all’ for a while, craving some security versus a gamble, and eventually my little venture into business faded into the background of an ever-increasing workload of priorities that my full time job demanded.
Of course, I still rebelled. Got tattoos all over my back (forget me nots), my Gramma’s favorite bird on my arm (the awesome Black Capped Chickadee) and a wonderful little elephant along the inside of my wrist. I stayed out WAY TOO late, worked WAY TOO many hours and soon burnt the candle at both ends that I found that both my fiancé (now husband) and I looked more forward to our vacations in solitude in Upstate NY than we did living in one of the coolest and most interesting cites in the world. YAH. True story.
The last year that we lived in the city, my fiancé rediscovered his love of hiking. Something he had been doing for years but had gotten away from, and I got bit by the outdoor bug as well. My job didn’t afford many weeks with two days off in a row, so each escape to nature was like a mini vacation for me, learning things I didn’t know from my husband, seeing places that I hadn’t ever seen before that inspired me. I quickly found that I got that rush of inspiration that an afternoon of ‘GO PLAY OUTSIDE!” used to give me growing up. We hiked more and more and eventually I got the nerve to vocalize my desire for a promotion at work, one that would take the two of us out of the city and closer to nature. One that would give us a real fireplace, versus the Yule Log video we watched as the sirens and taxis blared outside our 7th story window.
Don’t get me wrong, we LOVED living in NYC. It is true, you either love it or hate it… but I would say I definitely LOVED and still love that city. It just didn’t satisfy me or my husband the same way anymore. I had changed a bit, he had changed a bit, the scales tipped slightly and once we got beyond the outright FEAR of not being able to walk to get amazing phò anymore, we made an daring choice: we moved back to New England.
Our first place was a rental home, but you can bet we gardened. We had a RIDICULOUS container garden, that seemed to grow each season we were there… and produce more and more things that fueled our creativity in the kitchen. We canned, sauced, pickled and even dehydrated. We dreamt of getting chickens (well, maybe I dreamt of it, but hubby jumped into researching and learning how to ACTUALLY raise chicken to get healthy and happy hens.. and great eggs too). We BIRDWATCHED. Yes, binoculars and all. Keeping lists and all. Bird identifying apps on our phones and ALL. Know who else bird-watched? My Gramma. AVIDLY. We star gazed. My husband jumped in full force, which re-inspired me to revisit my love of the skies that I had as a child in the countryside. All of a sudden, we were surrounded by things I used to see and do daily, and we were inspired to (re)discover more things to benefit our happiness, health and home … albeit in our own way, of course.
Once we found a property that matched our outlook, we bought: beautifully small 2.8 acre space, laid out in near perfection to our goals of gardening, becoming more sustainable and being closer to wild, untamed spaces that we could explore. The house was large, but each space was so unique that we knew we would use them all. It had more, MUCH more than we needed, but had so much to keep us inspired to learn and grow as a couple and individually, we thanked whatever powers allowed us to steward this land. Two years later, we STILL thank the forces that aligned all of the events that lead us here to the Farm.
Now we have chickens (and more on the way.) We have 16 garden beds (and are building more), we even have a small orchard with fruit trees and berry bushes that never fail to surprise us each spring and fall with their bounty. Wonderfully, and almost unbelievably so, this property holds the spirit of my grandparent’s homestead. Wonderfully, and almost unbelievably so, anyone who knew them FEELS it the minute they arrive. I like to think that maybe something lead us here. But it could also just be what my husband and I have brought to this land and life here, wanting to raise the souls of those who made us who we are with our approach to tending to this land.
So now? I make fresh butter. We have fresh eggs every day. My hubby has a schedule for changing the chicken water and turning the bedding. We’ve registered our land as a bird sanctuary. We stock our freezer with amazing fruits and veggies that we grew, harvested and preserved. We compost as much as we can remember to compost (which last year unfortunately did not happen since we set it up in the wrong place.) We fail , oh do we fail, and then try again. We still waste too much of our harvest, and we constantly vow to do better. There are piles of projects in corners and lists that keep getting longer. We have learned the benefit of having a family app that keeps us working towards our goals. We have NOT learned how to get the apple spraying timing down so we have edible apples or how to preserve all the damn peaches that we yield from our trees. Yet our pantry is still lined with jars of deliciousness that might take time and effort, but are stunningly transportive in the depths of winter, taking us back to the summers of sunshine and soft breezes during which they were grown. We sit by the fire. We drink tea and listen to classical music. We do jigsaw puzzles. Yeah. We’re puzzle people, now. Really. And we love our life. Could it be better? That’s what we’re working on…
Yes, nostalgia comes in many forms. Some say looking back slows down your ability to be ready for the future. I disagree. I say a few glances in the rear view is a way to pick back up the things you might have accidentally overlooked as you sped forward; a way to reflect on the times and actions that you might have missed the relevance of in the moment all those years ago. This is our journey. Moving forward, while taking those reflective glances backward. Who the hell knows where this road leads ahead of us, but we’re pretty sure it will be a fun ride.