Billymead, Then and Now

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Cross stitch by Adam's cousin. Billymead is the name of his grandmother's homestead. 

I think we’ll take the window screens out this weekend. I’ve never lived in a house where that was an easy option, but here, it is, and wow how crystal clear the view becomes all winter long. It’s quite beautiful. Until then, a screen-darkened scene beyond the glass tells me that stick season is officially here. Heavy winds have stripped the few remaining leaves from maple and ash. Beech and birch holding on a bit longer. I keep saying that I don’t feel ready for what is to come - six steady months of grey and white - yet with each peel-back of summer’s layers, then autumn's, I feel more and more open to it. Almost eager to see what’s around the corner. It helps that I’ve got my indoor winter craft projects lined up in enticing succession.

I've included a few unrelated foliage photos in this post, even though they were taken two to three weeks ago. I've been without my computer for a couple of weeks, hence my absence here and my need to catch up with pretty photos. It would be a shame to roll right into winter without posting autumn's glory. 

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On our road, heading out for an early Sunday morning drive. 

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Emily, kayaking on Long Pond in Westmore, Vermont. 

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Most of the leaves were gone, but that did nothing to hinder the beauty of this place.

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The rounded formation beyond the treeline is Haystack; it can be seen from our bedroom window, thirty minutes away. 


There is something I have not mentioned, something that does not necessarily need to be shared, but doing so will help to fully tell our story in this new place we call home. Not so much the walls that hold us, but the land that does.

A few weeks before my father passed away, Adam’s grandmother, known to many of you as Grandma June, also passed away, quietly and at home. Her death came one month before her 101st birthday. My reasons for not mentioning it were twofold. One, I knew at the time that my own father’s death was imminent, and how many death notices could I put out into the world at once. Second, there is actually quite a lot about my life that I do not offer publicly, things relating to my husband’s family (and my extended family, and friends, etc) among them. I don’t know, I guess I tend to stick to things that I feel I can claim as my own. I don’t want people to walk on eggshells around me wondering if I will write about them. The good or the bad. The wise and wonderful Anne Lamott says, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” I fully support any writer who adheres to that, but I am too cautious. Granted, most of my interactions at this point in life are positive, still, I choose not to share the majority of my life experiences and observations. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I do not consider myself to be a writer. I self-sensor more than any real writer would. Stick around though, if I’m still at this gig in my eighties, I’ll probably let it all fly. Should be a real hoot.

The short story, if you are new here, is that my husband’s grandparents purchased an old abandoned Vermont farmhouse settled on 100 acres, back in the 1950’s for $350. Maybe it was $300, I can’t recall at the moment. There would be no electricity, plumbing, or phone for the next twenty-plus years, and as other surrounding parcels became available, they scooped those up too, average price being fifty cents per acre. Eventually they were stewards of nearly 400 acres. Over the years, parcels ranging from ten to seventy five acres were divided off for family and for one friend (we’ll get to who that friend is in a minute). One of those lots is where my husband’s parents built a home and where he grew up. Other lots went to his mother's two sisters and brother. Now, a generation later, Adam and I are living on the land and in the house that belonged to one of his aunts. His cousin (also of our generation) now has a bit of land here, too. Feels like the kids are coming home.

Given the close proximity of her adult children, Grandmother June was able to remain in her home all the days of her life, which was her greatest wish. She was even lighting her wood cookstove each morning, well into her late nineties. When she passed, the fabric of life up here changed for many. Adam’s aunt who we purchased our house from, along with her husband, felt it was time to move on to warmer pastures. So here we are.

The part of the story that I’ve wanted to share, and just haven't done so yet, is what became of June’s homestead. Especially as many of you have asked and I’ve mostly avoided the question. Well, it was offered to anyone in the family first, of course. The older generation had no interest, and most of the older cousins live too far away, Adam and I were the likely ones to purchase it if we were interested. It was not an easy decision to come to, but we decided to pass, and went for this house instead. I won’t tell you that we never wonder if that was the correct decision, because we do, often. But June’s house needed a lot of the “big stuff” done to it (turns out this one does too...), and although technically her land does abut the land we already owned, it is divided by a right-of-way driveway to another family member’s home. The two parcels would never quite feel joined up. We felt we should take a pass. The house we wound up purchasing does meet up with the land we already own. It all blends together much more naturally. The other reason we were able to make the decision with ease, is because we knew who the next interested buyer (beyond family) was, and we all rather liked the idea of that person becoming the new steward of Billymead.

I’ve been coming up here since I was nineteen years old, and for all of that time, as far as I can recall, a man named Alan owned a camp on the southern side of the property we now own. I think his parcel is about 25 acres, as is ours, so there is a fair amount of buffer all around. Alan, a professor of eastern religions from Pennsylvania, comes up to camp for one month each summer. His land once belonged to June. He is a wonderful friend to the family, and was especially close with June. He always admired her home, and expressed he would be interested in buying it someday, if it became available. His own (now adult) son told friends, when June passed away, that she was like a grandmother to him. He’d been coming to camp his whole childhood, and had many of his own Billymead adventures and memories.

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The original homestead and its builders. 

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After the front porch was added. The porch remains today. 


The reason I am sharing about Alan, is because it was his ancestors that originally built June’s old 1800’s farmhouse. His fondness was not mere appreciation for a bucolic Vermont farm, rather, it came from a familiarity deep within his own bloodline. If the home was not to stay within Adam’s family, Alan was next in line. So you can see how easy it was to know that if we didn’t feel it was the right place for us, it would indeed land in the hands of the person who likely needed it the most. Alan still comes up for only one month each summer, and he still owns both properties with no desire to sell his camp at this time. He is the kindest person and part-time neighbor, and he invites us to pick apples on his two properties.

In every sense of the word, the house did stay within the family, and we are now bookended on northern and southern sides with a neighbor that is here for only one month out of the year.

I hope this offers a little context about what is going on up here. I’ve been asked several times and have yet to explain. The house has been passed on, but our road name will forever hold June’s name. Alive or in memory, she will be considered the matriarch of this ridge for many years to come.

June 1Adam, Emily, Grandmother June, and a fraction of her German Shepherds.  

One final thought. Over the years, many of you have been curious about Grandma June’s personality and way of life, imaging her to be like Tahsa Tudor. I suppose maybe she was like Tasha in some ways: her ever present pack of dogs, her naturalist ways, her cooking over a wood cookstove, her legendary gardens, her spinning wool... but when I think of June, I think of Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond. Capable and strong, whip smart, sharp sense of humor, a bit proper in her mannerisms but also possessing more grit than most. June had it all, and she lived a remarkable life up here for more than half a century. It’s funny, she was older than me when she moved here, and was given another fifty years to enjoy the place. Can you imagine? What a gift that would be.

Glad to Stick Around

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It’s not every day you stop at a farmstand and have a chance to speak with the farmer who grew the food that sustains you. Usually it’s a quiet, self-serve affair. This week, while walking back to my truck after visiting one of the cutest farmstands in my area, the farmer pulled up, his truck bed filled with late season varieties to replenish the stand. It caught my eye as a mid-eighties model Ford, the same kind of truck Adam had when we started dating. The farmer’s truck was the prettiest robin’s egg blue with a hint of green.

Once parked, he hopped out and called over to me, “Hey! I want to give you something!” He approached with a funky looking gourd type thing in his hand and asked if I knew what it was. I did not, but threw out a few guesses, including a cross-pollinated mishap, a gourd, or an unusual winter squash variety... he told me it was true cantaloupe! An old variety known as Prescott Fond Blanc from Fedco. He thought I’d like to try it.

He was a tall, slender man with long greying blonde hair woven into a braid, his face half covered by a grey beard nearly as long. Our conversation trailed in a hundred directions for the next thirty minutes. I needed to get home, but he was friendly and interesting and had much to share. I don’t see as many people as I did in my former life, so I was all ears for anything this human felt like sharing.

daily mushroom hunting :: plowing, discing, then planting 50 pound bags of black oil sunflower seed every year (his farmstand is famous for their bouquets) :: raising his kids on Lake Willoughby :: the amount of traffic on his once quiet road due to the busier than ever Kingdom Trails :: passing mountain bikers on the trail with a high-powered rifle slung over his shoulder while bear hunting, and the looks he receives :: the number of ambulances he sees drive by to help the injured on the trails; "they don't talk about that much, but I see it!" :: the amount of deer now raising their families in the valley where his farm sits because their habitat has been compromised due to bike activity on the ridge :: his girlfriend owns a cafe in town and he works there - double shifts as a cook :: canning about 500 jars of jams, jellies, fruit butters, and salsa every year, sometimes working until 2am on many nights to get it all done :: hand-drawing every single label that goes on those jars - how he uses brown paper grocery bags, and fine point sharpie markers (which are “too inky” upon purchase so he rigged up a way to “wear them out a bit” on a record player for about twenty minutes before they are prime) :: the scoop on every single business and their owners in East Burke; "the guy who opened the smoothie place owns a bunch of strip clubs in Florida, which people have a lot to say about, but I think he's a good guy." :: how he doesn’t like going outside much in the winter anymore, but he put a woodstove in his barn this year so maybe he will tinker around in there :: turkeys are almost ready for him to butcher, after that he’ll only have chickens to tend over the winter; "not too bad" ::  he’s not preparing for the end of the world, but to him it makes sense to always have two years worth of seed on hand, and a bit more to share :: he’s lost a lot of weight recently and is now "skin and bones" :: how certain old time seed companies have become prohibitively expensive to buy seeds from :: the ins and outs of making crab apple jelly... and on and on.

Mostly I listened. He was full of energy and a good talker.

I glanced over at his homestead and noticed the turkey pen, the acres of sunflowers, the impeccably stacked supply of wood ready to heat his home for at least a year, maybe two. He was one of those people that you think surely has thirty hours in their day or something. How can I get in on that? I felt astounded by all this farmer/cook/hunter/artist/father/partner/forager/midnight-canner tends to in his days. I found myself hoping some of that energy was bottled up in my jar of crab apple jelly.

Through all of this, the one thing he did not talk about was the fact that he only had one arm. Not a single peep about the compromises, modifications, or limits he must face because of it. In fact, he seemed unfazed by it. Maybe it’s grit, maybe it’s lack of choice in the matter, maybe it’s deep acceptance. He seemed like the kind of guy that maybe wasn't thinking, "I only have one arm," that maybe he was thinking, "I have an arm!" I don't really know, but I was glad to stick around and get to know the man who foraged the apples, made the jelly, drew the label, and grew funky melons to share with a random passerby.  

The Hardest Work, the Sweetest Rest


Making the most of some fresh pineapple my sister grew in Florida and sent to us. 

One afternoon in late July, I looked up from mulching the potatoes to see goldenrod blooming across the field. Already? The potatoes are still flowering! I've yet to harvest a single green bean!

That, in a few sentences, sums up my first growing season in Vermont.

The longest, snowiest winter anyone here can remember, followed by the slowest, coldest, wettest spring in recent local memory, and now it seems summer would like to welcome autumn before we’ve harvested much beyond the cool crops of springtime. We do still have some time, of course, but there is no denying a shift in the air, a softening of light. This formerly southern New England girl's concern about her still mostly empty harvest basket is understandable. I'm finally beginning to appreciate the term harvest season. True harvest season. Practically happening in one fell swoop, after summer builds and builds and plants do the slow, hard work of reaching maturity before frost. In the end, some plants will shine and drown us in their fruits, while others will suggest we try again next year.  

It's not a typical summer here in northeastern Vermont, many seasoned gardeners in my region keep reminding me of this. Everyone planted late as the fields were simply too cool and too wet before mid to late June. Good luck getting a Brandywine to ripen when you plant out on June 23rd, knowing your first expected frost date is anytime after September 1st. But isn't that the thing about gardening? The relentless optimism that inflicts those of us lucky enough to feel a love for it? Hope runs eternal, as they say. 

New to me growing conditions aside, this summer has been incredible. In many ways the best of my life. Adam texted me a photo of the outside thermometer in Connecticut recently and it said 110ºF. I think in this region we’ve hit 90ºF once this summer, maybe twice. It has been glorious. 

Goldenrod at the end of July. There is a seasonal collision that happens here, so different from the lingering transitions I'm used to in Connecticut. We'd normally see goldenrod sometime in late August, signaling back to school and fair season and soon after that, apple orchards. But here, goldenrod bloomed before I picked a single cucumber, green bean, or zucchini. It feels otherworldly: How can this be? I've come to realize that if anything is worth seizing in this life, it is every precious, fleeting, Vermont Summer Day. 


Morning paddle on a pond we love. 

So here we are, our first full summer in Vermont, and the endless work is satisfying in ways I don’t think I’ve known before. The challenges are real, too; the biggest being that Adam returns to Connecticut several days each week, so I need to approach most things with just my own two hands. Needless to say, some things have progressed slower than my hibernating-wintertime-self imagined. So idealistic, she was. Still, there is a feeling of peace and quiet nostalgia to most of my days that is difficult to describe. It’s not so much nostalgia in the longing sense, but in the sense that the clock has wound back to a simpler time; a time I've been dreaming and writing about since I was 16, but have not experienced consistently until this summer. It feels as though the wisdom and skills of the women who mapped out my DNA are finally, and earnestly, coming through. They are stepping forth and showing me the way. At nearly 47 years old, I've finally been able to strip away the concrete and foul water and heavy traffic and fighter jets running reconnaissance over our suburban rooftop. That kind of chaos is not what our biology is designed for. I feel more human now.

Scout and I sat in the shade of an old apple tree on that afternoon I first noticed the goldenrod. He’d just returned from making his rounds on the ridge, saying hello to his pals and to family, and sipping from every quick running stream to and fro. I, sun-soaked and sweat-soaked from hours in the garden, wrists and forearms sore from the effort required to tame particularly tenacious weeds. Yes, retreating to the shade was just the right respite from my hard work and his grand adventure, raspberry-mint iced tea in hand. Scout lounged in the crook of my bent leg, wiggling on his back a time or two to get a good scratch from the earth, then he settled into stillness as I pet his soft ears. We sat there for about thirty minutes or so, relaxing into late afternoon, noticing the scent of goldenrod on the breeze. And near the end, I realized it was the kind of moment I find myself experiencing over and over this summer: This feels slow, like the pace of yesteryear. The hardest work, the sweetest rest.



Milkweed blossoms about to become cordial. 

In the coming days and weeks I will share more details about this new chapter in life, this new blog, and what you can expect here. And I will share about the name, North Ridge Farm. For today, I just wanted to write something, say hello, and welcome you to my new home on the web. Thank you for visiting!

She Navigates Fine by the Moon

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There is a lyric about a moth in the song this blog is named after; I’ve always felt a kinship with that little critter:


... there’s a moth outside my kitchen door

She’s bonkers for that bare bulb

Flying round in circles

Bashing in her exoskull

And out in the woods she navigates fine by the moon

But get her around a lightbulb and she’s doomed


So you can imagine my disappointment when I confess that I might be cool with bears and being alone in the dark and homemade showers and a variety of other things, but I have little tolerance for flitty moths bouncing around my bedroom at night, always of course by the reading lamp beside my head. This is not a phobia, but an absolute irritation, not unlike the drip of a leaky faucet or even nails on a chalkboard.

Tonight I added something new to my short list of irritating nighttime disturbances: listening to mice in the walls of a tiny camper. Mice in the walls of a house? Not so bad. But a tiny camper? No way.

Fortunately there hasn’t been moths inside the camper yet, it just came to mind as I sit here typing by headlamp, serenaded by a merry band of busy mice in the walls who are incessantly chewing and scurrying at a rate so annoying that I’ve spent the last five minutes thinking of various torture methods that would feel more pleasurable to my nervous system than listening to their non-verbal banter. Phew. Felt good to get all that out in one sentence. Mice in the walls at home don’t bother me, but here, it’s just so freaking close I cannot tell you how much this is under my skin. Wish I could hang out with that bear right about now. 

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On Grandma June’s 90th birthday (9 1/2 years ago) I asked her what it took to make a life up here. Not financially, but emotionally. Spiritually. How does one create a vibrant life in a place so quiet, with so few “things” to do, at least according to societal standards. I’ll never forget her answer: You have to want for very little, and your expectations will need to shift. If you can do that you'll be fine. Also, surround yourself with animals, friends and family if you can, and take the time to enjoy all of this fresh air. 

What struck me most was her immediate proclamation of wanting for very little. You can’t do this, and that. Second, she knew the importance of surrounding herself with positive things that were within her control: animals, friends, and family. (Rumor has it the soirees on this ridge back in the day were legendary.) I don’t recall her mentioning it,  but her gardens were up there in importance with animals, friends, and family. Prettiest, most productive gardens you ever did see. And finally, what is it all worth if you’re not taking the time to feel your place here, and enjoy the fresh air. 

Now I’m thinking, who am I to be irritated, ungracious, put out by these mice. Seems I just showed up here a few weeks ago and as far as I can tell, this tin can of a dwelling was placed smack in the center of their friendly mouse turf. Funny thing is, they don’t seem to be the ones who mind sharing, in fact they’re quite pleased with the addition of this freshly insulated camper at their disposal. Heck, they’d probably high five me if they could. Maybe I should stop being irritated, and instead just want for very little. Who says my walls have to be quiet?

Anyway. I took a walk today, a two mile loop along dirt roads here on the ridge. Really nice that it brings you right back around with new scenery the whole way. I watched two turkey hens walking their broods across the road in orderly fashion, each set of hatchlings hovering close to their respective mothers. It occurred to me that I’d never seen this before: two mama hens together with their kiddos, going about their day in community,  surrounding themselves with friends. It was a great moment. After that, I came back to camp, took a shower, then headed to the farmers market and picked up supplies for the next few days. I joined Uncle Jeff and Aunt Johanna for dinner at their place and it sure was a treat after the handful of dried apples I’ve been having the last few nights. Which sounds pathetic, I realize, but it’s not. I like dried apples and they don’t create any dishes. But I sure was reminded of how delicious dinner can be once I stepped into Aunt Johanna’s kitchen. And then, I came home and well, you’ve already heard how the rest of the night played out. 

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The pictures in this post are from my walk earlier today; look who I found hanging out by his favorite logging crew. Sure would be nice if he came up here and told the mice in my walls to beat it. Not that they’d listen. Mice sure do have a lot of attitude for such little creatures. Good thing I’ve evolved and now want for very little (note to self). 

There is an unexpected comfort to these photos, being that I’m here alone, and that comfort is seeing him imprinted in each and every one. “I used to ride my dirt bike all over these mountains. Seems so long ago... We skied down the toll road in the winter. It was always a great run... The school bus picked us up here. It’s far from the house so the man who built these stone walls allowed us to stash our bicycles behind the wall while we were at school. He built all of these by hand, even wrote a book about it. He used to live in a house right there, but it burned down.”

To me, he is everywhere.


I guess my bear friend heard my telepathic call last night and he returned this morning. Careful what you wish for and all that. This bear, as I imagine most bears do, really makes himself known which I appreciate. Heavy on his feet, and of course the unmistakable heavy breathing that sounds as if he’s spent the last two days practicing intensive pranyama. A real master. I got to thinking about how Grandma June, just a parcel of land away, has lived here on her own for decades, without much disturbance from the bears that roam these woods. How did she keep them at a respectable distance? And then I remembered.




Right. She always had a dog or five beside her. So Ozzy and his compatriots aren’t just here for their good looks. What kind of bear would attempt to penetrate this crew? Surround yourself with animals... (and friends... and family.)

And want for very little. 

No Schedule, No Expectations

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Adam took Scout for a walk in the woods this morning and encountered a swarm of horseflies reminiscent of an unearthed bees nest. It’s a hot and muggy one out there, to say the least. The horseflies are very happy and hungry. On the bright side, who needs a sauna when you have... well... life! It will begin to shape up again mid-August, with the promise of cool evening breezes and crisp mornings. Soon.

Emily and I are going to hit the road in a few weeks for a little adventure. We’ll throw backpacks and tents in the car and drive north. There will be some time up on our land, but the real point of the trip is to visit some of our old haunts before we settle in place in the Northeast Kingdom. Sure, we’ll always venture out to our favorite trails and forests across the state, but with the wanderlust fading, we feel like a trip in the spirit of “how things used to be” is in order.  

Adventuring throughout the state of Vermont is our family story. It holds the greatest number of memories, and the most beautiful experiences. And while I don’t see the adventure coming to an end, it is indeed changing. Now, there is a piece of earth with our name on it. The wandering and searching and dreaming phase to the journey is winding down, and the creating place chapter has begun. Lately I’ve been feeling the need for one last hurrah. And so, we’re packing the car and planning to get lost for awhile. No schedule, no expectations.  

We are closing in on Birdy’s move to our land, the outhouse is being built and will be in place in just a few weeks, and the hot shower I can’t seem to stop talking about is designed and ready to rig up. And then... a small cabin. Which may not happen before the snow flies, but then again, maybe it will. It sure would be great if it did, so I’m definitely staying open to the possibility. I think if it comes down to available time though (which it always seems to come down to these days), I’d prefer to use our time to ready the land for spring planting and save the cabin for next year. But man it sure would be great to head up during the winter and settle in for a stretch of snowy days. Until then, we camp. Spontaneously throughout the state at first, then we’ll put down roots at our place. It's still all about patience, but then again, it's been about patience for the last twenty years. Why change it up now? We're just getting good at it.

If Not Full Time, What Then?

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Your words of support and encouragement on my last post have meant the world to us, thank you for being so generous! It feels good to finally share our news, mostly because my writing has been incredibly blocked for months now by keeping this one aspect of our life secret when truly, it is the most exciting thing we have going on. Writing around the story of our land has been a challenge, but now I hope to find myself writing through it more and more.

Because I’m an idea person, perhaps a logical place to start writing is by sketching out the big picture. What do we see for ourselves on this land? I shared in my last post that we've retired the idea (for now) of living in Vermont full time. I suppose that begs the question, if not full time, what then?

We are not fancy people. A "weekend home" is far above our means. Instead, what we're going for is one cost of living divided between two places. That may sound a little unusual, but I'm sure crazier ideas have found their way into the world.

Adam and I are both 42 years old. As Ben said in our recent interview, “We’re not old by any means – I’m 43 and Penny is 47 – but we’re old enough that we can imagine being old.” I get this!! At our age, it’s time to get on with this thing called life and stop waiting for “someday” or “the perfect time.” Like most couples, early in our relationship we felt like our whole lives were ahead of us, there was no rush. Back then I couldn’t imagine being a senior citizen! Now I know for certain that I’ll wake up someday soon and our mailbox will be filled with notices from AARP.

It’s time to start crafting the life we are meant to live.

Coming to the conclusion that we’ll maintain a residence in Connecticut was not easy. After all, we’ve spent twenty years plotting our departure. Did you know Connecticut is one of the leading states in the nation for “residents wanting to leave the sate?” Taxes are crippling, jobs scarce, and if you’re outdoor adventure loving people like us... well, Connecticut is tiny (and waterways are not clean). It’s hard to get a full day hike in around here without crossing a main road or private property, let alone multi-day backpacking trips. “Wilderness” and “Connecticut” do not exactly go together. Speaking of wilderness, beside the large swath of family land in Vermont lies an 8,000 acre, wild and free as can be state forest. And of course more land, lakes and mountains beyond that. The White Mountains are also a short car ride away, so much of that range will be available to us for day hikes and beyond. (I know! Pinch me!)

(To be clear, we are naturally grateful for life in general, no matter the location. Even more so when it is filled with health and happiness.)

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We’ll keep a few roots in Connecticut, but look forward to planting our deepest roots up north. More than just a weekend getaway, we see ourselves sharing time between the two places. It won’t happen overnight, but that is currently the vision. In the coming years, it is likely that Adam will be able to structure his work week so only 3-4 days need to be spent in the office, allowing for more flexible living. My work is independent of geographic location, so there may be times when I’m up north building gardens, writing workshops and creating recipes while breathing in that green mountain air; just waiting for Adam to join me on the days he isn’t in the office. After nearly 20 years of marriage, we continue to mature as a couple and as individuals. No longer do I feel like my life will end if we are apart for a couple of nights each week. In fact, two years ago he took a break from full time law practice to be the full time homeschool parent while I worked more. It was great for a lot of reasons, but in the end, we were together all the time and I really missed missing him. We were always together! Together is good, but solitude is also good. And solitude can feel elusive when you’re together 24/7. I love time together as well as time apart, and I especially love the anticipation of being together again. Oh! And I really love the hour before he comes home in the evening... waiting, excited to see him and catch up on our days. I missed that when we were always together. So, we’ll float between Connecticut and Vermont, with perhaps me spending a couple more nights a week up north than Adam. Of course, none of this is in stone, but it feels like it might work out in such a way.

And Emily? It’s hard to believe how much change is on the horizon for our family, she will be 18 in less than one year! We are about to enter a new chapter of living - less hands on parenting, more freedom and independence for all. College, travel, new adventures... who knows! Still lots of facilitating and support on the parenting front, but it will not look the same as during her younger years. My biggest job over the next several years will be learning to go with the flow. To be open to change rather then resist it. Virgo that I am, order, predictability, and structure are places of comfort. Adam can roll with anything - I intend to study his ways and learn as much as I can from him. He is definitely the family guru in this department.

Our plan for the Connecticut leg of this journey is to do it as inexpensively as possible. As mentioned above, the goal is one cost of living divided between two places. That is really the most realistic way for us to pull off dual living (however "dual living" may look in the end). Our Connecticut roots might remain planted here in the home we currently live, or somewhere else entirely. All of that remains to be seen... which sounds so very “go with the flow” of me! 


I guess if I could sum up my current vision for Vermont, it would be to slowly and carefully create a sanctuary deep in the woods. A homestead that does not feel of this century, and perhaps not even of the last century. A place that if a stranger happened upon it, they would feel certain Tasha Tudor or Ma Ingalls once lived there. A place to exhale, to work hard, and to be born again. Only time will tell how closely we arrive to fulfilling this vision, and I’m sure it will evolve along the way. All I know is how ready we are to get on with this life... there’s been enough dreaming, it’s time to start living.

A Piece of Vermont

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Real estate listing photos from the property Adam grew up on. This is where I fell in love with Vermont. Not a bad view for washing dishes, right? (I'm not linking to the actual listing for privacy reasons... this is the only property on the ridge of family land that is no longer owned by someone in the family.)

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We left Connecticut in the late afternoon, heading north. It was my first time going to his family home and I was excited to connect with the place I'd heard of only through stories and memories shared. At some point in the trip I fell asleep, lying across the bench seat of the old Ford pickup with my head resting on Adam's lap. As we got closer, nighttime at this point, he gave me a little nudge to wake up, to see the stars. My eyes opened. Without sitting up, I looked through the windshield toward the sky and looking back at me were the brightest, biggest stars I had ever seen. I felt like I was floating among them! Sparkly, glittery stars filling the pure black night sky. They just don't make stars like that in Connecticut. I was a goner. That was nearly 25 years ago. 

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Vermont has been my home ever since. We've hiked countless miles, pitched tents and carried backpacks. We've seen concerts, paddled canoes, sampled our way through beer factories, and supported farmers. All the while, there has been one sole purpose to our visit - to feel connected to place. Clean air, clean water, clean trails... what may be scarce in Connecticut, is abundant in Vermont. We even moved there for a short time after we were married. But being a young couple, still working on college and "career" building, it was limiting. And so we returned to Connecticut with a promise to be back. On the morning of our departure, after packing the moving truck, the last thing we did was hike up the local mountain for a final look at the valley below. Dotted with green trees, mountains in the distance, winding rivers, and old New England homes, it was my idea of perfection. That was nearly 20 years ago.

We've been trying to get back ever since. 

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If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you'll remember the many false starts we experienced in doing so. We looked all over the state... content with just about any location... just get us there. But over and over, things fell through. To name a few, there was the contract that didn't work out; a hurricane seriously damaging a village just one week after our visit to look at properties; both of our cars dying (kaput) one week after a resumed land search in which we found a couple of serious contenders (nothing like replacing two cars at once to drain the savings); arriving to see a cabin that had been listed forever only to have the realtor tell us it went under deposit that very morning. 

We never gave up on the dream. Logic would have told us to back burner the whole thing, but I don't exactly specialize in logic. Although to be clear, there were plenty of moments in which we fully recognized the absurdity of it all and noted that surely the universe had other plans for us. Then we'd put our hands over our ears and say la la la la la... I'm not listening! Because we are very mature. 

As much as I'd be happy with an acre of land just over the Vermont border, my deepest connection to the state has always been felt in the Northeast Kingdom, where Adam grew up. The place where I became smitten with the stars and mountains and rolling farmland and dirt roads and set-apart feeling. Man, I love that place.

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This past summer Adam was about to click "purchase" on a four day getaway for my birthday to some funky, woodsy place in Vermont. He literally had filled out all the information, debit card number was entered, etc. We were one step away from purchasing something that wasn't exactly cheap, and would be completely over with nothing to show for it in four days time. I asked him to "WAIT! Hang on! Don't click purchase!

What if we took the money we were about to spend on this trip and pool it with the small savings we'd been rebuilding since replacing two cars at once... could we buy a little something? Just one acre would be fine! A place to pitch a tent and call our own... is there a way? He did not click "purchase." We closed the vacation website, then hit up once again, searching for anything cheap. And north. The further north the better. Oh, and cheap. Did I mention cheap?

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Before I go any further, I'll share that our plans for Vermont have changed a bit over this past year. No longer do we see ourselves living there full time, at this point. Last spring Adam accepted an offer of partnership at the law firm he's worked at for five years. Let me tell you, the number one factor in our decision making when considering the position was indeed the commitment to Connecticut residency. That was a hard one. If you are in our age demographic, you likely understand what it means to be over-educated and under-employed. For him to get an opportunity like this is a rarity in today's job market. To get another opportunity for something similar, especially in rural Vermont, is unlikely. Furthermore, he really likes his job and the people he works with. All of these things would be hard to duplicate. And let's not forget, those six figure student loans (as much regret as we may have about acquiring them) do not pay themselves. Solid, secure employment matters. It's not the only thing that matters, but it does matter. Deciding to stay in Connecticut and accept this position was not an easy decision, but it was absolutely the right one.

So, while I may have spent a couple decades dreaming about life in Vermont, I have since tempered that dream with the needs of my partner. We're in this together.

Anyway, back to and our search for the cheapest yet most amazing piece of land in the Northeast Kingdom. 

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We found a property in the very town Adam grew up in. It seemed too cheap. The pictures looked pretty good, but I know how we can use our cameras to create the best angle. We called Adam's aunt to ask if she knew of the property and of course she did ("small town" is an understatement). She told us it was a rough piece of land that was basically one very steep incline and would be difficult to use.

Then the heavens opened and she mentioned that she and her husband might like to sell us some of their land. They are retired now and do not use the entire property any longer. To sell some, keeping it within the family, and maybe support a little snowbird dream of their own could be a win-win for all. It basically took us all of two seconds to say YES!!

To settle on family land, where aunts, uncles, cousins and Adam's grandmother all have properties connected across the north ridge, is the perfect ending to pretty much the only dream I've had for my entire adult life. Vermont is my bucket list. 

I've been keeping this on the down low for months and months. We had an agreement and shook hands and said "let's do this" way back in September. Then, before we could sign on the dotted line, we had to demonstrate all the patience in the world as the deal passed through town zoning, then we waited for the surveyor, etc. It was all fine, and there were no major surprises, it was just a slow process. They don't feel the need to rush things up there.

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After years of almost making something happen, then having it not work out, we decided to keep our lips sealed until we were indeed the proud owners. (Well, Adam's lips are always sealed, it was me that decided to keep quiet.) I can finally share that we now call a piece of Vermont our own!! Twenty acres of mixed woods with a gentle slope, southeastern exposure, and a fresh water spring. For now, it's the perfect place to pitch a tent, stare at the sky, and sob like a baby over the good fortune of it all. Who knows, someday soon there might even be a cozy cabin, soup simmering on a wood cookstove, with quilts, books, knitting, and foraging baskets piled all around.

Over the last several months we've made quite a few visits to the land that would become ours, and of course I spent some of that time with camera in hand. All of the pictures in this post (pictures from Adam's boyhood property aside), were taken on our land, or on the road the property is located.

Our land! Twenty acres! In Vermont!

Dreams are good, friends. Never giving up on them? Well, that's even better. xo


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I thought of leaving the french press at home. It's only one night, I told myself. But at the last minute I changed my mind and grabbed it - along with maple syrup, cream, and coffee as we headed out the door.

Checking the forecast also wasn't too high on my list. There wasn't really any kind of weather that would keep us home. We knew heading to northern Vermont in December meant snow gear and wool so it was to be packed regardless of the forecast.

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Well, did we turn out to be prepared! A snowstorm moved in during our drive up Friday night, increasing with each northbound mile. The final approach to the inn was sparkly white against the headlights, our room key was waiting on the front desk as the inn keepers had long ago retired for the evening. We settled in ourselves. The next morning, we woke up to the most beautiful snowfall one could ask for. The young lady working the front desk told me the snow was expected to fall throughout the entire day... I booked another night (safety first, right?)... she told me there were sleds and snowshoes for us to enjoy... I told her we were headed to the north ridge to visit family, but maybe later.

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Lately I've been trying to recall the "center of town" that Adam grew up in. I know I've been through it countless times over the years, but did I miss something? Is there a market? A gas station? A hardware store? A stoplight? So, on the way to his aunt and uncle's house Adam drove us through the town center for a little refresher. Well... just as the small town saying goes - if you blink, you'll miss it. And in case you blinked, I can tell you that you missed the grange hall, the small elementary school (Adam helped build the stone wall in front as a young boy), and the town hall building. That is entirely it.

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We had such a nice visit with Adam's family. Before we left to carefully make our way back to the inn, we decided to take a walk in the woods. At one point, Adam and Scout went off in one direction while Emily headed off for another. I, wrapped up in my near ankle length down coat, fell down into the snow and leaned up against a huge boulder. I wanted to be still, and soak it in. For some reason I started thinking about how some people have never experienced the silence of a snowstorm. No matter where you live, be it in the city or the country, snow has a way of making everything more quiet. If you happen to be in a place that is quiet on a sunny day, the silence of a snowy day is deafening.

As I sat against the rock, cozy and dry in my coat (that is essentially a sleeping bag you can walk in), I started to hear a soft distant sound. A gentle yet persistent, thump, thump, thump.  For about ten seconds I couldn't figure out for the life of me what I was hearing. The world felt silent and still, my breath slow and quiet. What could it be? And then I realized... the only sound I could hear in those snowy sugar woods, was the sound of my own heartbeat.

My own heartbeat.  

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 I thought about that moment for the rest of the day. Over maple smoked cheddar, over tomato bisque with fresh herbs and chevre, over wine, over reading my favorite passage from Green Mountain Farm to Adam and Emily.

I was in a world so utterly silent... that all I could hear was my own heartbeat.

Rested and Content

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Scenes from our Vermont weekend, visiting my favorite place on this green earth. The place that I know I overly romanticize, but when you love something as deeply as I love these green mountains, how else will you talk about it? Winding dirt country roads, New England history, and deep blue skies are home to me. Whether I physically live here or simply visit on occasion, I've been deeply connected to this land for over twenty years. A feeling of connection to place that has never been experienced anywhere else.

We went pretty far north this weekend, where the foliage was past its peak (but still quite amazing) and many trees were bare. Wood piles were stacked high, and wood smoke was in the air. We woke up to frost. I roasted vegetables and made hot chocolate. We walked in the woods and found a fallen tree with two burls - bowls just waiting to be revealed.

Our time up north could always be longer, but it was healing nonetheless.

Feeling rested and content, I begin a new week back here in Connecticut. I may live here, but it's nice to know my true home is only a car ride away. Until next time.

Barren Highways, God is in the Apples

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We've been going up to Vermont quite a bit this summer. Some trips are longer than others, but each is filled with deep blue skies, green mountains, and quiet highways. The back roads are of course very quiet to travel on, but coming from Connecticut (where I am known to go 20 minutes out of my way just to avoid most of our highways), the barren Vermont highways are a dream.

This past weekend we found ourselves at a farm located far down a dirt road. They sold "sprightly" apple cider in half gallon mason jars at the farm store, which was beautiful and you paid for your goods on the honor system. It turns out this farm is where the movie The Cider House Rules was filmed. We could see why they chose it, such an idyllic location. (Pictured above.)

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The leaves are starting to change and I do feel a few more trips north on the horizon. There are many farms up there that do not spray their apple orchards which is near impossible to find down here. Crossing two state lines for a few bushels of chemical free apples is reasonable in my mind, I've been known to do crazier things. Although the idea of sourcing safe food as a pilgrimage (which is how it feels to me) does sound a little unusual when you say it out loud.  Finding God in a pesticide-free apple orchard? Surely I'm not the only one.