I’m not sure why we decide to spend the summer in New York. I want to garden and our friends need help with theirs. They have a dairy farm and plenty of space for a garden, plus space for our trailer and a few extra people. We want good, wholesome food after so many months of traveling and know we can have organic, raw milk, truly free range eggs, and grass-fed meat in addition to the organic veggies we can grow.
We visited them last fall and were enchanted by the lovely rural area without box stores, strip malls, or chain restaurants. There was Lake Champlain, the Adirondack mountains, and small “hamlets” and towns. We want to explore the idea of living in this idyllic area.
Plus, they invited us. And, we knew that we could help them with energy and labor, and they could help us with food and grounding.
So we fly from Central America back to Cleveland, move back into the trailer, and drive over to New York. It is nice to be back in the trailer. Familiar though slightly chilly in April, it is amazing how quickly we adjust back to our tiny home.
Our friends Maeve and Ben have a son Graysen’s age and he goes to a magical Waldorf school set on a historical farm on a hill with a fantastic view of the Lake Champlain Valley. The kids spend most of the day outside, jumping tree stumps, balancing on logs, and looking for frogs. Instead of yelling at the kids to line up for their hike, the teacher blows a flute and sings a song. A real-life pied piper. It is the kind of school you wish every child in America could attend, especially your own. We arrange to have the boys attend twice a week until summer break.
We set up our trailer under two enormous maple trees in the front yard of Maeve and Ben’s rented ancient farmhouse. A weeping willow and two apple trees frames a view of the Adirondack mountains out of our vestibule.
When the boys wake in the morning, they run to check for eggs and to see if Finn, their friend, is awake yet. Together they trap chickens, ride bikes, pet the calves, and check on the ducklings. By the end of the day they are all dirty and exhausted.
I throw myself into the garden and Matt throws himself into projects; building a picnic table, rebuilding a diesel tractor engine, making hay, getting and moving wood chips, running errands, and numerous other emergency projects all of us need help with. We relish the hands-on work after the winter on the sailboat. After endless hours of trying to make money online.
We love living with a like-minded family. We have dinners together and all look out for the children. There are many great conversations about a myriad of subjects. It occurs to me that farming should be a cooperative profession, that it is almost too much for one family to do by themselves. Life is easier when you have a community and everyone is helping each other out.
We entertain the thought of opening a restaurant in the former diner for sale in downtown Westport. We check out a magnificent old house on 5 acres, gutted by fire, and imagine how we could restore it to splendor. We entertain making all-beef hotdogs out of their extra young bulls or starting a creamery. There are so many ripe opportunities. Then we find a tiny stone home on half an acre, right down the street from the school. Totally affordable, but we have to act now to make it livable for this winter.
They are all tempting opportunities. Not to mention that we love the area and all the people we are meeting. After over a year and a half of traveling, we are ready for a home of our own. Not to mention, we really need an income source.
And yet there is a piece of us (ok, maybe more me) that cannot give up Alaska. For better or for worse, it is home. I miss my family and friends. I miss the rugged beauty and the quirky people. But I’m not sure if I can achieve my big goals there. I want to bring food gardening into mainstream culture in America, so that everyone is doing it and food is growing everywhere. How can I do that from my tiny “island” of Alaska.
I allow myself to let go of the “how” and focus on the big dream. Anything is possible, right? If Alaska feels like the right place for us to be, then it is. The details can be figured out later. There is no right or wrong answer to this question.