By Clotilde Hryshko
[Clotilde runs a farm near my father-in-law’s house in central Vermont. I drive over and buy whatever she has when I’m there, and it’s always amazing. (I’m still using garlic and potatoes she sold me in December.) She works the farm with her husband Jim and two daughters. (And those kids work!) When she’s not farming, parenting, or cooking, she teaches at Vermont Technical College. And we’re lucky enough to have her as a weekly contributor here at mb.com. – mb]
In less than a month, Jim and I will have lived in the same place for 20 years. At the time, the field was plowed to the road, the backyard a semi-circle that protected some rhubarb and the leach field. That Memorial Day Weekend, Jim built a stone wall off our front porch that sits twenty feet from a state highway. I spent the weekend putting in our vegetable garden and the start of a flower garden. When we when back to our day jobs on the Tuesday, we were naievely satisfied with our progress.
Summer commenced and we continued to work outside: That’s why we bought the place. We’d walked the land many times, examining the soil, checking the quality of the sugar maples, verifying that we could have a swimming hole – and digesting our first impressions. The land was our interest; the 15 minutes we’d spent walking through the house was enough to know that we weren’t buying it for the interior luxuries.
That fall commenced with two puppies and continued with a wedding, which we paid for with a bushel of potatoes. Our first gardening season ended, and we had our first frost the last week of October. We haven’t had such a warm fall since; the intervening 19 winters have really educated us about the realities of the climate at our farm. Wind and hard frosts in the spring are the norm; cool nights and warm days make our summer; and the turn of the weather in fall is exaccerbated by the quickening pace at which the daylight hours shorten.
We’ve learned what to plant, too: The combination of our climate, soil, topography, and personal appetites determines the mix of vegetables that appears at our table. Tonight, Jim’s and my salad will contain lettuces, arugula, and grated beets from last fall. Our eldest daughter’s will be just lettuce; our yougest’s only arugula.
Our new dogs, barely a year old, love to use last years Brussels sprout stalks as chewies. We pick them up, annoyed and not; the place looks good, and we want it that way, but we’re aware of more than the aesthetics.
Twenty years, and our history is so visible – a farm and a business, a yard and gardens, parenthood, community members, and all the more private relationships. It’s easier to pick up the Brussels sprout stems, and laugh at how we’ve become “middle class.” (Photos by Marya Merriam)