Down on the Farm

July 10 – “This is not my beautiful house…”
July 11, 2009, 2:48 am
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Ok, so it’s been, what, a month or so since my last post? So probably no one is reading it anymore, but I figure I can get some details of our move down on “paper” and direct people here if they ask about it.

Michael will tell you all the almost-calamities that happened with the closing, but I think I’ve done a good job of staying positive and focused, for the most part. We didn’t get the best mortgage rate, because the rates spiked upward just inside of our 30-day lock period. And we almost didn’t get the money wired to the lawyer’s office in time. But we did close on time… June 26.

The plan for me, during that week, was to fly to Connecticut, attend 3 job interviews, close on the house, run a bunch of errands (emissions, registration & new drivers license; open a bank account; get a library card). And then meet up with Sean, the eager guy who’s married to Michael’s niece, who we hired to rip out all the carpeting in the house.

Well, while driving to the closing, I get a phone call from some big insurance company, making me a job offer.  But I was really super interested in the small non-profit job, and it turns out they had e-mailed me to set up a second interview. Instead of running errands after the closing, I raced from Hartford to Mom’s house in Fairfield, did a quick-change into a suit, and dashed off to Westport. The interview went well, and I set up a third interview, by phone, with the company president for Monday.

The carpet-ripping-upping was slow-going for Sean. His friends weren’t able to come with him to help out, he didn’t have exactly the right tools, and there ended up being a billion and one tacks. Sometime around 1:30 a.m., Sean surrendered and went home. But when the wood floor finishers arrived the next morning, they had some handy devices to finish the job pretty quickly.

So…back to Chicago for the final few days of packing.

We managed to stay pretty well focused and organized, labeling boxes, keeping similar things together. We ate at Cousin’s Incredible Vitality one last time, went to Millennium Park for one final free concert (The Feelies, a great show, even for me, who doesn’t know their music that well).

Michael will find this hard to believe, but I really didn’t have any sense that I would miss Chicago. And now, I’m so busy, I’m not thinking about it at all. There are a few people I hope to see again — coworkers, some theatre folks, our friend & fellow Red Sox fan Russell.

penske-truckAnyway… the move itself went very smoothly. The guys who loaded up our rental truck almost didn’t get everything in. And we did, in fact, have to leave the exercise bike behind. But the rest got tightly packed in the 26′ Penske. The weather held up for most of the trip. We stayed overnight in some Microtel in western PA. Drove through one bad rain storm, and then hit MASSIVE traffic in New York. The mile leading up to the George Washington bridge, and the entire way into Connecticut, until we got through Bridgeport, was stop and go. THREE hours. We actually had to make a pit stop in Greenwich, because we had no idea how much longer it would take to get to our new home.

This is the last time we move on the Thursday before a holiday weekend!

So now we’re pretty much all unpacked in the house. Michael has acclimated to his home office, although the kitchen still takes some getting used to. He keeps reaching for things and not knowing where they are. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Plumber and electrician are at the top of the list. Cosmetic stuff can wait. Our friend Rick is bringing over an extra bureau so I have someplace to stow my sweaters.

Oh, and I hope to borrow a lawnmower in the near future. It’s getting scary in the yard. I need to do some major weeding & pruning.

Meantime, I also started a job — the non-profit in Westport. Newman’s Own Foundation. It’s a small office, but we share

Buy my salad dressing! And marinara

Buy my salad dressing! And marinara!

some of the space with Newman’s Own, Inc., which has a crazy big kitchen, as well as a billiard table. (I need to find out if it’s the same table that was used in The Hustler.)

First three days of work went well, although my boss is in crisis mode, working with an IT company to fix a load of issues that have come up with a recent migration to a new server.  But even with all the “fires” at work, I felt pretty comfortable there.

The commute isn’t too bad — the drive takes anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes, because, well, it’s I-95, and you never know what you’re gonna get. But I’ve also looked at taking the train (Metro North). It’s pretty inexpensive, and Michael could drive me to the New Haven train station, then once in Westport, there’s a bus that will drop me just a few blocks from where I work. We’ll see how it goes. It would definitely save on gas, wear-and-tear on the car, and would also allow Michael to use the car for errands during the week.

I guess that’s enough news for now… We’ll take some time to get settled in, get used to the new town, new job, etc. And maybe one or two new updates when the mood hits…

June 6 – I’m on my way…
June 6, 2009, 3:03 pm
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This is my final post from the farm, and I have about 15 minutes to get it done before my ride gets here. Then I hop a flight back to Chicagcta_blue_line_train_in_chicagoo, where I’m told it’s rainy. And where I have to take the train to the bus to get home, because our one car will be sitting in Connecticut.

Anyhoo… It’s a beautiful day here. I’ve finished packing. (Most of my stuff is stacked in a common room of the house, waiting for me to drive it to our new home in a few weeks.) At 6:45 this morning, I took a nice

The trail behind the farm

The trail behind the farm

final hike through the woods behind our house. Just finished a cup of tea. My housemates have all said their goodbyes and gone off to do their weekend activities. So it’s nice to have these few minutes of solitude, listening to the birds sing out side the open kitchen door.

Final thoughts on my time here, in no particular order:

Farm life is not the life for me. I could do it if I had to, but the planting part of the season is tedious and is not as good a workout as I had hoped for. (I’ve gained a good bit o’weight here.)

The people involved in farming, however, are awesome. Everyone has a great attitude, and there’s a communal feeling of, “We’re all in this together, and making the world a better place by feeding it.” I think that’s what I am drawn to about farming, but, as with many of my interests, the actual work is a drag!

I did not have nearly as much free time as I had hoped for. I drove out to Connecticut with a car full of camping gear, art supplies, crossword puzzles, books… And nearly everything sat in my room, untouched, for 8 weeks.

I did, however, enjoy lots of time with friends, which was great, and my family, and housemates. So this was not by any means lost time. Also, in about 3 weeks, I located a house for us to buy. I think that must be close to record time. I must say, I’m very proud of myself, and looking forward to a successful move and not too many unforeseen expenses!

Actually, what I am truly looking forward to is having our first cookout on the deck and inviting people over. If you’re reading this, and you’re in Connecticut, you can expect an invite!

I may follow up from Chicago with more house, move, and job interview news, but for now…


May 25 – “This is the Dawning of the Age of Asparagus”
May 26, 2009, 3:10 am
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It was too good not to use as the title of a post… Last Wednesday, I missed the weekly group dinner on the farm so that I could see my niece’s final presentation for her fashion design class. The next day, as my housemates recounted the fabulous grilled veggies I had missed, Devorah sang her new song (Age of Asparagus).

Not ever to be outdone, the next day, when Devorah got excited over her new stash of granola from Whole Foods, I sang to the tune of “Lola” (La-la-la-Granola). OK, not as catchy, but still good for a chuckle.

Today was, alas, a workday, even though it was a holiday for most people. But we got a lot done – weeding plants, seeding lettuce, and, for me, starting to clean the fridge-of-no-return. Awhile back, Sam had turned off a refrigerator that still contained jars of kimchi and other yummy stuff, some of which had spilled. Later, I had opened the fridge to discover about an inch-thick mold growing on the bottom shelf. Today I began the arduous task of cleaning. (The only reason I didn’t finish was because I lacked some basic tools, like gloves and paper towels.)

So now that I have some implements purchased from Stop & Shop, I can finish my enviable job… OK, well, actually I do enjoy doing stuff like that. The dirty jobs nobody else wants. I may also get to do another fun job, one that actually *is* fun – sign painting for the start of the season. Hey, I can finally put some of my creative talents to use!

It’s Only Money

I’m always telling Michael that money is not the most important thing in life, don’t freak out over our stocks & the economy, etc. Well, I had to – excuse the phrase – put my money where my mouth is. Last Thursday, while driving back from the mortgage lender’s office in West Hartford, the car lost power. Completely. As luck would have it, I knew there was a CITGO at the bottom of the hill I was on, so I coasted into the station and called for a tow. And yes, of course, it was the “worst case” scenario. Transmission. Estimate to rebuild it is between $2300-2700. Right after we’ve put a deposit on a house, paid for inspection, and getting ready to close in a few weeks. So I hyperventilated for awhile, lamented that Michael was in Italy and not easily reached, and then started laughing. Fate was testing me and my easy-going attitude about money. Fate wins, every time. But I’ve recovered my equilibrium. We will get the car fixed, and move on to the next exciting part of our journey.

Ha. Ha.

May 20 – Thinning the Herd
May 21, 2009, 3:56 am
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They all look alike, don't they?

They all look alike, don't they?

Most of this week has been spent in conversations I don’t understand (ok, don’t *want* to understand) about mortgages. I ask for fees from one guy, but they don’t include the same services as the next guy. I’m comparing apples to oranges. Then a third guy asks if we’re doing a 30-day lock, and my head spins as I head to the computer to find out what that means and why I should care. (FYI, if you lock in an interest rate more than 30 days in advance of your closing, you pay extra fees. But many places don’t tell you that, because it’s easy money for them.)

So after placing calls to at least 9 lenders, I narrowed the choices down to the 3 most informative and responsive guys. (Are all mortgage brokers men?) And with Michael being in Italy and keeping his cell phone off most of the time, I turned to good ol’ mom for advice.

But between you and me, all these lenders are kinda the same.

In the end, I think I’ve decided, with mom’s help, on the one who’s least expensive, who was recommended by a friend.

Makes me wish I could’ve spent the day thinning plants instead of brokers. I did work outside for parts of the day – it was beautiful – sunny and about 80 degrees. So I’d make a few phone calls, run to the field to plant some lettuce, run back up to check e-mail and grab a snack, and then back to the field. I missed the thinning of the plants – which looked like pretty tedious work – but maybe Thursday will be a little calmer for me, and I can focus on the great outdoors again.

May 18 – Mission Accomplished: Home Sweet Home
May 18, 2009, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
Ain't It Sweet?

Ain't It Sweet?

We finally did it – found a house that fits our parameters and is in decent shape and is in our price range! It does need a little work and some tweaking to make it our own, plus we have to see how the inspection goes on Tuesday afternoon. But otherwise, we’re good to go.

The low-down: As you can see, it’s a colonial, with a porch in front, plus a deck in back, 3 bedrooms and bath upstairs, 1 bedroom and bath downstairs. Gas stove, hardwood floors (under the carpeting, which will soon be removed), 2-car garage, small private yard.

The basement is unfinished, but someday I think it’d be great to make half of it into a rec room for exercise or whatever.

The tough assignment for this week is: settling on a mortgage company. I have calls in to a number of people, but am waiting to hear back from some or to get more complete answers from others. I never realized how many fees are involved, so you really need to be vigilant, not just about the mortgage rate but the service fee, other fees, and points (paying extra to get a lower rate).

And on top of all this excitement, I am still job hunting. Today I had an interview, which I think went well, but they are talking to many people, so I may not hear anything for awhile. Also, I am re-working my resume to make it more “hip” – as per my friend Jerry’s advice. And Jerry is one of those people who is always right, so I tend to listen to him!

So…what does all of this have to do with being Down on the Farm? Not much, I’m afraid. I have not been putting much time and effort into my volunteer gig in the past week. I feel bad about that, because there is always so much to be done. But Sam (the farmer) has been very understanding about my priorities. And so have my housemates, the apprentices. I am hoping, though, to be able to string together a few more full days of work sometime in the next two weeks, before I leave.

There’s not much new to report about the work on the farm anyway. We are still planting seeds in trays, in the greenhouse, although that has slowed down a lot. And we are still transplanting from the trays to the fields – bok choy, kale, lettuce… Sam has procurred the use of a new field, about two miles away from the farmhouse, so the apprentices have been prepping the fields, and I’ve been there twice to help with transplanting.

I guess the only other news of note is that Erin hit the not-so-broad side of the barn with a tractor. She took a nice chunk of wood out of the doorframe. But in all fairness, the tractor is rather large and hard to maneuver. And I think Erin is just a little bit proud of leaving her mark on the farm.

If there is any other news to report this week, I’ll put up another post. Otherwise, check back next week!

May 11 – Time to Take Time
May 12, 2009, 2:47 am
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As you can tell, the frequency of my posts is declining. It doesn’t mean I’ve run out of things to say. More like I’ve grown too stressed and busy to prioritize the blog writing. I feel bad, but I finally put my foot down this weekend and decided to take time for myself when I need it, and that means spending less time at the computer.

Sunday was a glorious day… although it started with a cell phone that wouldn’t work. But I took a trip to the AT&T store in West Hartford (take the battery out, put it back in, voila, the phone works), spent some time returning phone calls, spent a lot of money at Trader Joe’s, took a nice long hike on the trails behind the farm, and baked banana bread.

It was also my weekend to watch the greenhouse. I was concerned, because I had not had greenhouse duty yet. But it was super easy… Open the doors if it’s sunny outside. Water the plants once or twice if they’re dry. That’s it!

So… taking time for myself was a good decision. Plus, it’s been sunny the past two days, which goes a long way towards putting me in an “up” mood.

My first ever pizza attempt... not bad!

My first ever pizza attempt... not bad!

The rest of the week looks busy, though, so this will likely be the only post of the week. Tonight I made PIZZA for the first time ever. The recipe was tweaked from Michael’s methods, accommodating the different tools & ingredients at my disposal. But my housemates ate almost everything and were complimentary, and I have to agree the pizzas weren’t bad. (spinach w/pine nuts, and artichoke/tomato with garlic & fresh oregano)

Tuesday night, our friend Rick is helping me look at houses. Wednesday, Rick is having the farm staff over for a group dinner. Friday I’m getting together with family, and Saturday Michael is back in town – this time, to catch a flight with his mother to Italy, her last chance to visit the motherland. Michael will fly into Hartford, stay with me for a night on the farm, and then I’ll drive them down to JFK in New York on Sunday. After dropping them off, I’ll head to my aunt’s on Long Island and visit my grandfather, who is in a nursing home there.

So there you have it – now you know why I don’t have much time to write!

Til next week… here are some photos to enjoy from the farm:

This is our house, with apprentices' (unheated) quarters on the left, and Sam's (heated) home on the right.

This is our house, with apprentices' (unheated) quarters on the left, and Sam's (heated) home on the right.

Patty admiring the green in the greenhouse.

Patty admiring the green in the greenhouse.

Patty and Samantha working outside on an almost-warm day. (Note to Steve Sliga: Yes, I really did wear the sunhat you guys gave me!)

Patty and Samantha working outside on an almost-warm day. (Note to Steve Sliga: Yes, I really did wear the sunhat you guys gave me!)

Erin did a kick-ass job on fixing the flatbed truck. She covered the rotted boards with brand-new boards, which is very exciting.

Erin did a kick-ass job on fixing the flatbed truck. She covered the rotted boards with brand-new boards, which is very exciting.

May 5 – Lapsed But Not Forgotten
May 6, 2009, 2:16 am
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To my faithful five readers:

Apologies for having disappeared for nearly a week. Michael came to visit last weekend for a whirlwind series of events. I’m still recovering from all this: Saturday, drive from West Granby to Newark, NJ, to pick up Michael at the airport (2 hrs 45 min). Drive 45 minutes to a friend’s mother’s memorial. Backtrack up north to NYC for dinner with friends (check this out, best vegan raw restaurant in town, Pure Food and Wine — it did not disappoint). Stayed with our friends (and their 3 month-old girl) Saturday night. Sunday, drove to South Camden, NJ, to see one of Michael’s plays staged as part of a festival. Sunday evening, the 6-hour drive back to West Granby was the killer. I was so tired, I felt like I was driving drunk.

We had wisely booked a room near Bradley Airport, as opposed to staying at the farm house, so we could have some quiet time, as well as complimentary breakfast, ha ha. Monday featured a whirlwind tour of several inadequate houses in the New Haven area. (still haven’t come close to finding something we like that’s in move-in condition) Then, following an emotional meltdown in Wallingford, I raced over to a job interview. My hope was to arrive 15 minutes early to compose myself and mentally prepare. However, I did not count on turning down the wrong road… Apparently there are SEVEN Barnes Roads in Wallingford. I went to the wrong one. I was late for my interview and, again, close to tears when I arrived. But I actually think it went well, so… so much for mental preparation, right.

Monday evening, Michael and I got takeout and visited his mom in Glastonbury, then back to the hotel for some rest. Tuesday morning, Michael caught a 7 am flight back to Chicago, and here I am, Tuesday evening, exhuasted still.

Today was a damp, chilly, rainy day. Perfect for planting potatoes. Last week was spent cutting up thousands of moldy old potatoes:

Our college degrees put to good use

Our college degrees put to good use

Whilst prepping our veggies, naturally we needed to have a little fun. So we created a “gallery” of potato art, some of which you can purchase from our farm store, although, for the moment, they can only be viewed on-line.

What is Art?

What is Art?

I actually do have more important things to post here, but seriously, how can you resist the sexy Mrs. Potatohead?

And with that thought, I am off to la-la land. Hopefully will have time to update again tomorrow. And REALLY hopefully won’t be planting more potatoes in the rain. There’s only so much sogginess a person can take!