Both of my parents were raised in the country, so a love of the land, or at least a healthy respect for it, is woven into my DNA. Despite raising me and my sister in the throbbing heart of suburbia, the farm was never too far away. I’ve spent my life absorbing stories—most of them fond, some sobering—about what it was like growing up on a farm in the middle of the Great Depression. God knows it wasn’t easy, but it was wholesome, sometimes verging on idyllic, and it gave them a rock-solid foundation. My mom spent her first 20-plus years in Fabius, New York, a small farming community outside of Syracuse where in the winter the snow would pile higher than the first floor windows and in the warm months she’d help her father plant cabbages, feed the pigs, and play in the hayloft. My dad grew up in rural Connecticut, the youngest of six, all of whom filled my head with tales of herding cows, slaughtering chickens, churning butter, and boiling tree sap to make maple syrup—not to mention gathering potato scraps for the small still my grandmother kept in the basement. Fast forward to me, age 6 or so, watching my dad digging out a plot in our backyard in Kenwood to plant zucchini, cukes, and tomatoes, and well, the saga continues.
This spring, I planted an apple tree sapling that my daughter picked out at church. It’s in our front yard and right now has spots on its few leaves, so I’m a little worried about it. Fingers crossed, the greenish thumb I’ve inherited will somehow help it to pull through. It would be nice to eventually make a pie with apples off our own tree. Though not too many apples. The first year my wife and I lived in Santa Fe, we had three apricot trees in our yard. That summer, it was like an atomic fruit bomb went off: apricots were everywhere. I’ve never eaten so many apricot tarts, or so much apricot jam, in my entire life. And I never hope to again.
This summer, like last summer, we plan to head up to Connecticut, where my aunts will take my daughter down the hill to feed the goats who now roam on what remains of the family’s old farm. It’s not the same as having a goat of our own, like the Slushers do in their backyard in Madeira. But it’s close enough.