Prologue: How I Ended Up At Windridge

A funny thing happened on the way to moving to Vermont and opening a bakery/coffee roastery--I ended up in Missouri. After spending a couple of years back in the early 90s making two exploratory trips to that charming New England state, not to mention numerous phone calls (this was before the internet), researching everything about the place we could possibly think of, and even subscribing to the Sunday paper by mail for over a year, my (now ex-) husband (we're still friends) and I traded our little Italian convertible for a 1969 Chevy pickup, rented a large moving truck and a tow dolly for my 1967 Mercedes that I couldn't bear to part with, packed up the cats, dog, and a couple hundred small boxes of stuff (we chose books and collectibles over furniture), and headed toward a place we'd never been to in our lives.

We simply told ourselves that if we didn't like Missouri, we would just keep driving east until we found a place we did like. And if we'd landed here in the summer, I can guarantee you I wouldn't be typing this right now. But we arrived in early November, just days before an ice storm turned the tiny town where we were temporarily renting a house into an enchanting ice-covered scene from a fairytale (well, sort of). The bottom line is, we obviously stayed.

Once the ice melted, we immediately started looking at properties for sale, telling the real estate agents that we wanted 40 acres and a liveable house in a certain area for as little money as possible. But stuff happens. Plans change. Suddenly we found ourselves the new owners of a 140-year old, 280-acre homestead located off a hilly, twisty highway near which I had sworn I would never, ever live. After a few days on its blustery ridgetop, we christened our new acreage Windridge Farm.

I quickly began filling notebooks with the tales of our often ludicrous attempts to embrace farm life, and yet still maintain some semblance of a refined lifestyle in a place where squirrel is considered food and newly acquainted dinner hosts once remarked that they were "thrilled to be able to serve you pork ribs, since no one else we know has enough teeth to eat them." We wondered if we were the only ones with Haring and Calder serigraphs on the walls and blackleg vaccines in the fridge.

I did not become a back-to-nature survivalist roughing it without water, phone, and electricity (most of the time we had all those things), nor was I a wealthy retiree shielded from my surroundings by a 6,000 square foot "log cabin." I fell somewhere inbetween--growing organic rapini and arugula but not afraid to stick my hand inside a sheep or smash ice on the frozen pond with an axe.

I lived at Windridge Farm for five years, from 1995 to 2000. During that time, I published 10 issues of a newsletter called Writings From Windridge that contained lighthearted essays about my new country life, along with scrumptious food talk, garden stuff, and other tidbits. The following are excerpts from those newsletters.

Sometimes I'm still not sure how this fifth generation California girl ended up landlocked in a state I still have trouble recognizing on a map. As I said, stuff happens and plans change--sometimes drastically. But, at least for the time being, this is obviously where I'm supposed to be because this is where I am. And while there are a few things about the area that I really would prefer to live without (mainly the heat, incredible humidity, about three million ticks, and the vast distance from an ocean), I realize that no place is ever going to be perfect, and I wouldn't change the past 12 years for anything. They certainly have flown by.

7/28/06 Update: Click here for some answers to various questions that have been asked since I began posting these stories.


Blogger Ana said...

Hi Susan,
I've been faithfully reading your Farmgirl Fare blog on a daily basis for the past couple of months now--ever since I discovered it--and am writing to tell you that it's terrific, all of it, from the recipes to your stories about Cary. I am very much looking forward to reading more about your farm in this blog as well.
Thanks so much!

5/22/2006 9:37 AM  
Anonymous sher said...

Oh, this is so wonderful. I've wondered how your adventure began. I'm looking forward to reading this very much. You are very strong, I think--in character. You've done what so many want to do, but lack the courage to carry out.

5/23/2006 4:06 PM  
Anonymous Jeff in az said...

Well, Vermont and Missouri have alot in common...they both have an "o" for the 5th letter....so I can see how you wound up where you did...

I loved this post, FG Susan!

5/23/2006 7:41 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

So how _did_ you end up in Missouri instead of Vermont?

5/24/2006 8:40 AM  

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