Rick and Nora depart for the West Coast, so much for our new community. I’m not sorry to see them go and don’t mourn their absence.
As soon as they leave we move farther up the mountain. Our new house is pretty haphazard, a just-grew-like-topsy kind of place, the lean-to kitchen which we drag uphill with the truck is our starting point and and we close in the front with old barn windows and a handmade door. It is tiny, a dollhouse built out of scraps and bark, nestled next to the stream so you can hear the sound of water but up on the bank and across from the logging road so it stays dry. The one room contains an oak table and chairs, a cast iron stove for heat, a different cast iron stove for cooking, and a rocking chair. In the back, Karl builds a cantilevered alcove that is Caitlin’s room, her mattress, toys and clothes all fit into the space. Karl and I sleep on a horsehair mattress rolled up during the day and unrolled at night. Benjamin and the cat curl up anywhere.
We try to be independent. Instead of buying bread from the store, we get wheat berries and grind them into flour by hand in a mill. We don’t have running water or electricity so I bathe Caitlin in a big tin washtub. She is little enough to sit in it while I pour water over her head. To get warm water I have to go outside to the spring and pump water into a bucket, then heat it to the right temperature on the wood stove. Karl and I take showers outside, we fill a gallon jug with hot water, strip naked, go outside, pour a little water over ourselves, soap up, and rinse. When there is snow on the ground we leave our socks on. Amazingly you can get clean with just one fast gallon of water. We have a small gas-powered refrigerator to keep milk cold, kerosene lamps for light, and a CB radio to call out if there is an emergency.
When we move into the house we clear about a half-acre of land for a garden, a level spot just on the other side of the logging road. I pour over our seed catalogue, I want this one and that one, doesn’t matter if it is tropical, I am in love with every exotic vegetable. When I dig in the dirt to plant it feels delicious, thick with humus, it is like playing in chocolate meringue.
That first summer we harvest bushels and baskets of vegetables, winter squash, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, tomatoes, radishes, Swiss chard, lots more, it is overwhelming. My parents come to visit and in spite of their reservations about our life style they are enchanted, my father digs potatoes and exclaims with excitement every time he finds one, my mother admires our big fat carrots, we forage along the road and pick apples gone wild, one of my father’s favorite pastimes in Vermont. He loves the idea of food being free for the taking.
Caitlin plays in the dirt outside our house, wanders in the woods, she is a dandelion headed ragamuffin, brilliant animated blue eyed little person, tossing toys aside with abandon, game for adventure.