Sunday, April 22, 2012

The beginning of our sustainability

After we signed the papers that made us owners of every one of our precious 25 acres, my husband Jeff and I proceeded to walk nearly every inch of the property. We were now the proud owners of Winterrest Farm, a  wedge-shaped plot of land, situated on a gentle western slope in Upstate New York's Kuyahoora Valley, just north of the Great Mohawk Valley. The point of the wedge sits high up above a small ravine, while the "outer crust" is 400+ feet that runs along the edge of the road.

We parked the car as far off the road as we could, and since there was no driveway cut-in and certainly no driveway, we bushwhacked our way through shoulder-high orchard grass and beautiful but mean-spirited Burdock plants to the edge of our new pond. Winterrest Farm was once part of a large dairy farm that had been bought by a computer magnate and had been held as part of a 5000 acre tract of protected land. The computer magnate had died in a plane crash in the mid 2000's and his heirs had divided the land into large tracts no smaller than 5 acres and sold them off, with strict guidelines as to their use. No subdivisions. No trailerhomes. No RV's to remain longer than 60 days. No commercial businesses other than a farms stand or a Bed and Breakfast. Owners were to understand that they were buying in farm country and associated noises and odors were part of daily life.

I know. But it's true.

We approached the outer rim of the pond with caution. Cattails grew in thick, heavy abundance for some 10 feet from the edge into the center. Red-winged blackbirds popped up from the vegetation in alarm, startled by our presence, so close to their nests. Red-winged blackbirds were among the first "new things" I experienced that first day. They were beautiful and playful, swooping like barn swallows, but staying near as though they were curious while at the same time welcoming.

The pond was a wreck. It was a good-sized pond, but it was so choked with water-plants and mud that it more resembled a bog. It would have be restored. We needed to be able to stock this pond with fish and use it for swimming in the high summer heat. It was daunting to consider the costs associated with this type of excavation, but we could see the potential in the investment: this humble pond was the first part of our sustainable plan.

We continued past the pond to a lush line of willow trees. Now, let me tell you, these willow trees were nothing like I've ever seen before. The adjective HUGE does not even touch a description of these elderly giants.  They grew joyfully along the edge of a small wet-weather brook that divided our farm in half; top to bottom.

We spent a blood-pressure dropping, thoroughly enjoyable time exploring our little brook and then crossed to the uphill side and began the ascent up the wild-rose covered ravine.

That's where we discovered our own hidden apple orchard! The trees weren't very tall, as most fruit trees aren't, but their bases were thick and wide: indicative of advanced age and maturity. It was a warm September afternoon and the air up in that orchard was lightly scented with wild-rose and cider from the wind-fall, small reddish apples.

The trees were a thrill to find: more than 2 acres of God-given fruit! But like the pond, they were in need of some loving attention and care. In the ensuing few months, I read up on fruit tree restoration and we tackled our first patient:

The years following, we've gathered apples to make sauce, butter and juice. The apples are still small, and it remains to be seen how the orchard will recover, or have to be removed and replanted. But for now, I'm happy to reach for what it gives us!


  1. I'm so proud of you Leigh! You've went from barely knowing how to navigate FaceBook to creating your own Blog! Be careful or you might become a techie after you get settled up in those hills! Great blog...enjoyed the read!


  2. THANKS!!
    When are you going to start one of your own? :-)

  3. You write so beautifully - love the blog.