The Spring Equinox

On Nature

Last Saturday our (last) local farm celebrated the Spring Equinox by holding a Greenhouse Openhouse here in our seaside village. My family and I helped with the event, and had a good time observing the changing of the seasons. A couple of Celtic fiddlers played by the wood stove in the greenhouse, while my husband cooked beef stew – made by one of the farmers from their own locally-raised, grass-fed beef – over an open fire.

We dyed wooden eggs using all vegetable dyes, colors made from beets and carrots and all sorts of edible stuff. Once you start digging into the rituals surrounding it, there are so many inspiring, wacky and awesome ways to celebrate the turning of the seasons. People also took part in planting seeds, literally helping the farm grow.

My kids played in the mud all day, while occasionally complaining about not being at home playing video games. Eventually the complaints died down. Either they finally gave up or – I hope – forgot about the allure of technology for a couple of hours at least.

The air was crisp, the stew was hot, and the greenhouse smelled like warm dirt. It was a great day.

(For more, check out my post on Steemit)

Beef stew over an open fire

Dyeing wooden eggs in honor of Spring.

Taking a Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt

An Event at the Rockport Public Library

I’m excited about reading A Day in Rockport at an event with my friend and collaborator in this project, artist Mary Faino. We will be reading the book, talking about the illustrations, and working on a book project with the kids attending the event. Also: A Scavenger Hunt. Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt? Well, probably lots of people. But if you don’t like them, don’t let me know about it, because we’re having A Day in Rockport Scavenger Hunt! You can follow the clues and take the same path found in the pages of the book, from Millbrook Meadow to the Old Harbor. If you are in Rockport and of a suitable age, or just the kind of person who likes events of this nature, then please come to Rockport Public Library on Wednesday, July 20th at 2pm!

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Local Culture

Local culture is one of those trendy phrases that permeate, well, local culture (and beyond), but shoring up local culture is where I spend most of my energy. Why do I do this? For reasons that go way beyond nostalgia, way beyond trying to capture a sense of a simpler time. Life wasn’t necessarily better in the past in so many ways, but in our technological race to improve our lot in life, we are losing many of the distinctive aspects of the human experience, much of it having to do with occupying a unique place in the world, being surrounded by unique culture.

It’s too much to get into right now, especially because when I do bother to write a blog post or update the site, The Roving Home is given to an overview of things — aesthetics lite, if you will. I don’t usually go into the heavy duty reasons for why I’m involved with the particular events I’m involved with, but maybe I should do this more. Do more explaining about the investment of time, money and energy I put into building and restoring a sense of place. We often hear of the problems that come with the homogenization of America, and, on a larger scale, the effects of globalization in flattening cultures. We hear about it so often that it has lost its power to affect us. Or maybe we don’t even understand what the big deal is. But it is always worth a pause to consider what we are throwing away before we toss it: your grandmother’s recipe for kielbasa? Your dad’s banjo? Your uncle’s old fishing gear? This applies to buildings and furniture as well as songs, heirloom seeds and ideas. Please think before you throw, as the recycling adage goes.

We need to pay attention to what we have around us before it is completely gone and we are all eating the same industrialized waste and sleeping in reassembled flat-pack beds from IKEA (at least the beds will be attractive, some small consolation).

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Summer Living

It’s been a crazy summer. From Germany and Canada to the west and east coast of the United States, my family all converged on the farm in Ohio for several weeks. Sometimes all at once, sometimes in succession. A wedding, a family reunion, and a camping trip involving the 47 members of my immediate family were followed just a mere few hours after we packed up the camping gear by the birth of the 48th member, whose mother managed to make it to the hospital in time for the baby’s arrival.

My family completed our month-long homage to the cycle of life by holding a memorial service for my uncle out by the pond at the farm in Ohio, the pond built by my grandpa and recreated, in a way, by my uncle, who put a pond on his own property all the way across the country in Oregon.

A few days after the memorial service, and on the last night most of us were together, the third annual micro Madden Road Music Festival took place at the old brick building at the crossroads of Mutual, Ohio. My mom has an antiques shop on the ground floor of the building, and a few years ago some of the family came together and cleared out the top floor for use as an occasional music hall. With its cracked plaster and old beadboard walls, the music hall resembles a depression-era honky-tonk or small town opera house. Which it probably was — both of those things — over the years. The floor still bears faded painted lines outlining the boundaries of an undersized basketball court from its stint as a sports center for budding young farmers.

For this year’s festival, both floors were put into use. We pushed the old bureaus and benches and side tables to the edge of the antiques shop and placed the tables and chairs in the center, creating a place for the festival potluck.

Potluck beginnings

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Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, a local coffee roasting business run by a family who source all their beans directly, came to the festival and transformed my mom’s shop counter into a coffee shop. Right next to the counter we created a bakery using an antique glass display case, which held goods baked by my nieces, who made everything from brownies to snickerdoodles to chocolate chip cookies. To the shock of everyone who knows her well, my mom spent the day of the festival baking bread to add to the bakery’s inventory. The bread was delicious, which belies the whole idea that only highly-trained experts who spend their youth sweating over commercial ovens as apprentices are capable of baking bread. The motivation for my mom’s baking spree came from the fact that proceeds from bakery sales all went toward efforts to help the friend of yet another sister who lived in Mumbai, a friend who is saving up with her husband so that he can buy his own rickshaw. I know this sounds over-the-top but it’s true. We raised money to purchase a rickshaw in India at our tiny music festival in the middle of nowhere, Ohio. We live in global times, people.

The potluck featured lots of stuff from the garden: corn and cantaloupe and squash. Someone brought a huge tray of macaroni & cheese, which was quickly consumed. And someone else brought a trencher of homemade popcorn. It turns out that popcorn tastes especially awesome when eaten from an antique trencher. And while I don’t know exactly what a trencher is (the people who brought the popcorn told me the name of the thing), I know that I want one for my next potluck.

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Five bands took both stages, alternating between the Antiques Store Stage and the Music Hall Stage, and each one was mesmerizing. Which also sounds over-the-top, but it’s just as true as the rickshaw story. Something about seeing musicians make music in front of you seems both familiar and completely strange these days. Familiar in the sense that making and experiencing live music in real time has been around since human beings themselves. But strange in the sense that most of us take our music in electronic doses, perfected and altered and manipulated before we consume it at random, usually isolated moments. Listening to real music being made by actual people in a roomful of family, friends and strangers, eating popcorn and cantaloupe and drinking coffee seemed almost bizarre. But really comforting too. A personal highlight for me was the music of Bob Lucas, who performed along with his daughter and son-in-law. These three are steeped in old-time music across several genres and decades. And Bob is a composer as well as an actor, director, producer in theater. Just one of those run-of-the-mill geniuses you often encounter playing above a random antiques store in Ohio. (Never underestimate the Midwest. It is full of surprises).

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Daniel Dye & the Miller Road Band

The morning after the festival we gathered outside my parents’ farmhouse to see our nephew David off to college in Chicago, and the summer was complete. It held everything: endings, beginnings and middles, all of it carried out to a sort of soundtrack of music-making at every point, from singing around the campfire to my brother playing his banjo at his newborn daughter’s side at the hospital to singing (and we do sing choral arrangements as a family, some of us more skillfully than others) The Lord Bless You and Keep You as a benediction, moments before David climbed into the van with his family, heading west — just as the sun climbed higher and higher in the east.