The prematurely warm, dry spring we’ve enjoyed, worrisome to farmers and gardeners as much of New York state has teetered on the edge of draught, has had one spectacular positive effect. The slow succession of bloom we see in most years seems to have yielded to a simultaneous floral explosion. I don’t recall many years when the peak bloom of daffodils, magnolias, tulips, forsythia, Scylla, vinca, pears, cherries, peaches, nectarine, apricot and wild plum have all overlapped so much, in fact seem to have coincided. The word that comes to mind for me is “acceleration.”
Acceleration seems a particularly apt theme for right now. It’s not just that spring is generally a season of accelerated growth (my unmowed lawn reminds me daily). This year, there is the sense of acceleration abroad in the land. Spring has coincided with widespread vaccination, a miracle of modern science that has allowed us to begin emerging from our pandemic cocoons. And with that re-emergence comes the acceleration of economic activity as large segments of our economy, including travel, restaurants and movie theatres, resume something akin to normal operations. With a new president committed to a major investment in public infrastructure I allow myself to harbor high hopes for a booming, roaring twenties.
My optimism is tempered, however, by realities like large numbers of people resistant to being vaccinated. The same folks who thought it was perfectly fine to endure hundreds of thousands of deaths and long-term disabilities, including their own, to achieve herd immunity are unwilling to risk some unlikely long term side effect decades from now to achieve that same end. They therefore guarantee that the novel coronavirus will remain with us, potentially in a more lethal, vaccine-evading form, to drag down our collective well-being. I try to be understanding about this resistance, but ultimately find such mass nihilism and selfishness infuriating.
My general anticipation of good times ahead is also modulated by a certain annoyance that the plunge back into life is so abruptly upon us. Decisions which could be frozen in amber while regular life was in suspended animation now must be made. I have been putting off deciding the form of my post-pandemic life. I don’t think I can put if off any longer.
An analysis in the New York Times this weekend spoke of the contraction of friend and family relations that took place during the pandemic. (“The Pandemic Shrank Our Social Circles. Let’s Keep It That Way”. It pointed not just to the loss of some relationships, but to the renewal and deepening of others, and suggested the potential benefits of maintaining a narrower social circle, but a more meaningful one, post-pandemic. It resonated with me, and not just with respect to my social life.
Like many people fortunate enough to have two homes, city and country, for the last year I narrowed my life to the country. I was certainly not alone in making this choice. According to another article in the Times this week (“How the Pandemic Did, and Didn’t, Change Where Americans Move”), there was only one respect in which the pandemic changed American migration patterns. That was that certain extremely expensive urban areas, most notably New York and San Francisco, showed dramatic out-migration from their most affluent neighborhoods. And areas at the periphery of their metropolitan areas, incompatible with daily commuting but close enough to allow a weekly foray to the City, gained dramatically. Based on analysis of postal address changes, the area in the entire nation with the most dramatic shift in migration (from small incremental losses to a nearly 10% gain) was the Hudson, New York “metropolitan area.” It was followed in second place by the Kingston, New York region. Also high on the list was the Torrington, Connecticut region. All places where second homes form a large part of the housing stock, and where those homes served as principal pandemic residences.
I never changed my postal address or primary residence. I still pay City tax, vote in the City, and consider myself a New York City resident. My motive for my extended presence here was to escape indoor confinement in a city apartment, and to care for the farm without assistance from others. And I’m glad I made the choice.
But the year here has opened my eyes to other possibilities and raised the need to confront the question of why, given my far from unlimited resources, I should resume a two-residence life. As have many others, I’ve found I can work remotely at least as effectively as going to the office. The ability to mix office work and farm work throughout the day, to balance the physical and the cerebral, suits me well. And there is much to be said for having a single base, rather than bouncing back and forth between two. Maintaining one residence is a lot of work for one person. Having a second begins to seem like time, energy and money down the drain. In terms of my internal sense of peace, caring for the farm and its flora and fauna has blessed me with an incredible amount of peace and a sense of purpose. Shouldn’t I choose to have just one home, and shouldn’t this be it?
Then, I think, who am I kidding? Is someone in his eighth decade of life wise to assume the continued capacity to operate this place? I was inspired a few weeks ago to meet an 80 year old pumpkin and corn farmer who operates his 230 acre farm largely on his own, although he has mechanized the operation considerably. I fondly recall my late neighbors, Bob and Anne Rider, who I think thrived by operating their orchard well into their 80s. But will I continue to have that capacity to the degree these folks did? And when I can no longer do so, shouldn’t my home be in the City where I can walk to what I need, tend my terrace garden, and have world class medical and other services close at hand? Given current real estate demand, isn’t the time to sell and graduate to the next stage of life now?
I regret that the acceleration of the return to normal seems to have accelerated confronting this question. Who do I ask for some more time?
WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK
Sorrel, $3 bag
Still ample egg production
Farm is closed for this weekend, as I am in the City to celebrate a birthday with a friend. Pickups resume late Sunday.
WHAT’S AVAILABLE THIS WEEK
Cheese pumpkins, $1/lb
Garlic chives, $1/bunch (flat leafed)
EGGS: production has doubled, feel free to order, $5/doz
FRESH HORSERADISH, $3/lb
CHICKENS: They were quite uniform in size, all just around 6 lbs, a few under. These freedom rangers have been what you want them to be, deeply flavorful. $6/lb, frozen. Separately, bags of chicken livers, also $6/lb.
Email us your order at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Because I’m now here full time, we’re abandoning regular pick-up times. Let us know when you want your order any day between 10 and 5, and unless there are unusual circumstances we’ll be able to ready it to your convenience. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or text at 917-544-6464 or email.