achievable paradise


my friend sarah took me on an outing to spend a glorious afternoon at a pastoral paradise located on the east side of the county. it is called the Sustainable Arts Society , an arts organization offering residencies for artists and writers. An historic home lovingly restored by Elma Ettman serves as the lodging for the guest artists. it is a place where you can step back from the anxiety-driven frenzy of modern life and experience it as it once was. this is the view from the front porch.

the entire place is all organic and organized to be earth friendly. farm implements dug from the vegetable and flower beds were reconfigured into art pieces or used to decorate the sides of barns. The little seedlings were started in pots of newspaper that would decay into the earth. the front yard was left for native plants to flourish and share space with ornamentals such as thrift and lamb's ears.

the new spring kids cried for their mother, heavy with milk, and separated into a different pen so that she could first be milked for cheese. there were two calico kids and a blonde and each had a distinct personality. their movements reminded me of the little toys where you press a button underneath the base and the figure moves on strings, the action very dramatic and erratic. their little hooves were fleshy and pinkish still. so new and soft. and their ears could inspire a week's worth of paintings or poems.

there were two nanny goats, several herding dogs, chickens of every stripe and shape, a silky chicken who kept a blind rescue horse company, and a little black and white puppy on vacation. as i admired the old bed frame used as a garden accent, a shadow passed over the green.

i looked up to see a turkey vulture with the fingers of his wings spread exactly like Andrew Wyeth's painting "Soaring". The sweet scent of native azalea and honeysuckle hung heavy in the air. i bent down to feel the variety of mosses growing between river stones, marveled at the greens and remembered the formula for spreading mosses. it is this: find a moss you like. harvest some of it. put it into a blender and cover with buttermilk. blend it and pour it out where you want the mosses to grow. voila!

Elma has a lot of chickens so her daily haul puts my 2 a day to shame. I liked her hen pen and the little ramp for the hens to access the laying loft. i collected feathers the barred rock hens had plucked off and thought of my first pet chicken, the original chicory, who i once rolled into a towel and held all night when she was sick. she was my learning curve chicken, along with Helen, both of whom i lost while in New York. I had neglected to fence off a tiny space under the eaves of the tin roof of their chicken church and some critter slunk in and took them. now i have a "chicken penitentiary" and have had current bantams Red and Dovey for three years now; a long life for the amount of free-ranging they do.

i explored the apple house behind the big house which has a guest loft upstairs and a root cellar below stocked with rows and rows of "put-up" vegetables: corn, tomatoes, beans, okra, carrots, potatoes and all kinds of combination mixes. i was struck by how cool and dark it was, made all the more astonishing by the bright view of landscape outside.

after we had played and milked the nanny, Elma made cheese fresh right then and added her own spices and chives to the blend. i only thought i didnt like goat cheese. it was delicious and flavorful, mild and not gamey at all. i made an appointment with Cheryl the uber farm hand to come back the next day and weed. and weed i did. for my effort i was rewarded with a bounty of baby spinaches and greens and some gigantic white asparagus. but i didnt do it for the food.

the time i spent there was a glimpse into what i would like to build for the second half of my life out at the cabin. as i dreamed of how it might be, i pulled over on the way home to watch canada geese land in a cow pasture gone golden in the afternoon light. i noticed a cow with a solid white head which i painted when i returned to my little work space at home. i fell into my bed content and tired. i pulled the old-fashioned second quilt over the first. the night was quiet still. too cool for the grasshoppers and cicadas to rub their legs together in a summer serenade. i thought again of chicory and helen, and the old chunk of lab, my eva, mr. chickory, trout, the kingfisher, and all the things i love and ever have loved until at last i fell asleep.


  1. You had me at "goat cheese."

    Sounds like a slice of paradise to be sure.

  2. man, that sounds wonderful. so, are you going to apply for a residency?

  3. iamnot: it was so good! i helped smash it worked it until if formed. it was less than an hour from the animal to the cheese. i would love to see your elegant black and whites applied to this place..the animals, the people and the land. the people in particular i much character. maybe you should apply, what a change from your environment! a photography residency. yeah!
    good to see ya!

    foamy: funny. i sorta had YOU in mind when i wrote this. theres another place up here..more east that offered me a residency but it felt wrong. i can get away from the city but theres a lot of creative people that can't. just doesnt seem right.

    it was so cool to see how much you could do for yourself. i mean, it would be your full time job but thats what work used to mean: just basic providing for yourself and family.

    they need funding. i hope i am around enough this fall to lend a hand in scaring up some sponsorship. but i wouldnt apply. if you want to i would sing your praises. you could go for art OR writing.

    glad you stopped by!

  4. actually, i'd like to do a residency sometime in the forseeabl future. don't know when exactly. i have to figure things out with my mother...sigh..
    there's also a cool place in Virginia that's a good place. i'm drawing a blank on the name right now. i'd have to ask dd again what the name is.
    you should take a residency when it's offered to you. that's if it's in a place you actually want to me

  5. Oh Oh...I'se gonna hitch up mah skirts an come up theah and make ya take me fer a visit to see this place!!

    Aunty Belle

  6. finally a post! i will return and read and re-read.

    so much here to drink in...

  7. saw the girls laid many eggs
    and always to the weasel begs
    please don't eat my babies
    and I don't mean just maybe
    else I'll pound ya with ol' beer kegs!

  8. The last paragraph was the best read. I could picture it in my mind...the quilt and kingfisher's such a peaceful thought...

    The pictures you posted...they're just lovely...

  9. Doing something different, especially if it involves getting in touch with the unmediated reality of the physical world, can be quite satisfying and inspiring.

    And you got free spinach, to boot.

  10. I cant even imagine!

    The first time I ever saw a cow outside of a zoo was in COLLEGE! lol I am such the city girl (although I dont mind getting my hands dirty so I bet I would LOVE the country life!)

    How fun to see the chickens and the dog after our conversation this weekend! It was sooo great to get to meet you and the gang. You were great to arrange it all.

    Let me know when you are in Orlando again! I would love to hook up!

    Have to run... literally... the plane is boarding! Cheers! kate

  11. sounds idyllic.

    ahhhh - country life. reminds me of the year i lived out in the friggin middle of prairie nowhere. idyllic ... except for the septic tank freezing over ... and in fact, that whole septic tank concept. sorry - couldn't do it. when i turn on my shower, what i DON'T wanna smell is the heavy iron smell from the well water that's so hard it makes my hair hurt.

    so ... love the pics and your description ... but i love my city ... a big ole beautiful forest right in the centre of it all ... assuming we dumbasses don't burn it all down to the ground first!

    what i really want is a llama. ok, maybe two. and a swan. yeah, a swan.

  12. I like coming back here and taking a look at all these pics..Reminds me of when I was a wee' little girl..

    My grandfather...he had this huge land...He bred dogs...doberman...shepherds...great danes...bulldogs...All the dogs were big...

    I remember being about 5 and walking down a trail with about five shepherds beside me....I remember the shows we went to..the competitions...

    My grandpa'..he was half Spanish...tall..deep set eyes and very handsome..He dressed in blue jeans and always had on a brown leather jacket and a cowboy hat...He smoked to kingdom come...

    He was a sight... when he walked down our street..everybody greeted him with such respect...The boys in my neighborhood..they didn't dare make friends with me because I was the grand child of Romulo...

    He also bred horses...really beautiful ones...but soon it became too expensive and he had to give that up....

    He had Bantam chickens...a whole great of them he sold to the local market...My grandma had pigs....Pinky..she never sold..

    I grew up climbing trees and mastering slingshots... feeding dogs and watching them give birth..and feeding chickens...chased by chickens..picking berries...smell of orchids and lilies and planting...and even fishing....

    I miss the smell of wood..and pine...

    Looking at this...kinda' makes me nostalgic... brings me back...

    my life's very different..

  13. You are simply the best kind of person in the world to know...

    I read this tonight and was reminded all over again why you are so loveable...
    it's because you love- and love well.

    I am so glad to call you friend~

  14. I'm sorry I haven't been by. How are you?

  15. I enjoyed your post. thanks.

  16. I'se still waitin' fer an invite to come see ya up there ---I'se got a few days in July.

  17. i love
    how lush & green

    great pics, nice story


  18. Golly Chickory...hope youse makin' lots o' art...shure ain't postin' much...sigh.

  19. chicory, she dawgy..
    i'm a closing my bloggy down for the summer. i've got to tackle a filled with clutter space and turn it into a studio.
    hope you are painting up a storm.
    thanks for all your support.

  20. i came by to poke around to see if you had an email address posted. alas no. everybody is blocked from my account, btw. including me..(for the most part). i've got elderly parent issues and studio issues to settle.
    my email is foamingmoanatyahoodotcom, btw.

  21. Yippie

    this is a neat post.

    I think it is my favorite Chickory post, but I still like the Bear one too....

    this place reminds me of my Grandma's farm.

    I spent every summer and christmas break there.

    Grandma was a bitch on wheels and she scared the piss outta me, but the farm, well I guess she was so crabby because of the migraines she got (undiagnosed of course) and the fact that I was a city girl and did not know how to slop hogs,. collect eggs or even peel an onion.

    I learned.

    and even though it was not the best environment, the farm, made me very happy.

    This post brings back only the good things.

    Put up preserves, homemade ice cream and (ug... lard!)
    which she used on the woodburning stove to fry fresh eggs in an iron skillet Uh... butter for me, OK Grandma?

    Do it yourself! and stoke the fire too!!

    Stoke the wha??

    I learned.

    Another blogger once remarked that we do not know how to do anything for ourselves.

    I had the art of putting up preserves and taking a chicken from chopping block to table (sorry Dovey) down before my 10th birthday.

    Well, I liked this post.
    and even though she was a huge crab, and nobody "gets" her, I like my Gramma too. We are sort of similar, I have learned, and when I think of all the times I had to make her milktost, because she had a "headache" and was feeling sick, I realize what it must have been like to run a farm, with 5 daughters and only one son, when her husband passed away leaving her alone.... and she had to do it with undiagnosed severe migraines.

    I's be crabby at my "half assed" grandaughter too.

    (that was her favorite nickname for me.... half-assed)

    love ya, thanks for the cool photos here, looks like gramma's place, and AND!! I had never seen a lambs ear before, just the plant. NOW I get it!!

  22. This reminds me of a movie from the 70's. It was called "A Sunday in the Country". It starred Ernest Borgnine as a farmer whose, er, farm, was descended upon by really bad guys from the city. Fortunately Ernest had the element of surprise, and got the jump on them.


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