Rural life

Why didn’t anyone tell me about the Hudson River Valley? What a beautiful, well-kept secret. Now that I’ve brought it to your attention, visitors by the millions will flock there–aside from Manhattanites who do seem to know about it, buying up old homes in towns along the river and renovating them into stylish weekend retreats. I rented a house in Red Hook for my birthday week, packed up the cat (no, into the crate) and headed west. A mere three hours later, we turned onto a dirt road with no street sign, signaled by a row of mailboxes on the main road, and bumped a slow mile to the end and where the house stood nestled in the deep woods. A deer welcomed us into the yard, then bounded away down to the creek flowing under an old trestle bridge. The place promised solitude and darkness and delivered both. The instructions said to bring a flashlight if arriving after dark; had I arrived in the dark, I probably wouldn’t have made it halfway down the road before turning around, terrified.

I took a leisurely drive (while it was still daylight, mind you) around the area dotted by farmland and thick with wildlife. Painted homemade signs announced farm stands or baby goats every few miles. Fresh farm breakfasts and pies abounded. Well, when in Rome.

Greig Farm

Gigi Market

Farm chickens

Deer in the backyard

Brooksby Farm and an opportunity missed…but not really

Brooksby Farm in Peabody with its barnyard bevy, autumnal offerings, and quiet orchard is a treat to wander now that the apple picking vultures have disappeared. Wedding guests spilled out of the barn, a spot some people might think of as odd for a wedding, but that I find charming. Rest assured the shindig was taking place in a renovated barn—not the one where the sheep hunker down for the night.

So I’m watching the bucktoothed llama and the irresistible, angelic-faced goat when a tuxedo-clad gentleman wanders over to the fence where I’m standing. It’s true that most men look good in a tuxedo, but this man looked especially good. And then he opened his mouth.

“Do you know what kind of animal this is?” he asked, pointing to the ostrich. The ostrich. Not a wooly mammoth or a zebu cattle that might be hard to identify on a little farm in Peabody, but a run-of-the-mill ostrich. Who doesn’t know what an ostrich looks like?

Before I could answer, he was out of the running despite the aforementioned very nicely tailored tuxedo.

“It’s an emu,” I said.

Please. Like you can tell the difference.

He snapped some photos with his iPhone.

“Fleeing the wedding?” I asked.

“Looking for a date, actually,” he said.

Now, this is where one might come up with a clever retort (“Might I apply for that job?” or “Give me two minutes; I have a dress in the car.”) before an adventure ensues. Others might insert the phrase “opportunity missed,” but I would like to reiterate that the man could not identify an ostrich. Also, his boutonniere suggested he was part of the wedding party, and what kind of friend wanders off and leaves his buddy at the reception?

I glanced from him to the ostrich/emu.

“Looks like the emu is free,” I said.

Pumpkin patching

Ah, fall. Apple picking, jackets, cider donuts, and dead, dried cornstalks. Never understood that one. This weekend was as crisp and perfect as a Macintosh, even a Macintosh picked from a barrel rather than a tree because apple picking is winding down in these here parts. Anyway, I’ve been meaning to pick out the perfect plump pumpkin for my patio and had my eye on this one, but I couldn’t fit it in the car.

I settled on one less mutant gourd from the patch at Russell Orchards in Ipswich, a sweet orchard by the ocean where the salt adds a little something extra to the produce. It’s so close to Crane Beach that once global warming kicks in, there just might come a time when you can enjoy a morning dip in the ocean and then head off to pluck Honeycrisps in the afternoon.

Check out my fine feathers, ladies

Happy Easter

Happy Easter, peeps!

I have a thing for fluffy chicks (don’t most people?) so for Easter my boyfriend surprised me with a trip to a farm. Turns out that after a mere six weeks, the fluffballs are brown, gangly feathered things. Fuzz: gone! But I love a good farm visit, so we chatted with the goats and teen chickens, and took in the aroma that is a working farm. Even that I find agreeable.

Despite working on the holiday, the rabbits were good sports when I snapped their picture.

Horse tragedy?

My boyfriend and I were taking a walk this weekend along a bucolic road lined with farms when we stopped to gaze at a horse that was checking us out across a fence. Past the friendly fella eyeing us, we saw a chestnut-colored horse on the ground in a heap. 

“That doesn’t look good,” I said.

“No, it doesn’t,” my boyfriend agreed.

“Horses can’t get up once they’re down, can they?” I started to worry. Was it sick? Pregnant?

As we waffled about whether or not this was unusual, the horse caved further over onto its side, looking defeated. Two other horses stood over it as if investigating this curious turn of events.

We panicked and went to alert the owner who greeted us casually on the porch, drying her hands on a dish towel.

“Um, this might be completely normal,” my boyfriend explained. “But one of your horses is on its side and the other horses are standing around him.”

Even healthy race horses rarely rallied from an injury, I knew, so I prepared myself to witness the beast’s demise, hoping no one came trotting out of the barn with a shotgun until we were safely away. 

“Yeah, the horse is resting,” she told us, probably resisting the urge to laugh at the frantic couple. “They like to lie on the ground in the sun and roll around like dogs. They sleep on the ground too.”

Oh.

We could have sworn horses slept standing up, but we weren’t going to further embarrass ourselves and hustled down the driveway. Until then, I had thought about taking horseback riding lessons there, maybe in the spring, but now I don’t think I’ll be able to go back there without a disguise.