Thursday, June 30, 2016

Road Tripping and Plane Tripping and thoughts on Country Life

Oh my poor little neglected  blog.  How life gets in the way.  These days, I still love to read a few blogs, and follow some bloggers on IG, but aside from that, I'm just living life.

What makes me want to come back today and write?  A little time, and some inspiration.  This year we opted to head to the east coast again to visit family.  It was to be only a week in upstate NY.  Birthdays, graduation, fun time swimming in the lake, family time.  Indeed, we all had fun and it was go go go.  I indulged in a stop at a farmstand, where I kept my purchases to salsa and strawberries.

On the way  home, there was a detour - with my first solo road trip since the 1990s.  (Does a 6 hour drive count as a road trip, if it takes 8.5 hours?)  It was a beautiful trip, rolling green hills abounded through southern NY state, and then lots of forest in my home state of PA.  I even got to stop and have coffee with a high school friend, whom I hadn't seen in -ahem- 28 years.  Her son was there too, and he was excited to tell me about Minecraft.  (What is it with kids and Minecraft? My boys are the same.)

The detour was just for me though - my stepfather was having a difficult recovery from surgery.  I thought "why  not?"  I have the money, I had my computer so that I could work from wherever, and my husband was completely willing to head home with the little guy on his own (big boy was staying with cousins for another 1.5 weeks).  Working "from anywhere" is easier without the little ones.  I didn't turn the computer on once in NY.

Part of his recovery requires him to take short walks during the day.  For him, this means feeding and watering the critters (literally, the chipmunks, bunnies, and squirrels).  And from there, surveying the yard, fruit trees, and garden.  Do you see where I am going?

I grew up here, just a few miles down the road.  We had a garden, and a large yard.  We canned during the summer.  We picked apples from the tree in the back.  We picked strawberries at a local farm.  We wandered through the woods and fields to find fields and fields of tiny, wild blueberries.  Every year we picked for hours until we were tired, and still only got enough for one pie and a few handfuls.

But I left all that.  College, military, jobs out in sunny California.  My land is 1/12 of an acre.  Most of it house, parking, and driveway.  We have "gardened" - a tangerine tree, a few tomato plants.  At one point, we had two 3x3 square foot garden plots, until the gophers got them.  The weather is fantastic, the rain - not so much (literally).  I have friends who garden, but I don't.  Why is that?  Time I suppose.  A full time job, two children, activities - it doesn't leave much time.

As I wandered today, my mind was racing with thoughts.  Jams or smoothies from the wild raspberries or blackberries (too soon to tell which), growing along the path - former "rail", now "trail".  The blueberries growing along side the property.  The six different apple trees, of different types (apple sauce, apple pie, apple butter...)  The grapes (wine?) The garden plot itself is actually small this year.  Corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins.  Rarely has my mind had such time to wander.  I guess because I have time.  A little walking (to the post office, or with my sister). Cooking and dishes.  Work.  The occasional nap.

The trail to the post office (0.6 miles away)

Occasionally I think about hanging it up and moving.  Back to the North East, where houses and life is cheaper.  Upstate NY, PA.  The ability to have a garden and relax a bit.  But then winter hits, or the humidity and mosquitoes of the summer hit.  It seems like a great idea, but in many ways I've become a California girl.  The lifestyle, the fitness, the food, the politics.  It's so much harder in this area of the country.  It's not that you cannot live a fit and healthy life.  Many people do. But it's not the norm.  So you are swimming upstream. It makes me appreciate so much more my friends who manage it.  The ones who do crossfit, or the ones who do races and 1/2 Ironman Triathlons.

It's hard here though.  Small town life is hard life.  The jobs are scarce.  The towns are shrinking.  The schools are broke  (just like in CA). Meth is becoming a big problem, on top of the alcohol and smoking problems that have been around for ages.  When I come home, I feel like I straddle two worlds.  In my home town, I don't belong anymore.  I'm a CA girl now.  But in CA, sometimes I feel like I'm faking it.  I'm still that poor  country girl in many many ways.

One of the funniest parts of the trip this far is about a cantaloupe.   My stepfather's sister brought him groceries (he cannot drive after the surgery).  I cut it up when I came.  It's delicious.  Every person who has come by (my sister, my aunt) has asked "where did you get it?  I haven't been able to get a good one."  Finally we asked the sis, and she said "the farmstand at the corner of route X and route Y".  Of course, a farm stand!

It makes me appreciate my CSA and farm delivery box that much more.  On the trip out, I'd packed a fresh cucumber/ tomato salad (the first tomato of the season).  It was glorious! And the woman next to me on the plane was jealous.  On the drive down, my lunch was carrots and peppers and hummus (and  KIND bar).

Well, I have a couple more days here.  Despite the garden, it's still early in the season.  My vegetables are from Walmart, my beer from Latrobe (when in Rome...)

Wild berries along the trail


More wild berries along the forest edge


Here's one almost ready to pick!


Early girl tomatoes