When I describe my Uncle Bob and Aunt Arleen to my friends I talk about the unbelievable adventures these two have been on first and foremost. They just do cool things, like taking a bus down to Georgia and walking home on the Appalachian Trail, or working as caterers for exclusive parties on Hawaii and hanging out on the beach for a winter, or even hitchhiking to Alaska and working in a fish cannery for a few months. Every time I hear a story about the two of them traveling it turns me green with envy and my travel feet get tapping below me. The last time Joey and I went on a road trip I called Uncle Bob just to tell him what I was up to, in sort of an attempt to impress him I guess, but he ended up telling me a story about when he and his buddies jumped in the car and drove across the country themselves. There’s no topping these two when it comes to journeying around and seeing all the coolest things there are to see. It’s a great standard to try to live up to.
The second thing I tell my friends about my uncle and aunt is about their farm. It has recently been named Brighton Farm (as opposed to Uncle Bob and Aunt Arleen’s house) and they are now a proud part of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
(MOFGA) which pairs farm interns with farms depending on their level of production and interest in self-sustaining farming or industrialized farming for a living.
As a kid I went up to Athens, Maine, where Uncle Bob and Aunt Arleen live, almost every summer for a long stretch. I would go up and meet up with my cousins Leslie and Ellen and sometimes even Roxanne. We would run around the vast backyard and I would avoid the responsibility of getting the eggs from the chickens because their beaks terrified me. We would pick blackberries from the patch all the way in the back of one field and when we brought a full bowl back to the house Bob and Arleen would make us organic pancakes with hot maple syrup infused with butter and with each mouthful you thought you would never taste anything better. At night we would go outside and dance around while my uncle and his band played or lay in the bed of his pickup truck at the drive-in movies.
Uncle Bob’s farm is so huge he can eat breakfast out of a field in the back of his house, eat dinner from a field a step over from the last and still head to the farmer’s market on the weekends to sell his tender greens and homemade granola. Watermelon and strawberries grow in his fields, along with lettuce, carrots, peas and beans. Beets, beat greens, rhubarb, even pumpkins I think. Anyway it’s incredible. And aside from the veggies they’ve always had chickens. Once they had a goose who was very mean but delicious, and recently have begun beekeeping for the honey. While we were there I found out they just started raising sheep too! How cool is that?!?!
When we drove up the final hill on the long stretch of single lane asphalt road and started down the curved gravel driveway both boys said, “Oh, wow,” at almost the same time. At first when you drive in you see a small one room cabin by the road and a brightly painted yellow and purple produce stand which reads Brighton Farm. Then you keep going down the gravel path and you find yourself in between a sparsely populated row of crab apple trees, and you can see beautiful green grass fields behind the trees. Then you pull up to the house. The hand made wood and stone home which has slowly been added on to as long as my uncle and aunt have lived there, evolving from one room to two stories and from outhouses to indoor plumbing and internet. This wood and stone house is next to the chicken coop on one side and the sheep pasture/field/backyard on the other side.
As soon as we got there my uncle had me squeezed into a hug followed quickly by my aunt and immediately after that they were back to work planting and feeding the chickens so Joey, Tom and I kept on their heels and asked them all kinds of questions about living on a farm.
Joey asked what happens when a chicken runs away, but Uncle Bob said they don’t because why would they? They get fed everyday and besides, once a chicken finds a place to roost they go there every night, so it’s not a problem the way an outdoor cat or dog would be. We asked about bee keeping and Uncle Bob showed us the working hive he has now and an old one which he pulled apart to show us the inside of. We asked if he ever gets overwhelmed or bored working on a farm and were all struck dumb with smiles when he said that everything was just about right and that’s how he kept it. What a life.
The boys and I headed down around the pasture and off along a path into the woods. I was barefoot so we didn’t make it that far down the path, but when we returned Jason and Lindsey were hanging clothes on the line. Jason and Lindsey hold the special titles of farm interns for this particular summer. When I called my uncle’s house to remind him we were on the way I got Jason on the phone and had a pleasant chat with him about our trip. When we met, I found out he’s from Sharron, MA which is an hour or so away from my hometown and which is where a good friend of mine moved for a while. Lindsey is from Hershey, PA which is right near where we all went to college, so right off the bat we knew we liked these guys.
They walked with us further into the woods down the same path we had been on earlier and we found a beaver dam and a cool brook into the woods. We hurried back for dinner which was almost entirely made up of farm foods (we had chicken, field greens and rice, the rice being the only outsider to this home grown meal) and then we sunk back into lazy wooden chairs around a fire and chatted until the stars stole our attention, everyone else went to bed and the three of us breathed easy, reflecting on how amazing the country side is.
Jason passed on an interesting tidbit as well. You know how when you go to the country you feel like the air is cleaner and fresher? It is! There are little hairs on the leaves of trees which trap dust and in the city, where there is no green life, there are no little hairs to catch the dust and dirt. Fresh clean air, beautiful blue sky tie-dyed with white clouds, great food, great people, peaceful noise and the most amazing grouping of stars you have ever seen, my uncle’s house has been the best stop on this amazing trek so far.
The next day before we headed toward Burlington, Vermont we headed out to the Farmers Market where Uncle Bob was playing guitar and singing- he sang us a traveling song which Joey had recorded and put up on YouTube and we bought a bunch of organic food for the most amazing campfire feast you can imagine and which I’m sure you’ll hear all about later. We got buffalo meat, homemade Italian herb bread, herbed organic goat cheese, organic chocolate milk and a whole bunch of fresh greens and granola from my uncle’s farm.
Thanks, Brighton Farmers, for a breath of fresh air and a much needed escape from the cities that beat down our resolve at the beginning of our trip. We had an amazing time and were all blown away by the beauty and serenity that surrounded us, if only for a little while.