The First Year – December & January

Sithean Winter SunsetI painstakingly chronicled the first year of our lives at Sithean.  There’s something about this place that called out to be written down, from the magic of the winter sunsets, to the 60 year-old asparagus bed that still produces, the wall of white lilacs that suddenly blooms in the spring, and more.  Each day here brings surprises, and the first year was like watching a slow-motion movie plot unfold.  Sithean has a personality all her own, and I think she likes becoming a farm once again, albeit a tiny one.

The house, which once sat about a third of a mile down the hill from where it currently lies, started out as the servant’s quarters for a large farming estate.  Today the estate house serves as a wedding and event venue, and it is fairly common for us to hear, as we step out the door “…by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you…” during the summer months.   Far from being a detraction, constant celebrations of love just next door only adds to the magic of the setting.

Sithean has 3 human inhabitants in addition to the endless wildlife, chickens and 2 domestic bunnies.

But in the first couple months after we arrived, it was just us.  Me, and The Adorables, aka my children.

In retrospect, moving to my tiny New England farmlet from South Florida in winter was probably the best decision I could have made, because it allowed me to begin settling in without having to juggle a garden and yard work.

Possibly, just possibly, I should have picked some other time to arrive than 3 days before Christmas.  My Mom flew down to road trip with me, 1472 miles in 5 days, with a few adventures tossed in brought us home at 1:23 in the morning on December 21st.

Somehow the holiday got pulled off, although I’m still not exactly sure how, with lots of excitement by the children and lots of exhaustion by the adults.  Everyone pitched in.  My ex had arrived 9 days earlier to do the walk through for my house and get a Christmas tree – we decided that under the circumstances pulling off 2 Christmases was impossible, and so we joined forces to try and make just one happen.  2 nights after we arrived I went to my parents to sort and wrap all the gifts I had shipped to them.

His Mom brought the turkey.  My parents had made us Christmas cookies.  The furniture arrived the day after we did, and the dining room table was set up just about an hour before Christmas dinner was plated.  The house was full of boxes, not all the furniture had arrived, but we at least had a couch and beds, and Santa found his way to us.

But in January, I felt like a string had snapped.  I was exhausted, and daunted by all there was to be done.  Still, like a knot, I pulled one string at a time.  I brought out cookbooks I hadn’t seen in ages and started cooking, having almost forgot how much I enjoyed time in the kitchen.  I began planning the garden.

I was on the road every other week,  trying to balance a demanding career, motherhood, and the needs of my new environs.  Which is why adding to my responsibilities just a few weeks after we arrived seems counter-intuitive, but became the thing that grounded us here.

I had given away the chicken coop and supplies when we moved to Florida a few years back.   Sithean had no outbuildings other than the garage, so I thought chickens would have to wait a year until I could buy or build a coop.  But enter next door – they had chickens that ranged and wanted to replenish their flock, we wanted chicks, and the first joint experiment emerged as a result.

The effect on the kids when 6 little fluffballs arrived was striking.  My daughter remembered chickens and bunnies, my son had been too young.  She still mourned her first home, because it represented the time when we had been a family unbroken.  But tiny cute creatures that need constant love and attention are hard to resist –  in some way, the chickens  made this a place where we would build a life.

It was the sign of transition from ‘new house’ to ‘home’.