I have a friend. His name is Tom. He is an architect. He has three grown daughters. One of his daughter’s is Catherine. This is a story about her.
When I met Tom he invited us all to his house, and during that Summer a few years ago we visited again and again. It was true that he had a wife and three children but I did not meet them for nearly a year.
What I love about Tom is his wide-embracing view of the world and his mixture of very conventional and wildly unconventional way of life. For starters he designed and build his own house, and as the years went by he kept adding on more “bits” Also, when an idea strikes him, he either invents something or buys the patent! There are a lot of posts with Tom in them if you are curious (here, here, here, here and here and many more!)
So, where was this family he appeared to be ultra-close to, leaving him all alone in the middle of the countryside? We joked that he had made them all up, and for him to say that they were also in China seemed like a conveniently far-flung invention of his too!
But, they were all in China as it turned out. Catherine armed with fluent Mandarin left for Hong Kong to work in the corporate world, cubicle and all! Then the youngest daughter B. decided that this was the best place to go to medical school, so off she went too.
Well, I said they were a close family so I am presuming after some time had gone by, the other sister Laura, missed her sisters so much she jumped on a plane to China to be close to them. All three sisters had left their home for presumably a very long time.
So what was a mother to do? Their mother decided that the girls needed a maternal eye to watch over them and help set them up comfortably in their various accommodations and jobs. So you all know where she went. It was during this time that I met Tom, and I must say he came across as a man quite content with this new arrangement. He could come and go as he pleased, eat when and what he liked, and sleep in any room in his topsy-turvy house.
Of course over time I did eventually meet the whole family. This happened over holidays like Christmas and impromptu visits, and we became close pretty quickly as we felt we had met long ago through stories swapped back and forth between the two families.
Jumping a few years to the present they are all, save one, back at home, and I mean literally living at home. What happened?
Well Laura decided that China was not for her and moved home, followed less than a year later by Catherine who had grown weary of her little cubicle and living in a stacked apartment building in the heart of the city.
One day Tom told me that Catherine said she was moving home to become a farmer. “A what?” I said, “I know” was his reply in a not so surprised tone. He had no one to blame but himself. He raised three girls to think they could do anything they set their mind to.
The bolt of lightning that hit Catherine happened when she went trekking around Europe with her sister this spring. They lived on the cheap, staying with friends (or friends of friends’) and ate in restaurants a little off the beaten path. Catherine thought she had died and gone to gastronomic heaven.
I could say that this only happened because the food she was used to eating in China appeared a little sterile and engineered by comparison but when she told me that her idea to grow her own food came to her while she was in Naples I have to disagree with that theory and say that it was the sublimely good Italian food that clinched it!
I am from Ireland so you never see the words “grass-fed” cows on labels in the meat section. All cows are grass-fed and that is that. So much more of the food in Europe locally sourced and as far as my experience goes, Italy is pretty close to the top of the heap when it comes to eating close to the table.
They eat seasonally and food is brought in almost daily to butcher shops and green groceries. I lived there last year for a stint and cooked almost everyday with ingredients from no more than a few miles to several miles away. The food tasted good above and beyond anything I did to it for that reason alone. Click on “Italy” to the side of this blog to read all about it!
This is what Catherine found out and she wanted that for herself. She is at that glorious point in her life where time is most definitely on her side and there was no better time to go off and be adventurous than right now. She also had Tom, and acres of land at her disposal. There was no way I could see him objecting. He is the best kind of push-over and it is most convenient if he happens to be your father!
After her decision, her mission was to buy as many seeds as she could find, and as she tramped the rest of Italy, and then France, she found what she could in flower and plant shops before it was time to get home and start digging.
She picked the piece of ground where her mother had always had a vegetable garden when she was growing up but made it a great deal larger. She then went about finding out how to be this person she wanted to become and started classes on organic farming, reading mountains of books and magazine articles as well as seeking out other like-minded agriculturers.
I must say I am impressed. Her enthusiasm has not waned but excelled, and the more she finds out the more she wants to do. It truly is like watching a kid in a candy store.
When she talks about what she is doing and takes me on tours to show me how well her San Marzano tomatoes seeds are doing, or to see the new goat or the baby rabbits she just makes me happy. It is hard for her downright good humor not to rub off on you as you walk alongside her.
She certainly doesn’t look like a farmer as she is usually wearing a strapless sun dress with a pair of bright yellow rubber boots, hair up, sometime with a ribbon, and not a complaint from her lips about being tired or jaded from all the hard work.
I would find out about a new animal arrival via a picture email from Tom. The kids would beg to see it and over we would trot (in fact after I write this we are going there for tea and to hold the new Toulouse geese!)
A couple of Sundays ago we were invited to a Farm Picnic. This is when the farm was introduced to the locals. Lots of people came and we all ate food from the garden cooked with enthusiasm and love by Catherine, Laura, Tom and of course the ever-always supporting Mom!
Everyday more veggies are planted and more animals arrive. There is talk about 60 chickens and that scares me a little. It doesn’t seem to bother Catherine so rather her than me.
I am more than content to take surplus greens home and stop by for tea and a tour. This is the first of what I hope to be many posts about SweeTerra Farm. After all I haven’t even touched on her learning to butcher rabbits and her beehives!
I’m sure Tom will get used to this.