Sending Down Roots

2015-06-25 20.24.22

Twilight this evening makes the world glow blue. The snow-covered ground reflects the dense sky. Finally, the winter we anticipated when we closed down the garden this fall has arrived. I slip into the barn to gather eggs—bluish-green and shades of brown—and watch the dog kick up some powder as she tears around on the hill.

Then we go inside to make French onion soup for supper. The smell of onions and garlic roasting with olive oil and thyme will fill the kitchen and spill into the mudroom when Andrew comes home.

I collect an armload of onions from our root cellar, a reliable source of satisfaction. Our root cellar used to be the cistern for water storage in the basement. Two thick stone walls complete a rectangle enclosing a corner under the kitchen.

The previous owner short-sightedly bashed a hole into the foundation to allow him to toss wood from the driveway into the cistern. He hammered another opening in the cistern wall to carry wood to the wood-burning furnace, which he later un-installed.

2015-09-26 01.11.24Andrew and my dad spent many summer days in that cistern, fixing the damages. Stones jigsawed into the foundation hole. A wooden frame closed the space between the stone wall and the kitchen floor joists. Insulation filled all the gaps. They poured a concrete doorway, then built a door, now held by hinges and a latch blacksmithed by my dad.

2015-09-26 01.14.03To get to that door, I walk past shelves they built, now laden with canned tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, dilly beans, pickled beets, plum jam, hot pepper jam, hot peppers, hot cucumber relish, and a bin of butternut squash. I lift the heavy latchpin and swing open the door.

Wooden crates—thanks again to dad—stack five kinds of potatoes against one wall. Many, many potatoes. Carrots and daikon radishes hide in tubs of damp sawdust. Onions fill another crate. I grab five large onions and head upstairs to cry as I slice them thinly.

We have sent down roots in this place, and I think about home. I juggle deep gratitude for our marriage, kids, farm, and jobs with the ache of living away from family and decades-old friendships. We each have strong roots in other places—Pennsylvania and Indiana—where family, extended family, and close friends coincide. We find ourselves living in neither of those places, but digging into life here. I find myself full and missing.

At my kids’ ages, I lived on the farm where my dad grew up. I had the sense of belonging that comes through generations of living there. After high school, I left home quickly, eager for new places, unconscious of what I was leaving behind.

Home always has layers and complications. How do I feel rooted in a place where all of our roots are only one year deep? What will our kids understand of themselves in this place? How can we connect them to our village, when it spans multiple states?

Now, home is where our potatoes parallel this stone foundation. Home is the dog among the chickens, the dog and the chickens in our kids’ arms. Our village is the kindness of strangers becoming friends, coworkers adopting us like family. We are lucky. On this blue evening, our home is warm. Our roots are roasting in the oven.

2015-10-11 22.31.51
Digging potatoes in October
Potatoes and onions in February

3 thoughts on “Sending Down Roots”

  1. Oh my. These words and pictures tug deeply. Thanks for raising the possibilities and the questions. The Dad.

  2. Hi there. I enjoy your stories very much and I really like the root cellar. I wish I could have a bowel of the onion soup. My grandmother’s home in LaCrosse, WI had a dark cellar with a room-sized, coal bin and an added on circular root cellar room. She did her laundry with a wringer washer down there until she got too old to go up and down the stairs. I hope your new roots mature quickly and share room with older growths.

    There was a fire at the office in the early hours of Feb 6. The story goes that a semi hit a power pole and the surge sparked a fire in the attic. Sprinklers quickly put the fire out but the sprinkler water flooded from the attic into the GIS room and on to a number of our offices. I am working at home today but have also been working at the FWS office up the road too. It is nice not commuting but we are spread out all over and having to make-do. They said it would be 3 weeks until we can move back but we’ll see what actually happens. Please tell Andrew.

    1. We miss you, Deb! Thanks for your note. You are officially invited for a bowl of onion soup! The fire sounds crazy. Glad everyone’s ok and hope things get back to normal quickly. All our best to you!

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