It’s the small things in life. Growing up in Connecticut, the first shad roe that showed up at Lou’s, the local fish monger, was a harbinger of spring. Nearly always served by my mom with asparagus and baby new potatoes with butter and chives, the taste became synonymous with spring.
As a twenty-something seeking my place in the world, I often dreamed of shad roe when the first smell of thawed, black earth permeated an April breeze, but I was off living abroad, climbing mountains and generally doing my best to remain untethered.
When I reached my thirties, things changed…sort of. I found I place where I set down roots for five years–longer than I had lived anywhere since I was 14. My sister, several years younger, took a job at the same school where I was teaching, and her first spring there, I made her shad roe, asparagus and baby new potatoes. The slice of bacon on top of the roe, the pad of butter, the crunch of chive–all of it carefully orchestrated like liturgy to commemorate and celebrate. To hold on to something important. A marker. A point of delineation. Something worth remembering and passing along.
Now I’m in my forties, and I live on the coast of Maine, a place where the landscape grows deeper into me each day. A place where I feel more tethered every time I dig my hands into the soil. I live and work here with my best friend, my lifelong companion. Together, at night before the fire, we utter the word “farm.” We talk about growing something here. Growing our businesses, ourselves, our very existences. I joke about “monitizing” the farm, but the reality is that I dream every night about how I can sink myself deeper into place and find a balance between working the land and living in the world. Connecting deeper with community and landscape.
I want to own this land as much as it owns me.
Almon Bird may have felt the same way when he started farming on this very land in the 1870s. Certainly there were opportunities of which his siblings took advantage to travel far afield and build both institutional and architectural monuments to an important local family. Almon didn’t go that route. He remained on Upper Cedar Street as Rockland, less than a mile away, developed in prominence. I don’t know why he made the choices he did, but I like to think he might have felt a connection to this land too. I know he died in this house, and I often wonder about his last thoughts as he exhaled his final breath and the weight of the world in the same place I wake each morning.
In 1880, Almon and his family hayed nine acres, had a pig and a cow and 15 poultry, and reported one calf dropped. That notion gives me great solace whenever the world presses in. I imagine being content if I could only achieve as much. Like Almon, perhaps, the ambitions of his brothers as evidenced in the Bird mansions on Broadway, the imposing edifice of the Bird block downtown and the sprawling success of the family’s Three Crow Spice Brand and fleet of schooners–those ambitions, while admirable, ultimately paled in comparison to something simpler.
Today, Jess’s Market advertised the season’s first Connecticut shad roe. Today, we also harvested the first outdoor crop of the season–a micro-harvest of micro-greens (aka thinning the beds). Tonight we ate shad roe, asparagus and baby new potatoes with a slice of A Wee Bit Farm bacon and a pad of Kate’s butter on each pair of roe. After dinner, I walked out back, a Mean Old Tom in hand, and felt the moist air eddying around the hulk of the barn. I smiled–happy in the fact that I live where I live, I love who I love, and I look forward to what tomorrow brings.