Monday, June 4, 2012

Homestead Hearts

It seems the best days can simply take us by surprise. A day without a plan can become a blueprint of the very heart that beats in our chest. Saturday was such a day. The temperatures were so pleasing, lotsa sun and a cool breeze to boot. I donned my new hat and David and I hopped in the car, top down, and drove with no real intention in mind.

The gas tank almost full and lunch behind us, there was no real need to rush or reach any particular destination. The absence of time constraints alone set us up for a near perfect kind of day. We passed one of my favorite organic food stores on the left as we continued on to our undecided destination. I thought of how long it had been since I visited this quaint little store with all its homemade fare and the smell of fresh produce and aged cheese. I've never lived on a farm but spinning along with no roof over our heads, I realized how attracted I am to pastures filled with cows and the serene silos that loom large on the rolling hills just outside of town. I'd not yet imagined the surprise in store for us just miles from these pastoral settings.

I don't know when we found Gilead Road and Beatties Ford, I was so busy sight seeing, soaking up the sun and sharing the company of my best friend. I do remember the sign. We both seemed to see it at once. Rural Hill.... with an arrow pointing the way and a quick right turn. There was something about a wildlife refuge and it seemed that was what we were about to find when another sign came into view. An iron gate marked the entrance and it appeared to be open even though only one car was sitting beside an old barn like structure.

We drove into what appeared to be a parking lot and I grabbed my camera, so thankful I'd not forgotten it. I'd already spotted an old well, like my great grandparents had when I was a child. Still can remember long cool drinks from a dipper and cousins hanging on the side of it together waiting their turns. We stopped short of the well to view a cairn inside a white picket fence. A pile of stones, one bearing painted flowers to mark the graves of Scottish ancestors rested inside. Hugging the picket fence were some of the most beautiful wildflowers in magentas and blues.

I spotted someone's head over the hill and immediately knew they were in a garden, a hoe working the ground. Still not sure we were supposed to be visiting, I was set on getting down to the garden to learn the significance of Rural Hill. We'd already discovered a farmhouse, the well and a garden adjacent to the house where bumble bees were getting drunk on the nectar of some of the most beautiful lambs' ear I've ever seen. It wasn't long before someone came along to fill us in on our discovery. We'd just driven onto the two hundred sixty five acres of land, and historical landmark, the home of a former General in the Revolutionary War. For more details you can find the history of the John Davidson family at .

After learning of some of the events that take place there throughout the year, we made our way down to what we learned was the "kitchen garden," found right in the front yard of the rebuilt cabin where John Davidson, his bride Violet made their very first home after arriving from Dundee.The couple went on to have 10 children and the homestead became the home of Davidsons until very recently when the last of 3 siblings sharing the farmhouse passed away.

 So caught up in the story of Rural Hill and all the information the volunteer was sharing about this garden, I forgot to take any pictures. Trying to keep the garden authentic to the time period, tomatos were not grown since they were considered dangerous,even poisonous. Rosemary grew to be nearly my height and other aromatic herbs I've never known before. The woman with the hoe brought a handful of something that looked like pellet with a hint of lilac, fuzzy little pills. As she lifted them to our noses, she announced "fresh lavender," not even a faint resemblance to the scent of an aerosol spray. Heavenly!

We made our way inside the tiny cabin where we learned more about the volunteers who cook authentic Scottish food at the events held there at Rural Hill. Recipes like Sea Pie and Scottish Eggs were cooked over a fire, just as the Davidson clan might have experienced them in the 1700s. The other three young people who'd pulled up shortly after us, made their way back up the hill to their car as we remained behind, the only visitors left that day. We listened to stories of the Davidson family, how the ducks fly over the cabin around 8pm each night and find their roost and just how much serenity one can find on this stretch of land. Somewhere deep inside I felt a longing to see what it might feel like to spend the night in what used to be a homestead for young Violet Wilson Davidson.

As we climbed the hill to see the pillars of the old mansion still intact in front of the farmhouse, I learned they were going to have a "plant share" on next Saturday. I literally jumped up and down as I thought of getting to take home something from this land. It's not something I can explain, my love of the old.. history... and the love of the soil and... budding plants and growing things. I like to think we each carry a bit of the homestead heart of someone who preceded us here.

Something of the old calls us back to our roots. My heart must be eternally tied to someone who set out on an adventure of a lifetime to find their way here to America where they set up housekeeping. I like to think they found as much pleasure and excitement on finding their new home as I found in visiting it centuries later. Perhaps our ancestors longed for convenience and quicker methods as much as we find ourselves longing for the serenity and slower pace of life. I believe they enjoyed serendipitous moments that filled their lungs with scents like fresh lavender and their eyes grew misty at the sight of a strawberry moon. Like the footprint of the small cabin, we don't walk too far behind those who came before us if we look inside our hearts.

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