Scene 1: Summer. Hot and Humid.

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The internet connection here at the farm is sporadic at best, nonexistent in general. Posts will likely be less frequent now that I’m spending more time in the sun and less on the internet, but I’m aiming for once a week.

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Holly Tree Farm is essentially the remnants of one of the earliest settlements in the area, and is several hundred years old (more about the history of Advance Mills here). Here’s an excerpt about where I’m working:

The Fray family occupied a still-existing house beside the river, now called Holly Tree Farm. A portion of this house may date to about 1790, although it has been added onto numerous times during its history. It is a typical Federal period house with finely detailed brickwork and some original fireplace mantels. A collection of nineteenth-century outbuildings remains on this property. These outbuildings include an ice house, kitchen, smokehouse, several sheds, and a barn. The house and its outbuildings are significant for their association with the Fray family, as well as for the wide variety of building types and functions they represent.

The article fails to mention that these “outbuildings” also include the slave quarters, which is right next to the trailer where I’m staying. On a side note: it’s fascinating to note the (sometimes excruciating) pains that Southerners go through in order to avoid talking about slavery. Most of these old farms were plantations, complete with racial oppression and exploitation. I’ll need a few more days (or weeks, or the whole summer) to collect my thoughts about that building, but it’s far too overwhelming to leave as a mere side note. 

The owner, Dominique, is hard to pin down. He’s made it rich through D.C. real estate, and I can’t quite tell if he’s approaching the farm as a business venture, a hobby, or what. He’s certainly knowledgeable, and has a lot of contacts and resources for the various projects happening on the property, but he’s also a bit spontaneous and indulgent, with a slight hint of obliviousness about some of the details. Not to mention, he has terrible decorating taste– the trailer that I’m staying in right now is tiki decorated, like a trashy 70′s porn. 

The gardener– young, blond, a local –lives in the old schoolhouse and has two tiny blonde kids, who play around with Dominique’s five kids. This adds up to a total of seven androgynous, barefoot, dirty children. Between the river, the house and barns, the woods, the pastures, and the chicken coop, I barely see them.

I’m excited about this summer, but to be honest also a little apprehensive. Gardening and farming is a way for me to feel a little more stable in this world, but the truth is that farming at this point in history has become a lucrative business. Which is unfortunate, because no matter how “advanced” we see ourselves being in science and technology, we are still going to have to partake at some level in the biological exchange between our bodies and the natural world. 

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