What Have We (I) Been Thinking?

During the roughly three years we’ve been working to move our life from the suburbs to the farm, I’ve been largely free of regrets or second thoughts. That changed Tuesday morning.


Our move to the farm is more or less complete now. We think of ourselves as farmers, we have most of our personal belongings there, and most importantly, we feel we’re “home” when we’re at the farm. We’re still working to prepare our suburban home to sell, though, so Amanda and I found ourselves there yesterday packing up the car for another trip to Longleaf Breeze.

Amanda was inside finishing her preparations for leaving, and I had a few minutes to stand outside the house and think. Whoo-boy, did I think.

First, I noticed the woods around our home. We moved there 26 years ago and have watched these small oaks and pines grow into towering giants that preside over our house with dignity and reserve. I remember the poor sprig of a red oak that was bent over by a fallen tree in the forest and seemed doomed; how Amanda and I tenderly extricated it and carefully tied it up in a feeble hope that it would learn to grow straight up again.

It survived and thrived in what later became our front yard, even stood up to our daughter when she and a friend took an underage joyride in big brother’s car and gashed the oak with the bumper. Now it too has grown into one of those dignified giants.

Then after I contemplated the beautiful forest we are leaving, I started in on relationships. We have lived 26 years in one place, so not only have our friends watched our children grow up; they’ve watched us grow up. They have loved us, listened to us, cried with us, partied with us, and cared for us through professional ups and downs, deaths of relatives, and the challenge of being family. They are not simply dear to us; they are part of who we are.

And then there’s our church, Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church, the focus of our social life for 30 years, the place where we baptized our children, and the community that helped raise them. You really can’t talk about our relationships or our church without bringing up the other. They are inseparable.

And there are the conveniences too, of course. Running down the street or a quick trip over the hill to pick up whatever gourmet food we want, blazing Internet connection speed at an affordable price, even a first rate independent nursery within walking distance.

So have we decided to chuck this grand experiment and stay put in the suburbs? Of course not. Amanda and I both remain committed to our goal of becoming subsistence farmers. Just yesterday (and fresh from my telling her about all my regrets), Amanda found fresh validation for our decision when we had the chance to walk on the north side of the property and see a part of it where we hadn’t ventured for more than a year.

But it is good to stop every now and then and contemplate what we are giving up, have a chance to be melancholy about it, and then move on.

5 thoughts on “What Have We (I) Been Thinking?”

  1. Superbly written, Lee. At some point my wife and I will move out of the surburban house where we have lived since 1987. Although our destination isn’t likely to be a farm, we’ll have very similar emotions and reflections upon moving out.

  2. Thanks Chuck,

    You’re very kind. Amanda and I wish you and your wife the best as you plan your move.

    We’re recording this week’s podcast today, and I’m sure the subject will come up there too, if you’re interested.

  3. Hard to disagree.

    I imagine you’re in for a few more “Oh wow” moments as the prospect of severing physical ties with that community becomes more and more official.

    But I also imagine that the moments of heartache will be overshadowed by the stretches of unabashed joy that you and Mom will experience as you make new discoveries and revel in your accomplishments as you establish your new codger lifestyle.

  4. Lee and Amanda,

    Your words ring particularly true to me and Sue this morning. We just signed a contract to purchase a farm in North Carolina – about two hours from where our daughter and son in law now live. We are going to plant a vineyard. We don’t expect to be quite as adventureous as you guys, but we certainly will have pangs about leaving Evanston — although we don’t currently have plans to sell our house here, that time hopefully will come (for if it doesn’t come that likely would mean the NC experiment didn’t work). We will be building a house on this land and getting integrated into the vineyard/winemaker community of the Yadkin valley, which is an up and coming wine producing area. We will be making many trips to NC to oversee things and hopefully can take a short detour to visit you and let you teach us about new things.

    Bill and Sue

  5. Congratulations to both of you!

    Please don’t imagine that we know much to teach you at this point. We certainly hope that one day we will be relatively knowledgeable, but right now all we can say with confidence is that we have much to learn.

    We will look forward to updates from the Harmons, and we will hope to see your handiwork soon!

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