The Allée at Pitney Farm in Mendham NJ
One day last fall, I hiked into Pitney Farm, leaving the concrete sidewalk with its stream of cars whizzing past. A step beyond the white gates at One Cold Hill Road — and I was in a different space, a different world — of vine-decked trellises and formal flower beds still bright with autumn’s last blossoms. A quick hike up the driveway, a few steps past the sparkling white clapboard front of the old homestead, and there it was: the Allée.
That day the yellow leaves, turned golden as the sun shone through them, dropped and drifted this way and that, through the clean, crisp air. A shower of bright sunshine falling past my head and carpeting the lawn. Planted in 1760, before there even was a United States of America, who had passed under these boughs? Gentlemen in frock coats and breeches, riding off to meet with Washington’s officers at the Ford Mansion in Morristown? Ladies in their petticoats and gowns, wearing caps trimmed in gay ribbons and carrying a parasol as they strolled leisurely down the corridor of new sapling maple trees?
Pitney Farm Cutting Garden, oil on board by Tjelda vander Meijden
It snowed last night. In the gray of early morning, I’m looking out the window at the white domes capping every bush, branch and fencepost. This is the time to go to the on-line seed catalog, its cover a riot of yellow, purple, red, orange and green. An explosion of color to combat the insistent white and gray beyond my windowpane. All I have to do is look at the pictures and already I am dreaming of the piercing tang of dill, the full flavor of the strangely-shaped heirloom tomatoes, the tantalizing acrid smell of the clown-wild marigolds, the sweet fragrance of roses, the hard red balls of the radishes. Shall we do watermelons this year? Listada de Gandia eggplant? When can I start turning over the good, brown earth?
I was listening to a BBC podcast about cider orchards in Herefordshire and it set me thinking about how farmers measure time. One of the farmers said he didn’t feel that he owned the farm, he saw himself as its steward for his children and grandchildren. Rows of pear trees that he had just planted to commemorate the birth of 3 new grandsons would be bearing fruit for the next generation of the family and the generation after that.