By Sara Dougherty

Today is my first day at my new home. My parents and I left Central Square with my cat, Prince, my hound, Bloo and two trucks’ worth of amenities that I thought I would need to get through the summer. The cabin has no electricity, or any of the amenities that come along with it. There is no running water and no Wi-Fi. Not much else either. The radio would need to run on batteries if I wanted any music besides what I could make with my guitar or bagpipes. Without a shower or running water to the cabin, I have prepared to carry five-gallon pails from the spring up the hill to my “home” to help meet my daily needs. The cabin is bare, but beautiful in its emptiness. A few wooden chairs, a small kitchen table, and some antique oil lanterns were all that Charlie and Candy had left within the timber framed walls. I wasn’t expecting much company besides that of my books, pets, and the sweet sound of the newly hatched peepers singing me to sleep.

Throughout my time at Paul Smith’s, I’ve learned a lot about who I am, who I’m trying to become, and that “if you can’t change the situation, change how you react to it.” Through switching my major to Integrated Studies, I was able to pilot this new apprenticeship program for the college with the help of my dear friend and mentor, Tom Huber. Together, Tom and I crafted a plan that worked for my organic mind set and allowed for me to create a unique and personal learning experience out of my summer time employment. After chatting with Charlie and Candy about this opportunity, they agreed to help me manage my workload. Charlie and Candy Harrington have been gardening since they were young adults; they’re both in their 70s now. Who could be better to study under than those who have practiced the art of their profession for over 30 years?

It goes without saying that my mother was seriously worried about me being alone in the woods and farm fields, but I think I can manage. My father made sure we packed my shotgun. That worried my mother even more. I have hunted with my dad, and I know how to shoot. I thought it might be useful and at the same time, hoped I wouldn’t have occasion to use it. But it gave me a little courage and I placed it beside my bed.  

When packing for this summer apprenticeship, I had to consider food items that would not require refrigeration. I would need a way to light up the cabin at night, when the darkness fills the vaulted spaces and light makes it feel better. I went through the aisles of Wegman’s, strategically shopping for groceries that would keep without a fridge. I would have a propane cook stove, the kind used for camping, so soups and dried foods filled most of my food bins. I found some inexpensive solar lamps and brought some battery-operated lanterns, borrowed from my parent’s camping gear. My mother worried about the many candles Candy had set around the cabin and warned me not to rely on candlelight. It seems romantic, the candles and the darkness, but I understood.

When we arrived, my mother began cleaning the inside while my father and I unloaded the trucks. Clothes, food, coolers. My canoe, the dog kennel, and the cat box. My futon mattress, lanterns, art supplies, and musical instruments. Everything found its place on the grounds or in the cabin. Dad and I set up an outdoor cable run for Bloo, so that he would have a comfortable place outside on nice days. I also sighted in my 20 gauge shotgun. After the cabin was swept clean, the bed made, and the countertops wiped down, I brought my parents over to Charlie and Candy’s to get them acquainted.

Charlie. Getting anxious about [SJH1] maybe missing Charlie down at the cabin, I said my goodbyes to my parents, left them talking with Candy, and made my way back to my summer homestead.

When I arrived, Charlie was using his rototiller to remove weeds that had been growing between the rows of vegetables we had planted on May 7th.  He made his way to the end of the row to greet me. “I didn’t think you were coming till tomorrow!” We talked about my summer session and about my family, but quickly moved into to talking business. Charlie handed me a list of tasks that needed to be completed the next day. The list included learning how to run the rototiller. After a quick conversation meant to set my agenda for the next day, Charlie drove off.

Early dusk. Just me and the sky and the fields, and it hit me – this is it. I was here, alone, and standing at the beginning of my new beginning. That felt okay. Kind of scary, but okay. I had a plan. I was prepared. I knew where I was.

I began my evening at the cabin by collecting water from the spring for my wash bins. I had already managed to produce several pairs of filthy socks from summer session and a few items of clothing that were in desperate need of scrubbing. I lugged two large buckets of spring water up the hill, measured out the laundry detergent, and hand-washed my clothes, hanging them to dry on a clothesline my dad had strung. After that, I sat down to start typing this journal. I know it will be important to stay on top of my studies for school as well as keep up with the farm labors. This apprenticeship is going to allow me to graduate next year. It’s a new program and I’m fortunate to be one of the candidates piloting this innovative opportunity. I broke out my solar cellphone charger, the new way to provide my phone with some juice. I sent some pictures home to my parents, to my boyfriend Rory, and to my grandparents, letting them know that I had settled in for the night and everything was alright. As tired as I am from the work of settling in and all the work I’d done already, I think, “Tomorrow the real work begins!”

A Red-Tick Coon hound enthusiast. An artist. Recoverer of lost things. Simply a human. Being.

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