Thursday, March 31, 2011

And so it begins

I'm not a blogger.  I don't even read blogs.  But, my family has embarked on a new path and there are so many things coming at me from all sides that I need to document these beginning times.  I can type faster than I can write, and we have family and friends who might be interested in what's going on with us - hence the blog.  I make no promises as to how often I will update this site but will try to be faithful.

I'm Leslie, and I'm originally from North Carolina but have spent the last thirteen years in the DC area.  I moved there after law school and it's where I met my husband, Brendan.  He's a DC native (so rare in that most transient of towns) and a chef.  When I met him I was an attorney and he was a lowly line cook at a downtown DC restaurant.  He was charming and funny and exciting and I got a bit of a rush out of the fact that our dates began at 11pm and went til 3am.  This was difficult on my lawyer job and I'm glad that I was not represented by myself during that time!

We were married in May 2001 and now have three children.  Catie is 8, obsessed with horses and is blindingly bright.  Charlotte is 6 and is our resident princess.  Brendan refers to her as our benevolent dictator.  Evan is 4 (and a half!) and I can best describe him with the following definition.  Boy - A noise with dirt on it.  He is simply awesome.

Brendan works crazy hours.  During our marriage his schedule has most often been 9am-11pm, 6 days a week.  Working in a restaurant is not for the lazy, that's for sure.  He absolutely loves it and I think if he had to work a desk job he'd go mad.  He's a fabulous chef and an amazing father and husband.  I've been lucky enough to be able to stay home with the children which has been wonderful, frustrating, exhausting and the best job I've ever had all at the same time.

I grew up in a smallish town in and loved spending time on my grandparents' farm.  Many of my best memories revolve around playing in the corn crib, shelling pecans and peas on the front porch, swinging on the tire swing, and climbing in the hayloft.  Brendan is a city boy born and bred, but has a bond with nature that I admire.  He's the hunter, camper, kayaker, and forager that I wish I was.  And his love and respect for food and where it comes from has shaped not only who he is but dictates what he cooks as well.

For years we've talked about owning a small farm.  We want to grow what we can, as sustainably as we can, and use that in a restaurant that we own and operate with Brendan as the chef.  Waste from the restaurant should go back to the farm for use as compost.  There are many restaurants all over the country and indeed the world that use local ingredients as much as possible and some even have dedicated relationships with local farmers who grow things specifically for the restaurant.  But, there are very few restaurants that have their own gardens, much less that have the chef himself as the farmer!

While we loved the DC area, especially our town of Alexandria, VA, we knew we could never afford to put this into action there.  To be able to afford the farm we'd have to live so far outside DC that Brendan's commute to work would be prohibitive.  So for years it remained a fantasy that we liked to discuss late at night when the children were asleep and the house was finally quiet.

This summer our family experienced horrible tragedy.  Brendan's mother, Susan, who had been diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2007, experienced a relapse.  The cancer was very aggressive this time around and her health declined rapidly.  At the same time, Brendan's older sister, Sara, was gravely ill with kidney and liver failure.  We lost both of these wonderful women within one week in July.  Our lives were turned completely upside down.  Neither of us has ever experienced a sadness so great and we hope to never have to deal with so much loss so quickly again.

The losses changed something in both Brendan and I.  We were suddenly unwilling to accept compromise in what we wanted for ourselves and our children.  The dream was to own a farm, open a restaurant, and give our children the richest life experience we could provide.  We'd had a jarring reminder that there may not always be time to do things later and childhood is fleeting.  We began the search for a farm in North Carolina, near my parents and the town where I grew up.

We settled on Pittsboro, NC.  Pittsboro is a tiny historic town about 20 minutes south of Chapel Hill, NC, in the center of the state.  The town streets radiate from a traffic circle in which sits the county courthouse.  A large state park, scenic rivers, and lovely farms surround the town.  The town has become a hub of sorts for sustainability.  The local community college offers a sustainable agriculture program and small organic farms are increasing in number each year.

We purchased an 11 acre farm just outside of town.  I moved down from Virginia with the children over New Years' weekend 2011 but Brendan remained behind and continued working in DC until March 15. He has finally joined us and we are ecstatic to finally begin our rural life in earnest.  Having begun this blog, I find that I'm actually really excited about it and am looking forward to seeing where this leads.