I just realized we’re about 10 days from our first year anniversary here at the Compound. I thought it would be fun to do a recap of our first year and see just how much we’ve actually settled in.
Our exit plan was to leave New Jersey when Morgan left for college in the ‘fall’, but college actually starts mid-August. We kept things fluid in terms of an exact departure date knowing we still had to sell our house before we could even look at a calendar.
The final countdown began mid-March when we put the house on the market. I remember Michael standing in front of the sign. A bittersweet moment. The new chapter had officially begun! The 8 year countdown was down to the last few months.
The sign placement was just the beginning of Dittfield’s Last Hoorah. We still had a very full schedule ahead of us: high school award nights, graduation with party, St. Anthony’s feast (a family tradition), a very late Garth Brooks concert, one last Met and Jackels game, Prom, the Ridgewood Fireworks and college orientation. You can find all the pics of the last experiences in NJ on my Instagram page.
I wanted to visit my high school home, take a walk through the park there, and drive past my first apartment. We made a stop to get what may have been our last slice on the Seaside Heights boardwalk and smell that familiar Seaside smell (you know it).
We Were Havin’ a Heatwave
We officially moved on July 31. Despite the heat, Michael dutifully carried me over the threshold…again. Within about a week, we had most things put away with the exception of a small pile of boxes tucked in the corner of our dining room. We worked long and hard to get things organized, as is the Dittfield way.
The heatwave persisted, but so did our resolve to get the house in order. So like two idiots we had 1500 sq. ft. of flooring delivered and proceeded to install it. Shortly thereafter, we met the chiropractor, and as they say, never again.
But, of course, that wasn’t enough. Within 3 weeks we were moving Morgan into her dorm room in Norfolk. I swear the moment we carried the last of Morgan’s stuff up the 4 flights of stairs, the ungodly heat finally broke. It’s like nature knew we were done lugging crap for a while.
We began to get around and meet some new folks. Yup. I said folks. We kept busy outside cutting, trimming, pruning, and swinging from vines. As time went on, we began to settle into our new routine. Then we met our neighbor, the alpaca farmer.
Nothing Like the Smell of Alpaca Poop in the Fall – Hancock’s
We took the 4 wheelers down to the alpaca farm around the bend and met our neighbor Mr. Hancock who unexpectedly, asked if we’d be available to help him with his farm while he rehabbed from some knee surgery. Wanting to be neighborly and with not much else to do, I agreed immediately! Michael just looked at me. Whhaat!?
Do alpaca bite? was my only concern. Well, they don’t, so within a few days I was being introduced to 30 alpaca, a llama, a shit load of chickens, some peacocks and a couple of really dumb guinea hens. It was a 2 month gig that lasted about 4 months – but hey that’s Northern Neck time.
I began my farm duties about 9 each morning. It quickly became pretty routine — separate the males into groups of 2-3, give alpaca feed and hay, feed the chickens, collect the eggs, and be sure there’s plenty of water. Easy peesy.
Michael took care of keeping the llama, a huge guy named Murphy, in line and cleaning up. Yes, plenty of cleaning up. We learned a lot about the animals and have been invited back to help with some vet care and the spring shearing. Yea I can rope an alpaca.
Fall quickly became winter, but there isn’t much winter here to speak of. The weather becomes cooler, the leaves fall from the trees and yes, there are even some gray days, but there’s rarely a whiff or threat of snow. How friggin’ cool is that!? To tell you the truth, I wore a jacket throughout the winter and only once when we got snow (2-3″ – Hahaha!), did we get to put on our winter coats, hats and some cool masks. It was a quickie – here and gone in 2-3 days. Best part was riding the 4 wheelers like lunatics. Fun times.
Home for the Holidays
We weren’t sure what we would be doing for the holidays. We talked about heading back up north but quickly realized if we went once we’d be traveling up there every year forever. We were really on the fence but decided it would be better to cut it off now so to speak. Fortunately, our kids were happy to make the trek, and we did the small turkey and trimmings thing for Thanksgiving.
We celebrated Christmas after Morgan’s first semester – so sometime in mid-December. We invited the kids and my mother-in-law down for the celebration hoping we started a new tradition. Waking up Christmas morning here was a wonderful gift but the best gift was the 30 lb frozen lasagne my sister made and shipped to me. Always my family’s tradition, it was the most loving gift and delicious giftI’ve ever received. That and the .22 Ruger my husband bought me 🙂 With the family back in New Jersey, Christmas Day was ours to enjoy as we pleased. So what does one do with their new found Christmas Day Freedom – kayak.
The sunsets were awesome during the winter months. We’d never traveled to the house December through March so we really never saw just how spectacular they were or how inspiring the creek is. The water takes on a dark fluid licorice look and creates a sense of peace especially during the dark gray January and February days.
The wildlife is a lot more visible during the winter. Perhaps it’s the bare trees that allow you to see deep into the forest or that the animals just know you’re hold up indoors giving them freedom to move around. It was commonplace to spot the eagle on the tree outside our bedroom window. Otters took up nesting on our peninsula and the deer and fox walk unabashedly across my front yard. It’s like living on my own personal nature preserve.
Because the weather is so mild, we were able to take some day trips to explore a little bit of Virginia. The state capital is extremely cool, and my visit there inspired me to get my website built, follow politics like a grown up and buy some expensive skin products (another story).
I will confess I did experience the normal winter blues, but I managed to keep busy tending to the animals and taking myself on little adventures around the property. Spring starts to show itself earlier than I’m used to, but folks here describe the month of March as a ‘drunk’. An expression that tells us March can’t get it’s shit straight, so there are days that are spring-like and others that take you right back into the darkness of winter.
I’m Getting Take Out
A true breath of spring came in April. It was wonderful to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the beginnings of new life. I couldn’t wait to get outside, but before I could hang my jacket in the closet, we needed to make a trip back up north to celebrate my great niece’s christening. While I couldn’t wait to see my family, there was one thing I just couldn’t wait to do.
If you remember, there is absolutely NO food delivery where I live, so our first stop, after saying hello to my mother-in-law, was my son’s apartment where I was finally able to order the meal I’d been craving for 9 months, but the best part of the order was calling the restaurant and hearing those wonderful familiar words.
“Pick Up or Delivery?”
The first bite was extraordinary…it was worth the 6 hour drive. The food was incredible. After devouring a plate of stuffed shells, a loaf of bread and two slices of pizza, I fell off into a short food coma then woke up realizing I forgot to order calamari!
It was April in New Jersey, and I think there was still frost in places (not really…but I was cold). My son and his fabulous girlfriend also keeps their apartment at like 60 degrees all year round. Brrrr. I borrowed socks from everyone I ran into. Right now, I’m holding the socks hostage in exchange for visits. If they want them back, they have to come and get them. I’ve had only 1 pick up so far — the couple with the frozen apartment. I guess they really needed those socks!
It was refreshing to see everyone but I must admit that the trip back to the Compound that Sunday was the best ride ever.
The topping on this incredible first year is, my oldest and dearest friend, Julie, who understands my adventurous, troubled soul and off handed humor, moved in around the corner or should I say creek. Funny how life takes you full circle and all in a quick 50+ years.
A quick story here. When Julie turned 8 years old she invited me to come along with my cousin, to her birthday party. Well, my cousin wasn’t able to make the party. Being new to the school I wasn’t sure about going alone, but my mother dutifully dropped me off at Julie’s front door where I told her Diana was sick, but could I still come? Standing there in my appropriate turquoise party dress, ankle socks and black patent leather shoes, and gift in hand – how could she say no? And boy I’m glad she didn’t. After some incredible fancy sandwiches, balloon races and a fancy cake, we were the best of friends.
Our lives have taken us on different paths over the years, but we still managed to stay very connected. We’ve stood by each other’s sides through catholic school high jinx, young love, over drinking, cutting high school, engagements, marriages, births, divorce and unfortunately, death. But these moments in life are just that..moments. It’s the long-haul that really counts. I’d say after 51 years, we’ve done some hauling. Welcome. Love.
After a full year, I had some very important revelations. I realized I spent over 30 years of my life working indoors never knowing how much I truly love being outdoors-think summer camp. I also finally accepted that I’m officially retired. I have no clue what day or date it which pisses Michael off because I’m constantly asking. “What day is it today?” Conversely, he’s still working and very much aware of not only the date but the exact time of day it is so not to miss a con call. (laughing face here).
I can’t take enough pictures. I photograph everything and anything. I want to capture and leave a legacy; hence, the development of this site. For my readers – when my blog is quiet, it’s because I’m in a reflective state and nothing is coming but deep, broody stuff. There are plenty of deep stuff blogs in the draft folder, but my preferred style is a little more tongue-in-cheek so for now that’s what I’ll be sharing. This blog is a little glimpse into a more personal side, and I’m happy to share some revelations.
Moving allowed me to realize just how much I love and miss my sister and how much I love my family. It’s beautiful to see them growing and thriving. I rest easy knowing it really was never really my responsibility. My sister knows what that means.
On a personal note, I want to thank Michael for being a marvelous husband and putting up with my constant ‘why are you working’ bullshit. I know each day you work you’re making a better life for us. I miss my kids, but I’m happy they aren’t afraid to visit and they do so often. I’m happy my daughter chose to go to college 2 hours from here so I can see her whenever I like and attend NCAA football games – Go Big Blue! I miss my my son, but I’ve never felt closer to him. I’m hoping our families find our beautiful Compound a place they can come and enjoy as much as we do.
Life is very very short. Plant a garden. Be free.
They say if you make it two years on the Neck, you’re here for life. I’m proud to say the words… One down, y’all!