Wednesday, July 26, 2017

On Sandhill's Porch

I'm typing today's entry while sitting on the front porch at Sandhill Farm, that had been my home from 1974 to 2014.

(I am visiting for a few days, principally to disappear the retired FIC Office—an old '70s-era 12x60 house trailer that has reached the end of its useful life.)

The front porch is a location that evokes rich memories, and I cannot sit here without being simultaneously nurtured and stirred by that history, so much of which touches me personally. It's attached to the White House, the original farm building that has been the nerve center of the community throughout Sandhill's tenure on the land. The White House contains the community's office, dining room, and the kitchen used to cook the daily meals (in contrast with the food processing kitchen, located in another building).

In spring, summer, and fall the front porch serves as the central social space—where members and visitors most commonly eat and hang out. Frequently, it's where people read during breaks and off hours. It's also the most frequent meeting space.

Location, Location, Location
Part of what makes the front porch so compelling is that it's eastern facing. In the Midwest that's important because it captures the morning sun, when heat and light are typically welcome, while shedding it in the afternoon, when ambient temperatures and illumination are more than enough. Further, air stirs through the porch in ways that it doesn't indoors, providing welcome relief from summer's oppressive humidity. (In addition, air flow is life-preserving when we're grinding horseradish in the fall—don't ever attempt that in an enclosed space without a gas mask.)

While the White House came with the property when we bought it in 1974, the front porch was narrower then (eight feet instead of 12) and not screened in, as it is today. When we rebuilt it in the '90s to its current configuration we increased its value tenfold.

In the winter the front porch is sheathed in plastic and transformed into a mud room, firewood staging area, and rudimentary airlock. So it's precious space year round (including as a weather-protected staging area for incoming and outgoing packages).

Finally, it's an incomparable observation post for experiencing thunderstorms, where you can fully see, hear, and feel the impact of a low pressure cell racing across the landscape without getting drenched. It's better than Omnimax.

Down Memory Lane
In addition to the multitude of quiet memories (reading and sipping coffee in the morning; cooling off with a glass of ice tea in the afternoon; lingering after dinner), there are many prominent porch moments that echo in my memory. To wit:

o  A meeting in the early '80s (during a thunderstorm, no less) when some members asked me to leave the community.

o  Filling transplant trays each April with sorghum seeds in preparation for field planting in May. This was work we mostly did as a group. A rite of spring.

o  A meeting in the late '90s when the male in one established couple announced that he wanted to get together with the woman in another established couple, which she fully supported but the other partners did not. (Talk about juggling sticks of dynamite!)

o  Innumerable membership meetings when we'd get down to brass tacks about the perceived enhancements and challenges of a prospective's candidacy.

o  Playing live music and singing along into the night at our 20th anniversary party in 1994.

o  Conducting the Sandhill Trivia contest at our 30th birthday in 2004.

o  Facilitating a meeting among Dancing Rabbit's founding members in the early '90s, where they assessed the pros and cons of various potential locations for buying land (they had visited sites all over the country before ultimately selecting property only three miles from Sandhill).

o  Enjoying the fantastic array at the potluck buffet on the porch every Beltane/Land Day celebration in early May. 

All in all, Sandhill's front porch is to me what a madeleine cookie was to Proust.

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