For the last two years, every time I came across a photo of Laura Ferrara and her amazing farm Westwind Orchard in upstate New York, I have been so overwhelmed by what she’s accomplished that I have to look away. I first spotted photos of her farm-based pizza restaurant on Instagram, and then I noticed her homemade jam and honey with its perfectly designed packaging on Pinterest, and then Garance Doré was blogging about apple picking at Westwind and EyeSwoon was hosting a harvest supper there, and the whole thing just made me so impressed and inspired but also intimidated and terribly inferior. That was when I decided I had to avert my eyes. How on Earth did she manage to maintain her day job as a fashion editor, while her husband maintained his job as a photographer, and raise a child, and run this amazing farm with all these products and services and also have it open to the public?!? Just when I was starting to feel settled into my quiet, happy life on the farm and getting the feeling that I was finding a balance between work and pleasure and family and my occasional visits to NYC and my writing and my photography, Laura comes along and suddenly I feel that I am accomplishing absolutely nothing at all!!
Isn’t it awful how we beat ourselves up in this way?
Well, this little story I was telling myself about how she was doing everything and I was doing nothing lost some of its power when I found out that they actually bought their farm nearly 15 years ago. Somehow that made everything more relatable and achievable. Not that I see what they have as something I want for myself exactly, but it is my dream to resurrect the productivity of the farm. There are empty fields and abandoned barns dating back to 1860 that have long lost their purpose, and my ultimate goal for living here is to find a reason to bring them back to life. I don’t know what that actually means yet, but I am toying with many ideas, and have given myself until Zach is at boarding school a year and half from now to figure out what the vision and the goal is and to start to slowly work towards it. In the meantime, I am trying out every farm activity possible to identify what I most enjoy doing and how I would like to best use my time. And I am also envying Laura and holding her on a pedestal and admiring her for setting the bar very, very high. ..
Then we moved them to an old abandoned chicken run just behind the farmyard. They were safe there – and boy did the hens produce a LOT of eggs – but we never saw them. We had no relationship with them whatsoever. Besides the pleasure of having fresh eggs, it was if we didn’t even have chickens anymore. And that felt sad to us. ..
My husband loves to tell people that he rode ponies as a kid, but that once he got on a motorbike around age 15, he never rode a horse again until only recently. When my son Zach grows up I suspect he’ll tell a similar tale, but in his case it will be pigs that lured him away from horses. When Zach was 7, his uncle Charlie got two rather large KuneKune pigs. Knowing that Zach had a bad fall off his pony the year before and had shied away from horse riding since, Charlie had it in his head that Zach would find it more fun to ride the pigs! I thought it was a silly idea and didn’t give it much thought until one afternoon when Charlie turned up in our garden. ..
Jack Bauer and his field mate Inspector Clouseau (Jack and Clue for short) actually belonged to my brother-in-law, but because we all live on the same farm, the donkeys would spend part of their year in the field next to our house. A few months ago, my husband Christopher was walking past that field when Clue ran up to him in utter panic. He was hee-ing and haw-ing as loud as he could and he looked scared. Christopher jumped the stone wall into the field where Clue was crying and followed him towards where it looked like Jack was lying down. Christopher instinctively knew in that moment that Jack was gone. Why would he be resting or sleeping while Clue was in such a state? As he approached him his fear was confirmed. Jack had died. Clue continued to run around, completely freaking out. Poor Clue. That afternoon we rang a neighbour who has donkeys and she agreed to adopt Clue right away so he could begin bonding with hers. ..
As I’ve often told you, there is no shortage of heartbreak on the farm to balance out the intense joy and deep sense of happiness we often feel from sharing our lives with so many wonderful animals. Sometimes I look out my kitchen window while I’m making tea in the morning and see a cat or two, a dog or two, a pony or two, a handful of hens and/or the occasional lamb or pig escaped from their enclosure. I can also usually hear a combination of calls from the horses, the donkeys and the rooster. Often the whole scene makes me laugh out loud, but other times it makes my throat tighten up and my chest hurt. We came back from our Easter vacation to the news that our three hens – the only remaining three that is – had been eaten by the fox while we were away. It was particularly sad because we had raised those last three from birth and they had just started laying a week before we left. After giving ourselves a week to mourn them, we decided to start again and went to see Mabel at the local bird sanctuary to collect a new rooster and ten hens. ..
While we’re on the subject of Stella McCartney, I was in the Taschen store in Paris the other day and discovered her mother Linda McCartney’s book called “Life in Photographs.” I was SO inspired by them, especially by the ones of her family in the countryside, for obvious reasons. They are natural but stylish, in the most unpretentious way. And they transcend celebrity – they would be intriguing even if they were of a family of people we didn’t know. I’m going to attempt to recreate the family portrait with animals for our own family Christmas card. Do you think we can get all our animals to hold still for long enough? Or maybe its fine if they all wonder around us. That’s what I loved about Linda’s photos – she caught a natural moment. They are not posed, but they are perfectly composed.