Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Throw Back Thursday: Wings.

Posted on | September 16, 2015 | 7 Comments

I tasted it for the first time last summer.  It had been a long time since I traveled up north with the kids.  The last time I loaded them up in the car and drove them to see my aunts and uncles and their great-grandmother, we all looked like this:

You might notice that 1 of the kids wasn’t even born yet.  Little is missing from that picture.  But driving that far with 3 kids was enough to convince me that I never, ever, ever wanted to do it with 4.  Until last summer.

Last summer I realized we had spent 13 years focused on raising a family in this town.  The kids were going to school with the friends they were in playgroup with as infants.  Big even had a teacher in middle school that used to change his diapers in the church nursery on Sunday afternoons.  Middle has that teacher now. (It’s not awkward at all.  Not.  At.  All.)  We had raised them in a town where they ran into someone they knew almost everywhere they went.  Even the youngest ones could direct another parent how to drive them home from school, sports, birthday parties, etc—-using landmarks even if they didn’t know the street names.  They had traipsed over every inch of their town and surrounding areas from the hiking trails and parks to the libraries and the kids museums to every Goodwill and WalMart.

But visits to their extended family up north were random and, even though my parents had taken them up in singles or pairs, my kids were often confused about who was related to who and how and what were 2nd and 3rd cousins anyway?  No one knows the answer to that cousins thing but I figured that in 2014 they were finally old enough to make the trip together.  And if it went well, we could visit every summer, gradually exposing them to the strange New England world where they made sweet tea with Nestea powder.  Tea powder, people, powder.

That was how I found myself sitting in the Baltimore harbor in August 2014.  We spent the day touring the historic ships and submarines….

paddling in the harbor….

climbing Federal Hill….

and rolling back down.  Because no one should have to do those stairs twice.

We stopped for dinner at the Uno’s pizzeria.  Not because it had anything to do with Baltimore but because my kids had never tasted Chicago-style deep dish pizza.  We were sitting there, overlooking the Baltimore harbor, drowning in melted cheese and tomato sauce, while the kids asked questions about Chicago, where I had lived for 9 months during a college internship.

“Can we go to Chicago?” one of them asked.

That was when I tasted it.  Amidst the cheese and the chewy crust, I thought I tasted change.  We had survived a 5 hour trip.  And an entire day of walking and touring and paddling.  No one had cried or wet themselves or vomited or fallen down and refused to go any further.  No one had missed their nap or lost their blankie or run out into traffic.

The next day we stopped to visit family in New Jersey, tried to figure out some of that second cousin stuff while (sort of) visiting great-grandma….

and then made our way to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

We stood on the top of the pedestal, looking at Manhattan, surrounded by an array of attire and variety of languages.

“Why are people here from other countries?”  asked Little.  I looked at him.

“Because they want to see America,”  I said.  “The Statue of Liberty is one of the most famous landmarks in America.”

“OK, he said.  “Can we get ice cream at the food court when we get back down?”

I’m just going to assume this is how Italian kids feel about the Colosseum.  Except the conversation involves gelato.

We ended up in Connecticut where we went to Hammonasset Beach on the Long Island Sound, stopping for lobster rolls along Route 1 (of course), and met the belugas at Mystic Aquarium….

while crashing at my uncle’s farm and sorting through more second and third cousins.

The road giddies eventually kicked in on the long ride home and I finally had to interrupt the laughter and craziness to ask, “Why is that game called ‘popsicle’?”  Which sent all the kids into hysterics.

“Not ‘popsicle’!  It’s ‘Chop Circle’!”  Which made a little more sense.  But still didn’t explain the appeal.  Eh.

When the kids were finally asleep and there was nothing but the road stretching out in front of me, I knew it was time.  13 years of roots was a long time and giving the kids a home was an important job.  But now it was time to give them wings.  I was already planning the next summer as we rolled along.  But it got easier when my uncle set up a family reunion in 2015.

So we loaded up again in August this year and stopped for the night in Arlington, VA to check out the Pentagon, the National Cemetery, watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier….

wander around the memorials, and wonder at how many times must the cannonball fly.

We walked over the bridge to D.C. to revisit the White House, Smithsonian museums, pandas at the National Zoo, and other places the kids might have been too young to remember from their first visit years ago….

We made our way to Boston where we visited the impressive Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, ate at Quincy Market, and toured the sites of the Freedom Trail.  Which the kids enjoyed more than they enjoyed all the picture-taking.

And, of course, we family renion-ed at the family farm.  With second cousins or cousins³ or whatever.

Including the most recently arrived cousins.  The twins.  Which makes them (cousinsX2)².  Probably.  Maybe.

This time, on the way home,  I began to think bigger.  Oh, I wasn’t done with the northeastern U.S.  There was still more to do in D.C. and Boston.  Plus Philadelphia and New York City.  And we needed to go to Maine, too.  But I figured we’d proven ourselves to be decent travelers.  Now that I’d regained my map skills, including but not limited to:

—Remember to change the state on the GPS as you cross state lines.  Apparently that little bugger can send signals to a satellite and back but doesn’t recognize the Welcome to Maryland sign and gets confused.

—The tourist maps with cute little symbols for eateries and places of interest are not drawn to scale.   Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear, but memorials on The National Mall are actually about 10 miles apart.

—Ignore the men in your traveling group and just ask already.  Then ask someone else.  And someone else.  People give horrible directions.  A consensus is your only chance at finding your way.

And brushed up my touristing, including but not limited to:

—The family members that did not spend any time participating in weeks of planning or preparation for the trip will feel free to complain bitterly at any uncontrollable difficulties including traffic, exorbitant food costs, and/or getting lost.  In return, feel free to berate them freely, loudly, in public, on the sidewalk when necessary.  All the cool tourist families are doing it, too.

—“Code 20” is the emergency term for any tourist attempting concealed carry in the national parks.  If a park ranger or security guard calls this code, step slowly and casually away from your husband and don’t look back.

—Always try the Ethiopian food at the Ethiopian Market and Restaurant with a parking lot full of Ethiopian cab drivers, noshing and chatting happily.  It’s delicious and authentic.  You might be the only white people in the place, but hey, turnabout is fair play.

And freshened up my city transit know-how, including but not limited to:

—Notify the credit card company that you’re out state before trying to buy 6 Metro cards at one time or they’ll cancel your credit card half way through buying the 5th card.  Good luck getting a signal for your cell phone to call the credit card company when you’re underground.

—Have a back up plan in case they evacuate the Metro as soon as you finally get your credit card reinstated and purchase 6 Metro cards.  Pretend to the children that it’s completely normal to be hurried out of the subway to find 50 fire trucks, 100 police cars, and an emergency command center being set up outside on the sidewalk.   Just city stuff, kids, totally normal.  Just city stuff.

—Go ahead and cross at city crosswalks whenever there are no vehicles within striking distance.  All the Bostonians are doing it.  Waiting for the crossing sign makes you look like a rube.

After these fledgling journeys for the past 2 summers, I figured we’re ready to really roll.  Trips further south to the Everglades, New Orleans, the Alamo?  Heading out west to Colorado Springs, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Grand Canyon?  All the way to the Hoover Dam, San Francisco, Redwood National Forests?  Maybe even a visit to Chicago for deep dish pizza.

So we decided the goats kids born in the fall would the last babies born here for a while. The entire dairy herd would be sold and the pigs processed by the end of 2015—-leaving just the sheep, the chickens, and the Great Pyrs to guard them whenever we’re out of town.  Because milking twice a day doesn’t mix well with traveling.  And because the kids don’t need sippy cups of healthy raw goat milk anymore.  Now they need their world.

Look out, America.  We’re going off-farm.

That’s gonna end well, right?


7 Responses to “Throw Back Thursday: Wings.”

  1. Sherry
    September 17th, 2015 @ 3:45 am

    Sounds like a great plan.

  2. Rya
    September 17th, 2015 @ 10:49 am

    I’m so going to miss all the farm stories!! But I can honestly say that putting the farm on hold for travel with the kiddos is TOTALLY worth it.
    HINT—>If you are looking for some international adventure, look into a part time job at an airline…trust me, there is nothing like experiencing Europe through the eyes of a farm kid 😉

    Have so much fun out there making tons of amazing memories!! 🙂

  3. Laura
    September 17th, 2015 @ 11:31 am


  4. Annabelle
    September 17th, 2015 @ 2:32 pm

    wow! Congrats!
    I’ve still got medium kiddos and dairy goats is you want to come to Santa Cruz,Ca- we will show you around. Maybe a surfing lesson?

  5. Aunt Ro
    September 18th, 2015 @ 12:09 pm

    Loved seeing the kids grow up in speed-time, and see Gramma R young again!! Thanks!

  6. Lisa Dumain
    September 18th, 2015 @ 1:21 pm

    Very exciting! I’m taking you with me on my next road trip –

  7. Lin
    September 20th, 2015 @ 6:22 pm

    Uno’s is not “real” Chicago pizza. You gotta try Giordano’s or Lou Malnati’s. I hope you come to Chicago and enjoy our fair city. Lots to do and see here. C’mon! I’ll leave the light on for ya!

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