Wednesday, June 7, 2023

My Suburban Homestead: Welcome to The Crooked Apple

It's been quite a while since I've shared any details about The Crooked Apple. Such a long while, that you probably have no clue what I'm even talking about! So grab a cup of coffee, and settle into the history and beauty of our sweet suburban homestead: The Crooked Apple.

I wish I knew the actual history of our land - and I do have our deed, obviously, with some wildly aged records in it. While I could probably do some heavy digging, I didn't have time to before this post. (That will be fun to revisit!) But the house and the land as it exists today, were born in 1953. A decade before either of my parents.

Our history here didn't begin until 2010 - almost 60 years later. 

We had just moved back with our toddler from Charlotte, NY to the Buffalo area and wanted to sneak our way into our dream school district in an starter home. This would be our second home - the one we knew our kids would spend their childhood years in, and we assumed we'd upgrade in a few years' time. I had my heart set on a specific elementary where I'd done field work while I was in school to be a teacher, and I was absolutely determined to have my kids attend school there someday (spoiler alert: my kids do not go there, haha). 

When a house that was located on the same street as the school came up in our multiple searches, we always passed it up because of its kitchen. That's a story for another day, and something that we've since renovated, but we nearly skipped this place over entirely because of that. 

One afternoon, we were touring another house that was for sale, and Matt suggested that we swing by and check this one out since we were close. I was hesitant, but they were having an open house and I did like the location, so I agreed. The kitchen was as horrible as we feared, but the view out the back door - well, it took our breath away!

There, right in the middle of a busy suburb, was a personal rural escape. We had our very own acre covered in trees and nature - it was gorgeous, and we immediately wanted our kids to grow up in such a beautiful environment. We put our offer on the place, deciding that you can fix a kitchen but you can't fix the size of your yard, and it felt like everything fell into place perfectly. (Except, you know, thanks to weird zoning lines my kids ended up in a different school than I'd thought, but it was for the better!)

Our first summer here, in 2010, we fit this house so well. It's gotten a bit tight with two extra kids and a dog, but I'm learning that it's kind of wonderful, actually. It forces us to simplify, be closer together, and spend more time outdoors, which are all things we value. It gets tough in the winter (and phew, don't get me started on what it was like during the pandemic and schooling at home!), but with all of this land and nature at our disposal, the warmer months are nothing short of magical. 

Upon moving in, I was instantly desperate for gardens. It was too late in the season that year, so I decided to do some research to be prepared for the following year.

I started with a very old gardening book that I wish I could remember the name of now! I'd found it at the library and despite efforts to find it again, I've never been able to. This particular book had some really great quotes and tips from "the old days" that I've stored away through the years. One of the first tips was to find a prominent feature on your property to name your homestead after so people would recognize it. Our hilariously crooked apple tree was the obvious answer!

This little apple tree is a source of laughter for us (why is it SO crooked?!), but we really love it! It makes our property kind of quirky, and because of the way it leans, it's at a perfect height for little ones to climb and pick apples to eat (and they do every summer! at least until the bees move in and take ownership of the apples themselves), and also for all of the deer in our area to walk up and snack on it. There have been many sleepy mornings where we sit with our cup of coffee and watch the deer have their breakfast at the apple tree - usually full families with babies in tow. They've even appeared while we're in the back having an evening fire, and we love to sit and watch and take pictures.

The beauty on our property is limitless, and with each season I am once again in awe. There are so many times when I just sit among all of the beauty and thank whatever was in the stars that allowed us to end up here. Don't you just feel so at home when you're surrounded by trees, breeze, and singing birds? 

But I haven't always been so wild about this place. And every January-March, I tend to get a little claustrophobic in our tight quarters. So we've gone through a lot of phases.

That old book I mentioned? It also had a quote about how loving on a smaller home is more fruitful and cozy than any large home could ever be. When I'd read it, I carried that around like a badge of honor. But as my kids grew into their elementary years and we were introduced to the types of homes their friends lived in - well, it was easy to feel inferior and embarrassed. I can't tell you how hard I worked to come to terms with this tiny little place, and vacillated between that and straight up hating it. 

There are times when I am so, so frustrated with the lack of space and ease. We've tried to move several times, always into a kid-filled development with sidewalks and chatty neighbors, but it was never really what we wanted. We wanted it for the kids (still kind of do), but with all of them being tweens and teens at this point, it seems like a waste of time. In another 5-10 years, as they each fly the coop, a place like this is where Matt and I will want to be. 

I can't say with any level of determination that my most recent change of heart is going to stick because that's just not the type of person I am. But, lately, I have a renewed passion for our home and a strong desire to turn it into an adorable cottage snuggled into a sweet suburban homestead. 

Living more simply and intentionally brings me a lot of satisfaction and happiness. It's not the only thing I want to do, and I can't say it's what I want to do forever. Sipping on something tropical under some breezy palm trees certainly sounds satisfying, too. But reminding myself of the way I looked at this place when we first made it ours does a lot for my heart.

And, you know, maybe with steady practice and habits, I'll learn how to love this place more even when it isn't "amazing backyard season". As I check on my gardens, watch seeds sprout leaves, familiarize myself with the birds and wildlife that visit us day after day - I'm learning about the long-game. The things you can do in fall and winter and early spring that all lend themselves to a fruitful summer and fill your soul with contentment and beauty in the moment. That, in the end, is my goal.

Speaking specifically about the gardens on The Crooked Apple, they've had some big improvements this year. 

We carved out a small kitchen herb garden and built a raised bed back in 2011 (with this guide), added a second in 2012, and rebuilt them with fresh wood just last year, in 2022. 

This year, we moved our beds to a new location, and added two half-sized beds - one for a tea herb garden, one for cut flowers. We planted glass gem corn in the dirt left behind by the old beds, as well as some moonflowers and young rose of sharon shoots. The old herb garden still churns on, and we have little lovely pots of flowers scattered all over the yard. 

The goal is to find some fencing to put around all of the raised beds, add a gate, create walkways between the beds inside the fence, and landscape around the outside of it. Kind of like this, but with raised beds of mostly veggies and herbs inside:

(source - not my photo!)

Gorgeous, right? Someday!!! Someday soon, I hope.

Lately, my feet are always dirty and there's often soil under my finger nails.....and I couldn't be happier. Maybe that's gross...Matt certainly picks on me for it. He'll say, "your feet are dirty again!" and I'll say, "Farm Girl Summer!" haha

We're not quite to farm status...not even micro-farm. But maybe someday.

Anyway, I have so much more to share about our homestead over time, but I wanted to start with documenting the history and evolution of our sweet Crooked Apple. Before I go, though, here's a few more photos of its beauty from over the years, including the gorgeous blooms from the apple tree itself:

Come back and visit us soon! :)

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