Saturday, June 4, 2016

Malabar Farm

Two helicopter pilots were sitting at a bar...(LOTS of really bad jokes start that way, but this story is mostly true.)

Sooo, my personal Cobra pilot and I were doing what we usually did between times in RVN -- planning how we were going to spend all this combat pay and what we were going to do with the rest of our young lives. We had been reading Louis Bromfield's Malabar Farm. The Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and, by now, famous screen writer and friend to all the Hollywood glitterati had turned to farming three properties in middle Ohio. He wanted to develop a sustainable model for American agriculture and he had the resources and the pulpit to help that happen. For two young city kids these ideas were fascinating, and we spent hours planning how we might follow these principles and carve out a similar lifestyle for our growing families. To be sure there were big four wheel drive vehicles, a couple Airstreams and perhaps a small landing strip in these plans, but the central image we held on to was an evening stroll around the property after a pleasant day's labor, the sun setting, a golden glow on the fields, our beautiful wives by our sides, a passel of kids and dogs strung out along the path.  

 Of course, Life intervened, other dreams developed and lives followed different paths, but until just recently I felt that evening walk was still in our diminishing future. Yesterday one aging helicopter pilot and his beautiful wife, an Airstream in tow, turned into Malabar Farm State Park with only the whisp of that dream remaining. We took the wagon tour of the grounds with a multi-generational group that were a little unclear on where their food came from, so the Farm Manager had to back down his presentation to the basics. He was enthusiastic about our desire to walk the farm at sunset and directed us to a "primitive" campsite that was everything we could have dreamed of.

We settled in, enjoyed a meal at the truly excellent Malabar Farm Restaurant

Took in the long view from the top of Mt Jeez   
and walked the farm roads, 

 the wood lots,

 ...the sugar bush and the rocky ravine that the glaciers missed.  The sun dropped low and Deer peeked at us from the cover of hay fields, only their back lit rosy ears giving them away. It was all that we could have hoped for except for the company of our missing friend.
The night sky was brilliant and the only sound in our campsite was the soft nickering of the neighbor's horses.
Our new friend Korre offered us an early tour of the Big House.  We found next morning that he came in on his day off, a kindness we will always remember along with the details about the Bromfields, their glamorous guests and the building of the house.


The Malabar Farm Restaurant is a restored stagecoach inn build around 1820.

Nearby is the produce stand designed by Bromfield where produce is cooled by flowing spring water.  James Cagney was a frequent guest at the farm and reveled in talking with the patrons and mostly giving away the store ( and reimbursing the farm from his own pocket.) Our visit to Malabar was far too brief, but we will re read Malabar Farm and Pleasant Valley  and return again, perhaps to view the Fall colors or during sugaring.      

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