On Sunday, I completed my first farm run at Mitchell Ledge Farm in Freeport. Andy LeMaistre met me with a handful of printed maps, which I quickly realized would be essential to my navigation of the farm perimeter. A brief tour of the barn introduced me to the Registered Belted Galloways or “Belties.” Breeding these handsome cattle is the primary business of the farm.
The barn smelled of hay, leather and antique tools—smells that brought back the barns and farmhouse sheds of my childhood in Northern Vermont. Barn swallows dipped above us, in and out of the open barn door. Andy pointed out the symbiotic exchange of safe nesting spot for a bug-free barn. As I prepared to head out on my adventure, I learned that due to a low number of cattle, many of the electric fences would be turned off.
Filled up with the smells, sights, and sounds of the farm, I set out along the road bordering the south side of the property.
After making the first turn, I began to understand the complexities of the farm boundaries. It became difficult to distinguish between farmland, conservation land, land under development, and private property. It wasn’t clear where to cut into the woods to follow the farm’s edge, and I ended up running too far up the road. In retracing my steps, I ran into my first obstacle–one I’d anticipated but not prepared for: an aggressive dog. The canine ran out to the road road barking and growling. I jogged by ignoring it, but the dog pursued. I yelled, “Go Home!” which inspired only a brief pause in the assault. I ran across the road and climbed on to a neighbor’s porch, but the dog wouldn’t retreat. After a few minutes a car came down the road, and I scooted down the road while the car blocked the way. The dog stayed put in the road, barking and growling as I ran out of site.
I returned to the development and ran through the construction zone until I hit a path that the map indicated would lead back into the farm property.
The path quickly disappeared, so, keeping the sun on my right, I bushwhacked until I discovered what turned out to be little-used Freeport Conservation Trust pathways. These led me to the beautiful back field—my marker for the northeast corner of the farm.
I followed the fence to the west side and took in the view.
From there, I got lost. I overestimated the distance of a stretch of land on the northwest side of the property and ran into a number of private homes that weren’t on my maps. I retreated to the woods, not wanting to trespass or incite more dog wrath. To my surprise, I realized that the deeper I was in the woods, the safer I felt. It hadn’t taken long for me to feel completely at home on the land within the boundaries of the farm. After some exploring, I ended up along a dirt road with a number of homes. I followed the roads back to the farm, then ran up the path on the west side of the property, returning to the back field so I could see where I went wrong. When I returned to the barn, I cooled down and made friends with a few of the barnyard critters. I was exhausted and elated!
My aim is to complete this project in a way that doesn’t inconvenience hard-working farmers. I hope that they take some pleasure in the dialogue, or at least have a good laugh. As I pick up the phone to make each new connection, I’m ready for a range of reactions. So far, almost all of the conversations have been positive; however, even the negative responses have found their way into the studio:
Lue, Cool. I love the gestural drawings. Interesting to see how your reflections on these places–on farms, on boundaries, on art and farm boundaries–will take shape. Love the project. XO
Alison Hawthorne Deming
Thanks! The project feels like new artistic territory. Every time I think about the structure–dialogue, plan, run, dialogue, blog, draw–I get happy butterflies!
It is fun reading about your run. It made me think of the times when I have gone into the woods here and “gotten lost”. I find it’s harder to keep my sense of direction when there are no shadows. One time I went in when the sun was shining, came to an old stream bed, thought I’d follow it, the sun was hidden behind clouds for a while. When it came out again, I told the sun it had come out on the “wrong side” of me, and that it should be on the other side. Then I laughed. How could I tell the sun which side of me to be on… Ridiculous! I was totally turned around.
Great story Lucinda and great experience except the dog part. People should
Chain those beasts. Love the cows though.
I was amazed no one came out of the house to call off the dog. The goose, cows, and chickens were fabulous, as was the barnyard kitty who is the spitting image of my mom’s epic cat, Homer.
the deeper I was in the woods, the safer I felt.
Sounds like it is going to be a really cool project. Do you have one of those GPS apps for your phone (or watch, or whatever device)? It would be fun to see a side by side comparison of the directions you get from the farm, the actual boundaries on a map, and the course you actually run. 🙂 For some reason the REM song ‘Maps and Legends’ keeps coming into my head as I think about all this.
You’ll have to show us the Freeport Land Trust trails sometime…
I’ll have lots of trail discoveries to share! For this project I’m using a gps watch (Garmin Forerunner 10), which gives me more mobility than using the Endomondo phone app (also a great tool). I download maps of the run on my laptop for analysis, and yes, the first one is pretty far from what I imagined. Instead of nice clean circular boundaries, I have lots of back and forth and in and out–more a documentation of searching than of the actual farm boundaries.
I really like what they did with the Forerunner 10. I think it is the perfect watch for a lot of runners. I also have noticed that Garmin Connect has gotten better and more stream-lined.
Congratulations making freshly pressed not an easy thing to do. Love your blog!
Thanks! I’m honored to have been recognized through Freshly Pressed!
Looks like an awesome experience and hard work as well. Would you do this again?
I’ve completed five farm runs, and yes, more are scheduled! Check out the two blog posts that follow “Good Timing.” “Red Blazes” is underway and will be posted shortly!
I can’t wait to read more posts from you. So delightful! http://www.segmation.wordpress.com
What a lovely idea, to add variety to your run! Beautiful pictures and descriptions 🙂
Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed, too!
I just recently took up running/jogging as a way to try to keep in shape. It’s too hot to run outside and not very “inspiring” to run on the treadmill. Hoping for some cooler temps soon! Wish we had lovely country roads to run along…
nice post .. and also congrats on being freshly pressed … 🙂
a way towards a healthy life
Hi!! I came across your blog, and you are definitely an inspiration to keep running. I am just barely starting out, so I’m still building up my endurance, but I would love to be able to do different runs similar to you. I love your blog and can’t wait to read more! xoxo