“Why on earth did you buy land in New York?”
That’s how many conversations about this land begin. The emphasis being on New York, a place so far from my life in Colorado.
Almost a year into the pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on that question. I’ll admit, the decision isn’t a fully logical one. It doesn’t make logical sense to fly across the country to mow my lawn. But this land isn’t just in New York. It’s on The Bluff of Keuka Lake.
This place is special to myself and to my family. This property is a dream coming true. A direction. Both a history and a future.
My Family on the Bluff
In 1996, my mom’s parents, Nana and Pop, bought a little cabin on East Bluff Drive. It had running water from a pump in the lake so it smelled like fish and soap when showering. The entrances to the bedrooms were so skinny they had window blinds instead of doors. We kept a list on the fridge of which cousin had caught the biggest fish and we played Kings in the Corner on the patio as a family.
Every Fourth of July since I was 6 years old, my family has gathered on those same shores to celebrate Pop’s birthday. We’d light fireworks and eat cake. That’s Keuka to me.
In my teens, I wandered along East Bluff Drive in flip flops, dodging poison ivy to forage for ripe black raspberries in the second week of July. The thimble berries are usually about a week behind. I know where the apple trees and cherry trees are and where wild grapes grow.
As I grew older, my family moved around a lot. Coming back to Keuka each summer was a constant. When I was about 13 years old, I came up with the tradition of jumping into the lake immediately upon arrival each year, clothes and all. No excuses. The cool water rushing over me was a ritualistic return to home each summer. And a few times in the winter too.
Nana and Pop eventually retired and built their dream home on that lot (it even has real bedroom doors!). Now my parents own that house, as my grandparents downsized, and my land is a 13 minute drive up the hill.
The Importance of Place
Now that you’ve heard a fraction of the stories, perhaps you can see why buying this land was barely a question. Once I saw the property, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I could own a piece of the woods on The Bluff! I gotta do it.
It’s more than nostalgia. This is a future. This old growth forest on the west side of The Bluff is an opportunity to be a steward of a place. I’ve had a relationship with The Bluff and with Keuka Lake since I was 6 years old. I know the climate, some of the edible plants and the waters. I also have so much to learn.
Since buying this land two year ago, I’ve studied and gotten a Permaculture Design Certificate. I have a 10 year plan for how to develop the site slowly and sustainably into an orchard, a food forest and a place to go hunting. The cabin is a constant project too.
What interests you?
So thanks for tuning in to this project. I really appreciate you reading this and look forward to sharing this place with you some day. If you’re not subscribed yet, please do so!
Up next, I’ll tell you more about the future plans I have for the land and about the work I’ve done so far. There’s photos, funny stories and lots of mouse poop.
I’m also curious what you want to know! Please reply by email or leave a comment with your thoughts of what you’d like to know more about.