native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament.” – Wendell Berry
In 1966, when I was five, my parents bought a piece of land on the Fairfield-Easton town line on the corner of North and Old Burr (Snake Hill) and built a house. The first thing I noticed when we moved in, were the handmade stonewalls all around the property with post and rail fencing adjoining the gaps between the walls. Coming from the downtown area of Fairfield, I had never seen anything quite like it.
“What are these stone walls and fences for?” I asked my dad. “This was once a farm,” he explained. “The walls and fences were made to keep the cattle in.”
Our back yard property line was also the Easton Town line, placing the children in the houses directly behind us into different school districts. We were all best friends, regardless, and explored our surrounding terrain together. On Saturday mornings, we’d venture down the street to the Audubon to wander the trails, examine the pollywogs in the ponds and return the following weekend to catch and hold the frogs into which they evolved.
On occasion, we would ride our bikes past the Bluebird Inn to buy maple candy for twenty five cents at the Aspetuck Apple Barn. On the weekends in the summer, we would go to the Easton Pool (now the Aspetuck Dog Park) to swim and buy ice cream at the concession stand. When we were a bit older, we would even venture off to the Reservoir in Weston (Devils Glenn) by way of back roads, even though our parents asked us not to.
The Hemlock Reservoir was particularly special to us, since it was less than a five minute walk. Making our way down to the water, we imagined jumping in, especially on a hot summer day, but never did, since we were lectured by our parents that it was a drinking water supply, and we had to respect and uphold the reservoir’s purity. We did fish on occasion.
The one common denominator of all of our childhood experiences was the landscape. Nature was our playground, teacher and backdrop to everything we did as children. It was where we were taught about the world and where we developed kinships, friendships and a deep appreciation for our surroundings.
In high school, when we all started driving, my friends and I would hike many of the different Aspetuck and Saugatuck trails. The trails on Norton Road extending over to Valley Forge Road, were our favorite. Sometimes we would even pick a place to pitch a tent.
Then, one day, we all went off to college. Having lived in both urban and suburban settings for many years, I convinced my husband to move to Easton about nine years ago. I was surprised and happy to see that Easton remained pretty much the same place I remembered growing up.
The landscape has not changed much, other than the trees are much bigger. Silverman’s, Snow’s, Candee, Sherwood Farms, and the Aspetuck Apple Barn are still present and operational, along with two more beautiful farms, Shaggy Coos and Sport Hill Farm, all places where people can buy local produce, eggs, meat and dairy. People can also learn about organic edible herbs, flowers and local plants at Gilberties’ farm, and cut down their own Christmas trees at Maple Row Farm and several other smaller tree farms such as Sabia’s or Ganim’s.
There are several area stables to visit and ride horses, including N&C Equestrian, Gold Rush Farms and others. The annual Easton Farm Tour allows children and adults to visit the local farms and learn about local, sustainable farming. There’s plenty of breathtaking hiking at Trout Brook Valley Preserve, Paine Open Space and Randall Farm Nature Preserve, to name a few. Over one third of Easton’s land consists of open space.
And finally, there are the vast reservoirs, where on any given morning, afternoon or evening, swans, egrets, great blue herons, red tail and red shouldered hawks, and on rare occasion, bald eagles, can be spotted. The indigenous oaks, maples, chestnuts and rows of endless pine still line the perimeters of these vast bodies of water. My husband and I often take early morning rides and sit by one of the reservoirs, sipping our coffee, while taking in the peacefulness of the wildlife, water and trees.
One hundred years ago, Easton was a self-contained farming community consisting of mostly crops and livestock with a few local businesses, which we can learn more about by reading Bruce Nelson’s and Elizabeth Boyce’s informative articles on the history of the town or by visiting the Historical Society of Easton and town library.
One thing that has changed is our lifestyles. We come home from our jobs, mostly from other towns, to spend some time having dinner with our families, logging onto our computers and social media, watching television and falling asleep, only to repeat this routine throughout the week. Social media accounts and group pages are something relatively new to these country towns.
As human beings, we’ve always had two identities, our private selves and the selves we present in public. Social media has created a third identity, however, one that we can edit and manufacture, and then, place online. These are merely versions of ourselves. We still haven’t seen the results or consequences as a society of people spending so much time on social media; but for myself, I can certainly say that the meaningful human experiences in my life are never a result of what happens on social media. They are made up of real interactions with other people and my interactions with nature. These are the settings, rather than the vague backdrops of social media pages, that stick in my head and have shaped who I am as a person.
They say that every generation is a bridge between the past and the future. Eastonites have the best of both worlds. We can enjoy good schools, the luxuries of modern technology and travel to some of our favorite stores and eateries in less than thirty minutes. Greiser’s Coffee & Market, a popular meeting place in town, offers local artwork and crafts to view and purchase, antiques, books, educational lectures, pop up shops, outdoor jazz, rock and bluegrass barbecues, all while keeping the setting of an old fashioned country general store.
Yet, in this time of urbanization and environmental decline, Easton has managed to maintain its multi-generational connection to its sculpted beauty, for which we should be grateful, take advantage and support and sustain the unique local life and community that we have.
The pictures below were submitted by Easton residents, and were taken at Silverman’s Farm, Sherwood Farms, Shaggy Coos, Sport Hill Farm, Candee Farm, Snow’s Farm, Maple Row, Sabia and Ganim tree farms, Greiser’s, Aspetuck Apple Barn, Gilbertie’s Organics, Aspetuck and Easton reservoirs, Paine Open Space, Randall Farm Nature Preserve, and Trout Brook Valley Nature Preserve. Paintings are courtesy of artist John Forgione.
Thank you everyone for sharing your unplugged selves!