In fourth grade, I read Mr. Popper's Penguins, with it's textured blue hardcover and black letters on the front. The story took place in Stillwater and I remember asking where that was. My father pulled out the Jimapco and we located Stillwater, a small dot along the Hudson, 70 miles north of our home in Greenville, NY.
A decade later, from my dorm room in the Bronx, I began to chat online with this dairy farmer from Stillwater, that little dot on the Hudson.
Two decades later and I could not think of a better place to live, work, farm, and raise food and children, then in this magnificent dot on the Hudson.
Over the last few years, as this city girl has gotten to know the people of this town I knew it was a special place. Not only is Stillwater encompassing of Hudson River footage, but of Saratoga Lake and the National Park, it houses some of the best human beings on earth.
A week ago this morning I awoke to our neighbor telling me Tommy's house was on fire. I hereby nominate Peter to deliver bad news to anyone. There was a calmness that brought peace and comfort moments before chaos and uncertainty ensued. We gazed across the field and saw giant flames dance higher than the barns that normally block our view of Tom's house.
By the time I arrived at the farm after brewing some coffee and loading up a box of cookies, it was a sea of fire apparatus and what seemed like hundreds of willing firemen. It was an icy, damp, sleeting morning. All of these people came to help, many unknown to us, yet they came with force, dedication, and passion. As we stayed out of the way, they continued to knock down the flames and prevent a catastrophic continuation to the neighboring animal barns. The George and I on our cookie delivery mission ran into some firemen we knew and it was so incredibly refreshing to see a familiar face.
Neighbors started arriving asking how to help and making sure Tom was okay. The Town of Stillwater came through to do an amazing job sanding the road for the increased traffic to travel safely. The truck driver, also a good friend, reached out.
My phone started dinging and ringing. A lmost immediately, a neighboring farmer showed up with a brand new Carhartt Jacket and some sweatshirts. Our plumber/electricians showed up to connect water to the heifer barn as it had gone through the house. Another friend showed up with his excavator to help the fire department. We have friends, with excavators....who show up immediately to help.
In the days following so many have reached out, visited, asked how to help. We thought that hosting a fundraiser at the farm might help Tom with some of the "right now" expenses you can't wait on insurance for.
Y'all. You're just amazing. Within minutes orders started coming in. My amazingly wonderful kitchen crew tackled what might have seemed impossible with vigor. In twelve hours they made 960 buttermilk biscuits and 400 quarts of soup. Another friend brought pizza for my ladies.
Saturday morning arrived and car after car of you amazing people started arriving.
It's not even about the money. The money helps get things that are lost forever. More importantly, it was an overwhelming sense of "you're not alone." Small farms, surrounded by so much new development can often feel like an island.
The entire office of local company chipped into help, friends we haven't seen in ages, delivery customers who trekked out to the farm. Neighbors stopped by to tell us how important it was that farms survived here.
I don't even have words.
This dot on the Hudson is truly made up of some of the greatest people ever and I am so proud to call it home.
The lake, river and park are pretty, but the people are beautiful