The Lilly Family’s Hidden History on Cape Cod

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Most of the time I find myself musing on the differences between my Hoosier homeland and where I live now. But sometimes I find a connection that’s so concrete it drives me to want to know more about the circumstances surrounding it. That happened to me a few weeks ago when Peter and I visited the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich.

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The Montague Bookmill, Montague, MA

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If I had an official list of my favorite bookstores in the world (hm, maybe I should have one), The Montague Bookmill would be on it. During last winter’s snowstorms there was a lot made of the Swedish word “hygge,” and while I still can’t point to a precise definition of this word, I know that the Bookmill has it.

I saw myself spending the whole day there, curled up in the stacks with a cup of hot coffee from the attached cafe, The Lady Killigrew, or perched on the sofa near one of the many bay windows, watching the Saw Mill River roar below. So that’s exactly what I did. All day.

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From Farm to Table: Cranberries

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“From Farm to Table” is a series of posts showcasing the small-scale farming culture of New England. Despite what people assume, there’s a lot of it going on around here. Midwesterners can barely conceptualize a farm that doesn’t stretch on and on, with stubby, leafy rows of soy beans blending into tall rows of yellow-topped cornstalks, and long, flat rows of pig barns, white-painted farmhouses and an occasional mammoth grain silo as the only man-made structures you might see for miles. Farming is very different around here, but just as culturally vital.

Last month, Peter and I visited a cranberry bog in Chatham, on Cape Cod. As any casual reader of this blog knows, Peter and I are frequent visitors to Cape Cod — even more so now that we live in Massachusetts. The Cape is great in so many ways, but especially for the deep sense of rural tranquility it can quickly impart (in the off-season) to someone who lives a mere hour away in the suburbs of Boston. And if you’re not from Massachusetts, you can be forgiven for not realizing that — like in most rural areas — there are lots of farms on Cape Cod: cranberry farms.

Growing up in Indiana you really only associate commercial farming with corn and soybeans. Most people, in general, I think, associate commercial farming with these sorts of mega crops. And for good reason. During our tour, our tour guide (also the bog’s owner) told us it’s mostly these large farms that lobby for and benefit from government policies, including subsidies, buybacks, etc. Cape cranberries don’t receive a lot of government support, even though the industry has been struggling.

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It’s Official: I’m a Hoosier in the Bay State

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It’s way past time to make this official on my blog, so here it is. In early September Peter and I officially became Massachusetts residents (well, I guess it was “official” in early October, when we changed our vehicle and voter registrations). On September 1 I started a position as Senior Associate of Digital Campaigns at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, a nonprofit that promotes global and domestic human rights and social justice. I’m very excited to explore my new state, and to keep exploring New England from the perspective of “that girl from the Midwest.”

To kick off these explorations, some Massachusetts travel art: