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Karen and the two Patterdale terriers. (Submitted photo)

The Patterdale Hall Diaries | Tempus fugit

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March 30, 2023

I think one of the more rewarding aspects of keeping this diary is what it isn’t.

I’m not documenting great travels to foreign lands or exploring foreign cultures and forcing my own perspective on them. I’m writing about 1.8 acres of land, six miles from my house. It is so rich with new things, old things and exciting things that happen every day, I simply have to be there and observe them and live in that moment.

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For me this is the most wonderful thing. I love being out there, learning about the place and what lives there, what moves through there and what surrounds us. Owning Patterdale Hall is bringing about the calm that I really needed. Raising kids is hard and raising them 4,000 miles away from any family support was pretty tough; it still is.

Karen and I needed a break, and the Hall gives us a space to breathe and rest.

Today it is cold and clear and the smell of spring is in the air. I have taken antihistamines. I meet with students to discuss experimental design and then there is a lecture in the afternoon.

After this I think I’ll head out to the Hall and potter about a bit.

There is no need to cut wood as it will be above freezing for the next week, but it will rain, and so we should probably have a small fire to keep the damp out. We have almost burned all our wood, and so our timing is pretty good. By my reckoning we have enough wood to keep a fire going for a week and so we’ll choose those days carefully. With that said, I am definitely staying out there on Friday night when it will be pouring rain, and I will be snug and cozy with a fire inside.

It really is time for me to start thinking about things other than splitting wood. I need to dig over the vegetable beds, clear brush and talk about planting with Karen, in addition to waging war against honeysuckle.

Aug. 6, 2023

Four months have passed and I haven’t updated the diary. We have been busy, and summer is now in full effect.

As a professor I am on a nine-month academic salary, and while this means I don’t have a lot of money, it does mean I can spend May, June and July pottering about at the Hall.

When I say “pottering,” what I actually mean is mowing.

The lawns at Patterdale Hall take about three hours to push mow, and I divide them into three sections. This means I spend three days a week exercising. My exercise is not in a gym, it’s out under the trees in the sunshine and it is hard work. I love it.

We really didn’t get to planting much this year. We only have potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and several types of pepper. My friend Jim, an accomplished gardener, lives in Dayton and he gifted me an array of peppers. Big Jims are large hatch green chiles from New Mexico that can grow up to 12 inches long — although mine seem to have maxed out at eight inches. Sandias are also from New Mexico, but are hotter than big Jims; then I have a cute little habanero bush and a perky little Tabasco bush.

I’ll harvest the big Jims in a few weeks. They will be fire-roasted, skinned, de-seeded and frozen so I can make chile verde in the depths of winter. I do fancy winning another chili cook-off, and I hope the school does one next year. The little Tabasco chilis will be hung up to dry, and I’ll make a spicy vinegar with them. I’ve been making my own vinegars for a while now. I simply dilute a malty beer to about five percent ABV, add vinegar mother that was originally from apple cider vinegar and wait. Two to three months later you have tasty vinegar. My favorite was made with Jörd’s Bounty, a viking-style ale made with rosemary and red currants — it was delicious.

Both Karen and I are from the Northwest of England. She is from Bury, in the poor North of Manchester; and I am from Cheadle Hulme, in the affluent Southern suburbs of Manchester. One thing we both had in common when we were growing up was the weather. It rains a lot in Manchester. The England cricket team was all set to defeat Australia a few months ago, but the test match was at Old Trafford in Manchester, and so of course it rained, and the game was abandoned. This meant that ultimately England and Australia played each other continuously for 25 days, and the result was a 2–2 draw — with one test abandoned because of rain. I miss cricket — in what other game can you play for nearly a month and it ends up being a draw? Genius.

Anyway, I digress. Karen and I are used to rain, it is part of our heritage. What we are not used to are Ohioan summers. Yellow Springs is on the same latitude as Madrid, and it is way too hot in August. As a consequence of this, neither Karen nor I have been staying out at Patterdale Hall. There is no AC, and it is way too hot to sleep there.

We usually pop out every day to water the vegetables, mow, kill honeysuckle and then we head home to the AC so we can sleep.

I honestly find the summer here too hot, but I can bear it, especially when I taste the first sweetcorn or a heritage tomato. They are delicious, and you don’t get anything that tasty in Manchester.

Well, with the exception of steak and kidney pudding, obviously.

*Originally from Manchester, England, Chris Wyatt is an associate professor of neuroscience, cell biology and physiology at Wright State University. He has lived in Yellow Springs for 16 years, is married and has two teenage children and two insane Patterdale terriers.

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