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Betty, one of Chris Wyatt’s Patterdale terriers, warms herself by the roaring stove at Patterdale Hall — a small, idyllic cottage just outside of Yellow Springs that Wyatt and his wife, Karen Russell, tend. (Submitted photo)

The Patterdale Hall Diaries | A record of note, for some

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By Chris Wyatt

Sept. 18, 2023

Writing a diary can be extremely helpful to putting your thoughts in order. As things go down on the page you begin to realize what is important and what isn’t. Over the last year, the Yellow Springs News generously serialized my diary, but it wasn’t really the diary. Everything that was personal, that mentioned my kids or things that were close to my family were excerpted from it. It really was simply the Patterdale Hall diaries, and I’ve enjoyed writing them. Now, however, I want to write about my family, for my family. My parents are in their 80s, and I want to write for them, not just the newspaper. They live 4,000 miles away, and I do not chat on the phone. Writing for my mother is very different from writing for the newspaper; we have known each other for 54 years, and I quite like her — Dad too. He is terrific.

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Nobody in Yellow Springs wants to read about how my son has furnished his new house, or what Morris has foolishly spent money on, but my parents do, and so that is what I want to write about. With that said, this may be the last of the Patterdale Hall Diaries for six months or so. I really want to write for my family now.

Tinder collecting is going well. I’m spending about an hour per day putting together nickets of sticks. Perfect for getting a fire going. Last year, in the dead of winter, I cut wood in brutal temperatures, and the most annoying aspect was cutting tinder to start the fire. This year, I aim to be prepared. I reckon making two to three bundles of sticks every day in September will save me frozen limbs in January. This being prepared thing has been drilled into me since I became a scout back in the late 1970s. “Be Prepared.” It’s really important, and last year we muddled through, but this year I aim to be on it.

If I’m really going to be prepared, then I guess we need more mousetraps.

Karen and Betty are out at the Hall tonight, and I am home with little Arch. Mo has just driven out to see his mum. Our family dynamic is entirely different from this time last year. It’s wonderful. Bob has moved out, and Morris can drive. They are teetering on the precipice of independence in America in 2023. I will keep the boys’ rooms clean and ship-shape so that when they return scarred, there will be a place to recover before they saunter out again. I love being a parent. My children are good kids, and I like being with them, but I also look forward to seeing them fly. I’m sure as readers you can see why I need to write more personally for a while. The Patterdale Hall Diaries will return, but I need to write an actual, warts-and-all diary and that has a very restricted audience. So restricted in fact that I’m not sure even the folk it’s intended for want to read it.

But Fall is upon us, and it is the most wonderful time of the year. Karen and Betty are back out overnight at the Hall again, now that the temperature is delicious. The little old dog was so happy to see Karen and when she realized she was staying out there, there was much wagging. Dogs really are critical members of a fully functioning family, and I will never be without them again. Even Archie, at his most idiotic, is still a complete love. Oh dogs, all the love in the world.

The drive out to Patterdale Hall on mid-September mornings is beautiful. The route is southeast into the rising sun, and temperatures are currently in the 40s. Cattle’s breath is steamy, and mist rises from streams and low ground. The sounds from the cornfields are low at this time of day, but will rise to an insect scream by midday. It takes 12 minutes to get from Yellow Springs to Patterdale, and the drive is lovely; Corry, Grinnell, Clifton and Clark Run are rural and bucolic, and before you know it, we are in our corner of paradise. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our corner of paradise needs mowing again, and so I’ll head out there this evening after work to begin the Sisyphean task once again. Although I think I’m out of fuel, so I may have had a narrow escape from hefty chores for today.

Sept. 19, 2023

Our butternut squash crop is coming in. We have maybe 20 dotted around the property from seeds that Karen randomly planted. The groundhog family doesn’t seem interested in them, thank goodness, so we may well get a crop of squash as well as the peppers that thrived this season. No delicata squash this year, though. They were a wonderful surprise last year, and we should have grown more, but lesson learned. I shall plant them next year. It’s been a quiet year for our vegetables, less frenzy this summer. I’m really looking forward to the next few months; I have a lot I’d like to write about, and the process of living out at Patterdale Hall provides plenty of time to do that.

There is no pace of life out there, it’s placid and contemplative and quiet. It’s the best decision I ever made.

*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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