I was so excited and flattered when Jennifer from Homegrown.org asked if I could be the newest interviewee in the “Meet Your Neighbors” section. I’ve only recently joined Homegrown, but am so glad that I found this unique online community where all things green(ish) are discussed. I highly recommend anyone checking it out, joining the site and getting in on the action!
Photo by Amelia Burns
Homegrown: Good morning, Corinne! First off, what a beautiful photo! Where was that taken? And what a good reminder that spring is around the corner. You’re in the 1,000 Islands region of New York, right? Any snow on the ground right now? (Might as well pack in as many questions as possible to break the ice, eh?)
Corinne: Hi Jennifer! It is a wonderful photo, taken by a wonderful photographer, and good friend of mine, Amelia Burns. I was visiting Amelia in Ithaca (her hometown) last summer and she took me to this great lakefront park with a carousel (can’t remember the name).
I live a little more north, in the 1000 Islands region of New York, along the St. Lawrence River – almost in Canada. So yeah, there’s still a little snow on the ground, but we’ve been getting some bursts of spring temps – so the end is near!
Homegrown:Hooray, spring! OK, getting down to business, here’s what we know: You’re from rural Maine, spent 10 years in Brooklyn, and recently (or not so recently?) moved to upstate—far upstate—New York. Can you fill in a few of the details for us?
Corinne: I grew up in a small town in Maine, with back-to-the-land hippie parents. We had chickens, turkeys, a pig and a big veggie garden. I loved it as a kid, but by the time I was a teenager I was like “this is so BORING, get me outta here!” So naturally I moved to the biggest, coolest city for school. I went to Pratt in Brooklyn for graphic design and worked in that field for many years in NYC. But when I lost my job at the start of the recession, I thought I would take the opportunity to start all over again with a new career.
I took floral design classes and worked for a plant-watering company (only in NY!), but then in 2010, the opportunity arose to move to the 1000 Islands to help a friend start an artist retreat. My boyfriend, Butch (now my hubs) had been camping and fishing in the area since he was a kid, so it was a no-brainer for us to move up here.
The artist retreat situation didn’t quite work out for us, but after a couple local jobs with a plant nursery and flower shop, I landed my dream job with the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT), a local land conservation organization. I’m the Coordinator of Education and Outreach, which means I get to plan all of our “treks” (including our KidsTreks, which are the most fun), take care of the marketing and outreach and graphic design, and even do a little grant writing and fundraising. Butch runs the wood-shop at a local hardware store and has his own woodworking business.
Butch and I bought a great house (we call it the Five Birch Perch) on one of the local lakes and have started a little garden and orchard/berry patch of our very own. We will even be getting chickens in just a few weeks. Of course, my parents get such a kick out of how my life has come full-circle. I guess my bored teenage self didn’t know what she was missing!
Homegrown: What an awesome path you’ve been on—with so much more to go! And if there’s an adorable homestead name award, Five Birch Perch certainly deserves first prize! It sounds like you guys have done really well for yourselves, forging this new life that must be pretty different from your old (or at least middle) one. What’s been one of the most challenging parts of settling in? Is small-town life difficult after the big city? A welcome reprieve? A little from column A and column B?
Corinne: I haven’t found small-town life to be too difficult to acclimate to, probably because it’s so similar to my hometown. Actually, there’s a lot more flavor here than where I grew up, because the 1000 Islands are such a huge tourist destination. I was also very ready to leave Brooklyn when I did. I loved it there, but I really missed being surrounded by green, open space and couldn’t see myself raising a family in the city. It was time for a change.
Of course, there are things I miss about Brooklyn – the friends I left behind, the food, the art and culture….But I’ve met some amazing people here – everyone is so welcoming and the shared love for the region and the River is apparent. There are a couple restaurants that measure up to my city-food-snob tastes, although, because of the seasonal nature of the area, they are closed for a few months in the dead of winter. But I was also lucky enough to marry a man with old-school Italian heritage, so he’s the cook in the family (and pretty much runs the veggie garden). For art and culture, there are a couple arts centers and venues nearby that keep things interesting…and there’s always the option of skipping over the border and driving only 45 minutes to Kingston, which is a great little city (Ottawa is also fairly close)!
Homegrown: Sounds like you guys have found a really great spot, both in terms of location and where you are in life. What has been the most rewarding part of relocating? Has it changed you? If so, how? (And we should mention that folks can read more about Corinne’s adventures in her blog, A Greenish Life.)
Corinne: It’s been rewarding to become such a part of the local community. Living somewhere huge like Brooklyn can be overwhelming, and at times hard to find your niche. But here, and especially since starting to work for TILT, I truly feel like I’m a busy little cog in the grand wheel of daily life.
It’s all a matter of perspective, and where you are in your life. I started living in Brooklyn when I was 18 years old, so what was my main purpose? Having a good time! Now, I’m a little older, maybe even a little wiser, so the opportunity to be self-sufficient and connected with others in my community on an adult level has been an enormous boost to my self-confidence and satisfaction with my life as a whole.
Homegrown: CM, you’re making our day. Not to sound like your mom, and not that you need HOMEGROWN’s stamp of approval, but dang! We’re proud of and inspired by you, all at the same time. Last but not least: Duly noted that your husband is head chef, but what’s on the menu this weekend at your house? Anything we can start drooling over now? And before we sign off, thanks so much for sharing a bit about your lovely greenish life. So glad to know you!
Corinne: Aw shucks – That means a lot! Hard to say what will be on the menu…I’m currently pregnant, nearing the end of my first tri-mester, so my weirdo food aversions/cravings have (unfortunately for Butch) been calling the shots! Last night he made a yummy cous-cous and veggie mix and last weekend he whipped up some of his famous home-made meatballs (seriously the best things ever). I have been bugging him for a while to allow me to create a YouTube cooking show around him, since he’s so non-web-savvy that he will never even join facebook, let alone have his own food blog. Stay tuned (maybe) for that!
And thank YOU for inviting me to introduce myself on Meet Your Neighbors! I am so excited to have recently joined Homegrown and look forward to getting to know everyone here. Keep it green(ish)!
Thank you, Jennifer and the folks at Homegrown! The interview was a great experience!