Charlie Biddle holding his catch of the day, a 6-plus pound black fish.
Grapes from Bill Deertz’s winery in Rye
Hens have yet to embrace social distancing. Just ask Jennifer Larceau, who raises them in her backyard.
They Were Country When Country Wasn’t Cool
By Jana Seitz
Time is on our side, so seize the opportunity to do whatever it is you’ve long wanted to do.
Okay, now what? Our bug-out bags are packed (metaphorically). We have a Plan B for the end of the world as we know it. And now the hardest part: we wait.
We wait for a sign to return to life as we knew it or to life which has been irrevocably altered. Meanwhile, we have a lot of time on our hands. There’s never been a better opportunity to figure out how to do something yourself, whatever it is that piques your interest. No one else is allowed to do it for you right now. Instructions for almost anything are on the web, as are materials and tools you need, and the gift of time has been dropped in your lap. You too can do everything you’ve historically farmed out to “professionals”. Doing it well takes time, the only commodity most of us are usually short on. Preparation, repetition, and improvisation are the mothers of invention. Here are a few local inspiring stories.
Charlie Biddle is the most country of the “country boys” I know in Rye. He is an avid hunter and fisherman with a fully stocked freezer of protein garnered under his own hand. Moose, venison, sea bass, and black fish abound. He grew up in Rye and had his wakeup call to an outdoor life in fourth grade at Milton when he read “My Side of the Mountain”. He fished with his dad his whole boy’s life and is now passing the love of the sea on to his three children: Claire (aka Bob), age 9, James 7, and Charlotte (aka George) 3. His wife Katherine is a saint who embraces his redneck–ness, an essential component of a happy life as an outdoorsman. Charlie was a professional boat captain for 19 years before the desire for staying home with his new family outweighed the job description.
He keeps a fishing boat and a duck hunting boat on the Sound. He bought his first bow at 14 and started hunting geese and deer. When confined inside, he hones his skill as a woodworker. He fell in love with the craft in his 8th–grade shop class at Rye Middle School, collecting all the necessary tools over time to craft items of beauty for family and friends. Lathe, planer, band and jig saws, a drill press… and lots of time…are all one needs to begin.
Rye guy Bill Deertz is a builder, gardener, excellent cook, and master maker of wine and beer. He grows pinot blanc grapes in his yard, a blush variety. It takes three years of nurturing the plant before the grapes grow. One full harvest yields a five-gallon bucket and takes place in early fall. He picks and smushes them by hand then uses a grape press to remove the pulp and juices from the skin, the main character of the process. He then adds yeast to the skins for the six–week fermentation process, after which he uses the wine press again to render the clear liquid, the wine, and bottle it. Bill also grows apple, peach, and pear trees, and has an herb garden of basil, rosemary, parsley, dill, chives, and mint. He has grown pumpkins, gourds, tomatoes, eggplant, squash, peppers, lettuces, blueberries, and strawberries. He regularly smokes his own (store–bought) meats, which lengthens the shelf life and enhances the flavor.
Jennifer Larceau is a Brooklyn and Chappaqua native who took to raising chickens in her backyard in Rye when one of her own chicks flew the coop to college last year. She bought a coop kit online and her contractor assembled it. She started with a flock of six Rhode Island Reds, the friendliest and quietest of the breeds, when they were one day old. Madonna, Aretha, Tina, Whitney, Beyoncé, and J Lo were nurtured in her home with heat lamps and baby feeders until they could transition outside to the coop at around 12 weeks. She feeds them organic feed and vegetables and lets them out every morning to exercise. There is a playpen built onto the coop, and the flock is protected from predators with chicken wire which extends 18” below ground. There are no roosters in the bunch, or she’d be in the hatching business. Chickens become egg–laying adults at 5 months but need 12 hours of daylight consistently to lay. The yield of one egg per chicken per day has just begun. I sampled a six–pack the other day and was genuinely amazed at the difference in taste.
Imagine what these three could build if they got together! They’d be set for a New World Order with protein, fruits, vegetables, eggs, wine, beer, and wooden bowls from which to drink and eat. Then imagine what we could all do as a town if we put our time, treasure, and talents to it. We’ve had two of the three all along.