Happy Anniversary to us! Tomorrow is Ray’s 27th birthday… and it is this weekend that he moved into the green house on Juniper Hill, just two years ago.
He moved in with a blue crayfish, giant bins of LEGO/Bionicles, plus one GIANT bin which contained the cardboard /packaging of all of his LEGO/Bionicles …. because they have information on the cardboard that he wants to remember… just in case.
Jose had also just moved in, to the cottage at the top of the hill where he joined Brent who had been alone since his housemate of 12 years had moved out three months before. Andy had been visiting for weeks at a time during the summer, and had decided that he, too, could leave his parent’s home after all, and move out on his own.
And so the ‘core four’ began their life together on the hill…. navigating social interactions and the well-stocked pantry of available food. That first weekend all together, Ray asked if his best friend could visit for the weekend … and so we met Michael. He became a regular visitor, and moved in some months later while he finished out his last year at school.
We had a plan, my friend Mollie and I. We would all live happily together and grow giant fields of sunflowers and other cut flowers for bouquets, and we would work the fields with help from all of our other friends who happened to have a disability. Our flower business would thrive, and we would make flower arrangements for events, wreaths for Christmas, and hand deliver bouquets for all holidays. We would have herds of fiber animals, and after we sheared the alpacas and combed the cashmere goats and angora rabbits, we would process the fiber and spin it into luxurious skeins with our spinning wheels as we sat by the fire on cozy winter nights. And then come spring, we would travel all over the East Coast selling our wares at farmer’s markets…. and we would earn enough money for all the guys to have a decent income, plus become a non-profit and get start-up grants to get it off the ground.
Ready… set… go!
Live happily together? But he’s LOUD. He hurt my feelings. He stole my … _____ (LEGO, money, chips, favorite shirt). He hogs the TV. He hogs the computer. He swears. I hate his music.
Grow giant fields of perfect flowers? Not if the groundhogs and deer, weeds and stinkbugs have anything to say about it.
Work in the fields? In the dirt? With bugs? In the sun? For how long?
The toilet’s broken again…. a gallon of milk, a dozen apples, and two bags of chips just disappeared in an hour…… and there is a mystery $300 dollar overcharge on the Comcast bill.
Farmer’s Markets all over the East Coast? You mean, like when we are not busy weeding? Like on Saturday mornings? When we are sleeping until noon because we are tired from our busy week?
It’s midnight and the dishes are done and the kitchen is clean and the guys seem settled and getting along… guess I should write that grant now.
And weren’t we going to learn how to spin?
Here’s what we DO have here on Juniper Hill, after two years.
A growing community of friends who happen to have autism, or other disabilities. A group of friends who care about each other, who trust each other, and who get together once a week to work for an hour or so, here in the fields and then hang out over a fantastic lunch made by Jose, who loves to cook and feed people.
A group of WWOOF (http://www.wwoofusa.org/index.aspx) volunteers who help out on the farm when the guys just can’t (those bugs and that dirt….)
A medium sized field of flowers, but sunflowers only, kind of weedy.
A place at the local West Grove Farmer’s Market, which runs on Thursday afternoons…. only. Close to West Grove’s ice cream shop, the library, and Chinese restaurant… for market breaks.
the market ….where we sold all of the sunflowers that the groundhogs didn’t eat. and where we show off our future with fiber (cause this coming year, the guys are really going to learn to love making things out of felted alpaca! Right?!)
One toilet fixed, one more to go.
No start-up grants or non-profit, went back to working instead. So I now help other people with autism and other disabilities, to set-up their own independent housing in the community. I have a regular paycheck, and it pays for fencing.
And here on the hill are a group of guys who have learned to live together, play together, share their space, their food, and the TV. They take care of the farm animals, do daily farm chores, learned to cook, have great support staff who have hung in there for the entire two years….
they have lost a ton of weight and learned what healthy eating choices are, found volunteer jobs and paying jobs… and they are happy, self-confident adults who are great ambassadors of autism when we are out on our many wonderful trips together, courtesy of AALIVE (http://www.aalive.org)
It was always supposed to be about the GUYS. And it is.
And no, I haven’t learned how to spin. But the WWOOF volunteers came with a spinning wheel and cozy winter evenings are coming up… who knows?
Awesome accomplishments… absolutely awesome!
Two years? Amazing.
Having had the pleasure of staying overnight at Juniper Hills, I was able to see firsthand how wonderful the farm is for all living there. The warmth and laughter were contagious.
Yet as John Lennon put is so well, “Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans”. So here’s to many more years of life on the farm and the simple joys it brings.
Wonderful two years – congrats!