Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Block Island

We are back in New York from our lovely vacation. We again visited Block Island, RI. DH and I got married on Block Island in 2004 after a couple of visits to the island. We have absolutely fallen in love with the island's old world charm. It is truly a land that time forgot.

We began renting a house last year and came back to the same place this year. Renting the same house allowed us to relive all the happy memories from last year. But this year, it was so lovely to have both the kids (I was 8 months pregnant during our trip last year which made things difficult). Thing 1 & 2 really bonded on the trip. They have begun playing together. Thing 2 was crawling all over the place and blowing raspberries while Thing 1 talked to him and laughed. It was really enjoyable.

Block Island is a small island 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. The Island was named by Adrian Block during his expedition of the New England coastline in 1614. The first settlers arrived in 1661; there were 16 families from the English colony of Massachusetts. The Island lands were parceled off to each of the families and many of their descendants still reside on the Island today. In fact some of the second or third generation settlers are buried in a historical cemetery right across the street from the house we rent. The island is covered in well preserved history. Although there is a thriving modern tourist industry, there are many examples of architecture from the 1700's and 1800's and the island retains an undeveloped character.

The thing we love the most about Block Island is that the land is preserved. The beaches are some of the most diverse and beautiful. Crescent Beach has fine powdery sand with amazing dunes. Whereas the beaches along the Great Salt Pond are sometimes rocky but offer warmer water and smaller waves for the ponds, as well as tidal pools that teem with small fish, sand crabs, horseshoe crabs, shellfish and various birds. The kids LOVED seeing all the small animals, big enough to be interesting and small enough to not be scary.

But (of course) being on the Island made me think about food and sustainability. We carted in four big bags of food that we bought in the city so that we could eat high-quality nummies and organics all week at the house. All the island food that I could see was brought in on boats from the mainland. I kept looking for farms on the Island, but didn't see any. I know the 1661 and the Manisses Inn has a farm that they harvest for meals at their inns and restaurants (we were married at the 1661 Inn, so we learned that then). DH and I agreed that we didn't even see many people's houses with vegetable gardens, but it must too difficult to plant in April and weed throughout the season since most people aren't living there year round.

There was a farmer's market on Wednesday morning and Saturday morning. I thought for sure that this would be the place to find locally grown produce. Possibly even a farmer from the mainland willing to pay for the ferry to sell his goods to the islanders. Unfortunately there was no produce around. I did find that there are some farms on the island, fresh flower farms (the island has abundant flowers and wildflowers) and several homey kitchens making up jams and jellies and baking cookies, breads and cupcakes. The balance of the stalls at this farmer's market went to local artists of pottery, jewelry and other wares. The market was quaint and fun for the kids. The cookies were amazing. The jewelry almost came home with us, but I was strong. I was a little sad not to see a stronger local food movement on Block Island. Mostly because there is such an immense sense of community and focus put on supporting local business. Not to mention that ecology and preservation are hallmarks of the Island's culture. I suppose that farming on Block Island has fallen by the wayside now that land is at a premium price. When just 16 acres of undeveloped land is on the market for more than 4 million dollars, I suppose it seems difficult to justify a couple heads of lettuce and a few bushels of apples a season.

Either way, our family will be going back every year we can. We will cart in all our healthful food and cart out all out garbage to leave this pristine place as untouched as when we first arrived. There truly is no place on earth quite like Block Island.

Block Island History. Block Island Guide. http://www.blockislandguide.com/ 4 July 2010.

1 comment:

  1. You've got to remember - that such a small island, out in the ocean is a slave to the water temp. In April, the water is still in the low 40's, and there's not tons of sun - lots of factors, some that you mentioned, plus a short growing season make for limited locally grown food.
    That being said, come back to the farmer's market in late August, and you'll see the island's bounty. :)