Unpacking with Danielle French

Packing and unpacking can be such a chore

Moving generally is stressful. There is excitement about a new place and setting new roots but unsettling to leave years of memories behind. I have moved many times over the past 40 years. Moving to Canada from the US for university (and never leaving). Moving for jobs, moving for family. Moving overseas for a short while with two cats and a six month old in tow. Each time packing, unpacking, buying the new kitchen utensil now and then, a new chair or sofa. Every move seemed – and I’m sure it was – just a bit larger. When you have a growing family, small children who need new things and the old things can be easily passed down I didn’t find I gave away much. I knew I could always use it somewhere and who knows, the kids might want things one day!

South Pond Farms

The Farm at South Pond was really our longest permanent home as a family. The girls were young when we moved there, Aubrey Rose only 4 and Carlyle 12 and in between, Grace and Olivia settled into life on the farm. We piled all of the “city furniture” into one room and called it the parlour and the rest of the house was a blend of country and refinished furniture. It was a lovely house even though it was old and drafty, we tended the cook stove and fire as if it was our most important job which in the winter time, it was. I met Barb, a woman who could refinish and paint anything and give it new life and beauty. I am someone who likes change and moves furniture around often and painting and repainting regularly.

Starting an event business

I didn’t really mean to start an event business but the idea of serving food in our restored barn appealed to me, especially growing my own food and sharing with others. I wanted to build a community of people who appreciated fresh, uncomplicated meals and I could offer them in a place that was unique, a country environment like out in the field or forest or inside the magnificent barn. So it began, years of accumulating plates, antique champagne flutes simply because who wouldn’t want these beauties, tea cups and buckets of kitchen utensils to fill my new kitchen.

Time for change

Sixteen years later, I knew in my heart it was time to let go and for someone else to pick up where we left off. The overwhelming work, the covid pandemic and not having time to really spend with my family meant a break. The house really didn’t seem as much of a family home but a family business with people coming and going and regular events. I was fortunate that another family was ready to step in. Luck also presented itself with the new owners happily taking on my years of collecting dishes, furniture and kitchen equipment. That didn’t mean I didn’t have a lot to gather up and pack. Would it be ok to take 6 measuring cups? 20 bowls for mixing, a dozen funnels, what about glasses – wouldn’t we need several sets of 20 each?

Downsizing

In our new home, it is spacious yet smaller. No large barns and sheds for storage. Over a short period of time I needed to downsize. All my girls are still young enough to not know what they need nor have the space for storing what they think they might need. It is tough when the things we want to pass on to our family may not really be what they may need or want and you come to the real hard truth of having to let go. One set of glassware, just a few measuring cups. Dishes – these were most difficult to let go of. There are so many organizing books and creative ways to live simply but for me it was hitting a wall of realization that I may cook simply but living was another matter. I remember a story I once heard about a moving truck filled with belongings never arriving at the destination and wondering if after the anger and sadness about losing these items there might also be a little bit of relief and the feeling of being unburdened. I spent a month loading family photos onto the cloud and hard drives, keeping only the clothing I loved and whittling sentimental pieces down to very little. A crazy point came this week when I wanted to transplant some things in my very tiny garden and realized I had given away my shovels. I went into the hardware store to buy one.

I am still unpacking and still putting things into piles to give away. I found a home for my cookbooks in a former bathroom cabinet that Barb re-painted for me to fit into my modern surroundings. Houseplants are my new “garden” at least for now and I am looking for ways to repurpose both furnishings and utensils that occupy a good amount of time. I am grateful for what I do have and I don’t miss a single thing that I’ve sent away. I believe I have been able to repurpose everything and give those things a new life with others who need it.

Danielle French
Danielle French

About Danielle French

I founded South Pond Farms in 2008. The property is on the Oak Ridges Moraine in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe Mississauga. South Pond started as a small food delivery business making fresh prepared meals from ingredients in my garden. Together with my family, we restored the barn, the iconic heritage silo and the land to become a destination for authentic culinary experiences, weddings, celebrations, workshops. Inspired from the farm, I also create a line of culinary products and gifts.

In 2021, I was ready to move away from the farm. As much as I loved the land and the country, it was time to let someone else bring their passion to what we had created. My new home is in Peterborough, Ontario where I’m taking some time to write, contemplate next steps, train my dogs, blog about recipes and interesting explorations and unpack!

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Posted on Friday, November 12th, 2021
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