Windmill and Dreamers

by Kate

This is my friend Sia.

Sia is a potter and a painter and a mother of four. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where the rocks drip with moss and the rocky land looks entirely enchanted, but her family is settled here, high on a green hill on a historic ridge deep in the Ohio hills. When you head way out, up, and over Hanover Ridge and toward her family’s homestead, the first sign you’ve reached it is a windmill high on the hill. At this time of year, it’s framed by an orchard full of apple blossoms.

Sia’s family hasn’t always lived on this high Ohio Ridge. They have deeply urban East and West Coast roots. They settled on this ridge as part of the homeschooling, homesteading, back to the lander movement. In fact, they are Catholic artist back to the landers. This is a infinitesimally small segment of the general population, but a familiar one for me as I grew up immersed in this culture as well.

Sia’s parents are artists and intellectuals, and their love of beauty is evident in the lines and light streaming through their home, built by her father and younger brother. After reading my recent post on the farmhouse chic of Anthropologie, Sia was eager to show me the real life beauty of the home her family has created. I brought my camera, so I could bring all of you along as well.

Inside the green screen door, there were many familiar elements of back to the land living, reminding me of home. In the kitchen is a beautiful wood cookstove, with the most artistic compost bucket I have ever seen perched atop it:

And a big wooden table with long benches.

Notice the bouquet of apple blossoms- simple, and beautiful.

I loved this kitchen and dining area, where the light pours in…

and there is beauty from every angle.

I especially appreciated this coat rack, which has an enviable simplicity and order to it. Remind me to tell you of my mutant rebel collapsing coat rack some time.

Sia made French press coffee….

and served it in a mug that she made, years ago.

Then, coffee in hand, we continued with our tour.

If you are a back to the lander, having a carpenter father for a home-builder is a definite plus. Check out this enviable wall of built in bookshelves.

The house is full of appealing angles.

And ingenious storage solutions.

Speaking of storage, Sia is particularly impressed with her mothers drying rack and laundry table.

There are icons and flowers tucked into corners…

Icons, homemade pottery, and apple blossoms.

And on one wall this picture, of Sia’s grandmother. Look at those eyes! It is clear where some of the great creativity and passion in this family comes from.

This is a beautiful house for dreams.

Speaking of dreams, across from the main house is a partially finished structure with a fully completed music studio, complete with a grand piano.

As we visited, the strains of Bach’s cello concerto drifted across the ridge. Sia’s siblings play the piano, violin, harp, and cello. I am in awe of Sia’s mother, who homeschooled five children and drove many of them an hour and a half into the city of Pittsburgh so that they could study and perform this music.

I am in awe, but I can’t imagine making that drive on a regular basis- which brings me to the topic of my own dreams and quandries. There is a great part of my soul that longs to be settled in an owner built home high atop a green hill. However, a greater part of me realizes that my husband is neither a carpenter nor a farmer, but instead a teacher who loves to live in the city. And living in the city is what is allowing me to spend my time learning and working as a harpist, dancer, and artist.

I visited Sia at Hanover Ridge along with my good friend Rebecca and her three children.

All three of us grew up with Catholic back to the lander parents. In fact, all of our parents read, wrote for, and worked to bring to life the words in the short lived but deeply influential magazine Caelum Et Terra. You can find out more about the history of the magazine if you follow the previous link to the website about it, or you can check out the current blog here.

These days, Sia is one of the editors of a print journal entitled Soul Gardening. Rebecca just published her first novel, and I am writing for the blog you are reading right now. At the moment, all of us live in town- although Rebecca commutes out to her organic farm on her parent’s property. We are all working on finding balance as women and wives and mothers and dreamers. And although we may not be living on a high ridge, we are all still tilting at windmills.

For more photos of my day at Hanover Ridge, view the facebook album here. Enjoy!

10 thoughts on “Windmill and Dreamers

  1. Lydia

    What a beautiful home. I would love to live there! My struggles are similar to your own – my husband is an IT guy, not so much a back-to-the-lander. The good news is sometimes you can have a little bit of both, wherever you are.

  2. laurainmontana


    Thank you for sharing. Sia’s lifestyle is one our family is creating, bit by bit. Ours will look different than Sia’s, but, God willing, we will reach our goal for a more simple life free from many of the cares of the world. Love the pictures. There is such beauty in simplicity.

  3. Jenna

    I love your post Kate, and I feel like I have a better sense of your family through the whole back-to-the-lander concept that you explained (which I had never heard of). And what a lovely home! I’d love to tinker on that grand piano and drink coffee from one of those handcrafted mugs . . .

  4. gojulesgo

    Wow, what a great tour of a BEAUTIFUL home! I can feel the warmth of these pictures.

    I can definitely relate to how difficult it is to find the right balance (between city and country, creature comfort and living off the grid, artistic tendencies and…safer ones). My husband and I grew up near NYC, but now live in a house in western New Jersey, with a little over 2 acres and a barn. We love it more than we ever thought we could. So much so that we often talk about how wonderful it would be to quit our day jobs and live more simply, off the land, etc. NJ is just SO expensive, but it’s where our family (heart) is…

    1. sweetridgesisters Post author

      The expense of “living simply off the land” is entirely prohibitive these days. While I was at Hanover Ridge, I was discussing with Sia the fact that it is really not possible to establish a homestead like that unless you have a lot of money or are willing to be very, very poor. The cost of land used to be so much lower- and NJ! Wow. I can’t even imagine. So glad that you have a barn though! -kate

  5. Minnesota Prairie Roots

    I understand your longing for the ridge, although my longing is for the prairie. If you grow up on the land, leaving it is difficult.

    Thanks for taking us into your friend’s home, into a lifestyle many of us wish we could live if not for…

    1. sweetridgesisters Post author

      I think we all long for home. I know that my mom loves a certain view at the top of our upper field, where the ridge rolls out like an Iowa prairie. I have always remembered that. -kate

  6. Justin

    Very good post. Since I am already familiar with the Hoyts and Sia in particular (by marriage), I was most interested in what you chose to capture and how you chose to describe it. I really enjoy your use of abrupt periods… great style. Anyway… thank you for this! 🙂

    Oh and this is brilliant: “And although we may not be living on a high ridge, we are all still tilting at windmills.” Still tilting at windmills. Love that.


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