My ‘unofficial’ history of theHamptonsfarmland chronicles the bounty of its crops, and the slow but sure dissolution of a way of life. We all read, in horror, the Vanity Fair article (which chronicled ‘the deal’ between the White family and an Oil Executive) about the last strip of undeveloped farmland leading to the ocean water. It harkens to a time when men used to shake hands to honor a deal.
That was then. The tract of land is now billowing with large houses partitioned by rustic fences or, one of the favorites out here, privet. My guess is soon the stark view of newly constructed houses on open land will be filled in with lush landscaping replacing the wide open spaces — which used to be neatly planted symmetrical crops — into thickets of privet which in years will block all view, except from the second story.
We all know farming, nationwide, is a dying way of life. And the next generation of farmer is becoming extinct. We’ve read about it. But here, in theHamptons, we actually see the acres devoted to crops, decline. The new crop rising from the ground are the big multi-tiered houses. No pesticides needed for these behemoths to sprout out of the dirt: attitude is the fertilizer. These super-sized houses are oddly proportioned to the rural landscape; they outline quaint, scant, remaining acres that are tended modestly for the farm stand on the corner, not for the market: the yield is too small.
The biggest change, to me, is the expansion of tree farms, specialty plants, exotic shrubs which supply the out-of-proportion houses. And now, these tree farms are expanding, large sections devoted to privet, or, the privacy hedge which proliferates out here.
What used to be this vast land of bounty to harvest is now the minority acreage out here which has been supplanted by privet lined property designed by ____________ (you fill in the blank) with gardens designed and maintained by __________ (yep, your turn again) who have decided to cordon off these odd larger-than-life houses and hide the view, what was once ‘our’ view.
Our view, the view that we all love of wide open spaces which may or may not give us an unobscured glimpse of the ocean. Surely there’s no view left outside of the public beaches or the areas of beach accessible with seasonal permits. Certainly going fromSouthamptontoEasthampton– south of the Sunrise Highway — there isn’t any unobscured view two streets, no! three streets away from the ocean where one can see straight to the water.
Then, I stumbled upon a little miracle.
I got an early start one Sunday morning where I was driving east on the Montauk Highway when the traffic forced me to peel off on the southern route, through Bridgehampton, Sagaponack towards Wainscot and back out towards Easthampton.
At the stop sign at Sagg Main next to the tiny Sagaponack Common School you have a choice to go further south weaving back through Hedges or Daniels to Townline toWainscot Main Street, or, you can go a little north and take Parsonage to make your way to Wainsc ot.
This day I took the road less travelled to Parsonage. When I turned down Parsonage from Sagg Main Street, I passed the flower beds, the houses lined left and right, where in the midst of the flowering of the potato plants, looking south, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road, parked, pulled out my camera and shot what remains the last view of the ocean from Parsonage to Hedges past Daniel to the ocean.
What a view! A little slice of heaven from the white bloom of the potato tops, row after row pointing south, there formed a perfect runway path to the water. The crop lines moved my eye straight through these streets, past a golden brown field of wheat to the blue waters of the ocean.
It made me wonder only one thing as I lined the shot up: when will the privet on Parsonage fill in this last slice of heaven?
This morning, I stood there in the silence, and smiled as I whispered, ‘not today.’