SHARPSBURG, Md. (AP) — Few footprints of the 21st century disturb the snowy countryside along Sharpsburg Pike.
Here, just a sled skid from Antietam National Battlefield, a winter storm has covered everything in white, burying old stone walls and wooden fences.
Without the frantic rhythm of traffic and noise, time seems to stand still. And that suits Susan Stoy just fine.
Inside her nearby home, Stoy is recapturing a simpler lifestyle. She’s baking bread. The day before, she made butter. And that evening’s meal like all of her family’s meals will be made from scratch. No preservatives, no artificial flavors or colors.
What she doesn’t grow, she buys organic.
She washes her clothes in natural detergents and uses vinegar for household chores.
She even delivered three of her five children at home. Stoy, 47, is a modern-day woman who does things the old-fashioned way.
“Some people say I must be nuts,” she said. “But other people will tell me they think my lifestyle is really neat. I say, ‘To each his own.’ It’s the way God made me.”
Born and raised in Washington County, Stoy said she always has enjoyed living a simpler, healthier life.
A 1981 graduate of North Hagerstown High School, Stoy as a teenager lived on a small farm, where she learned to make butter and can fruits and vegetables.
She probably was about 15, she said, when she developed a serious interest in how to maintain good health.
It was an interest that continued to grow, especially after she married and had a family.
“I wanted what was best for them,” she said. “And the best thing I could do was get back to basics.”
Stoy said many people might believe she’s planted in the past and she does admit that she probably would have enjoyed living in an earlier era.
“I often say God put me in the wrong period of time,” she said. “Because if you gave me a log cabin at the end of a long lane, I would be a happy woman.”
But she’s firmly rooted in the present.
“I just enjoy re-creating how things were done before modern technology,” she said.
Stoy said she channels a lot of the past from the home in which she and her family have lived for the past four years a 100-year-old farmhouse.
“We live in a newer addition to the original house,” she said. “But we also use the older part, which will always be special to me. Some people told us to tear it down, but we couldn’t do that. I love to think of the history of our home, the people who lived there and how they lived. We are now part of that history.”
Stoy said she also feels a connection to the past when she walks the farm’s 35 acres and sees the old stone fences and the berry bushes that have been there for years.
“We’re following a path that has been traveled for generations and I’m so grateful, so thankful for that opportunity,” she said.
Stoy said committing to a more natural lifestyle also included having three of her children at home.
“My first two children were born in hospitals,” she said. “But it wasn’t right for me. I knew there was a better way. So my next three children were home birthed with the help of a midwife.”
Stoy said her fundamental approach to living has rubbed off on her children, who range in age from 9 to 22, especially her daughters who read labels before purchasing food items.
“They have learned at an early age what is good for the body and what they should stay away from,” she said. “If they see an ingredient that shouldn’t be included in their diet, they put it back on the shelf.”
Stoy said she isn’t a “total fanatic” and allows her children some junk food.
“It just has to be minimally processed so it won’t hurt the body,” she said.
She keeps a jar of peanut butter in her cupboard.
“But it’s a teaching tool to show people the absurd number of ingredients. It’s probably been there for years,” she said.
With her interest in the past, Stoy said she feels fortunate to live close to the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum, which offers a variety of living history-style programs.
“Whenever I can, I’m there to learn,” she said. “And I learn something new every time I go. I just absolutely crave learning.”
In the future, Stoy said, she wants to learn to make soap and cheese and master the technique of open-hearth cooking.
Currently, she said, she uses a wood-burning cook stove from fall to spring.
“Even if something just needs heated up, it goes into a cast-iron skillet and on the stove,” she said. “I never use a microwave for cooking.”
Stoy said she bakes bread every day, something she’s done for the past 15 years, and makes 10 pounds of butter on a regular basis, using milk from the family cow.
“It’s a workout, but it’s definitely worth it,” she said.
Stoy said she and her husband would love to some day become re-enactors, “which would fit right in with my lifestyle.”
When she isn’t busy with family chores, Stoy said she is a foot reflexologist and natural health consultant.
A future dream is to open a “healthy eating restaurant.” “Some people might see my life choices as a little strange,” Stoy said. “But I find it very rewarding. I believe we all just need to get back to a simple and less stressful way of living.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)