Ryan Schutt has always felt connected to the Five Kezar Ponds. Now a full-time Waterford resident, Schutt considers himself an environmentalist. Though he is not sure he has any musical talent, he sings and plays the kazoo. He volunteers at the Greater Lovell Land Trust and Five Kezar Ponds Watershed Association.I n his free time, he homesteads with his partner Sierra Simpson on the farm they bought this past year. 
I was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. I spent most of my childhood in Naugatuck and then moved to Milford where I went to high school.
My parents got divorced when I was 11 or 12. They remarried and had more children. It’s a big family.
My mom was a hairdresser. She still is. My dad worked in security for Lockheed Martin. He would drive back and forth from Naugatuck to New York City every day. He got laid off 10 or 12 years ago and became a financial planner.
It was a good childhood. We lived in a condo for a while, so there were lots of kids around. We were always running through the woods.
When I first came to visit my grandparents Ron and Ione, I was not even 1. I came every year after that. Sometimes I’d spend a week here alone with them. That was my favorite part of every summer.
This is where I learned to swim and ride a bike. I would fish, pick berries, and hike. Back in Connecticut, everything was so fast. We didn’t do anything like that. Up here it was simple. The trees got bigger, but it always was the same. It was my constant.
My grandfather took me under my wing. I had my own wheelbarrow and shovel. I’d follow him around. We’d fill holes or clean the backyard. Doing those little chores was fun for me.
My grandfather along with Ron Gestwicki, Art Shilling who just passed, and Bob Johnson – they called them the godfathers – started the Five Kezar Ponds Watershed Association. They wore special hats and had meetings. If someone needed a tree cut, they all got together and did it.  At first, it was just a road committee.Then they figured their real job was preserving the water. We have some of cleanest water around.
After I graduated from high school in 2001, I tried college, but it wasn’t for me. I got a job at a pet store in Milford, and then I worked at a veterinary clinic. That’s what I wanted to be when I was still ambitious. I quickly found out this also wasn’t for me. It was just another business.
I wouldn’t say I was an alcoholic, but I drank quite a bit. I worked all day and would end up at the bar complaining about going to work. It became what I did with the bulk of my time. There’s a lot more to do than sit on a bar stool. I thought I might do that for the rest of my life. I realized if I didn’t drink I didn’t have to work as much.
My original plan was to take a month off from drinking. It felt great. I had time to focus on my causes and what I really cared about. So much came together I decided to keep going. It’s been four years. It’s something I am proud of.
About the same time, I decided to move to Maine. I had dreamed about moving up here since I was a kid. There were always excuses not to come. You can’t make those forever. I had made so much change in my life I thought, Why not do what I have always wanted to do.
I met Sierra at one of the Family Reunion Fourth of July parties I throw in Connecticut. She helped in the kitchen that year. Once we started talking a lot, I knew I was going to start chasing her around. I was in a band called The Kazoo Crew Family Band. She started showing up at all of our shows, I got the hint that she was chasing me too..
After I moved to Portland three years ago, she would visit on weekends. A year and a half later we rented a place together in Greenwood. On the weekends, we’d look for something to buy.
It took over a year to find our place on Temple Hill in Waterford. It’s a $10 house with a million-dollar view.  We have six acres. I want to grow all my own food. We are getting into bees. Eventually, we will sell honey and eggs. The house is held together with duck tape and bubble gum, but it’s exactly where I want to be. It’s perfect. Plus, it’s 15 minutes from Back Pond.
Back in the 80s, there were 12 families who got together and bought a chunk on Back Pond so it would not be developed. In 2001, a lot more people bought another 150 acres. My grandfather and his friends were influential in the purchase of the land. Ron Gestwicki, who worked with the land trust, helped figure out how to donate it to the trust. The trail up the mountain is now called Ron’s Loop in his honor.
I go to Five Kezar Ponds Watershed Association meetings. I am involved with the Greater Lovell Land Trust. Every Thursday Bob Katz and I lead a crew of volunteers. We sometimes have as many as 15 or 16 people. We clean trails with loppers and move logs. Some other young people started the trail crew. They left about the time I showed up. That’s how I got involved. A lot of land trust members are retired. I guess you could say I’m the kid.
 I have moved around a lot and things have changed. This is the one place that has stayed the same. It means a lot to me to be able to come back.If you don’t live your own dream you get swept into someone else’s. I would not have been satisfied if I ended up anywhere else. I am happy. I am living my dream.
Ryan Schutt enjoys a few moments on the porch of his grandparents’ Back Pond cottage.
photo by Pamela Chodosh

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