In 1990, when we moved to this rural farmhouse, I had great plans for my property. I wanted steps going down the hill and through the woods to my stream, where there would be a lovely rustic terrace for lolling in a hammock, dangling hot feet in the cold, clear water, sharing simple meals with laughing friends. There would be charming paths through the meadow out to the big rocks that border our back woods. A guest house in the pig barn. A workshop and studio in the horse barn. A large pond. Oh, and landscaping, the old fashioned country kind.
In the 1970s, this was still a working farm. There was no electricity, no plumbing (although there was a very fancy three-hole indoor outhouse) and no central heat. When the last member of the original family died, there were 27 rooms… many flapping in the breeze, over 200 acres, 20 barns and outbuildings and almost half of the more than 7,000 sq. ft. inside the house was piled from floor to ceiling with stored family antiques.
When we got it, the place was a disaster and nothing worked. The house, which had been empty for a few years was full of bees, flies, red squirrels, carpenter insects of all kinds. There was not one nice room or even a corner that was ready to use.
On the other hand, there were large, low-ceilinged rooms and lots of them! Three staircases! Eight working fireplaces!Exposed beams! Wide plank floors. The people who had inherited the property had taken a shot at fixing it up but had, understandably, thrown in the towel. But, they had put in 5 bathrooms! Heat! A laundry room! Not a bad start.
In the 6 months before we moved in, the floors were refinished, a new kitchen was hand built by a local master carpenter-violin maker who also built a library in one room and new fireplace surrounds. Over the years, we have moved walls, relocated the entrance to a staircase, replaced all of the porches, ceilings and bathroom fixtures, added a second library, rebuilt the dining room and included a wall of (yet more) bookcases and glass doors for collections, relocated squirrels, bats, bees. Every room needed something or everything… and we’re still not done.
So, back to the great plans for the property! In keeping with the most noticeable section of the house, we built a Greek Revival well house. It does shelter one of our wells, but its main function is wall space for the 8 foot diam. antique clock face that our 7′ 6″ ceilings would not accommodate. Ken lugged the stones from a nearby farm to build wonderful low walls around a court yard. Dozens of large trees were planted. A blue stone front walk replaced the dirt path to the front door. A new fence, and then another when carpenter ants took up residence in the first.
As I write this, even with the many things I’m sure I’ve forgotten that we’ve done, I know that we’ve done a lot.
But, the outside is still so unfinished. Even though I have a set of fabulous plans, drawn up by a professional who got that I wanted everything to be old fashioned and in keeping with a farm in the country, even though I still dream of paths through meadows, there are things that derail me. There are gnat-like bugs here almost year round which makes a stroll to the stream unthinkable. A thicket has taken over the meadow and, knowing how little shelter is left for our wildlife, the thicket will have to stay. The barns are chock full of our inventory of industrial stuff waiting for Ken’s loving touch. Ken’s lacrosse field is in the only area big enough for a pond. And, as for the landscaping, I go from one season to the next, putting it off because we’re never around to water it or we’re never around to supervise the planting or some other excuse. I admit that part of me just doesn’t relate to fixing up a yard. I’m good at the inside. The outside I don’t get.
No, I don’t have the flowers or shrubs or anything like that. But, I do have this.
And this other stuff.
And, for now, it is enough.