18 July 2006

we make you kindly welcome

Hey. I'm a 41-year-old editor who currently divides his time between New York City and Washington County, New York, about midway between Saratoga Springs and Manchester, Vermont. My partner B and I have an old saltbox on a hill that we bought two years ago from N, who, with her late husband, G, fixed up our house over almost two decades. We believe that G is hanging around the place—literally and spiritually—probably the result of N's scattering his ashes at the north end of the property with the expectation that the wind would blow them south, all the way to Texas where G was born.

In addition to our old house (ca. 1790), we have a red barn, a prayer shack, and a chicken coop. The prayer shack started out as a milk shed in the days when our property was part of a much larger farm. The barn has the remains of some cow stalls in it, numbered 1 to 13. The milk shed originally sat down next to the county road. Sometime in the 1990s, G&N moved the shed up to behind the house, where it now sits on a slight rise. This summer B and I intend to whitewash the interior and paint the exterior. We'll see how that unfolds, because there's always a lot more to doing something than we think there will be.

We have about six and a half acres of land, a third of which is meadow or lawn. The rest is reverting to forest. What we have that I know: shagbark hickory, chokecherry, white ash, red oak, sugar maple, hemlock, white pine, ironwood, lots of honeysuckle, old apple trees, and some stands of sumac. We also have a bunch of grape vines, Virginia creeper, and some bindweed in the chicken coop.

You'd think that six and a half acres is small potatoes, wouldn't you? We did. We were wrong, of course. We love the fact that we don't have neighbors right on top of us, and I've come to view mowing the lawn as a sort of Zen meditation, but sometimes it feels like maybe we've bitten off more than we can chew. However, we don't feel that way when we go outside and look up at all the stars in the night sky, or when B rescues yet another old apple tree in the overgrown orchard, or when Dale the dog takes a delirious, crazy romp up into the woods at the end of the day. We have old stone walls, a cow path, space to plant a forest of larch trees if we want, and so many birds that we have to fill our feeders three times a week.

B has a vegetable garden of which he is proud. I have a flower garden of which I will eventually be proud. Our house will always need something: new clapboards on the south side, a coat of paint on the front of the garage, a couch for the borning room that doesn't smell like mildew, central air (on my mind today as we're in the midst of a small heat wave) . . . but, you know, I have to say it: things are pretty great just as they are now.