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.


  1. Glad to have a new blog to read, having a pieceof peace if great!

  2. Your place sounds wonderful to me. I sat and watched the barn through the seasons 3 times. I miss the farm where I was born and reared so very, very much. Larch trees sound perfect and the night sky must be wonderful. I remember the winter nighttime sky as looking like deep velvet with stars dangling near to me. Glad I found you on blotanical.

  3. Hi, Barbee! Where were you raised? B grew up in Owensboro. I love how you describe the winter nighttime sky. The larch tree is surviving, thankfully; the branches are dotted with buds. See you around.

  4. I was born and reared in west Tennessee, Gibson County - the center of the universe for me. I am perennially homesick and write about it sometimes. Now, west Tennessee is not very far from Owensboro, Kentucky, less than a days drive. Tenn. & Ky. are both very long states with distinct sections. In Tenn. we say "East Tenn., Middle Tenn., and West Tennessee"; in Ky. they say "Eastern Ky., Central Ky., and Western Kentucky". When we moved to Ky. in 1973, I thought that was interesting. People frequently ask where we are from. When I say Tenn., they say, "Oh, you don't have far to drive to go home to visit." Humph! It is a 6 to 8 hour drive. We don't just go south and over the state line; we drive all the way west into the setting sun before we can drop down toward the south. One of our sons lived in Owensboro for a few years, working and teaching there while waiting to be accepted into graduate school at Univ. of Ga. Athens campus.

    Changing the subject to larch trees. Here in Lexington is a fragment remaining of the estate, Ashland, home of 19th century statesman, Henry Clay. There is a larch tree there in the spacious yard. Years ago a calico cat appeared on the steps and told the docents and other volunteer workers that she was there to fill the position of estate mouser. There she lived several years, often posing gracefully in windows, and was named Gypsy. When Gypsy died there was an article in the newspaper and it said they buried Gypsy beneath the larch tree. There was an article in the paper also, when the Great Horned Owl that frequented the many old, old trees there died.

  5. One thing I love about Kentucky and Tennessee is the diversity of the landscapes. Bluegrass to mountains to those great hills around Trappist (which remind us of the hills of Hebron, where we are). It is some of the prettiest country I know.

    I haven't made it to Ashland yet, but I want to. Love the story about Gypsy, and how great that she was buried beneath a larch.

  6. Anonymous12:45 AM

    I've been skimming your blog for a half hour or so--unwinding after spending the afternoon and evening in our own garden.

    Lovely house and land--and I'm envious of those tidy raised beds!

  7. Kimberly, thanks for visiting! Where do you garden?