Thursday, September 30, 2010

The End of the Gravel Road

The end of a gravel road – that's where we find our favorite places in the world...

Juniper, the place in central Florida where we spend time fishing with friends and the road where Maggie, Jack, Mary, Jeananne, Katie B., Claire, Danny, Casey, Katie S. and James  learned to drive;

 Arowhon Pines, in Algonquin Park where we recoup from canoe trips in Canada;

the Davis ranch in Colorado;

the cabins in Alberta where the old woman cooked on a wood stove and took Ed and the kids on a tough hike (I stayed behind);

and the tiny town of Biscotasing, where Ed and I set out for our week-long, remote cabin trip and each of the kids passed through on their long canoe trips.

So, it only made sense to situate our new house at the end of a long gravel drive. Putting in the drive was one of the first things we did at our farm. The learning curve was steep. We drove the route we wanted the drive to follow and then placed little flags in the center of our tire marks, all the way the length of the drive. We hired Allan, Stevie and Teddy to run a bulldozer; we called around to get pricing on #2 rocks and dense grade gravel, and we agreed to the need for a culvert pipe at a low spot.

And now, we have our very own gravel road. It still needs to be seeded and landscaped: a fence at the entrance and perhaps some flowering trees and then native grasses growing along both sides. But for now, it serves its purpose: getting us back to our next favorite place, our home.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Right Sizing

We set out to design our new house so it is "just right" for us: not too big; not too small. Ed and I had to think about how to make our house intimate for just the two of us, but welcoming to our three children and (hopefully) their families some day.

We want our home to be smarter, not larger. We want to design it to be incredibly green. We are trying to be intentional about every decision.

We thought about our open living room/kitchen and exactly how we would use it. We thought about how we might enjoy a pool table, but designed it so that it could convert to a dining table. We measured our bed so it could fit perfectly between two windows. We decided that we could share an office. We figured out how we could build a bunk room in hopes that someday it will be filled with grandchildren on sleepovers but for now can accommodate our children and friends when they come home. And we thought about our friends who we are hoping to lure out to the country and convince them to stay overnight in our guest cottage, which can double as a place for a house sitter to stay and tend the chickens and goats if we are traveling.

Here's how our first floor worked out:

And here's a look at the second floor. The two bedrooms are above the garage and the pool table room is a loft over the kitchen, looking out onto the family room.

With every design decision, we ask ourselves: is this the right size for us? I hope we are making good decisions because I want our house to be "just right."

Monday, September 27, 2010

In Between

We sold our Rainbow Drive house and had to quickly figure out where to live in between it and our life on the farm. I sent an email out to my Breakfast Club, a group of very resourceful women who have been meeting once a month for breakfast for 30+ years. In the email, I asked for ideas of where we could move for a year or so. One on the responses that I got back was from Ellen, who offered that her brother might be willing to lease their mother's house.

Long story short, we moved into our "in-between" house on March 1 and feel like we are living the life of Riley, or perhaps of his sophisticated counterpart. The house was designed by Ellen and Bill's mother in the early 1960s. It features an open floor plan and a beautiful terrace overlooking a woods.

Most mornings I take my bowl of cereal out onto the terrace where I watch doe and baby deer eat green leaves; woodpecker, blue jay and yellow finch flit among old trees; squirrel and woodchuck scavenge for nuts. Last week I watched a barn owl swoop down, half expecting him to deliver me a letter.

It has been a wonderful place to land – a real blessing in our lives as we pause on our way toward life on the farm.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Kids’ Reactions

Over Thanksgiving weekend (2009) we told the kids about our exciting plans to sell the house and move to the country.

Maggie was quite excited. She immediately offered lots support for our efforts to build a sustainable house and farm our land. Jack was nonchalant and noted that he did not wish to pack up his bedroom and would need one of us to do so for him. Mary was devastated and unleashed her unhappiness in a blog that she submitted to Apartment Therapy (Mary's Childhood Bedroom). Sixty-nine people felt her pain and posted comments.  It's a very touching remembrance of a special place. Since it appeared on Apartment Therapy, it has been picked up by hundreds of other bloggers. Obviously a subject that touched a lot of people...

I'm pleased to report that all three are now sharing our excitement about our new home.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life Before the Farm

2946 Rainbow Drive.

That's where we lived for 17 years before deciding to buy a farm. It's the only home that our children really remember. Sometimes, when I would order items by phone, the customer service rep would comment on our address and ask if it was as nice a place to live as it sounded. Yes, it certainly was.

"Was" – that would be past tense – because this time last year, a note appeared in our front storm door asking if we would be interested in selling our home. "Yes!." "No!." "Maybe?." We were torn. Yes, we had long wished to move to the country. No, we couldn't imagine leaving our home. Or maybe this was just the nudge that we needed to make our long-wished-for move.

Back and forth our thinking would go.  Okay, we would let the interested family take a look. Okay, we would consider an offer. Okay, we would eventually accept an offer. But that's when the hard part came: how would we tell our children? And what would their reaction be?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just a Wish and a List

Ten years ago Ed surprised me with a weekend away. Before we got 10 miles out of town, I pulled out a pad of paper and informed him that I (someday) wanted to live on a farm (with him). Not really much to my surprise, he acknowledged that he too would like to live on a farm. When I asked him how he envisioned the farm, all he said was: "I want a place to watch the sun come up, or go down. Oh, and maybe a place to fish."

I, on the other hand, had a much longer list. I wished for:
A willow tree...

A big vegetable garden...

An outdoor shower...

A table to seat at least 10 people...

and a guest cottage...

And we left it at that. For years, the list stayed on my computer and slowly grew and grew and grew until we figured we better do something about it. And so, we did.