“He who loves an old house
Never loves in vain,
How can an old house
Used to sun and rain,
To lilac and larkspure,
And an elm above,
Ever fail to answer
The heart that gives it love?”
~Isabel Fiske Conant
I never tire of telling this story. It is the story of how we found our farmhouse, or maybe it found us.
I was raised on a cattle farm. Being gone all day running, building and imagining with my siblings on hundreds of acres was the norm. The open skies and fields gave me room to know my own thoughts.
They have stayed with me, those childhood days. I am the girl who will choose a day in my garden over a trip to the mall and would rather stare at a wood fire than sit in front of the t.v.
I had hoped that my children could have a taste of that same freedom and connection someday.
Several years ago, we were living in a charming, but small, three bedroom rambler in a housing development. All three kids were in one room, there was a trundle bed for the older two and the baby had her crib in the closet. We had taken the closet doors off and hung a beautiful canopy over her crib for the princess in the alcove look. I had always wanted a “nursery”, like in Peter Pan, with all the sleeping babies. So, it was right for us, for a long time. But, the kids were getting older. Looking back I can see that they were needing more outdoor space.
We had been dreaming and saving for awhile, with countless outings looking for land. My “house binder” was crammed full with all my Better Homes and Gardens magazine tear outs. We wanted some land, with trees around the edge and room for a garden, maybe a creek, an orchard, a long circular driveway where you had to drive through some trees first. A detached shop with several bays.
We would look at floor plans and design on our computer program. The Old World details were our favorites, lots of windows, a wood stove, several porches, fabulous millwork, vintage doors, fire places. I could go on and on.
The list grew. It got clearer, and the real estate visits got more frustrating. Everything was too overpriced, too modern, too far away, too many wet lands, too many unknowns, too many knowns, i.e. issues. Always, something stopping us.
Eventually, we just petered out. Our plates were too full anyway. Apparently, it just wasn’t meant to be, we stopped looking, we stopped talking about it.
I think it sat like that for a good year.
Then, one day in April, I was over at my friend’s house in her back yard, which is in another development. We were teaching a little homeschool history class together. I was really tired that day, when I went to load the kids back in the car to go home I glanced over my shoulder. What I saw literally took my breath away. It was like that moment where Elizabeth Bennet sees Pemberly. There, sitting in the middle of several acres of picturesque land was the back of an old, old farmhouse, frozen in time. My first thought was that it was some kind of museum or historical building owned by the county or something.
When I asked my friend to tell me about it, she laughed and said, “Oh, everybody wants to live there! It’s the original family, I think they have been there about 200 years. They will never sell.”
Ok, well, that was that.
But, when I backed out of the driveway, my little girl begged to go see the front of the house, you know, just for fun. It was hard to figure out where the driveway was and we had to make several turns to get around to the front of the property.
And, oh my goodness, what was that? A For Sale sign, at the beginning of the long gravel driveway. Hmm, now I couldn’t see the house because we had to drive through some trees. As we ventured down the driveway, over a little creek and through some apple trees, the entire place opened up. There were several acres of grass with huge trees strategically planted throughout. Hundred year old lilac bushes were in full bloom. The driveway was circular. In the middle of the property sat the sweetest old farmhouse and a little off in the distance, a four bay detached garage. I didn’t stand a chance.
My husband was out golfing at the time and any golfer’s wife knows not to interrupt her man’s concentration on the golf course. Whatever. This was an emergency!
I frantically called him and said I just found the place we had been looking for all this time and if it was X amount of money, I say, let’s make this happen! Then, I called the realtor, to find out the price. She said the pictures had only be up on the website for 24 hours and told me the price. $1,000 less than my X amount price I had just quoted my husband!
Ok, trying not to hyperventilate.
I took my husband over there as soon as he got home for dinner. We wandered all over and found a garden, beehives, a chicken pen and a clothesline. You have got to be kidding!
The kids and I started running and dancing and rolling down the hill. I felt like a bird who had just gotten out of her cage. When, we went to leave, my four year old laid down on the ground, dug her hands into the grass and started crying, saying she never wanted to leave this place.
My husband had this look on his face that said, “Oh my gosh, I’m so going to have to buy this place!”
This all happened on a Friday. On Monday, the realtor met us and let us inside. The first thing we saw when we walked through the front door was an original window seat and craftsman pillars leading into the next room. A room with a wood stove. Uh huh.
My husband got his knife out and started carefully pulling back the carpet in the corners of the rooms. Original wood floors. Yes, please.
There were three porches, plaster walls, antique doors with original knobs and hinges, millwork everywhere and . . .windows. The windows. Thirty-seven windows!
Our current house had five windows, total. But here, there were seven huge windows in just the master bedroom alone. When you build a house in 1906, you don’t have electricity, so you go big or go home. There were even little windows in the closets.
When we walked upstairs, I remember putting my hand on the newel on the top step and turning around to see the whole hallway. It turned and angled and the ceiling did all sorts of interesting things. Another “this is the one” moment. We looked over the upstairs and our last stop was a little room attached to another room, a tiny school room with a wall of cabinets. It was like a children’s suite. Be still my heart.
Needless to say, we made our offer right then, with some contingencies. Within a few hours, the seller accepted our offer.
And so it began, our next great adventure. . .