Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dream Farm

{Paradise in the Garden State}









Dear Prudence,

If two reasonably handy, particularly foolhardy people, can, say, restore a 1978 13-foot Scamp travel trailer, those two people could in theory restore a 1789 farmhouse and dairy barn, right?

Rewind to Sunday evening, western New Jersey, an hour before sunset. Turns out I get my trespassing gene from my mother.

On the way home from a trip to the nursery to pick up a shipment of live ladybugs for the vegetable garden (problem: aphids! solution: aphid-eating ladybugs!), we made a detour by my mom's favorite abandoned farm, "just because." Which also happens to my favorite abandoned farm; P. and I passed this place on a bike ride last summer and watched an enormous, bushy-tailed red fox bound across the hayfield and disappear into the dilapidated barn. I told Pete right then and there the place was my dream farm. Let's move in with the foxes, I think were my exact words.

Never mind that it's not for sale, or even remotely habitable. The old farmhouse seems to have been abandoned for years, if not decades. There are actual foxes living in the dairy barn, and the hay barn is on the verge of collapse, but there are his and hers barns. (Which reminds me of the old Amish adage, TWO BARNS ARE BETTER THAN ONE BARN, BITCHES.) Sumac and poison ivy have reclaimed the windmill. Inside the house, the lace curtains flutter in the open breeze and great sheaves of faded rose-latticed wallpaper curl off the walls into inexorable flumes like arthritic fingers. But the original old-growth hardwood floorboards are as wide and smooth as surfboards. Unclear if there's even electricity running to the place. And yet.

Mom and I hiked up to the top of the hill behind the barns and the telltale inverted trapezoid of a corn crib devoured by Virginia creeper, and from there we could see the entire undulating valley. The view was staggering. Breathtaking. Magical. The cacophony of songbirds and spring insects in the waist-high timothy was something out of Andrew Wyeth's world.

Suddenly it is very easy to imagine oneself trekking down to dirty Jerz on weekends to work on the place; say, convert one falling-down barn into a painting studio for her, the other into a workshop for him. Indulge in fantasies of silver laced Polish chickens, a mule named Ephraim, and even hypothetical human kinder running around in the loamy soil. Is it terribly unimaginative to suddenly consider settling down, period, let alone fifteen minutes from where I grew up in New Jersey?

Am I crazy? More specifically, can one suddenly get Severe Onset Nesting Syndrome over the course of, like, a weekend? If I were honest I'd tell you that instead of figuring out how to ship oil paintings to California by Tuesday I stayed up late researching county records trying to figure out what the story is with this farm. I can't get the place out of my head. These guys aren't helping, either.

Signed,
Laura Effin' Ingalls & Almanzo (who was, upon quick Google inspection, quite the looker)

36 comments:

  1. i totally getcha. there's an abandoned house (in the middle of a field!) we used to drive past on the way to/from the cottage, and OHMAN did i ever fantasize about living there (ok i still do). your place looks so much more amazing, though - and his+hers barns are pretty much the icing on the cake at this point, yes? :) well, fingers crossed...since i'm fairly certain it would be a cheap-o buy and is quite do-able.

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  2. this is my dream too...
    the pics are amazing!

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  3. i think dreams such as these are very possible. it starts with a scamp to keep you dry, a fire to cook on , than one room to start, then another and so on. slowly pealing of the layers that time put on.

    a weekend tent fest with friends and hammers, clippers and the biggest bomb fire....
    a list of what i am capable of and what i will need someone else to do....

    it is possible this dream yours...

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    1. "it starts with the scamp"

      if only you knew how many dream hatchlings have started with that phrase....xo

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  4. oh, I know this bug. if the foxes and you are starting to get cozy up there, do you happen to need a very talented chef ad another painter, to get things runnin... just give us a call ;-)

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  5. i'm pretty sure you can do anything. your pictures are gorgeous, as is the dream, i say go for it & maybe think the scariest part is moving back to where you grew up but it seems like you're really close to your family and that it would really be amazing. maybe whoever owns it just wants to get rid of it // see the land put to good use and would sell it for super cheap! just make sure there's not a snake den underneath the house (i watched some crazy show about that and am now a little paranoid for life) :)

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    1. thx, dizz! one of the wonders of joshua tree is that one can take snake wrangling classes, which i did, so i ain't afeard of no stinkin' snakes. plus the worst snakes we have in nj are water mocs, and those tend to stick to the rivers and creeks, so hopefully the farm is a-ok in the snake department (cept for the harmless water snakes and garters).

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  6. dude -- the prospect of starting school and 2 more years in a NYC apartment has got me thinking the exact same thing. a house next door to my parents in MA (SADLY) is too far to drive to every weekend, but there are some mighty fine cabins in the hudson valley. suddenly i'm mrs fix-it. and i may have spent three hours yesterday searching real estate websites and calculating mortgage payments. so we're on the same wavelength...

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    1. well hello kindred spiritz! this is crazy, but there is a dream cabin for sale in the catskills that someone needs to buy, and that someone isn't us, sadly, so here ya go:

      http://www.countryhouserealty.net/countryhouse/Featured_Listings/Pages/rivercabin.html

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  7. I totally think we can blame Sarah. Those farm updates are killing me.

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  8. I get the feeling that you've put the "barn-be-mine" ju-ju out there and I have another feeling you've set the universe and the wheels of destiny in motion. Barn ju-ju energy is a powerful thing :)

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  9. Be still my aching-for-an-old-farmhouse-to-renovate heart. I think you might have stumbled upon rural heaven.

    P.s. Can I come visit after you move in? I'll totally sleep in the barn with the foxes.

    xo
    cortnie

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    1. oh girl, no foxes for you; you get to sleep in the corn crib, which will be restored into a wee cabinette. did i mention the corb crib? oh yes i did. but let me say it again:

      IT HAS A GORGEOUS CO'N CRIB.

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  10. would also love to restore an old farmhouse one day, imagine all those things you could do with it?! loving the thought! and that are foxes living in the old barn, that is simply fantastic!

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  11. I knew Laura and I had loads in common. I did not know this extended to our taste in men. Hubba, hubba. One day when the two of us are enjoying cocktails together, I will tell you about my ardent desire to *become* Laura. It unfolded over a pile of laundry (no pun intended). I was 6.

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  12. My papa grew up between Bernardsville and Mendham. They don't call it the Garden State for nothing. The corn, oh, the corn.

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  13. Man, I need to start breaking in to abandoned buildings. The lace curtains are so eerie.

    My husband and I totally have the farm bug too! If you've got the cash and the time to investigate you should do it. My gut is screaming "you should do it!" And you can chronicle the entire experience for those of us with the farm bug to live vicariously through!!

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  14. Oh, lady. You are so not crazy. I'm afflicted with your plight with every road trip we take (which, in Texas, means any time you get in the car). And Sarah's adventures at World's End aren't helping me either. N thinks it's hilarious.

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  15. Ha. Almanzo.
    Manzo in italian is a young male cow. But it is also used to address a good looking young man. Almanzo parents were probably italians ((and makers of pretty boys!).

    Being a lover of farms, living in a rural home in nowhere land, surrounded by corn, fruit trees and cows, seems like I have to read those Jon Katz books.
    Oh, there is definetly my very own mini farm in a not so distant future for me.

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  16. Oh my gosh, please find out who owns that land and buy it from them. That would be amazing. I'm dying for a farm myself (have been for years) so that I can have horses and chickens - especially silver laced Polish chickens (my aunt has some & I'm in love with them) - and a garden.

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  17. Oh, I get major back to the land/nesting urges. They grow stronger and stronger as every year passes. I dream of a barn/workshop, chickens that sleep in the crook of my arm, bonfires warming the laps of my friends, outdoor showers, hoop gardens, screened-in porches, iced-tea, piglets, compost, climbing trees, star-gazing, bathing in rivers, tall grasses............sigh.

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  18. Of course it is possible! Just don't try and do it all at once! the weekend plan sounds good to me. That on is so much more farm than ours though we fully intend to push it over that line as soon as we can.

    THAT PORCH!

    County assessors records are where to find the info goods on who owns it and when and for how much it last sold :D

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    Replies
    1. MOM IS ON IT.

      She knows alllll the lil' old bitties who work in the county office and has a special way of getting that kinda info. Back at you all with updates next week.

      GAHHHH!

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  19. What a dream place, I hope you can get some info on it! Almonzo was a cutie!!

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  20. The light in these photos... wow.

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    1. Thx Emily! I wish I'd had my trusty old Canon but alas, these are just iPhone pictures with a ToyCamera filter (still my favorite camera app).

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  21. OK you guys are NOT helping. I love the unabashed enabling. Such a loyal crew! My mama is paying a little visit to the county clerk's office next week to do a little sniffing around. I WILL KEEP YOU UPDATED.

    JUST for the record, P. and I are both in graduate school. Meaning we have student loans coming out our ears. THIS IS PROBABLY NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN unless I finally get a patent on that time machine I made for the 6th grade science fair, but still. Dreams die hard around here.

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  22. Wait, this is Jersey? There's farms and wilderness and stuff? I guess it's like the stereotype of everyone living near the beach in Cali, that Jersey is all shopping malls and trains to NYC. :) I'm not going to enable you, but SOMEBODY needs to snag all that old wood, at the very least.

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  23. I love it. This is totally how I ended up with my 1928 farmhouse an hour's drive away from my job! Slightly different in that I only have the acre, and the house was totally habitable (except for the bad wiring underneath the gruesome fluorescent lights in the kitchen that could have burned us to a crisp in our sleep had I not hated fluorescents so much and INSISTED that they be ripped out before I even moved in). It's been a dream and a ton of work and so so satisfying. And crazy. Good luck one way or the other! Seems like something along these lines is in your future for sure!

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  24. It has to be yours!!!! I have always and forever thought of foxes and in particular fox sightings as good luck. Perhaps it's meant to be!
    MIA in Baltimore :-)

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  25. Lily, the minute I saw that first picture before I even read a word, I also saw you and Pete raising your kids there. No kidding. Make sure you have a guest room. I will come visit.
    xoxnic

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  26. I'm late to the game, but you need to do some investigative journalism, find out how this place can be yours and make it yours. Follow your heart! It seems like you were meant to restore a rickety old farmhouse and live with the foxes. I used to be all, "I'm moving far, far away from my smothering family," until I realized I love the shit out of those smothering crazies and I don't actually want to be all that far away.

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