My partner and I have been searching for property off and on for the past few years. We have known that we wanted to expand our farm and take another step towards a different lifestyle. With a limited budget and a few specific criteria, it took some time for us to find the perfect place. That finally happened this past summer, when a 93 acre former cow farm came on the market up the coast from our current home.
The farm at Hostile Valley Road had been in the same Maine family for almost two hundred years, since the town was first settled in the early 1800s. Since the 1990s the house, land, and barn have been virtually abandoned as the remaining members of the family grew older. The farm has a small cape on one side of a rarely used dirt road and a large, sound barn on the other. While the property continues up the hill behind the house into woods, it looks out over several acres of fields perfect for crops or livestock.
When we first started work at the place, it was very rough around the edges. I can’t say that it has been all trimmed up in the past few months, but progress is being made and we have plenty of plans for the future. Our first step was to get the majority of the fields cut back, which we were able to do with the help of a neighbor. With the fields cut it was easy to see the potential of the place. We cut back several of the larger growth bushes and started to expose the rambling stone walls. The fields are completely free of any rocks, a fact made clear by the miles of wide, tall walls surrounding the property. A little bit of work with a chain saw, and the extent of these walls was revealed.
We will keep pushing back the overgrowth to expose more field as time passes, and plan to till the existing farmland next year. Meanwhile, as the weather turns colder, we turn our attention to the house and barn.
The kitchen when we bought it, left, and after demolition, right.
The house does not have any electricity or running water, the extent of plumbing being a three hole outhouse. Our plan is to remodel the existing cape, and build an addition where the ell currently stands. This plan starts with ripping out the walls, floors, and ceilings of the existing structure, and working with a designer to make sure our new home is everything we need it to be. The first weekend of teardown took place over Halloween, and the task proved to be much more satisfying than I anticipated. We ripped out the kitchen walls and ceiling in just a few hours, tearing through horse-hair plaster and garish wallpaper to expose the original chimney and roof beams. As the winter progresses, it is on to the other rooms and the dismantling of the current ell.
One of the most exciting parts of dismantling a house that was virtually uninhabited for more than twenty years are the discoveries. While most things of value had been removed, all of the furniture including beds and bureaus remained, along with stacks of books, homework, and town records. We’ve found tin cans of “crow repellent” and boxes of old holiday cards. The vintage kitchen woodstove came with the house and will be refurbished and used in our new kitchen. The paperwork includes copies of deeds for the property dating to 1830.
In addition to all of the projects surrounding the rebuild of the home, we also have to worry about moving our animals. We have the winter to clean up the interior of the beautiful barn and set up stalls for chickens, goats, and geese. Since our new location will be much more rural than our previous one, many more considerations for predators are being taken into account. There will be no more free-ranging and we are looking into a herd dog who can help fend off potential chicken-eaters. Our intent is to have everything ready for a full transition by Memorial Day, 2016.
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