We’re going to start featuring some stories by Guest Bloggers on our website as part of our Design Talk column. This inaugural guest blog is the first in a series of how a young woman from New York City found and fell in love with a wonderful old farm in our area. We’ll be following her story and showing her progress as she makes “this old house” into her new home. I hope you enjoy her first installment as much as I did! — Joan
By Guest Blogger, Sage Lehman
While I grew up in Manhattan, my heart has always been in the country. I was lucky enough to spend much of my childhood at my family’s farm in Pawling, NY. As is the case with many dairy farms, ours became a common drop off point for unwanted dogs and cats, so, much of that time was spent exploring the woods followed by a small pack of animals. I went to school at Vassar but even during those “crazy college days”, I would manage to spend almost every weekend in Pawling with the cows and all of the dogs and cats my sister and I collected over the years.
I was heartbroken when my family sold the farm in 1994, another casualty of divorce. While I moved on with my life without all the animals and open space, I always knew I would someday find my way back.
My boyfriend and I began looking for a house this summer. After looking at many that were almost right, or just needed a little work, – or a lot of work – I was heading out of the city to go for a third viewing of one such house in Pine Plains when my real estate broker, Susan Whalen, called to say there was another house that had just come on the market that day that she thought I should see. Feeling as I was, not nearly 100% sure about the Pine Plains house, I headed down to Clinton Hollow for a look.
When I drove up the tree-lined driveway and saw the storybook white farmhouse and striking grey barn, I immediately had a strange sense of familiarity. When I got out of the car, before I had even seen the inside of the house or met the amazing owner, Alice, I felt like I had just arrived home.
I’m not sure if it was her cozy furniture, the two golden retrievers, the books and pictures lining the walls, or Alice herself, but I instantly fell in love with the house and the vibes I felt walking through it. As I continued the tour of the property, I did my best to keep my perma-grin on the inside and hide the fact that I was extremely close to breaking into a full-on jig.
Driving away, I knew it was “the one”.
A few days later, I came back with my boyfriend Chris. He also fell in love with it, gave his stamp of approval and we put an offer on the house the next day. It was accepted. We were the first people to see the house.
My broker had mentioned to me that the owner was a children’s book author and illustrator and that she and her late husband Martin had collaborated on many books throughout the 60 years they lived there. What she didn’t say was that many of their books were actually based on the house. The best known of these is A Year at Maple Hill Farm and Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm. When Alice showed me her books, it was like a dream come true. There it was — the very house and barn I was going to live in some day filled with people and their animals – it looked just like home.
Alice was sweet enough to sign a copy for me. She told me she had moved into the house 60 years ago when she was exactly my age.
As we drove down the tree-lined driveway heading back to the city I opened my new book.
“Who lives at Maple Hill Farm? People Live here. Two dogs and five horses live here. A pig lives here. Then there are – some geese, lots of chickens, a few cows, a few goats, several sheep and four special cats.”
It was an instruction manual!
P.S. A very special thank you to Alice, who is now living with her daughter and grandchildren in California, and to Martin too, for keeping such a beautiful house intact all those years. We are honored to have known you and to be entrusted with Maple Hill Farm.