Maple Hill Farm – Finding Home Again (Part I)

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

Part I:

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.

edited-drivewayI 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.

edited-barnMy 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.

edited-stone-wallI’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”.

edited-backyardA 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.

maple-hill-farm-book1Alice 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.


  • Susan Carmichael says:

    Beautiful, beautiful! So happy for you and Chris. We (that would be Avery, Haley, Ryan, Whitney, Colby, Deacon, Lily, Trent and me!) all can’t wait to come up and visit. Maybe for a wedding?!?!?! You should meet up with Eddie Ross an amazing designer who just moved up to Rhinebeck. Congratulations little sister! xoxoxo

  • aaron says:

    I am only coming to visit this place if:
    A. you get a Ms. pacman machine
    B. there is a freakin’ wedding there
    C. all of the above

  • David & Arlene says:

    What a touching and auspicious beginning to your web log! We are eager to see how your story unfolds as the house becomes your home, the locale becomes your community and the property becomes your refuge and adventure spot. Most of all, we are excited to experience this wonderful blessing with you two. Though we appreciate the modern necessity for this we(b log) format, we prefer to view your endeavor as a good, old-fashioned journal a la Thoreau or Livingstone. [Journal not in the sense of “diurnal” or daily log but rather a journ(ey ann)al or journ(ey scr)oll.] Enjoy the journey! Joie de vivre! We love you.

  • Barbara says:

    Oh Sage….I always knew you would drift back to the country and be surrounded by the peaceful warmth of trees and animals………

    It is a perfect house, with a perfect history and the prospects of a perfect new beginning…

    I do hope you and Tawny have an opportunity to christen the stairs. Although they are not quite as ‘grand’ as Glen Arden Farm’s, I would love to hear your giggles again!

    Wishing you and Chris much joy, love and adventure in your new home…
    May the spirits of Alice and Martin guide you through the creation of a lifetime of memories….

  • Erik Provensen says:

    Having known my aunt and uncle’s farm since their purchase, I am happy that Alice has sold Maple Hill Farm to such an adoring person such as yourself. I always felt at home here, and after Marty died, and both of my parents died, I always had a special place in my heart for that wonderous place in upstate New York. There is magic there, trust me, dance in the paddock when the fireflys are roaming about in summer,and take in deep breaths when “the frost is on the pumpkin” in October. It is almost like a God-like experience, the wonder and the total joy one feels when in it’s environs.And, if you don’t believe me go to the “Magic Room”, and feel the atmosphere that surrounds you. If you don’t know the “magic room” ask my cousin about that little corner of joy. May you and yours have a long and happy residence at Maple Hill Farm……………Erik Provensen

  • David Briggs says:

    Dear Sage and Chris, We lived down the road from Alice and Martin for some 25 years. Our house was the now gray and white one down the road when entering Meadowbrook just having passed what is now sadly a defunct store. It was an enormous pleasure living there all those years and Alice became a dear friend in the process. I sold the house some 10 years ago and now live in Rhinebeck, but as you probably know one becomes possessive of one’s property, and to finally pass it on was difficult, but the prospective buyers picked up the feel of the house immediately and since have lovingly taken care of it allowing me no cause for regret when I have returned there for a visit. Hopefully you will get to know them. Meanwhile, welcome to that wonderful property, and may Happiness abound.

  • Paul Schaefer says:

    I house sat for Martin and Alice when they travelled to India in 1958/59. I took care of their cats and sheep and chickens and fell in love with that house and Dutchess County after moving East from Wisconsin. When I married, my wife Gale and I knew we had to find a place of our own in the area and so we bought an old farm the other side of Clinton Hollow on Sunset Trail in 1965. We are still here.
    The Porvensen house was always our ideal. Alice and Martin made it into a kind of magical place. My youngest daughter Emily who visited there often shed tears when she heard that Alice had sold it. All of us feel consoled knowing that people who really love and understand the specialness of Maple Hill Farm are the new owners.

    • Betty Conlin Stote says:

      Mr. Schaefer,
      Read your article on Mr. Dows in About Town.
      My parents Steve and Mary Conlin and myself lived at Glenburn
      For many years.My parents worked for the Family until they retired.
      They even paid for My wedding!We traveled back and forth from Washington
      back to Rhinebeck each year.I’m sure you know what a hero Mr. Dow was
      Having the germans surrender to him.
      I haved enjoyed your article so much. It has brought back so many memories.
      I am now 83 and my children still remember visiting Glenburn
      Thank you
      Betty Conlin Stote

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