Each week, we use our train trips to record this diary. “To” is written on our way to the farm on Friday Night. “From” is written after the weekend, on our way back into NYC.
We have just celebrated our first-year anniversary at the Beekman. By far, the most frequent question that we are asked when the subject of the farm comes up (and we do seem to talk about the farm a lot!), is “How did you find the place?”
We didn’t. It found us.
We had been looking for a place outside of the city for several years. In fact, for at least three years we had our eyes on a farm that once belonged to Josh’s family. His family had sold the farm in the early 1900’s to a group of circus performers. The last remaining member of that family still lived in the house. Over the years, the beautiful Greek Revival farm house on 180 rolling acres, had started to crumble, and its inhabitant, and her 13 cats, was obviously taking design cues straight from Grey Gardens. We made several offers on the house, but the woman was not willing to sell at the price we could afford, but nevertheless, every few months we would try again.
For several years, we’d had an autumn ritual of choosing a different location in New York state to go apple picking. These weekend sojourns provided an opportunity for us to get out of the city and, of course, to pay a visit to Josh’s old family farm.
In fall of 2006, the apple orchards of Sharon Springs beckoned. We researched the area and found a historic hotel that had been restored to its quaint splendor, The American Hotel. The hotel’s most recent claim to fame was that Rachel Ray had paid a visit. We booked a room, and it remains one of the favorite hotels we’ve ever visited.
After filling the trunk of the car with apples, we drove through the countryside. While traveling down Route 10, we stopped before a stoic white home on a hill. Thinking it was a museum, we idled the car on the side of the road while reading the historic marker standing before it: Beekman Mansion, built 1802-1804…
Driving past the property, we were astonished to see a “For Sale” sign in the yard.
“Wouldn’t it be cool to see the inside of that house?”, one of us said.
“Yes,” the other replied wistfully.
Within the hour, we’d reached the Real Estate agent, Michelle, who came by to show us the house.
We were astonished.
Once abandoned and pocked with graffiti and trash, the house had been meticulously restored. The prior owner, Eric Selch, had researched every last detail of construction from that period. If one paint chip remained, he matched it. If a one-inch piece of crown molding was left, he had another 200 feet of it hand-carved to match. The wide-plank wooden floors, now over 200 years old, didn’t even creak. It was a labor of love that took Eric about 6 years to complete. Shortly after the work was done, he was diagnosed with cancer, and shortly after that he died.
It was if the house had called out to him, sent a siren call, an SOS, and in ensuring her own survival, had consumed him. Everyone in town still speaks very fondly of Eric. Our only regret about the Beekman is that we didn’t have a chance to meet Eric.
After his death, the house sat on the market for almost 5 years without a single serious offer. Waiting
The house was far out of our price range, but on the drive back to NYC, I said, ‘That is our place.”
I will save the story of how we bargained and cobbled together an offering on the farm for another day. It makes me exhausted to think about it.
Needless to say, something drew us to the Beekman, too.
If you take the time to read this blog periodically and see the fervor that fuels our weekends here, you will plainly see that the Beekman is consuming us, too.
..and we are more than happy to nourish her.
This weekend was the really the first taste of Spring on the farm. On Saturday, we rose at 7:30 am and made our way out to the patch of land beside the barn that we hope will become the sole source of our summer diet. Last year, we only had time to put in a small vegetable garden. Despite it’s size, we were still able to reduce our summer grocery bill to $30 per week (and that included paper goods and toiletries!). I don’t imagine we’ll get much lower than that this year, but with over 100 different types of fruits and vegetables planned for our Heirloom Garden, we are going to have some very healthy friends and family.
We worked on the garden for 7 hours straight, stopping in time to take showers before some of the neighbors arrived to join us for a glass of wine on the back porch.
What we thought was going to be a brief aperitif turned out to be 4 hours and 4 bottles. The conversation started (as it usually does) with goats, goat milk, soap, and cheese, but then progressed to talks of hand-woven fabrics, the history of the Mohawk River, and linguistics as psychotherapy (this last topic is much more interesting after several glasses of wine)
We spent five hours in the garden on Sunday morning, but, then, muscles sore, we called it quits after interning the Alpine strawberry plants, five different varieties of peas, and two different varieties of radishes.
We watched a robin build her entire nest in the weeping cherry tree outside of our kitchen window this weekend.
For the birds, too, life is a house.