The most commonly asked question we are asked is why in the world would we move out of a brand new “smart” house after only living there for 3 years, to live on a small farm property built in the 1800’s?
The Dancing Timber Homestead Story
We moved into our new house in the spring of 2014, after living in a small Cape Cod with tiny rooms, but a built-in swimming pool and 2 car detached garage on a 1/3 of an acre. Having outgrown that house, we were thrilled to choose lot 29 in a new housing development. We were in the right place at the right time and were able to choose a prime spot to build our 3400 square foot home. It was development living, with a Homeowners Association, neighbors, small driveways, and no land, but the rooms were huge. Everyone had their place to be in comfort.
I already worked from home and was able to expand my office area in the new house. Then, I started a hobby business. I called it Peaceful Wraps. The items I made were popular locally, Etsy and Amazon, which meant I needed more room for a shop and storing material, supplies and displays. My two businesses took over the new house, so that it was becoming a gallery for macramé wall hangings and plant hangers everywhere there was wall or window. I finally ran out of room.
Meanwhile, myself, husband and step-son volunteered at a local horse farm operated by my childhood riding instructor, who now rescues retired racehorses and retrains them for new careers as show horses, polo ponies, police horses, trail riding, and more. I started horse riding again and learned how to work with her horses. One day, a gelding arrived with a unique charm and personality that endeared me to him immediately. His injury from the track caused his retirement and he needed long rehab. Seven-year-old Germaniac was a stakes winner who, when retired from racing, was given to a program called Turning for Home where his journey would begin. That’s how he ended up at Safe Haven Equine and New Careers, where I met him. The dream of owning him got into my head, but his future was unknown. His injury was serious, and nobody knew if he would be a horse for riding.
The Universe Had a Plan
One evening during the spring of 2017 I went to the home of a fellow horse friend for a fund-raising meeting for a local non-profit. Her property was 16 acres of pasture, barn, large house, separate detached house, pool and long winding driveway to get to it all. It was heaven. It was also for sale. I took pictures and for a few weeks I walked around thinking about her home and how I felt being there.
My husband, Eric, didn’t want to move into a development house. His choice, when we were talking about moving out of the Cape Cod house, was to find a place in the woods. I was the one who needed to be near people. I like to grow vegetables and turned our back yard into one large garden. We both are at the point in our careers where we can teach, and we were talking about wanting to do more of that. The more I pondered what we had, and what we needed, with what we could create that was a better fit for us as we prepared for a new phase in our lives (called “growing older”), the more my friend’s property stayed in my thoughts.
One day I told Eric about her place and some of the ideas floating around my head. He was intrigued, so we made an appointment with my friend to look at her property. Eric loved it. We shared the same ideas and could think of more things we could do with more land, but her property was out of our price range. Still, we visited several times and eventually came with our realtor, who knows us well. Once she realized what we were thinking, she proposed looking at small farmsteads in the area that we could use for business.
It took months of looking. During that time I had both of my knees replaced, but still we would tour properties our realtor found. I would hobble with my wrapped knees and cane and ignore the pain. We wrote lists of our ideas. The kids were invited to brainstorm too. They are all interested in developing side hobby businesses and since they would move with us, we were giving them an open door to see what they could create. Eric’s son by then wanted to live with us full time. The two eldest from my first marriage and in their mid-20’s, are in relationships, so we were looking at a busy household of 7 when everyone is here, plus the dog and two cats.
And, as it turned out, Germaniac, the ex-racehorse.
The farm property that we ended up choosing was literally right down the road from our new house. The moment Eric saw pictures of the interior of the farmhouse, he was hooked. We were not enthusiastic about old farmhouses with small rooms and low ceilings. I grew up in one of those. In fact, I was the only person who had any idea what farm life would be like. There were countless discussions about the work needed to keep an old farm going.
The property was in our price range and our offer was accepted. We kept the new house and have a renter there. We moved in just before Thanksgiving, during what would become one of the coldest, wettest winters the area has ever seen. Manny, as we call him, was delivered shortly before Christmas, once we got part of the old barn ready for him. The water in the barn stopped working of course. The oil heater broke in the house. The hot water stopped working in one section of the house. The pool pump is broken. The list of projects here is endless.
The house dates to 1830 and the barn, 1760 or so, with parts of it more around the 1800’s somewhere. The barn requires a complete renovation but is structurally sound. There is an extension part of the barn that we had renovated for use as a workshop area, and for sales, small workshops and a few things the two oldest kids are working on. Andrew has chickens here and is already selling eggs.
Even after all that, it hasn’t really sunk in that we are here or why. The best answer I can come up with is that the new house was the wrong fit and this old house fits better. There is no luxury living here unless you count the pool. It will take years and years to turn the barn into a venue for business. With zoning limitations, we have more to plan and consider, in addition to saving the old barn.
Eric got his woods.
I got my horse.
The rest of time, we are growing dreams here.