Caroline's Farmhouse Update
After being away from our farmhouse in Upstate New York for the past couple of months, we recently returned to a very lush overgrown garden, a bounty of peonies and irises and the realities of being in the midst of renovations. Despite a rather long to-do list, Jeffrey and I are always eager to tidy up our little slice of bliss – from mowing acres of grass and trellising fruit bushes in the veg garden, to the seemingly never-ending fix-it list. But the rewards are always worth the work, and I’m reminded that nature is forever going to be the dominant factor at play, with its constant shape shifting. We’re merely incredibly lucky bystanders admiring the beauty she creates.
With spring showers comes some serious grass and plant overgrowth and when we arrived, it looked like a jungle. We had our work cut out for us – mowing, pruning rose bushes and various perennials and cleaning up our kitchen garden space.
One benefit of a wet spring is an abundant garden, and right now ours is bursting with a variety of lettuces, snap peas, kale, oregano, verbena and chives – the perfect ingredients for a fresh summer salad. Jeffrey is also espaliering a row of pear trees - an old technique that encourages trees to grow flat. It was once used in ancient Roman courtyards and medieval castles where space was limited. We're running ours along one of the fences in our kitchen garden.
The Tensira bedrolls got a dusting off and set on the outside cots we have for weekend lounging. I can't say enough good things about these bedrolls... they're great for laying on the ground for picnics, setting on a daybed, using around the house folded in half - the possibilities are endless and comfort is always guaranteed.
One of the first things to do when we arrive here this time of year is open up all the windows, take out the storm glass and let the fresh air in. There's nothing like natural light and the sweet smells wafting through the windows, especially after a long, dark winter. The climbing hydrangea right outside our front door is in full bloom and the peonies and lilies are filling our flower beds with blossoms. It's the perfect time to bring some stems indoors and put in a vase, before it's too late and the blooming window has past.
One of my favorite parts of the house is the wall in the kitchen that has a built-in hutch from the early 1800's. It's a beautiful and highly functional feature that I love to periodically rearrange and edit my favorite ceramic servingware as well as vases and cookbooks. In the summer, I pull out the bamboo servingware for outdoor meals and gatherings. I have an assortment of bowls, plates, serving utensils and trays that are lightweight and super easy to clean (and most importantly, are unbreakable).
When we bought this 1700's Dutch Colonial style farmhouse, we knew it needed updates, but vowed to preserve its historical architecture through it all. Luckily, over the centuries, no one has done anything to undo the integrity, but it's definitely in need of some well deserved love. So, a restoration project is always in the works. Our latest big upgrade was in February/March and addressed the stone passageway that was knocked open in the 1950's to connect the stone house to the new kitchen they built back then. They knocked it through, but never finished it off, so it’s very special to have found an amazing stone mason in the area to help us complete it (a few details to go, and it will be fully complete). At the same time, in the kitchen, we moved the fridge from its original position on the exterior door wall and built it into the wall between the kitchen and what used to be the boiler room. With the old fuel boiler gone, that room will become our new laundry, mud room and powder room.
In a house like this, there are surprises around every corner. As we took some old panel off that wall, we discovered some old newspapers from the 1970's that were stuffed into some nooks and crannies in the stonework. It’s fascinating to read snippets of what was going on back when an earlier renovation was taking place. I particularly enjoyed the ski style throwback.
During the winter months, everyone in the area hibernates and fresh produce is hard to come by. So when the local farm stand down the road reopens for the season, it’s a big deal. It's filling up with fresh strawberries, basil, salad greens, garlic scapes and some fresh flowers. In addition, there’s an amazing variety of mushrooms – from shiitake and maitake to lion’s mane. Inside, they also have fresh eggs, dairy and meats. It's one of my very favorite places in this whole area.
And at the end of a long workday, Jeffery and I enjoy having a drink outside while watching the sunset (we happily don't have a TV here). It's not lost on me how lucky we are to be surrounded by nature and beauty, right outside our door. When life seems busy, being here is a great reminder to slow down and take it all in, even if just for a few moments.
I love this story SO much! Thank you for sharing this grand adventure you are having in New York! I am from Southern CA but I am looking hard in the Hudson River Valley for an old homestead sitting on a bit of acreage. This sweet update has reminded me why I want this for myself!! Praying we’ll possibly be neighbors one day—haha!