Five Years on the Farm: Taking Stock

In the early 1970s, my husband’s parents built the house we now live in, as a week-end place.  A crew set the pilings, but everything else was done by my in-laws and their three teen-age kids.

In 1975, the happy crew poses on the newly finished house.

In 1975, the happy crew poses on the newly finished house.

Fortunately, I missed most of that work, because I didn’t get into the picture until ’76.

As the years passed, and all the siblings started families of their own, the house was “built-into” rather than “added onto.”

In 1988, the downstairs was partially built in, and my fashion sense was questionable.

In 1988, the downstairs was partially built in.  Work might have progressed faster had my “fashion sense” (seen here in a plaid romper) not dazzled the minds of  those working.

The house was essentially complete by 1990, and we all gathered here often for long weekends, but the focus was on having fun, not doing maintenance.

Our girls with their catch in '91.

Who can spend time on house repairs when there are fish to catch?

More years went by, and our young families got too busy to even visit the farm much.  And after my father-in-law passed away in 1999, the house just sat there for ten years.

So when we moved up in 2009, we had a lot to do.

A sturdy house in need of TLC.

A sturdy house in need of TLC.

We have now been here for five years, and we have made the house more pleasant than I ever thought possible.  (I really wanted to start over, and keep this house just as a huge art studio.) Painting the house was a good start, and I think the best improvement was replacing all 30+ windows with new energy-efficient ones.

farm house

It looked a lot better once we painted it, even though the color was a little too mint-y.  But to me, the  balcony and stair rail looked too heavy due to their dark color.

Last month I did a little project that gave me a big lift.  Our balcony color was too dark to match the house color, I thought.  I finally painted it white, and I love how it looks now.

white balcony

White paint on the balcony and stairway –  I can’t say that’s the finishing touch, but it’s an improvement.

kitchen before

We also turned this…

kitchen after

…into this.

We have done a lot of work inside too, as in building a whole kitchen downstairs, but for some reason the painted balcony is what feels like the tipping point for me — you know how construction crews put a little tree on top of a high rise when they have all the girders in place?  That’s how I feel now.  We still have plenty to do, but the hardest part is over.

When we moved to the farm, I thought the best way I could share it would be to document and preserve the nature here. Since it had been virtually untouched for 50 years, I thought maybe a greater diversity of species had managed to hang on here than at other nearby sites.  At first, I could only identify about 30 of the plants, and where those were on the continuum from endangered to invasive, I had no idea.  The same with animals – I knew there were rabbits, deer, doves, turtles, etc., but I didn’t know specifics, like: there’s more than one kind of dragonfly, hummingbirds migrate, or, some snakes can swim really well.

So over these last five years, I have learned more about nature and best practices for management.  I have joined some resource organizations, and my nature guidebook collection has increased exponentially!  I have documented over 200 species of animals, plants, and fungus, and I know there are a lot more out there.

Here are some of the ones I saw yesterday afternoon:

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With major work on the house behind us, I feel like I can take the time now to focus on the biodiversity inventory of this farm. I found a wonderful site for sharing observations, run by National Geographic, Project Noah. Here is my page on the platform, and I am also putting that link in my sidebar.  You can upload nature pictures even if you don’t know what you have, and experts will help you identify the species.  I have already used that feature several times.  I also love getting artistic inspiration from their mission, National Geographic’s Great Nature Project.

I started uploading wildlife spottings a few weeks ago, and one of my pictures has been chosen for Spotting of the Day, for August 25.  As Dre at Grackle & Sun would say, “Commence the Squeeee!”  🙂

I have posted pictures of our pond here before, but I found this one from 1981 and thought it would interesting to compare.

The pond in 1981.

The pond in 1981.

The pond in 2014

The pond in 2014

I have been so fortunate to be part of this farm for almost 40 years.  Changes have happened all around us and will continue to happen, but we hope to preserve this spot of nature for the future.