In this very first post of our brand new blog, I thought it fitting to indulge in a brief history of the farm, the roots of this adventure.
Allow your mind to drift back to the 1930; you would see the existing farmhouse in extreme disrepair, a depleted and boulder-strewn landscape and outbuildings, including a very care-worn barn below the house.
The George Family, circa 1934--the last farmers to make a go at then "Higley Hill" Farm. It was hard going then for Vermont's hill farms after a century of hard farming the soils were depleted, yet we see in the George family pride and determination.
But even in those pre World War 2 days, change was brewing in Vermont--- city people were eying these hills as a way to escape summer heat, one of them being James Moore who bought the farm and did basic repairs to the farm house giving the old building a new lease on life and, in effect, saving it from the almost certain destruction of wind, rain and fire.
Moore and his family made their way north each summer, from Manhattan, in a chauffeured driven Cadillac. One of the visitors with the Moore family, was Ian Mackler who recently wrote: … “as a kid in the late forties-early fifties, I spent a summer or part of a summer at Higley Hill (now Windekind) ... to my brother and I it was a mythical place, where every few years I would find the photos of the two of us with our mother by a pond. I fondly remember being a 7-8 year old and riding a pony in a meadow. I recall fishing for trout in a nearby brook and I remember a bunkhouse. It was long ago and far away and I am delighted that Higley Hill lives!!”
Marijke and I came along in 1962, energized by a hat full of idealism about country living, we were complete with a lively band of babies and dogs. Our young family was the perfect poster image of the” back to the land spirit” that was becoming part of Vermont's culture of the 1960s.
A great stroke of fortune happened when we lost our way on Huntington’s back roads and landed at what is now "Windekind" front lawn. We stood there in all that space captivated by the immense beauty of the valley anchored by the elegant little farm house and it's embracing meadow. We also noted that the house was abandoned and then learned from a neighbor, Bert White, that it was for sale by Moore’s son, Richard Moore, a poet who had an English wife, who spoke in a manner the confounded locals.
After a good deal of soul searching, juggling of bank accounts and finding money where we didn’t previously know existed, we managed to purchase the farm for $30,000, a monumental amount of money for two persons who were underemployed educators and did not even have the prospects of jobs in Vermont. But we had a fresh and naive faith that if "we lived where we thought we belonged" then, all else would follow in a good and right way.
We settled in, got jobs and changed the name of the farm from “Higley Hill” to "Windekind", meaning in Dutch “child of the wind.” Marijke and I began to pursue our careers as educators and the raising of our three children: Maja, Nils and Annelisje, along with plenty of dogs, cats, cows, horses and even some very naughty goats who always managed to escape our best crafted pens and eat our favorite trees.
The young family in full bloom, Maja is heralding the arrival of a load of fire wood, while Nils is driving our farm worthy antique John Deere tractor while I observe from my wagon perch. Annelisje and her Grandfather (Marijke's dad), who are also wood loaders, are straggling behind.
By the year 2000, our careers were winding down and we were looking ahead at our future at the farm along with the possible involvement of our family. Every scenario--no matter how we entered the numbers--were telling us that we did not have the discretionary income to sustain the farm’s tax and maintenance bills without selling land for a sub divisions—an action abhorrent to us.
What we did instead was to look down the expansive view of the Green Mountains wondering if we could share this mountain treasure with others in a manner that would enable us to sustain the farm for ourselves and in the family; we wondered if we could, like the old farmers did before us, re-engage this resource as a working landscape, Although we planned to continue farming, we decided to also to get out the spit and polish and gentrify Windekind by hosting weddings and fixing up a building that we called the “studio” for short-term lodging guest.
In 2000, transfixed by the beauty of hand wrought iron, I decided to make a go at being a blacksmith artist creating everything from steel roses to large wind vanes. So I decided to build a forge (seen above under construction) to be a home for my craft. But, alas, by 2004. I realized that my artistic penchants were not going to pay the way at Windekind and. then, I got out a big dust pan and swept up the coal dust and rusty iron and started to convert this durable workhorse into a cottage called "Breidablick" (meaning "broad-view" in Norwegian), it would be the new home to visiting people not anvils.
In Field of Dreams Ray Kinsella hears voices that tell him “Build it (a baseball field) and they will come”-- He does and they came.
The past twelve years have been that way at Windekind—guest have come-about 130 families a year. We learned that we liked our guest and they told us the same in letters, evaluations and our many conversations together. What could be better- this relationship of amicability?
Now change is in the air again--our plans, we hope with the involvement of our family, is to build three more cottages and perhaps three again most likely one per year. One major goal it to open up more space in the immediate farm by creating, with our gardens, trails, open spaces, lawns and the miniature railway, a more comprehensive and interesting environment for ourselves and our guests and their families.
Renderings of the first cottage that we plan to build and ready for summer occupancy in 2012. It has two bedrooms, a sleeping loft and plenty of space for gathering and cooking. Its generous porches invite guest to convene outdoors to witness the fading light of the evening or the first light of the morning.
Roman Philosopher, Lucius Seneca, wrote in 65 AD “There is no delight in owning anything unshared.” This is our mantra that has worked so well since the year 2000- with guest, neighbors, friends and family.