Tour of the farm
Updated: Apr 30, 2019
Just for fun and for a bit of reference I thought I'd create a post that takes you around the farm, not just the growing areas, but all around the place we call home.
A large German bank barn greets visitors when they first drive in. It has a stone foundation and is quite large. We've had it examined by a Maryland historic barn expert who says it was built by 1780, probably earlier than the existing house. The foundation is built into bedrock which is now worn smooth inside the stalls and in the doorways the threshold stones have been worn down by the feet of thousands of cows walking in and out, day after day, for over 200 years.
A machine shed/corn crib combination sits up on the hill above the house and the barn and is also visible before the house. It was built in the 1930s out of pieces of an older building. We were lucky enough to talk to the son of the farmer who worked this land from the 1920s through the 1970s and he told us the history that he knew. He said that there had been a building near the machine shed and that it may have been used as the original house before the stone house was built. There are remnants of the stone foundation of that older building still visible. The farmer and his son used pieces of that building to build the machine shed.
A square smoke house sits beyond the house and is beside the summer kitchen. The way it was built indicates that it was built well before 1800. Next to it, at right angles, is a summer kitchen built in the early 1800s with pieces of buildings from an even earlier time.
At the center of the property sits the stone house which was built sometime around 1790-1800. We know who built it, but not when. Looking at life events of the family who lived here from the 1780s - 1920s it's hard to guess exactly when they would have chosen to build a house. Whenever it was built the same family lived on and farmed this land for a very long time. We are lucky to have a few pictures that they took standing in front of their home in the early 1900s.
This is a humble stone house, not nearly as large or fancy as many in this county, or even in this neighborhood. But it sits far from a main road, which is unusual and fortunate for modern life. At one time a road did run through the property--Cool Hollow Road. It came from a house on the main road and ran past the barn, right beside our house and down to the river. From the river it continued along to what is today White Hall Rd., but the old road bed is largely gone, or deteriorated, visible only in the winter. However, we chose to call our business after this old road, a remembrance of a time that used to be, when wagons came by daily on their way to or from one of the many mills in the area. Today only the large grist mill on Beaver Creek Rd. remains, but old maps show that the river was dotted with mills, including on this property. What kind of mill was here, we do not know. No trace of it remains.
The stone house itself is three bays wide, meaning it has three openings on the front, two being windows and one being a door on the bottom floor, and three windows on the top floor. It is not symmetrical, being a traditional German house, not an English Georgian house. The layout is practical and the windows were placed where it best suited for the interior layout, unlike Georgian homes where the exterior is planned, and the interior conforms to the exterior. Before living here I had never heard of the German vernacular farmhouses which are almost unique to the mid-Atlantic, but it is quite a common style here and up into Pennsylvania. The early settlers to this area were a mix of German, British and other nationalities and the early homes showed the origin of the family who built them. As time went on symmetry became more common, even for German settlers. (Can you tell I love architectural history?) A large addition was built in the 1970s which doubled the size of the house. There is a stone ell on the back which is original to the house and which housed the kitchen.
We bought this farm in 2004 after it sat empty for a number of years. The family who lived here in the 1970s was the first to modernize the house (they built the addition). They installed the first bathrooms and the first electricity in the house beyond a lightbulb in the kitchen. Up until that time the family had lived in the old way and farmed in the old way. Horses were used until well past World War II and they grew and stored all of their own food.
The house sits on a ridge of rock up above the river which circles around the land. Down at the river's edge is a falling down stone spring house which supplied water for the house until we purchased it. The river is home to brown trout which spawn naturally in the cool water. The spring under the spring house, along with others just up around the bend keep the water cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Half of the property is wooded and the other half is made up of two open fields, one in front of the barn and the other a large field in front of the house. It is in front of the house where we are building the hoophouse. We plan to develop the field in front of the house for use growing cut flowers, but may not do it immediately. Out in front of the barn is a flat area that used to be the barnyard, but which now has three very, very large raised beds and soon will have a tall deer fence around it. These will be the dahlia growing beds.
Deer are a constant presence. Literally as I wrote this I looked up, mid-afternoon, and saw about six of them out under the crab apple orchard. Our dog just walked through there a few minutes ago. They are undeterred. But I am lucky that they do less damage than they could, however, deer fencing is going up for the cut flowers.
The river is one of the most beautiful parts of this property. It is fed by strong springs just upstream from us and so we do not experience a drastic shifts in water levels. Conservation work has been done to stabilize the banks and control the width of the river making it a wonderful environment for brown trout, which can only spawn in healthy, cool rivers. We, along with other owners in the area, allow fly fishing on the river--catch and release only. Most days of the year there are fishermen walking by or fishing along the creek.
Well, that's the tour. I'll try my best to add some pictures. I'm trying to get the hang of this program!