Sunday, June 2, 2019

Upon Request: An Unpublished Book from Long Ago

About that quilt that I promised was coming soon? It still is in progress and hopefully done this next week, albeit months later than I had hoped. Meanwhile, upon request, I am daring to put forth the first of many pieces from an unpublished book, that I wrote many years ago. It's title is The Smallness of the Place. I wrote it shortly after we had moved to Vermont and it is my record of our amazing experiences of going from a tiny home in the city of Denver to life on a three hundred acre farm in Orwell, Vermont. It is all true, except where it is laced with my imagination that grew to be as large as the farm. We rented The Old Wilcox Farmhouse from landlords that were in the process of moving to Maine in 1990 and so my story begins...

                                                                              The Old Wilcox Farm

The Old Wilcox Farm
In our country village, houses were named for their original owners. It doesn't matter if they haven't lived there for forty years, and although the mailing addresses are now by route and box number, a person's whereabouts can be stated by simply telling the name of their homestead. We lived on The Old Wilcox Farm. It's history was written within its walls. It was then, thirty years ago now, one hundred and sixty-five years old and we wondered if some of its previous residents returned to visit us?
Front side of The Old Wilcox Farmhouse
I loved listening to those willing to tell about the farm's history. "My girlfriend lived there", one Orwell resident said.
The view from the upper window where the door to the
veranda used to be. In the distance, the unkempt orchard
and field to the left of the animal barn.
Another added, "My uncle lived there and as a child I would sit out on the upstairs' veranda" (that is no longer there). "We would look out to the orchard", which had been too long unkempt to grow apples when we lived there. "A door used to be here and a wall there". The upstairs closet turned into a bathroom and the downstair's bathroom, was a modern addition, now joined to the pantry, which used to be part of the wood barn.
Cupboard door  in the wall for easy
access to wood stored in the wood barn
and doorway to the pantry, laundry room
and bathroom, what used to be
part of the wood barn.

The wood barn addition to the back of the house with a
side door entrance to the house. An upstairs attic and bedroom
 above the huge kitchen below, all heated with the kitchen's
wood stove. The front of the house had a living room, parlor,
library room and study and its upstairs, 4 more bedrooms
and a spacious hallway.
The primitive but functional laundry room and pantry.
The downstair's bathroom. My
additional decor was a chamber pot sitting
on the floor, a reminder of what was no
 needed thanks to the addition of this main
floor bathroom, as well as the one added
to the upstairs.
One bedroom had four different floral wallpapers, all exposed, but that isn't all that was exposed.
The original wood lathe was exposed as well and little cracks that lead to the raw outdoor weather, fortunately only in the hall, under the window where the door to the veranda used to be. Yet only small drafts found us in cold weather. We stayed warm, protected and dry, though the ceiling told of less dry days.

When we moved there we removed old rugs and found petrified spills beneath, of what we were not sure we wanted to know. Newspapers of thirty years ago lined shelves, and the wallpaper in the closets told of the room's original decor.

I once dreamed that Mrs. Wilcox appeared in a home-made printed dress, matching the wallpaper in the closet and proudly showed me a patchwork quilt, all hand-made, though her quilt stitches, by my standard, were too large! Muslin curtains and crocheted doilies were on all the dressers and I wondered where she found the time to make them? There are remnants of many gardens, too many for me to keep weeded and a barn with an old-style milk room. No modern conveniences to shorten the work load on this farm.

Flowers from the back gardens freshly cut for our kitchen
table, an extravagance not available to us in Denver, where
flowers weren't so plentiful. Vermont's summer rains made
growing flowers simply natural!
Some say our wood barn was once a summer kitchen to harvest all the family would need to last them through the year. I can't even imagine how they did their laundry, though I met a ninety-year old woman who talked of setting up housekeeping in her first house that had been "the hand's house" on the hill. She had no running water. Not all was glorious in those days, though in my mind I can see the orchard trimmed and bordered with a vine-covered fence and to either side pastures, one of corn and the other of hay and the woodlands, bordering all. Natural flowerbeds in the wet ravines remained overgrown with wild growing orange day-lilies. The back flowerbed was filled with roses, day lilies and mountain lupine in a vast array of colors. The vegetable garden like another patchwork quilt, sewn in rows all straight and neat, except for the pumpkins and squash that added large squares of green, hiding their colorful fruit.  
Annual flowers growing unattended in the back flower

The hand's house on the hillside in back, filled with
antique art books, owned by our landlords,and across
the road from an in-ground swimming pool.
This was no ordinary place we had rented. It was the
stuff dreams were made of!
This "hand's house, used as a book house" was 
the size of most regular houses!
The lower animal barn with garden space in front of it!

Animal pens, so clean and neat that they have no smell, for this is My dream.  Chickens are in the barn still needing protection from things that might eat them in the night. Cows are there too, unless in the pasture, just behind the pens and down the hill, next to the cow pond, filled from the fresh spring upon the hill. "Too pastoral to be real," some would say, but The Old Wilcox Farm was real and kept beautiful in my dreams, though the cows really lived down the road on another farm.
Field to the right of the garden area, and a cow pond
in front of the brown pasture land now leased to those
nearby farmers who would come in and plant and harvest
the fields.

(This story continues, so stay tuned. We were truly blessed to have lived out our dreams here for almost seven years. By the time we moved to Castleton, we were ready to live a bit "less rural". The expanse of the farm lives on in our memories, and after the farm sold and we bought a house in Castleton, we continued to live out our dreams large! So why the title, The Smallness of the Place? Read on to find out! 

This is dedicated to my friend, Sharon, who just moved to Brattleboro, Vermont from Staten Island and wrote that Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book here in Vermont and my response was that it seems that Vermont is so inspiring that many people write when they come here and confessed to writing a book that has been sitting on my shelf.  I quickly added that not all writers publish, but she requested to read it and I told her I would post it in segments. Most of my readers know that I live an incremental life, having suffered with Chronic Lyme Disease and having limited energy. It hasn't stopped me, however, from moving to Vermont, writing this book, teaching as well as nursing and then retired to create designer pincushions, a blog and now quilts. So because Sharon asked for it...I am posting this!