I am sitting here at my old pine table looking out my kitchen window at the hillside of trees that tumble down to the river below. The tress are swaying back and forth making the most beautiful forested sounds. At times the sound is similar to the ebb and flow of an ocean tide as it sweeps in with a whoosh and then slides out with a swish.
We keep saying it is "the calm before the storm" around here. The kitchen window I am looking out will not be there in another month. The floors below my feet will be changed and made to look old and historic instead of polished and new. A stone mason will be here to build a large grey and black fieldstone fireplace for the kitchen...the true heart of my home...to use on all those cold winter mornings.
The list of changes continues. But, right now I am looking at spring photos of Springfield, Missouri from about 5 weeks ago when springtime was in full bloom over there and snow was still on the ground up here.
We decided in April that a winter time escape was needed from the cold as well as from the stress of negotiating and making plans on whether or not we would become the owners of this beautiful old home. The previous owners of this home had such a hard time saying goodbye. The Nehemiah homestead kept holding on to them and they were reluctant to let go...for good reason. The situation was understandable. These houses come with a history and we become part of the fabric of that history. It is hard to let go. It will be hard for us to let go someday.
The previous owners poured their heart and soul into this place...re-leveling floors, adding entire layers of new insulated walls, flipping and then reinstalling antique pumpkin pine floors to reveal the other side, and creating a kitchen area out of what was once stables long ago.
|Easter 2015 in Springfield, Missouri|
Not only did they lovingly restore the bones of this house, they also became parents to 2 children in this house... so the history and importance of it to them was even more sentimental. This was and will be always be their children's first home.
While the owners were deciding if this was the time in history to pass on "the Nehemiah" and if we were the right owners to carry this house forward into the next chapters of its history, we escaped to springtime in Missouri for a week of relaxation, delicious BBQ, homemade breads, and family time of our own in order to await our future path.
There are beautiful elements of Springfield that remind us of our newly adopted state of New Hampshire. When we were looking across the country at where to settle, we repeatedly mentioned details about Missouri in our criteria of desires. Long country roads, swaying woods, rolling hills, and small quaint towns were on that list. Basically we wanted a setting, mood, and location very similar to that of Missouri..but in the Northeast.
I still remember the first time stepping foot into Patrick's family home all those years ago. I was 22 and had fallen deeply in love with this young man with soulful green eyes. His easy-going manner and Midwestern drawl revealed over time a person of deep moral depth combined with a high level of intellect I found entirely endearing.
His family welcomed me with gracious acceptance. The warmth and replication of their early American styled home, filled with carefully selected antiques from the time period, left an impression that has stuck with me all these years.
Over the years, Patrick and I have been returning to his home state of Missouri. We've watched as George's collection of early American pewter formed a queue over the fireplace mantle. We've admired Joanne's brown & white transferware dishes. She collected it piece by piece from various antique stores across the country. Each holiday there was a new piece added to the Christmas or Thanksgiving table setting. I've never been able to commit to a set of dishes all at one time and found the idea of searching for one piece at a time more to my liking.
Watching and listening over the years as their house shaped and formed left a mark on us as we progressed from newlyweds to new parents in about 9 locations...and now to soon to be empty nesters. Wow, even writing the words "empty nesters" has me coping with a range of conflicting emotions. Over the years, as Patrick and I moved from one location to the next, there was only sometimes, but not really often, a yearning to build our nest one day in one spot as opposed to leaving our little twigs and branches all over the country. We lived for the moment most of the time and enjoyed our many adventures. Settling down was a word that made me cringe at not yearn for. However, I think the time has come for a building of a family nest that can form and grow for years to come. More adventures hopefully will grab a hold of us but we have decided to plant roots in one place and adventure out from this piece of earth here and be able to come right back...to a home, not just a house.
Returning to Missouri is always filled with family time, good food, and slower paced living. BBQ rules in this part of the country. Patrick came home one day during the week in Missouri with the most delicious ribs from Oscar's BBQ. They are melt in your mouth delicious. We've been going by Oscar's BBQ for years and never stopped to buy any. I do believe a new tradition has been born because we have mentioned several times since returning home to New Hampshire how much we cannot wait to get more Oscar's ribs...next time.
|Oscar's Ribs in Springfield, Missouri|
So we escaped winter's last grasp on New England and put our feet up for a bit and felt the sun on our faces in Missouri while enjoying their blooming springtime season. The cardinals could be seen as ruby red streaks flying through the air from one bird feeder to another. The squirrels were camped out under the bird feeders packing the fallen seeds into their swollen jowls. Lily of the valley had already sprouted up and the tiny white bell flowers were dangling and scenting the air with their sweet smell. Daffodils were on stage front with their trumpet shaped flowers standing tall and bright yellow. The air was chilly one day, warm the next, rainy the day after...just as spring should be.
I think the shock of greenness in the grass is one difference from living in Texas that always made an impression on us. The grass is just so green in Missouri...truly like what you see on The Little House on the Prairie T.V. series. As soon as we flew into the airport of Springfield, the fields of green were lush and expansive.
We took long walks in the woods around Patrick's home. We watched the ducks fly up from the south, land in the ponds all around the area, and take off again on their journey northward for the summer. They would get a running start by deftly paddling on the surface of the water, spraying water in an arch behind them with their green rimmed necks jutting out as if adorned with emerald studded collars.
We sat for hours around my MIL Joanne's antique kitchen table and discussed house plans detail by detail. These long sessions of planning out flooring, windows, paint colors, and lighting details were only punctuated by trips to various antique stores in the area to mingle and dream of our developing nest up north. If Patrick or Riley were in tow on these antique afternoons, then it was entirely probable that there would be a stop by our favorite place for an afternoon pick-me-up...Andy's frozen custard.
For most of my life, materialistic possessions have come second to adventuresome experiences. I've never really had the compulsion to commit to a set of china or collect pieces of carefully searched for antique furniture. I'd much rather buy plane tickets to Scotland or Istanbul than commit to flatware or light fixtures.
All that has seemed to change in the past few years. Living in New Hampshire and finally becoming owners of this historical property has us wanting to carefully select antique pieces and well as preserve or plan for everything in this home down to the door latches and lighting fixtures.
I'm going to properly introduce our new home to "Thyme" soon. I'm collecting photos here and there as we discover the property without feet of snow on the ground. Every day, I stroll around gasping at the number of flowering trees and plants that are revealing themselves by the day. Most of my days have been filled with painstakingly cleaning out a 200 year old barn filled with bric a brac and hauling things to recycling stations. Then there are the days where from dawn to dusk I can be found unearthing these grounds that have been buried by vines and weeds for years...and years!
I have found two gardens on the property. There are several more but I thought I would focus on the first two nearest the house. The first was buried in about a foot of leaves and debris outside our kitchen porch. We've been told it was an herb garden years ago. As I reached down and pulled up some of the debris, I could see a patch of old brickwork. That sight was all it took to get me excited about discovering what lay beneath. I've uncovered an entire circular brick area with extending brick walkways.
The second garden is near the old barn. It was specifically designed to be a vegetable garden. As one can imagine, only the faint wooden outlines of the vegetable beds could be seen. The rest was covered in layers of leaves and weeds. After a solid week of work, these beds are cleaned out and a new medley of vegetables are planted in there. Hopefully, there will be several lettuces, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and rhubarb...for starters. There are still several beds still open for more veggies.
I've seen my in-laws in Missouri transform their property from one year to the next into beautiful gardens. I figured if they can do it then I'll give it my best try. For two weeks straight, I raked piles of leaves, hauled them to the woods, carefully pulled out various types of weeds until I could see the roots dangling intact. I uncovered all sorts of hopeful buds trying to make their way through the muck. Vines were choking the lilac trees so I carefully unwrapped each branch. Day lilies were marching through the yard as if an invasion was ordered so I took a shovel to tame those flower intruders. That was no small feat. Darn day lilies!
When I got discouraged and my back ached and I looked at my earth stained hands, I just thought of one of my favorite childhood books "The Secret Garden". I imagined the romantic notion of clearing an overgrown patch of secret garden by 3 little children. I sat back to survey my own little plot and convinced myself to forge ahead unearthing one little natural treasure after another.
The timing of the trip to Missouri was a perfect one. It was a much needed respite from heightened emotions as well as a week of calmness that we may not see for awhile.
Shortly after we returned, events moved along swiftly. As I announced on instagram and Facebook...we are indeed the new stewards of this New Hampshire home that we have been yearning for 5 months now. Final negotiations were ironed out. It seemed the very next day, we had a revolving door of contractors, masons, landscapers, architects, decorators, plumbers, cabinet makers, and electricians all bearing charts and plans that they spread out on our kitchen table.
In order to build a fireplace, we need a floo. In order to have a floo, we need to move a toilet. In order to move a toilet, we need a bathroom redo. The plans kind of start in that manner from room to room and then start going wonky and haywire from there.
Then there are the windows to contend with. The windows are old...not as in historical old...just plain old... old. Actually, they are historical. They are the original windows to the home. Which is a problem here because New Hampshire-ites value every historical aspect of a home and do not want to change it despite the decaying condition that it is in. Some windows have multiple screens with multiple glass storm windows on top of original windows that were painted shut and take a rubber mallet to pry open. Then each window has been fitted with a rubber lined pop in window frame that takes Herculean strength to pry off.
Not to mention that each and every crevice in between each window panel is filled FILLED with dead ladybugs. No matter how many times I lug the vacuum from window to window (and there are 56 windows) nothing seems to stop them from filling up again. Really gross.
The fine line between what is historical and worth keeping and what is historical but past the point of preservation is a tough debate topic around these parts of the country. However, after living through the coldest winter on record for New Hampshire, coping with the lady bug infestation, and prying open 56 windows that went 3-4 layers deep, it wasn't too hard for us to make a call on this window debate. When the 56 new windows arrive in 4 weeks and one by one the ladybug infestation is finally behind us like a bad memory, the historical nature of this historical window topic will be shut...sealed...and locked...with all bugs on the outside where they belong and us snugly warm on the...inside where we belong.