This place…Fourty acres of beautiful south-sloping land, with 22 of the acres forested in pine and hardwoods, and the rest an old hay field. In the spring the forest understory is densely freckled with princess pine, fiddlehead ferns and wild flowers–most noticeably the strikingly white Trillium grandiflorum.
We first saw the field during a random drive down the quiet road that runs along its south border. My husband, Mike, and I immediately had the same reaction…”Oh that’s a special spot.” It’s not often you come across a hay field that hasn’t been built on already, let alone one facing south, surrounded by nice forest, and without any neighbors’ houses or pole barns in sight. We were going on year seven of searching for a place to build a home, and our hope that the right piece of land would come along was beginning to dwindle. And like so many of the other nice pieces of land we’d eyed up in the area, this sweet spot was not for sale.
Still, it was too perfect to forget about. Mike and I couldn’t help ourselves. We imagined where we’d put the barns, the house, the skating pond. I researched how to rehab the soil in the hay field so we could grow good quality hay for my horses. We dreamt about the potential for a little Christmas tree farm or a pick-your-own pumpkin patch. We plotted out apple trees, a big garden, the possibility of a passive solar home with that great southern exposure…..It was a little torturous to know that place was there, and could be everything we wanted.
And so, knowing we wouldn’t be able to move on any other way, Mike wrote a letter to the land owners asking if they’d ever think about selling that 40. If that sounds weird or creepy to you, let me explain that this is fairly common practice around here. There isn’t that much land on this little peninsula to begin with, and even less that’s on the market at any given time. All the old-timers will tell you that word-of-mouth or letter-writing is the best way to find good land. Still, it was a long-shot and we didn’t expect to get a reply, especially because we could tell from the plat map that this family had owned this 40 and a couple others nearby for several generations.
But they did reply–with an invitation to their home for a chat!
We were so excited! And nervous. Sitting at their table, unsure of how to begin, I was grateful to have our cute 14-month old daughter along to give us all something to look at and talk about. She has a fairly obscure Scandinavian name, and they recognized it right away, being of Scandinavian heritage themselves. That got things off to a good start, and soon we were on a tour of their whole home, stopping intermittently to admire the authentic wooden Dala horses proudly displayed in every room.
The conversation finally turned to our interest in their adjacent 40. They explained that the land had indeed been in their family a long time, and that at one point they thought they’d build a home at the top of the field, but ended up just living in the original farmhouse down the road instead. They asked us what we envisioned for the land, and we told them our vision. They liked our ideas and I think they could see how in love we were with the land.
In the end, they told us that yes, selling that 40 had crossed their minds and was something they were open to, but they’d need to speak with their kids first to make sure none of them had been planning on inheriting it. They gave us permission to walk the land whenever we wanted in the meantime. We left it there, telling them to take all the time they needed to decide. Mike wandered off with Mr. Land Owner to check out his tractors and share a beer in his garage while my daughter and I got a tour of the Mrs.’s flower gardens.
I think it was the very next day that we first walked the land, giddy with hope, but wary too. We made it an almost daily tradition to take an evening stroll there after that, and over the next couple months got to know every inch of that 40.
Soon, we’d hear from our now-neighbors that they were ready to sell the 40. We’d go through all the steps, sign the papers, shake hands, say ‘thank you’ profusely, give them a quart of homemade maple syrup, and go home to hug each other and cry. All that was just last spring, and since then we’ve spent countless hours dreaming and planning about this special spot….our special spot.