I went out to “Ye Olde Burns Farm” on Sunday to get these photos to share with you. Even after five years in-town, it still feels like going home when I drive out there. The drive up the hillside always fills me with anticipation, all the trees seem to be reaching out their limbs to embrace me and the breeze coming down off the top of the hill to caress my face, to thread itself through my hair. “We’ve missed you,” they say to me.
That’s right–our name is on the road-sign!
This is the old homestead where my father in-law grew up. Once his family kept goats, chickens, pigs, cows–his father worked this land, and ran a small-engine repair shop down in-town too. People still tell me they remember the old tinker in his workshop.
The ancient farmhouse reminds us of our calling. I try to imagine what the house would have looked like when it was in its prime. Now it is not safe to even go inside, and next summer it will be taken down. We will salvage what we can of the old boards and timbers, to use in our new house, and the granite slabs that make up the foundation of this place will be sold. The end of an era. But the start of a new one.
Once there was sprawling pasture all over this hillside, but in the 40 or so years since the Burnses farmed here, the trees have grown up, reclaiming the land. Open patches can still be found about the property, like ghostly reminders of what once was, while tumbling rock walls dissect the forests.
This pasture sits between the old house and the remains of the barn. It runs the length of what is to be our section of the acreage, and should be easy to open back up with the help of some goats and sheep. And that is the plan–to let livestock do the work for us in a more sustainable fashion.
Below you’ll see the same picture, but I’ve pointed out some of the features of this pasture. The old orchard has been a source of inspiration for me, but these apple trees are more than fifty years old and have long since stopped producing apples. Many of them will be cut down, the wood saved for smoking meat later. I will chose a select few to remain, and over the next three years I will prune them back into shape. Even if they never bear apples again, these apple trees area great aesthetic feature to the landscape, as well as a reminder of the past.
The old barn is long gone, but the stones of the foundation intrigue me. There is a square sort of basin here, where the rock foundation of the once-barn remains, it has all grown over with grasses and raspberry canes grow throughout. We plan to save the stone–I am not sure for what we will use them, but I have some ideas, and it seems a shame to waste them.
This is all that remains of the trailer we lived in the first time we were out here. We had electricity and a Monitor heater, and while we did have a toilet that was hooked to a septic system–there was no well and so no water. We brought drinking water from town, we hauled water up out of the old farm-wells for the toilet and the gardens, and my mother in-law did our laundry, which we would have to carry down the 200-yards of soupy mud that our driveway would become every spring, to pack the car and take it to town. The trailer was literally rotting around us, and forced us to move into town–how painful it was to leave this place! I never really got over leaving these forests–they were already a part of me after just five short years spent out here. It’s a mess that we left behind and I’ve felt awful about it, but now that we’re going back we’ll get it all cleaned up–after all, that’s the spot our house is going to go.
My first chicken coop is still standing. Keith over-built it, so it may need a bit of love, but basically the thing is still sound. Next year we will get chickens again for the first time in six years, Winter is looking forward to being responsible for their care (with some help from Mom) and for the sales of our eggs. I gave him the choice of a select few heritage breeds, and Winter has chosen Partridge Rocks as our first reintroduction to poultry farming.
I can’t even count the hours I spent at that picnic table (when it was still in-tact), writing or drawing while Winter played in the yard. I was pregnant with Summer out here, and I have pictures of both boys wallowing in the spring mud–ahh, those were good times!
Basically the only thing the old property is used for now is my in-law’s supply of firewood. Though we come out occasionally to take a nature walk or camp over-night out-of-town.
Burns Road runs along what is known to locals as “The Old County Road”. This lower part stretches from the main road all the way up to what the family refers to as “The Turn-Around”, where the picture was taken from. I can’t remember the mileage, but you can’t see the main road from here–that last visible bit at the far end is just the knoll where a culvert beneath the road divert the spring run-off. Burns Road continues another 200-yards beyond that to meet Route 148-West.
Looking north from the turn-around the old county road continues on, there is a driveway that connect to a parcel that once belonged to the Burnses, but was sold off at one point, and now belongs to some out-of-staters. This couple are about the same ages as Keith and I, with 3 kids, and come up occasionally in the summer. I haven’t seen them in years, but perhaps we will have the chance to reconnect once our family is back where we belong.
Beyond that the old county road continues as more of an ATV trail that meets Pease Hill Road on the other side of the forest. We used to spend hours walking these woods, sometimes using this path, other times the old logging trails or the cow-paths. Children toddling along with the dog out ahead of us and the cats trailing along behind.
Starting at square-one may not be the easiest path, perhaps Runamuk would have a smoother transition if we simply bought an established farm somewhere else. But this land is at the heart of who we are, and in time it will be the heart of Runamuk too.
With livestock we will reclaim a portion of the old pastures. Some will be used to establish new orchards, vegetable gardens, and forage for our critters. Because pollinator conservation is essential to Runamuk we plan to establish extensive perennial gardens with walking paths for the public.
Next year along with a place for our family to live, we will establish a garage for Keith to make our bee-hive equipment, a livestock shed for the goats and sheep, and 2 high-tunnels for seedling and crop production.
It’s a long road, and not a smoothly paved path to take, but we–as a family–look forward to the challenges the journey may pose, and hope to create a really great destination at the end of Burns Road.
I invite you to follow along with us as we embark on the adventure of a lifetime.