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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thistle Cove Farm

~ our homestead ~
It's been said when the first Anglo settler's arrived on the shores of the New World, a squirrel could run from tree top to tree top from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Old growth, virgin forests provided the fodder for the cabins Anglo settler's needed from protection from the elements and to provide a home for the family.

Some time prior to the Revolutionary War, King George gave a land grant of several thousand acres to those first Anglo settlers. The Bowen's and the Ward's were the first Anglo families in the valley but I'm unsure to whom this farm was given in a land grant by King George. I've not yet researched back that far but hope to sometime this summer. 

The War Between the States brought discord, death and destruction; brother against brother, father against son, families against families. Down the valley, Melindy was a part of the Bowen clan, Dave's Mothers' clan, who freed her when she was a young girl. Today, so many people don't understand why a young black woman would stay with those who had owned her but where was an uneducated, poor black girl going? Her skills were survival and homemaking; during the War, she'd dress in men's clothing and march around the house, silhouetted against the light. She was trying to make the Yankee's think there were men on the premises when there was naught but woman and children. 
~ looking weary and tired ~
So the story goes, Aunt Melindy, as she came to be known, despised the Yankee's because when they finally came to the house, they made her kill her chickens and cook for them. She felt a strong kinship with her white family and they with her and she stayed with them until Dave's Grandfather bought her a small house in town. She moved to that small house but continued to return to her employer's as daily housekeeper. 

Our farm, nameless until Dave and I named it, was sold with several thousand acres to either Shadrach or Meshach or Abednego White for $300 in back taxes around 1870-1885. The White family lived here until 1948 when a Gillespie, a relative of Dave's Mother bought it and owned it until we bought it in 1995. Yes, Dave and I are the third buyers since the late 1800's.

When Dave and I moved to the Cove, our house was rather pathetic. Hay, several old, broken toilets and other debris were stored on the second floor and that first January winter of 1996, I had to shovel snow from the inside of the house to the outside of the house. Dave and I lived in three rooms with our bed set up about three feet from the soapstone stove we used to heat our few rooms. Each morning I'd walk through the house, kitchen pot and wooden spoon in hand, banging and making noise to run away the animals who'd sought shelter during the night. 

We'd stripped the house bare, removed the plaster walls and ceilings down to the studs and put up R-19 insulation that would pop out of the walls during violent winds. We finally realized we had no hope of walls before spring so we decided to put up 6 mm plastic to hold the insulation in the walls. It might surprise you the house became discernible warmer with such a small addition. If Dave and I could get the inside temperature up to 50 degrees F, we'd sit around in shirt sleeves and celebrate. Mostly, we wore three or four layers in order to keep warm and the coffee pot was never empty nor cold.
~ fresh paint ~
The weighted windows didn't work, the sky could been seen through sections of the roof, some chimneys had broken off at the roof and bricks tumbled into the fireplaces. It was colder than a witch's tit in a brass bra, as the saying goes. That same January of '96, on Monday the 22th at 7 a.m. the back porch thermometer read 35 degrees below Fahrenheit; thank God, there was no wind chill that night. Even so, Dave and I slept in 2 hour shifts in order to feed the stove so we wouldn't freeze to death. During the wee hours, Dave stuffed our two cats under the electric blanket but I'm not sure if that was to keep the cats or our feet warm smile
~ a new paint job ~
I kept a journal of those first 18 months and it provides excellent reading now. It also reminds me how strong and brave we were to take on such a huge job. Dave and I were newlyweds, having dated for six years before deciding it was time to make a change. We put our Richmond homes on the market and Dave moved to the farm in May 1995. In late June, I moved to the farm and on July 22 we were married on the front lawn. It was a small wedding with a few family members, a few friends, a neighbor or two and a picnic lunch with a country ham and a sheet cake that said "Congratulations Sandra and Dave". Sandra, my beloved best friend, stuffed Mason jars with thistles, Queen Anne's lace and ditch lilies to sit around the tables. The day was, in a word, perfect! 

Last week, Jude Sherlock and his crew, spray washed then spray painted the old farmhouse. After they spray washed, the poor old house reminded me of the first time Dave and I saw it. Paint was peeling, stripped to the wood and sadness was the crown. On Saturday afternoon, after being painted brilliant white, the Grand Olde Dame looked marvelous! Now, the house absolutely glows in both the morning and afternoon sun and it pleases me so much to have it painted. Everyone who has seen it comments on how beautiful it is now. 

We've come so far...this old house, Dave and I. Lives were formed and changed here, love was tasted and tested and proved worthy; our lives were filled with grace and peace and joy and, to be truthful, some arguing and disagreements. That's a good thing though because it means we were listening and talking with and to each other, always growing toward each other and not away. It was a good great life, filled with sweetness and I'm reminded of the verse "taste and see that the Lord is good". 

Blessings ~ Aunt Melindy ~ Thistle Cove Farm ~ a summer wedding ~ good friends ~ a sweet life ~

31 comments:

myletterstoemily said...

it is a grande, beautiful home. so gracious
and lovely! well done!

and thank you for the inspirational back
story.

Robyn@SimplyMe1970 said...

What a beautiful post Sandra.. You should write a book one day . I'd love to read it.. You write so well. You transport your reader right into your story in the minds eye.. The house looks beautiful!.. She is a grande dame!

Michelle said...

I LOVE old houses - and the people who value them enough to bring them back to life! My impossible dream is to do the same to the lovely, neglected old dame on the century farm of my father's side of the family....

Jenniffer said...

It's wonderful to hear all the fabulous stories your beautiful home holds! I salute you in your fortitude in those first 18 months. I love seeing old places saved and loved. It's in my blood too! We too are only the third owners of the house we are in now . . . but ours was built in 1926, (old for our area of the country. Your beauty has a much more impressive heritage! :)

Nancy said...

You do have a way with words. I loved reading this history of your place. Our home was built in 1925 and we are the third owners as well. It took about 18 months to get ours livable but we didn't live in it then. I don't think I'm that courageous.

Tombstone Livestock said...

Hope you find time to do more research on the history of the house and the area. I am sure Dave is enjoying the new coat of paint from his vantage point. Take care of yourself and your beautiful house.

Marsha Splenderosa said...

What a treasure you have there, my lady. To live in a home and on land that has been in your family is a true legacy. And your story is beautiful, I feel every single word you said, as if I were right there with you...and I am, in spirit. You are a brilliant, wonderful and wise woman.

Pom Pom said...

Amazing! The house IS so very beautiful, Sandra!

magsmcc said...

This is a very significant post, I feel. A marker. A landmark. A signpost. I am crying and smiling all at the same time x What a history though. What a heritage, a personal heritage.

affectioknit said...

Your house is amazing and beautiful!

~Have a lovely day!

Amber said...

Oh my gosh. I absolutely LOVE your home. It's beautiful!

Lottie said...

What a beautiful post! Your home is beautiful! But my goodness, when you have to clang pots to scare the critters...my goodness!

Dewena Callis said...

Thank you for this inspiring story. I love stories of houses and it's so rare to be able to trace the story back so far. You two really were brave, some would have said foolish, I bet! But you didn't give up. On anything or each other. That's an important part of this story. I hope that future owners will be as faithful. The house deserves it, the land deserves it. And you deserve it.

Monkeywrangler said...

What a grand post! I enjoyed the history lesson.

LindaSue said...

at last - the old gal has herself gussied up in a new coat - of paint and of course I was talking about the house not a human old gal! Just teasing friend - great post and wonderful to get "her" restored now

M.K. said...

Oh! She looks grand, Sandra!! I don't think I'd ever seen photos of the house before, just photos FROM the house, looking out over the land and the valley. What a gorgeous home! "Love was tasted and tested and proved worthy" -- yes, how very true this statement is in describing a good marriage and its life.

Jill Cooper said...

Love the story of your house Sandra! You ought to write a book about your farm. Hugs!

Angela said...

I am so happy to see your house with its beautiful new paint! Where I'm from there are many similar old homes, most of them falling in disrepair, sadly. I really enjoyed your history lesson too.

Karen said...

I, too, thoroughly enjoyed reading "the rest of the story"...and your house does look grand...I imagine the memories held inside are even more magnificent...treasures indeed!

dori said...

When I see this post, and when I read all these comments I see, you are loved by God and humans, blessed, brave Sandra, Thistle-Life!

Karen said...

What a beautiful story, what a beautiful home. I had no idea thistle Cove farmhouse had such a history, such beautiful architecture. Glad you put her back together. I call this old house "saving grace"... or gracie for short. Yours reminds me of the same.

Maple Lane said...

Hello Sandra, What a beautiful home and I so enjoyed you sharing your memories with us. Love you.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

I loved this post, it is so nice to live with history, almost as if you can feel the spirits of all who have come before you.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful journey, your home looks beautiful

Farm Girl said...

What great history!!! Your house is just beautiful. I love all of it that you know. It reads just like I was watching a movie.
How blessed you are and I think it is so neat you kept a journal as you were building your house. :) I bet it is a great read too.
Thanks for sharing today.

KathyB. said...

Since the first time I read your blog, years before I blogged or even knew what a blog was, I was smitten with Thistle Cove. Now I am in love with Thistle Cove, you & Dave, and all you represent. This post adds so much to the history in all its' bits and pieces that add up to our country in her finest if you consider good character, perseverance, honor, and bravery of value.

Maa said...

The house looks beautiful, Sandra. You are so blessed to have such wonderful memories to keep you company at times. Maybe one day I'll get to see you and the house in person. Hugs Sue

Farmgirl Cyn said...

Crazy beautiful farmhouse, Sandra.

I will never forget your precious offer to have us come and stay with you for a season after losing our own farmhouse.

I love you dearly, tho we have never had a face-to-face.
Someday,....tho most likely in the sweet bye and bye!

Donna said...

What a beautiful story! You should be very proud of what you have accomplished and the mark of history that you are making on the farmhouse! It looks positively stunning with the new coat of white paint!!!

Gumbo Lily said...

What a fine history your old house has, and the history continues with you.

Charlotte Wilson said...

I so enjoyed reading your beautiful, educational and interesting post. Thank you for a history lesson.

debbie bailey said...

Your house is beautiful, Sandra. I had no idea it was so historic. I love it!

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