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The Big Move

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When we first saw the farm that would become Summerdog, the farm house faced a busy state highway. Inside the house, especially in the front rooms, you could hear the whoosh of each passing car and feel the vibrations of the road. It wasn’t what we had in mind, but we knew that a farm that fit our budget was likely to require some work.

Otherwise, there was a lot to love. The property formed a long “I”, with the farm house and highway at one end, and the rest of the lot stretching away from the road into rolling fields and conserved land. We were stunned to learn that the farm house, built in 1904, had been moved to its present location in 1916, from a swampier area across the highway. We couldn’t imagine how – mule teams? – but we knew it could be done. So when we decided to make the farm our own, we had in mind that someday we might move the house again.

It was good that we waited a while. Some of the initial ideas that we had about the farm – how to lay it out, where things might be planted, where to put the house – were, looking back, totally nuts. Not sure why, at first, we had the chicken coop so far from the house that we would drive across the field in winter to feed and water the chickens. Or why we planted pumpkins and beans in the middle of the pasture. (The pasture quickly reclaimed our experiments as if to say, let’s forget THAT ever happened.)

But we did learn, and after five years, we felt ready to take on the house move. While we wanted the house farther from the road, we also wanted to preserve the part of the land that felt a little wild. I like the way the book “A Pattern Language” explains this: “On no account place buildings in the places which are most beautiful. In fact, do the opposite… Leave those areas that are the most precious, beautiful, comfortable, and healthy as they are …” We decided to move the house back about 80 feet, leaving most of property alone.

The main part of the planning and moving process took about six months. We were lucky to have a thoughtful architect and a super-competent house mover to shepherd us through the tough parts. We did stay in the house the whole time, even when it was mid-move, poised 6 feet above ground. Blurrily, I remember a port-o-potty and an extension cord bringing in electricity. Full recovery and revegetation took about two years, but it worked out, eventually. The pictures tell the story.

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