We started as weekenders. Then, inevitably we left behind the numbing city suburbs for a country life, two hours from the city. We changed our lifestyles to be here and it changed our lives. What started as a vegetable garden quickly grew into laying hens, meat chickens, geese and pigs. A small tractor arrived and shortly after we established our business; Made In Ghent.
It was time.
Late in 2012, after a year long search across Columbia County in New York, we found seventy five acres less than a mile from where we were living. We’d like to think it was a sign. So often the best opportunities lie right under our own noses. The wind had already shifted to the north, ready for a winter that never really materialized with the bite that it promised. It was appreciated – we had work to do.
The thirty acres of pasture were not pasture. In reality we had no idea what we had bought. Five fields with between five and twenty years of indigenous growth. Anything between weeds and first stage forest prevailed. But standing on tiptoes at the highest point of the property above the sapling tops we could catch a clear view west across the county and The Hudson River to the snow peaked spine of the Catskill Mountains. From where we stopped to do this, at the corner of field and forest, stood a defining oak tree. As we looked beyond the growth we discovered hidden magic everywhere and have done ever since: apple trees dotted in the hedgerows, fieldstone walls, a vernal pool in the woods, a meandering stream, ponds in the fields, patches of ramps and shag bark hickory trees abundant with nuts that the pigs devour.
In the farmyard metal roofing buckled and torn by countless winters flapped freely. Weathered siding creaked and groaned like ghosts. One old barn had already fallen, another complete with a beautiful round wooden silo was about to. It’s bones, eventually revealed six months later, could have gone on another hundred years.
The old house was weary with many, many years of neglect. It’s stunningly simple and evocative early century facade sat poised at a perfect angle to the road. Like an ancient mythical stone the white house and its barn-red doors were bathed in a golden winter sunset every clear evening.
The neglect had gone too far. It was heart-breaking to have to condemn these buildings, their history, their stories and what they represented. However, this hardened our resolve to realize our vision and to respectfully use the characterful materials and shining ideas that lived beneath the decay.
Sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward. With that in mind we no longer saw the sadness of the past. The buildings had to go. Soon the wind would shift again and breathe opportunity across these rolling pastures.