Saying Goodbye to the Farm in Bridgton, Maine

My brother Stephen heads into the woods on snowshoes in Bridgton, Maine. January, 2019. Photo by Trisha Thomas

My brother Stephen and I, walking awkwardly on snowshoes, tramp across a large snow-covered field.  At the end of the expanse of white are woods of snow-laden pine trees and, above it, the sky is turning pink, yellow and violet as the sun sets.  Animal tracks interrupt the smooth surface of snow and we stop to study the many prints – deer, coyote, raccoons, rabbits, minks, porcupines – we are not sure.

At the bottom of the field we turn back and look at Dad’s Maine Farmhouse.  At one end the large red barn, regal despite its sagging structure, dominates the smaller white and grey farmhouse extending towards the country road, an aging Queen with her loyal courtiers beside her.

Dad’s red barn seen from behind some birch trees at his farm in Bridgton, Maine. January, 2019. Photo by Trisha Thomas

We are saying goodbye to this beautiful, old farmhouse, a place where for years we have escaped from the chaos of the modern world and felt a sense of peace and tranquility amidst the woods and the wildlife on this hilltop in Bridgton, Maine.

The farmhouse was built in 1925 and was used as a small dairy farm.  Rows of stone walls on the edge of the woods delineate a cattle run where the cows were once herded from the field towards the barn.  The walls are disappearing into the overgrowth of the woods.

As children we came here to visit friends who had a similar farm on the mountains around Moose Pond – not actually a pond, but a very long lake with a 33-mile (53 kilometer) perimeter running down a valley between the low mountains.

Over the years we grew to love the woods, the field, the snow, swimming in the lakes in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter.

The old red barn stands with its chipping paint, cracked windows covered with spiderwebs, proudly challenging anyone to enter and explore.  It takes a full body shove to get the heavy wooden doors to slide back, opening to the central area, a space large enough for cows or tractors to pass through.  Inside it is a large wooden cathedral – its geometrical wooden beams reaching up to form a perfect triangular top.  Strands of hay dangle off the edge of the lofts, although no one has used it for farming in decades.

The roof of Dad’s barn looking up at the beams from inside. January, 2019. Photo by Trisha Thomas

The stalls are still there and turn of the century farming tools are tucked into wooden cubby holes.  Above hangs a red contraption for lifting bales of hay, but there are no longer domestic animals.  Instead, an occasional porcupine sets up home inside and birds make nests in the rafters.

In addition to the north and south fields, Dad bought the woods all around his farmhouse, up the hillside on the other side of the road, and the woods below his home stretching down towards Moose Pond, a total of about 50 acres (20 hectares) of land.  He purposely surrounded his farmhouse with an expanse of forest to enjoy the Maine landscape and to protect it from loggers and hunters.  But he always hoped to observe wildlife sharing their habitat with him. He kept a pair of binoculars on the front porch where he loved nothing better than observing birds, deer and other creatures.

When we arrived at dusk, we spotted a group of deer making their way in the snow at the top of the north field. I could barely make out a white tail flash as, startled by something, they bobbed across the field and into the woods.

Snow-laden trees outside my bedroom window at Dad’s farm in Bridgton, Maine. January, 2019. Photo by Trisha Thomas

The farmhouse is near the village of Bridgton, part of the Lakes Region of Maine, a mountainous region with long lakes and piney forests.  The area is the essence of New England with yellow, red, and orange maple leaves in the fall turning the area into a fiery display of color, piles of snow in the winter, covering fields and forests and decorating pine trees with a white icing.  The lakes freeze up and fisherman go out and cut holes in the ices. I did not spend time there in Maine’s cold spring with mud and black flies but would not miss the summers.

My brother, sister and I have spent summers swimming in the lakes as kids and later enjoyed Moose Pond with our children.  We plucked plump blueberries growing in Dad’s north field for blueberry pancakes, muffins or pies and explored trails into the woods.

My Dad is fascinated by wildlife and there was always a presence there for better or worse.  One summer an enormous pair of porcupines set up shop under the back porch and Dad was worried one of his grandchildren or his dog might have a dangerous encounter with some quills.  He discovered that one would appear at dawn waddling in the area around the house and, with the help of my courageous sister Gwen, managed to capture the critter in a garbage can and release him in the woods.

A porcupine crossing a field. Freeze frame video. Credit: Mary Skurno

Once, Dad had a rare run-in with an owl while snowshoeing with my step-mother Jane in the woods.  The angry bird swooped down, claws extended, and snatched off his hat deeply clawing his scalp. He covered his head with his mittens and ran as fast as he could on his snowshoes to the house, blood running down his face. Bird experts later told him that such an attack was almost unheard of, but perhaps he had passed near to a nest with owlets.  Moral of the story: don’t mess with Mama Owls!!  We later joked that the owlets were likely enjoying a snuggly, warm, woolen-lined nest.

On one summer visit, my son Nico – probably about eight – and his cousin Zander decided they were going to set up a tent out in the field near the barn and spend the night there.  In the middle of the night, they awoke to hear a pack of coyotes yipping nearby.  The boys made a barefoot sprint into the farmhouse.  So much for the Millennials and the great outdoors. My sister, Gwen, also an animal lover, decided to spend the next night in the tent alone so she could enjoy the sounds of the coyotes, leaving me with the human yippers inside.

As Gwen, Stephen and I worked with my Dad to clear out the house this week, there were small animal reminders…a mouse-chewed quilt in the closet, a hornet escaping from the winter cold in Dad’s bedroom, a lady-bug on the bathroom sink, and a chickadee outside the kitchen window.  I think they were stopping by to say goodbye to my father.

A view of my Dad’s farmhouse in Bridgton, Maine at dusk from the north field. January, 2019. Photo by Trisha Thomas

 

 

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Trisha Thomas

Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.

23 Comments

  1. Josephine Nardi Koebler
    2019/01/10

    The farm may stay behind but the love nurtured there and shared through all your family and its’ many generations will ripple out into the world – the farm will live on in your hearts and spirit and the world will be a better place for what it instilled in those that lived and loved there.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/01/10

      Thank you Josephine for your kind words, so sweet of you.

      Reply
  2. Alan
    2019/01/10

    ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow’ – but life and we move on.

    Reply
  3. Kathleen Botsford
    2019/01/10

    Such a beautiful story Trisha. Your words transport me to your father’s farm, serenity filling me, this chilly, gray day in Chicago. Your precious memories will always remain. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/01/10

      Thank you Kathleen!

      Reply
  4. Millie
    2019/01/10

    The tranquility of Maine is so beautiful. Treasure your memories. We sold our NH property after my Mom passed and I miss it.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/01/12

      Hello Millie —
      Yes, it is very tranquil. So nice to get away from this crazy, globalized world we are in. I am also a fan of New Hampshire and Vermont so I can imagine how you feel after selling your mother’s property. These places are so important to all of us. Thanks for writing.

      Reply
  5. Scott Leland
    2019/01/10

    A wonderful story, Trisha – evocative of so many memories and so much unsaid. I was fortunate to visit your dad and the farm many years ago. It was magical, filled with the character and warmth of your family. May the memory of it always fill your heart.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/01/12

      Scott, how nice to hear from you. I did not know you had been to the farm. So glad you were able to visit it. Thank you for the support you have given my father over the years. It means a lot.

      Reply
  6. Robert Ganz
    2019/01/10

    Struck a chord Trisha. Loved reading it and being transported.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/01/12

      Thank you Robert. So glad I was able to describe it effectively. Just sort of threw that post down in a moment of emotion.

      Reply
  7. Jeanne White
    2019/01/10

    For all of us that love the landscapes of Maine, it was a delightful tale. Thank you, Tricia.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/01/12

      Landscapes in Maine are fabulous. And this is just the Lakes Region…as you know, there is so much more, the coastal regions, the wilderness up north. I love it all!

      Reply
  8. Kathleen Rourke
    2019/01/10

    Thank you for sharing the story of your family farm. I’m sure it must be difficult to go through the house of memories and move beyond it. Your dad was brave to make that decision. Beautiful photos and narrative that will be of great value to the family in the future.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/01/12

      Thank you so much Kathleen. Yes, the decision was very hard for my father to make. He has been unwell since we packed up and left and I don’t think he has been able to read this post yet, but I hope he will appreciate it.

      Reply
  9. Pete Logan
    2019/01/11

    Love your story Trisha. Stephen mentioned the move last summer. I taught him in Kenya and was a family friend. You all were so lucky to have such a special place to share during your lives. You wrote the ending so very well. Thank you, Pete

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/01/12

      Thank you Pete. Of course I remember you very well from those Kenya years. Yes, it was a special place and will be missed.

      Reply
  10. Lega Medcalf
    2019/01/11

    As friends and neighbors, Jim and I will miss having your Dad in Bridgton. He was instrumental in preserving much of the open space in the Lakes Region area and we are thankful for that.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/01/12

      Lega — You and Jim have been wonderful neighbors to my Dad and it is important for all of us to know that you are still there and we are so grateful for your invitations to let us come back and visit. Big hugs to both of you.

      Reply
  11. Chris M T
    2019/01/12

    Such a beautiful summation of your time and appreciation of the area. You are making Stephen and I have second thoughts….

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/01/12

      Thanks Chris — a bit late for second thoughts but I know what you mean.

      Reply
  12. philip pullella
    2019/01/13

    “So when I reached my prime
    I left my home in the Maritimes
    Headed down the turnpike for
    New England, sweet New England”
    (Duncan, Paul Simon , 1972)

    Sweet New England. Beautiful stuff, dear Newton.
    Keep the perfume of old wood in the bottle of your mind. It, like the perfume of an old book, will sustain you and make it seem as if it really never went away, because it didn’t.
    New England has left it mark on the soul of this inner-city NYC kid since I was 18 and has never left me, even from thousands of miles away.

    “Whose woods these are, I think I know …” her house is in Roma, though”.
    The woods will never leave you. They always will be inside you.
    Phil

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2019/01/13

      Thank you Phil!! So sweet of you. I never you knew you read my blog. I am honored.

      Reply

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