Suzy and I bought this land in 1982. We were young and in love and just married and wanted to have a home. We looked and there was nothing we could afford because interest rates were so high- 14 ¾ percent. We were both teachers, and had jobs but couldn’t find a house we liked in an area we liked that we could afford. It was discouraging. We looked at a house in Tolland one day- nice, we liked it. We didn’t love it, but we could learn to. A Cape, large yard, near a river. We got home and I got out my mortgage rate book and figured what the monthly payment would be and lay down depressed for the rest of the afternoon. It was more than I earned. Yes, Suzy also worked, but no bank would lend us that much money. I’d worked as a carpenter, and Suzy’s dad was a sheet rock contractor and that afternoon gave us the impetus: we decided to build. We looked at lots and those were expensive, too. One day late in the afternoon in late spring we drove down a dirt road. It dead ended, and we turned around and took a turn off it on this road we’d never been on before. There was a for sale sign! We got out to see. We walked through this swampy stuff and came out to a beautiful pasture with the most majestic white pines soughing in the breeze while the sunshine streamed down. It was magic. We both decided this couldn’t be the piece that was for sale. It was probably the swampy stuff out front. We got in our car, and drove down the hill into the most glorious sunset we’d seen.
We called the realtor the next day and it turns out it was the glorious pasture, and the swampy stuff in front of it. Four acres. We made an offer (we had to borrow money from my parents and a friend to do so) and got it. The adventure began.
We needed a driveway across all the swamp. We had to clear some trees to do that, and to make room for the house. We dug a cellar. I remember sitting on the foundation with my dad, smelling the fresh dug earth and dreaming and talking. He passed away that fall, so he never got to see the house, but he saw the possibilities with me. My mom got to visit us in the finished house and she was as proud as I was. Did I say finished? We are almost 40 years into it and not done yet. We added a big deck, and that was so hot in the summer that we decided we needed a porch, We tore down the deck and added a sun room to expand the kitchen, and a big porch off the back. It’s pretty nice to sit in the sun by the woodstove and drink tea in the cold months. And in the warmer weather we are on that porch, surrounded by morning glories, and grapes and lilacs watching the birds move into the birdhouses in our garden, while the wind just sighs in those stately trees. Pretty nice. In the evening watching the sun light up the hills in a blaze of pink while you drink a beer. Thunderstorms from a hammock on the porch. We love a porch.
We built the place. We hired a carpenter, and worked with him and his son for a week to frame it and trim it, and roof it. Then we put in the windows and doors. Suzy and I shingled the sidewalls and built the chimney and hired plumbers and electricians and insulated and sheet rocked and taped and floored and had stairs installed and painted and generally raced to finish the house before winter. We got a shock when our landlord rented the house we’d been in for years out from under us. I’d mentioned we were building that spring when we bought the land, and the rental season starts in the fall with UConn right here, and they rented it to new people. We had to move out. That of course was the weekend my dad passed away. Stress? Unfinished house, new job, rental gone and my dad dies. Could we throw in some car trouble? Sure. It was an adventure. We moved everything into the cellar. Of course there was a torrential rainstorm, no lawn yet, mud everywhere. Adventure. So we lived in the house as we finished it, Way before we got a Certificate of occupancy. We showered at UConn or swam in the nearby Fenton river. I’d get home from work, and carry brick for the chimney, mix up the mud then crack a beer and lay brick for a few hours. I remember the well. We dowsed- Suzy Dad and I. He spit in his hand to make the connection better; we held hands and each of us took a fork of the fruit tree branch we used. 125 feet deep and 25 gallons a minutes of the most delicious water we’ve had. I still remember the weekend we had to finish the insulation because the sheet rock crew was coming on Monday. It was late Sunday night. Both of us exhausted. Suzy had given up at 11 and lay down. I finished up alone. After midnight we went out to my car to drive home to sleep and the car wouldn’t start. I had to be up at 5:30 to get ready for work. I wanted some sleep. But I had to fix the car first. Some loose wire somewhere. Adventure!
Now we’re leaving it all. We added a woodshed. We dug out the swampy part in front to make a pond- the machine was digging the pond
while Suzy was in the hospital with our son. We’d had quite a little trouble with pregnancies, and this one looked like it would work but Suzy had to be in the hospital for five weeks before they did a C section. The pond and our son were both born in the fall of 86. We added a wood shed and a 12×16 shop for me to work in and keep a tractor out of the weather to plow the long driveway with and mow with. When our son was off to college we added a barn, 36×28 with a full dormer upstairs- bigger than the house. The upstairs is the dojo, down stairs my workshop It’s gorgeous now, with its lighthouse on the roof and its beautiful pine floors, but it has been a long time building. I built a tractor shed off the original shop, to house a tractor. Then I got an eighteen foot catboat and backed that into the tractor shed and put the tractor outdoors again. When we had the kitchen redone in cherry. I used some cherry from our back yard for some of the counter tops and flounder pot rack to hang from the ceiling as a surprise for Suzy.
My dad’s cutting board is where I make bread.
We have skated on the pond- the E.O Smith pond hockey tournament took place there for years.
The kids against the dads. Sunday afternoon hockey games- kids, dads, moms. We had lights on the pond and skated every night. When it warmed up we swam and fished and had epic naval battles where every kid around would be attacking me as I paddled a canoe around. Wind surfer boards, row boats wet sponges and supersoakers. There are still a few supersoakers at the bottom of the pond.
And we gardened and put in an orchard and mowed and cleared and improved and expanded the yard and cleared the stones walls, and paved the driveway painted and repaired and loved and lived here for 38 years. Celebrations regularly. Yes, it has been a hard decision to make. We have loved living here. I worked as a teacher at E. O. Smith High School, which I still love and keep in touch with colleagues. Suzy worked at Windham Center school . We were active with kids here and our son grew up here. There are ponds and lakes and rivers to swim in and paddle on, and parks with walks and roads and trails to ride and the university three miles away and Boston is close and New York is not bad and neighbors we like and yes, there is a lot going for here. We raised our son here, and now he’s an engineer with a start up in California. It doesn’t look like he’s coming back even though we think this would be an awesome town to raise a family in. The new elementary school is going to be state of the art, and just a couple of miles down the road from us. But he’s engaged. His finance’s parents moved to California to be with them. Will we follow? Part of the year. Yes. I suppose we will. We have a small cabin on the coast of Maine, too, that needs improvement. Next project? Next project.