Thursday, November 20, 2008

Just take a leap....

Sometimes life requires one to take a leap of faith as Erica is doing in the photo. And so we did. We contracted with Larry Hallowell to do the excavation of both the foundation and the septic field. We got Randy McClintock to do the cement work and Ryan Rancourt the electric. It was really going to happen.

And So We Began....

Since the land had been left to its own for over 30 years and was extremely fertile ground from so many years of farming the white pine had invaded in force. Although when we went to get our first burn permit, we found that the name of the hill that the land was located atop was Oak Hill, the oaks were largely the line trees with some saplings fighting for a small share of sunlight greedily monopolized by the pines. My Uncle Bob was so surprised that I did not know it was Oak Hill but I only remember Grandpa saying, "Let's go to the field." The first project was to bust up the cement at the end of the rudimentary driveway so that we could even access the land. As Eric broke it up, he decided to explore his "artsy side" and arranged the broken pieces into a "stone" wall bordering either side of the drive. It looked really great and he was very proud of himself for such a creation. While he worked on that, I started the very long process of clearing the field. The white pines were a worthy adversary, growing thick with dead interwoven branches clear to the ground. We battled for the entire winter of 2003-2004 and well into the late fall of 2004.

The Concept

The land came to us in late summer of 2003, right while I was chairing the Red Cross Ball which I had done for 3 years previous. We weren't sure just what we would DO with the land at first... and then... BAM... within a few weeks, Vanessa announced her engagement to Drew Mayer on Sept. 11, 1974 and only 5 days later, Jess announced her engagement to Peter Frackelton on Sept. 16. Painfully aware of the limited number of suitable event halls in the area, familiar with the prices that the more suitable ones would charge, I had one of those EUREKA moments while coming home to Raymond Court with a load of lumber for the dormers which Eric was working away on. Warning him that he should come down from the ladder before hearing my "fabulous" idea, I announced that I thought we should build a family Lodge... where we could all gather.... built like a barn.... and have the weddings there! We could all work on it... and if the girls would agree to it, the costs of the event halls would help to offset the cost of its construction. Henceforth, no matter how large the family grew, we would have a place for them to gather all in one room. It would be a lovely, homey place, but one where children and pets could frolick without worry. The only really separate place would be the bathrooms of which we would put three: a men's, a ladies' and a family bath. There would be a kitchen large enough to prepare meals for many guests. We could even rent it out to others! From the time we had bought Raymond Court, we had thought we would only be there for a short time as we dreamt of a place in the country. We had even purchased a book entitled "Five Acres and Independence"
the first year we were married.... but, the girls came along... the house was still a work in progress (are they ever not?) and then came school, and activities, and friends... and long story short, a house so close to everything we needed proved too comfortable and the thoughts of a country house took a back seat. So, this idea of a Lodge, our long awaited Country House, with acres to garden.... seemed like an idea whose time had come!

In the Beginning...

As far as I knew, the piece of land where now stands Oak Hill Lodge, had only belonged most recently to my Uncle Bob (Robert Bartlett)and his wife Marge and to my fraternal Grandparents Joseph Lawrence Bartlett and his wife Marion Morse Bartlett. As a child I have great memories of going there to help my grandfather with his vegetable garden. I am remembering the garden to take up an acre or so... (not sure, I would have been 7 or younger) and full of all sorts of varieties of vegetables. Mostly, I remember being told not to touch the green beans if they were wet, as it might cause "rust" on them. And digging potatoes... what fun to dig potatoes. I am sure I did not man the shovel, but have fond memories of rooting through the loosened soil to discover all sorts of sizes of potatoes. There were big ones all the ways down to marble-sized ones. Helping Grandpa pull beets and carrots was another highlight. Most usually, Grammie would ask us to pull the beets when the beets were itty-bitty because they prefered the beet greens when they are younger and more tender. The land, then called the field, was about 3/4 of a mile up around the top of Great Salt Bay from my grandparents home. After my Grandpa died in 1962, we only visited the field on a limited basis. For several years when the girls were all small we would go there to cut our Christmas trees with our dear friends Doug and Brandy Rink. Brandy would always make a thermos of hot chocolate and as the years went by, even started bringing a most delicious hot buttered rum in a second thermos for the grown-ups. Brandy and I would scout around the land, kids in tow, in search of that special tree. Mind you, the trees were wild and definitely lacked the finess of trees to be found on a tree lot but they were always a bit better than a true "Charlie Brown Tree" and the adventure and commradery proved to be the best part of it anyway. I don't think we ever went to the field more than a few times during the summer and most of those were when Uncle Bob might ask us to check it if he had gotten some calls of things being dumped in there, or kids partying there. He eventually had the busted up floor of a neighbors garage dumped at the entryway to discourage such visitors. Uncle Bob was the best at keeping in touch. Perhaps because he had spent most of his adult life travelling in sales or just better about making trips to visit family; he did a great job of making the trip from Michigan to Maine most every year. Sometimes, Marge and his boys; Bobby, Scott and Marty would come, but most often just Uncle Bob would show up always unexpectedly at our doors.
He never wanted his visits to be a burden so felt that the element of surprise would keep us from going out of our way to get ready for him. No matter what, it was always great to see him.
It was on one of these late summer visits that this story really gets its start. Uncle Bob had an envelope in his hand which he asked us to look at. We started to open it and he said we should wait until we had some quiet time to look it over. That evening, while sipping on a glass of wine, I opened it to find it was the deeds to the land. Thinking he would like us to research something about it for him, as I assumed his sons would eventually inherit it; I looked it over and returned it to the envelope. Later that evening, Uncle Bob joined us at the cottage for dinner. We asked how we could help him with the land and he answered that he wanted us to have it! We were
a crazy combination of thrilled, amazed and overwhelmed. He explained that his sons would never be back this way and he knew we were most likely to enjoy it. He said that he just wanted to settle it all before he left the next afternoon. So, lucky for us, our lawyer has his office right up over the print shop and a second lawyer with whom we are friendly has his office up the other stairwell. Ahhh, the advantages of a small town! Eric pulled in a huge favor by asking if they could arrange the transaction that very day... they agreed and at the front counter of the print shop the deal was done!