Patchwork Farm Retreat

My Gratitude for the Years at Patchwork Farm

When my son and daughter and I came to the little mountain in 1977, the summer cabin was pretty basic, and not pretty. Covered in asphalt shingles designed to look like green and gray brick, windows only on the valley side, and those not insulated the original one-room cabin had been locked tight in winter, with bars on the few small windows, steel clad doors, dark. 

I was so naïve. I didn’t check the well, the septic, the insulation. Standing on grass next to the cabin, we looked at the view, at a topographical map of the land, at a nearby red maple tree, the old orange tractor, and said, yes. 

My children and a couple of friends walked the trail with me down to the pond. It was May, and water danced over the dam with a wonderful roar. Light splashed through new spring leaves. So much water over that dam by now. For the first eight years, so many lessons: trials by cold, no running water safe enough to drink, no electricity to run things, and who knew where the gray water went.

But always there was the land, there were the oak trees, the sugar maples, the birches; there were the granite stones, big as horses, the sun and moon and stars rising through crystal black skies; there were wood thrush and oven birds and barred owls; gray foxes, and porcupine babies; shy white tailed deer, bold raccoons, and flying squirrels with their huge black eyes. 

Star moss and arbutus hid under snow, hobble bush bloomed along the creek and blueberry bushes huddled low on the ridges.

Nothing was not worth paying attention to. And the happiness that rose from not freezing, from not burning down the cabin, from chopping wood, from hauling water and laundry and groceries and books and birdseed up the mountain in a little blue plastic boat; was a kind of joy, as the old hymn has it, that we had never known. 

How Things Changed

Over the years, we built on what we had been given and made a cozy place for ourselves and friends. My son built two cabins, using timber from the land, we got a small solar array, a deep well, and eventually a steady supply of power. By the time I realized during the pandemic of 2020 that I had to let go, we had built a total of five cabins, two small barns, and tripled the size of the original cabin, including an attached garage and elevator. We had hosted hundreds of writers in workshops and retreats, and welcomed nearly 2000 paying guests, plus of course and dear family and friends. Five miles of hiking trails lace the 100 acres of woods—and there is no way to calculate the amount of sweat and heart that went into those 43 years of living and loving that little mountainside.