Mountain HOUSEpitality

Welcome to my little cabin in the woods! I don’t get much company here … it’s my haven against ‘hectic-ness’ … my sanctuary from storms (both inside and out!) -- But today I’d like to share my little piece of mountain heaven with my old and newfound Farmgirl friends. I can’t keep it ALL to myself, and besides … I’ve got some big decisions to make regarding its future.  Won’t you please join me in the 25-cent tour of my ‘little lodge’?

The house we used to live in back in the Catskill Mountains of New York was my dream home, and we thought we would live in it forever.   It was a passive solar Post and Beam house that my husband and I literally designed and built from the trees on up. Folks who didn’t know that we'd built it ourselves actually thought it had been standing there for 100 years or more!  From digging the foundation with the backhoe we bought (hubby), building the foundation and chimneys (me), to felling the trees and milling them into beams (a joint effort) … right on down to the finish coat of paint … it took us 3 ½ years to complete it all ourselves.  We had a couple of babies in there too, which diverted us a bit – but it was a wonderful start-to-finish project for the whole family. It was a magical house in a very special place we called Frog Hollow.  It even won an architectural award and was featured in several newspapers and magazines. Although our house was only an average cash investment on our part, it was created with TONS of sweat equity, and when completed, it was a handcrafted work of livable art … Unfortunately, it was taxed like one as well. We too soon realized that we would never be able to afford to retire there; but as the saying goes, one window never closes but another door soon opens.  After 15 fabulous years on our homestead, we found ourselves embarking on a new adventure in the mountains of New Hampshire, where taxes were low, the people self-reliant, and where the state motto is “Live Free or Die”.  No, it wasn’t Lake Wobegone, but it was my kind of place!


We came here to run a family business in 2005: a 32-room mountain inn … a project that has been more rewarding than our wildest imaginations would have ever led us to believe. Downsizing from our spacious home to a small apartment at the inn was a bit challenging for the 6 of us at first, but adapt we did.  While many people have romantic visions of buying a Bed & Breakfast to “retire” to, nothing could be further from reality!  Innkeeping is a 24/7, year-round commitment and a LOT of work from morning till night. As a person who needs more than the average dose of solitude, peace and quiet, this started taking its toll after about year #5. (Innkeeping can be a bit like living in a fishbowl, except that unlike fish, you tend to have constant interruptions).  And THAT (not coincidentally) was the year we bought my little cabin in the woods! It was the place where I could get away from phone calls, responsibilities and round the clock work.


So let me take you there and show you around. We get to my cabin by going through the Jackson Covered Bridge, our iconic portal that magically takes us back in time to what some folks refer to us as “Norman Rockwellville.”

 

Jackson is the quintessential, old fashioned New England village with a year-round population of  about 700. We’re smack-dab in the middle of the 800,000+  acre White Mountain National Forest. As we go through town past the Grammar School, Town Hall, the village Gazebo, and the old library, we’ll turn right at the 1848 Community Church  and go up past Jackson Falls. I like to stop at the falls to on my walk or bike ride to work. It’s a great place to stop to meditate on quiet thoughts, read a book or take an early morning swim. I have to say that my short ‘commute’ to work is one of the most beautiful I could ever imagine!

 

Interestingly, these ancient and magnificent falls were the impetus for the tourism industry here, which has been going 150 years strong. The ‘Hudson River’ school of painters (men like Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Champney, Shapleigh and many others) somehow found their way up here to our mountains from their urban studios in the early part of the 19th Century.  They painted idyllic scenes of our falls, the majestic intervales and breathtaking scenes of Mount Washington. When their works were displayed back in the cities, people naturally wanted to know where they could see these lovely places in person. They came slowly at first, staying in local farmhouses, which became the first ‘Bed & Breakfasts’. Eventually, in the height of tourism here (the 1890 -1940s) over 40 trains a day were bringing passengers to our little hamlet,  from as far away as  Boston and New York City.  Many would stay the entire summer at the grand hotels, only a few of which are still standing.  My cabin is built on the land of one of the very first farmhouses here in Jackson, and amazing stone walls still outline the  boundaries of my property.


I live on a dead end road on 2 1/2 acres of woods that overlook Mount Washington when the leaves are off the trees in winter.  I am a 5 minute walk from the falls and about the same distance in the other direction from miles and miles of the Tin Mountain Conservation Center nature trails. Hundreds of kilometers of groomed cross country ski trails are maintained by the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, the largest in the northeast, which go right past my land.  PLUS,  I’m just a 15 minute walk (or a 5 minute bike ride) from my inn.  How lucky am I?  Location, location, location!!


So now that we’re here and you’ve got the lay of the land, so to speak, let me show you around!  I’m proud of the work I’ve done this spring … from building some stone walls, staining the decks, to making shutters and window boxes. My big project was staining the exterior of the logs of my cabin with a wood preservative, that brought out the honey-gold tones of the rich patina of the old wood. (This was the project that resulted in me accidentally dumping half a bucket of oil stain on my head!). Anyway, the outside looks great now, and I love to sit out on my porch and look at nature, where moose, black bear and foxes are regular visitors through my yard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


My cabin is actually bigger than it looks, which works out great for offering some of the women’s weekend workshops I’ve designed, and perhaps some future farmgirl get-togethers I hope to host. I’ve had great plans for the kitchen since I bought it, hoping one day to transform the 50’s-style cabinets and formica countertop into more of a rustic Adirondack ‘mountain’ look. The only thing that’s blatantly missing from my farmhouse kitchen though, is my wood cookstove, something I consider a kitchen necessity.  I’ve always had one, and we sold my last one with our house because the buyer said he wouldn’t close the deal without it. Alas ... I’m still looking for the perfect stove to take its place!


The dining corner is very cozy and ‘nookish’, and I have spent days on end here writing articles on my laptop at the kitchen table. It is such a comfortable, inviting spot … a sweet little place to have family suppers and friends in for tea. (Although when we have a crowd visiting, we usually either go out on the covered porch or into the living room).  I love a roof-covered porch, don’t you?  Here I can BBQ veggies on the grill in any weather, keep my firewood supply nice and dry; sit and rock in a favorite chair and watch the sunset, which is better than any nature channel on TV. My husband wants to screen it in … but I’ve put up enough resistance so far to keep that from happening. I like that feeling of being ‘outside’ that screens just don’t deliver.  Of course, black fly season is another story altogether … and this year was a DOOSIE!  Maybe it was all the rain we had in the spring, but I have never experienced black flies like this before. I welt up like a goose-egg with each bite … and they sometimes cover my neck and the back of my ears. Oh my!! The screens seemed a bit more tempting this year as a result, but fortunately the blackflies vanished before my husband thought too much more about it.


My little living room, with its cathedral ceiling and toasty warm woodstove is THE place to be in winter!  I love to sit by the stove and knit, rocking in my favorite rocking chair.  I will never part with this chair!  I bought it after my oldest son, Chris was born (the one who just got married last month). I used to sit and nurse him, rock and sing, read books, and talk to him for hours and hours on end. Of course, all Chris’ siblings followed suit.  When Chris was about two, I was in New York City and discovered an exact replica of ‘my’ chair in miniature!  This became ‘Chris’ chair, although all the kids used it … and I still love to sit in it.  It is one of my special treasures and has many happy memories associated with it. Someday my grandchildren will rock in it beside me!


The guest room (should you ever come for a visit) is located on the first floor near the bathroom.  In it is my great-grandmother’s bed, a curly maple design from a bygone era. I love this bed, but the footboard makes it very uncomfortable for my 6 foot – 2 inch husband to stretch out and get a good night’s sleep! This room has a great view of the stream that gushes by in the springtime from all the mountain run-off. The rest of the year it’s just a peaceful place to cool my feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two rooms upstairs … the master bedroom, and the loft which also doubles as an office and some extra sleeping space.  When most people come to visit, they usually think this is the end of the tour, but actually there is a 3rd living floor on the downstairs level which I’ve finished off into my studio.

 

 

 

 

 

Log cabins by nature are a bit dark for some people’s taste. My basement studio however, is just flooded with light from banks of windows on three sides, as well as from the white plastered walls which reflect it. It is a creative, happy, airy space, and one where I spend a lot of my private time. It doubles as the music room, the art room, the read-a-book-in-front-of-the-fireplace room … a place where I can relax, let loose and be myself! Do you have a space somewhere like that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a tiny efficiency kitchen off the studio and also a bathroom down here, as well as a walk-out porch nearly as large as the one off the living room. From here I can walk right out to my campfire pit where burning brush doubles a social art in the evenings, as we are mesmerized by the log-licking flames. It’s a sacred time when words are seldom needed as each person  is bonded to another, while immersed in their own thoughts.


My woods, just beyond the firepit, are delightful, and I’ve made some hiking trails through them.  I own my own spring which feeds crystalline water to the cabin. It’s located near a wild-watercress garden and along two gigantic boulders. I’ve affectionately named them “Leatherback” and “Gibraltar” …  leftovers from  ancient glacial deposits. They’re just downhill from two enormous white pine trees (“The Sisters”) which emerge from a single trunk and rise hundreds of feet into the air. I have picked out spots in the woods where I hope to someday build a yurt and erect my tipi, and also locate a Tiny House I will someday build.  I want to get another goat, keep some more bees and start another flock of chickens, too. These are all ‘back burner’ projects that I hope to get around to … unless, that is,  something else is in the cards

And herein lies my dilemma, gals. I figure that my husband and I have about 5 good years of innkeeping left in us, after which time we will be ready to “retire” (I use that word very loosely!!). Five years from now, God willing, both of our sons will be married; Noah will have his Ph.D; our daughter will have graduated from the Maine College of Art, and Josh will be starting college if he so desires. And I?  I will be ready, willing and able to jump into about a thousand and one projects that I’ve been wanting to undertake but for the lack of time. While I would love to live the rest of my life in these mountains, my husband has had a love affair with the Maine coast for many years and dreams of buying a small peninsula or tiny island there. Surprisingly, several trips to Maine this year have given this landlubbering Farmgirl an unexpected appreciation for the rugged beauty of the breathtaking coastal scenery. What a diverse country we live in … so much variety and beauty surround us wherever we look! Will it be mountains? The coast? It can’t be both, unfortunately, so I have a decision to make ... and obviously, it’s not mine alone to make. So what’s in the future for my little mountain hideaway?  Can I even imagine parting with the comfort and security I have carved out here in this place which has so much as yet untapped potential? Or like a pioneer, can I imagine myself embarking on a new journey into an unknown (to me at least) frontier, and reinventing myself somewhere else?  Only time will tell … but it’s an interesting thought to ponder. Has anybody else recently come to a crossroads in their life, where one path would lead you in a completely different direction from the other?  What was it, and on what did you make your decision? I’d love to know … The twists and turns of the paths in our lives are certainly interesting!
Until next time,
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from 
Cathi, the Mountain Farmgirl (at least for awhile!)

 

 

 

Comments

 
By: Lora
On: 07/25/2011 09:57:14
Oh how lucky you are to have that place! I do not envy you the decision, I will never have such a choice to make, but if I did I would base it on a few things like can I still pursue the things I love to do there? I love to grow veggies, herbs, flowers and if the new locale prohibited me from doing it, I'm not sure I'd go there. All things being equal, perhaps it's time for hubby to get what he's dreamed about? It could make for a new inspiration for you as well!
 
By: Vicki McGillivray
On: 07/25/2011 10:01:41
What a lovely cabin (though cabin does not fit). We also have a cabin (really a small cabin)in NC that has been in my husband's family for generations. Have also been pondering selling so that we can get something closer to home that we could enjoy more often. But is is a tough decision and of course the kis (well all grown adults) are totally against it. But ..... I know I would never part with that beautiful place of yours. And by the way I believe I have an antique cook stove that would be just right for you. Best regards.
 
By: MaryFrantic
On: 07/25/2011 11:31:31
Just read the whole posting. Your decision is mind-boggling to me, so it's hard to imagine what all is going through YOUR head. If it were MY decision, I suppose I'd let weather patterns lead my thinking. As years go by, I'm tired of fighting "weather extremes". What do you know of these things in the coastal area your DH is considering?...HOW FAR will this separate you from your children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren?
I could not stop reading your post once I started. Thanks for sharing.
 
By: Lillian
On: 07/25/2011 11:51:50
Thank you for a beautiful article.Many blessings!
 
By: Linda
On: 07/25/2011 12:22:09
like you I'm a mountain girl until as you also discovered my love of the water so I became both - spliting the seasons in the mountains in hot summer and the warm beaches in the winter when that wasn't possible I would spend the summer on the river - in my RV. It makes it possible to have it all . . . . mountain log & timber frame, beach cottage, river yert - well I must go .......things to do, places to see, people to meet, time to spend
 
By: buckshot
On: 07/25/2011 15:28:01
My husband and I and our 2 girls have not lived in one place for more then 4 years. Our career choice moves us around regularly. The thought of NOT taking on a new adventure causes me to be afraid that I am going to miss out on something wonderful. Life is so short and there is so much to experience and so many people to befriend. Im not ready to settle down, hence we are now prepping to move from the city to 'roads end' a cabin in the woods across from the ocean, hauling water, growing gardens, buoy swings, new friends, new experiences. Thanks for sharing your story... it inspires me to continue to make the most of life's journeys.
 
By: Kirstin
On: 07/25/2011 15:43:56
what a great post! It took me awhile to read because my computer was so slow loading the page and scrolling down. Thank you for the wonderful tour!!
 
By: wrenn
On: 07/25/2011 16:47:26
You have been so blessed in your environments..i too appreciate homes that reflect much character.Currently we are living in a house built in 1895. We live near the coast but have always wanted the mountains. This house has landscaping tha kinda reminds us, but it takes a lot of work for upkeep. We too are loking at retirement,last child is off to college. The decisions are many. Ditch the character and upkeep for a simpler way? I sympathize with your xecisions. Good luck and God Bless!
 
By: Sue Hallis
On: 07/25/2011 17:41:13
I greatly enjoyed reading about your cabin. You are so lucky to have had it. I too had to come to a decision recently. My husband and I have decided to sell our home of 33 years in Illinois and move to Colorado to be near our two sons. After many sleepless nights it all came down to my husband not liking the winters in Illinois and me not liking the summers. So then the decision was simple. Hopefully someone will love our home as much as we do and want to make it theirs. At 61 this is probably the biggest adventure of my life.
 
By: Pat Hayes
On: 07/25/2011 18:42:04
You know it is wonderful that you will have this opportunity to try new things. We, married for 58 yrs, love the mts of NH and have enjoyed many years of living in NH, travelled to Maine for so many, many years.
Cannnot tell you what we enjoyed most of the two states, however nine yrs ago we visited Fl. Of all places we would never have dreamed of moving to, we did it. Now it is not NH, or ME, however it has opened up so many new adventures, new friends, new hobbies and a totally new environment for us. We are amazed that this has happened to us. Also my hubbie was the one who really wanted to try this, so why not, I felt. It was his turn so to speak.
I would continue to work and love where you are, and keep thinking ————You may never know where you might end up. (I now know, I would like to try a foreign country, somewhere cozy like and just enjoy a totally new adventure—however——
I enjoy your particular column, being a New Englander especially. However keep up the good work.
 
By: KimberlyD
On: 07/25/2011 20:21:21
Well for some reason lately I have been wanting to see the easteren states. I live in Michigan, been as far south as Georgia, saw the south west (Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona) been all the way to Califorina, lived there shortly, moved to Utah and lived there for 2 years. And now I fine myself thinking of New Hempshire, Vermont. I saw upper New York also and the maginificat Nigra falls. So thats whats been on my mind lately. Got any room at your inn? or When is one of you female retreets coming up?
 
By: Elizabeth Liljenberg
On: 07/26/2011 08:27:57
I really identify with crossroad decisions. Sometimes either decision is a good one but, if you are retiring, correcting a choice would be a nightmare. My husband and I have lived mostly in Illinois, but his work has moved us to Colorado, Kentucky, Florida, back to Illinois, and now possibly to Montana. I know whats involved in choices! Look at the tax situation in Maine. I recently read it is the worst state for that, supposedly they will tax social security payments. Hope you keep us posted as to what you do, seems to me that wherever you go you make it a home!
 
By: Jeanne
On: 07/26/2011 09:41:34
You and your husband should be together. You have had your slice of heaven on earth with your cabin for a time. The Maine coast is beautiful. The sea is calling to your husband's spirit as the mountains call to you. Go.
I believe you can find a special place that will feed both of your spirits and bring you both contentment during your retirement years.
 
By: annette
On: 07/26/2011 10:49:37
So enjoyed the post. Yes, I've been to a crossroads when we retired. Being a farmgirl at heart, I yearned to leave CA where job & family had kept us in the smog, traffic, & hysteria. We were lead to Idaho (too long a story to tell here) & I was ecstatic, visualizing open space & unending garden opportunities, chickens maybe. The realtor showed us a house in a new subdivision on a golf course & my husband was in heaven. Needless, to say, here I am. I decided it was my retirement too, so have made the best of a garden space & cultivated new friends. No I don't play golf & I have no chickens, but there are always compensations when one looks for them. My husband is so happy & we love the ambiance of Idaho. We look out on lots of green grass & trees & the wildlife is fabulous. So, it all comes down to attitude.
 
By: Ruth
On: 07/30/2011 18:37:42
INCREDIBLE!! Sounds like each place you've lived had a lot to offer and was a great adventure for you!! But I have to say that the cabin is my pick!! Would lasso it and make it mine if I could!! Hope you have MANY years of enjoyment ahead there! Thanks for sharing! :)Ruth
 
By: Gail
On: 07/31/2011 19:59:48
My family also chose to move to Monroe,NH (in the North Country) to retire from Philadelphia. Many of our friends thought us crazy especially since our 2 daughters are still school age, which required them to be uprooted from their settled lives. Our teenager was most upset to move but I kept telling her to trust me. Once she started high school at the private school in Vermont that our small school district uses as its public school she understood and now in her senior year thanks me often. Our younger daughter, my husband and I are still finding our way but are sure we made the right decision to move. I do know that I am teaching my daughters the Farmgirl life with our vegetable garden and animals: 1 english setter, 2 cats and most importantly our pet chickens--2 roosters and 5 hens all named. Thank you for sharing your bit of heaven in Jackson. Hopefully our paths will cross.
 
By: PJ
On: 08/03/2011 06:11:55
Good Morning, Cathi ~ What a delightful dilemma but I can understand how hard this must be for you. If it were me and I could afford to pay the taxes on the cabin, I would definitely keep it for a get-away. The Maine coast is beautiful ~ my husband was born and spent some of his teenage years in Eastport but we both love living in New Hampshire. Why not have, literally, the best of both worlds. Good Luck ~ I wish you well. I hope that you can continue to keep this website running from Maine. Maybe your new name will be "Coastal Cathi".
 
By: Jacqueline
On: 08/03/2011 12:04:11
Cathi, what an opportunity in front of you to take a leap of faith. I can't give you any great nuggets of wisdom re this crossroads you find yourself in other than to trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. If you stay in the beautiful mountains of Vermont or if you go to the beautiful state of Maine you are blessed to have wonderful options in front of you. My husband and I just got back from a trip to VT, NH, MAINE. We drove through those white mountains and were looking for somewhere to stay. I sure wish I would have known where you were in relation to where we were. Maybe we would have met in a serendipitious surprise! I live in the suburbs of Amish Country, in Lancaster PA but if there were classes your way, I would drive in a heartbeat. I am very new to MaryJanes and so would love to know how to find information on get togethers, classes, etc...
 
By: Mary Fitzpatrick
On: 08/06/2011 17:09:33
It appears that you have your very own peace of heaven. I crave for the tranquility that lies in that wonderful cabin you call home. Enjoy and thanks for sharing.
 
By: Francie F. Brevis-Martinez
On: 09/19/2011 10:37:53
Wow! What a lovely and restfull place you have and all the memories! What a wonderfull blessing. We live in NE WA. State about 1 hour from the Canadien border. I am not as isolated as you are but I wish I was. I prefer the solitude and to enjoy G-d's awesome creation. I still hear vehicles going by and I would like to hear the wind whispering and the wild life more that the road that is about 1,000 feet away but this is our slice of heaven for now. We liv ein 20 acres and have shetland sheep, nigerian dwarf goats and chickens(for eggs only). I dream of a place hidden in the thick tall forests and in the tall mountains that I enjoy and see more wildlife at a closer range....but I love your place, the way you have created an oasis in a lovely and secluded area with such gorgeous mountains and trees..May you be blessed and rejoice and enjoy.....
 
By: Brenda
On: 09/28/2011 12:55:47
Hi Cathi~thank you for taking the time to share your beautiful home with us. My heart sighed when I read about the decision you have to make. I know you have to be the one to make the decision of whether or not to give up what you love for the unknown (can you tell where this is going:), but I couldn't help but throw in my 2 cents. Many years ago, as a single woman, I moved from the Alps of Austria (long story) and bought my own farm in the North Georgia Mountains. The minute I drove up the drive to meet the seller, I felt like I was home. For the next three years, I sweated and toiled, but loved every minute of it. I raised goats and chickens, built a beautiful vegetable garden, drove a tractor, watched the sun set and rise over the barn and ate many meals out at the picnic table looking over the mountains. I loved that farm and it became a part of my identity. One day, my parents convinced me that the perfect life I had wasn't enough, so I married. The wonderful farm became a house of horrors. We divorced after six years, my father had a stroke, I got cancer (I'm well now), I had to sell the animals, the farm, and give up everything that had become my passion. I moved close to the Florida border to help my parents and I've been here ever since. Now 16 years have passed that I have been living in the city, living a life that is lacking in love and a passion that each and every day had while I was on the farm. My dream is to have a few acres in the mountains, but I'm 60 years old now and I'm flying solo. I desperately want my life back, but the reality is, I probably never will. I live in the past by reading MaryJanes Farm and like magazines and I dream. I can hear and sense the passion that you have for your life on your mountain property. It seems like a part of your identity. I'm afraid if you give it up now and leave, you will be leaving a very important part of your soul behind. Maybe you could find a house to rent in Maine for a month on the coast line to see how you like it. Make a temporary move before you give up your place now. There are plenty of people retirees who would love to house-sit for you in the mountains while you explore Maine. Wade a little before you dive in. Well, that's just my 2 cents.

Leave a comment

Commenting is restricted to registered users only. Please register or login now to submit a comment.

Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir