ABOVE Writer Eliot Daley stands in front of the Waldoboro farmhouse his family acquired decades after it was sold by his son-in-law’s grandparents.
TEXT BY ELIOT DALEY
PHOTOGRAPHS BY TARA RICE
Every time we crested the hill approaching our swimming pond in the woods, we’d glance longingly toward the 1860s farmhouse across the road. The yearning reflected a poignant wish that the grandmother in our clan, who owned but then sold the farmstead and most of the surrounding land, had passed it on to future generations instead. She had retained the evergreen forest and pristine pond, so we took day trips there often. But the home had long been in other hands.
The story of our connection to this farmhouse has a few loops and tangles — and four generations of men named Kenneth. For me, it begins with my son-in-law Kenneth (KCS the third), whose paternal grandparents, Kenneth and Grace, purchased a 40-acre spread in Waldoboro with a sturdy little farmhouse, a fine barn, a pig sty, an apple orchard, and a wooden chicken coop in the mid-1930s. Shortly thereafter, Kenneth suddenly died and Grace, pregnant with their son, KCS Jr., decided to trade rural Maine for New Jersey. She divided the property into two parcels flanking the dirt road, one encompassing the farmhouse and a pair of outbuildings on 30 acres; the other contained the chicken coop and remaining 10 acres. She sold the homestead, but kept the smaller parcel, which also included half of a 10-acre spring-fed pond rimmed with granite rocks and tall pines. Every summer while KCS Jr. was growing up, Grace brought him there to camp in the cleaned-up chicken coop and splash in the pond. As an adult, KCS Jr. did the same with his son, “our” Kenneth, and his daughter.
ABOVE 1) Eliot and his wife, Patti, pose with their daughter, Ali Daley Stevenson (in white), son-in-law, Kenneth Stevenson III, granddaughter, Riley Anne Stevenson, and Kenneth’s stepmother, Debbie Stevenson (in black). 2) The reconstructed barn.
While the Kenneths were camping in Waldoboro, my wife, Patti, and I and our three children discovered MacMahan Island, in Sheepscot Bay, and spent many happy summers in our cottage there. After our daughter, Ali, went off to college, met our Kenneth, and had KCS IV, we moved from MacMahan to a Bowdoinham glade with a cottage, a sleeping cabin, and a large dining shelter situated beside a meandering stream and shallow lily pond. When our kids, their partners, and our grandchildren visited, we’d often schlep to Waldoboro to swim in the nicer pond on the farm property, now owned by Kenneth’s stepmother.
By 2009, we’d outgrown our little compound and went looking for another waterfront place. Once or twice we were totally enchanted with some aging cottage oozing with charm only to learn that its lake or pond was ruined with milfoil and not likely to enchant swimmers. Driving to see yet another house for sale, the route took us past our beloved pond. We glanced with idle affection, as always, at the ancient farmhouse across the road. Only this time we noticed a Realtor’s sign newly planted next to the mailbox. We swerved over and bought the place on the spot.
With the two halves of the original property now informally reunited, we set about creating a place where the three generations would have plenty of room to gather and frolic. We built an addition on the farmhouse to provide more bedrooms, a great room, and a rec room. The surrounding acres became a sprawling lawn for football, frisbee, soccer, and volleyball, and short-game golf practice for me. A local woodworker with a stash of antique barn boards built us a dining table to seat 16, and its mismatched chairs are filled much of the time.
ABOVE An old photograph guided the reconstruction of the barn.
At some earlier point, the original barn had been pulled down. But several watercolors done by Grace, an artist, in the 1930s and a much older photograph of the full-fledged farm guided us in reconstructing a new one. The long-neglected apple orchard is still a work in progress, but delights us with its exuberant billows of blossoms in spring and random smattering of apples in fall. To remind us of those fragrant flowers all year, we call the place Apple Blossom Farm.
The latest plot twists? In 2018, Ali and Kenneth moved into the farmhouse full-time, having landed jobs nearby. They’ve added chickens, sheep, and too many dogs for me to keep track of. And one day, with the happy consent of Ali’s siblings, they’ll inherit the place, formalizing the reunion of those long-ago divided parcels. And just last year, Kenneth’s stepmother purchased the 18-acre property abutting ours, across from her pond. Kenneth mowed a path that weaves through the tall grasses and apple trees between our homes.
Patti and I continue to spend much of the year here as well, content in knowing that Apple Blossom Farm will stay in the family indefinitely. We cherish the realization that our adult grandchildren are on the threshold of adding yet another generation of youngsters who will spend their growing-up years here. I fully expect there to be a KCS V in the mix.
Eliot Daley’s long career has included teaching, ministry, consulting, management, and writing. Most memorably, he served as producer and co-writer of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with Fred Rogers. He currently writes articles and opinion pieces for national publications and for his blog, The Daley Almanac. He and his wife, Patti, divide their time between Princeton, New Jersey, and Waldoboro.