Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Our Little Slice Of Heaven

This old house that we own is 151 years old this year. Doesn't look it from the outside, or from the inside for that matter. A couple owned the home for over 60 years until they passed. It was then bought by a man that only lived in it for a short time, and then rented it out after buying another home out of town.

For an old house it has had many upgrades over time. The floor plan is not what it was in 1858. After some exploring in the nooks and crannies after we bought it, I have found the many of the newer parts, and the older parts, but still I am unable to make sense of the original configuration. I have a neighbor that lives across the street, Beverly, and she is in her 80's and she told me a few things about this old house on Brookfield Road. First of all, she lived on the second floor with her parents when she was very young. It was a second floor apartment then, and her parents worked for the family that owned the house. Where the current garage is now was a general store. She also told me that the neighborhood men would gather in the back room of the store on Sundays and "drink" themselves silly.

This may explain all the old bottles that turn up on the edge of the yard after every rain. I have found all sorts of bottles on the edge of the property before it slopes down into the stream. I've thrown buckets of broken glass away over the last three years, and I've found all sorts of old cans, and other remnants of days gone by. It was common practice back then to heave your trash onto a place in the yard that could be buried. No trash pickup back then. Other trash was usually burned in an incinerator at the house, or in a barrel in the yard.

After the general store closed, it moved across the street into the what is now the front of an other neighbors home.

Lots of changes over the last 80 years, or so, here on Brookfield Road.

Besides the bottles, the couple that owned the house most of the last century did leave a prettier legacy. There is a tall, mature flowering crab apple tree on the side of the house, a pear tree, and a peach tree. A white flowering Dogwood shades the edge of the side lawn. Many of the shrubs they planted years, and years ago have grown into trees, and required extensive cutting back and pruning when we moved in. The perennials had all been infested with weeds, the lilac bush was in bad need of a pruning which Mary took care of with the skill of an arborist. All the trees and shrubs had been neglected for many years, and had grown into a tangled woodland with vines growing up along side of all the trees.

It was a mess.

Over the past three years we have tried to bring it back. It is obvious that the property was loved by those that owned it before us, and if we could bring back some of what they had planted it would be great. We managed to do that, and to save much of what was neglected. A total f 30 pickup truck loads of debris were moved out of the yard from weeds, to brush. We fed and reseeded the lawn, and it has shown its appreciation by thickening up and staying green most of the season. We planted perennials, a Japanese Maple, and a flowering Cherry tree as well. We also reclaimed the shrubs in front of the house.

This past weekend we drove over to Lamoreuxs Nursery in Brookfield and picked up our yearly collection of hanging plants for the back of the house, and also purchased two Rugosa Rose bushes (Cape Cod roses) for the corner of the front yard. The hanging flowers for the front will come soon as well.

It's a process, and one that we enjoy. I try to keep in mind that although we are doing this for us, and in a way also paying some homage to those that have come before us, that we are merely the caretakers of this little spit of land in Fiskdale. There will be others that will come after us. What we do here now, will in a way, be our legacy for years to come.

Spring time is a great time of year for these reasons. Readying the yard for summer enjoyment, and setting the stage for a yearly unveiling of color.

It is nice to watch your little slice of heaven reveal itself to you each year, and the additions you have planted have a way of rooting you deeper to your land.

It's now the middle of May, and soon we will be out there sticking the annuals in the ground. Each year we try to do something a bit different along the front walkway, and this year we will think hard as we explore the flats of flowers at the local nurseries.

I am always open to suggestions.

With the repair of the sun porch now complete, which was last years project, we are now planning the Big Project for the Summer of 2009. I am leaning toward building a walkway, and patio, and building the well needed shed next year. Maybe a pergola over a portion of the patio. I build things in my head first, and seldom put them on paper, which at times has given a Dr. Seuss flavor to what I've built, but I have gotten better. However, maybe a sense of Whoville would be kinda fun in the backyard.

If you see me sitting on a suitcase in my front yard, then you will know that Mary did not share in the same vision.

No matter where you live here in town, your land, or home has a history. Explore that history. Check out the old photos of homes at the library, and the extensive histories about the land here in town. If your house is newer, your land has always been here. It's fun to find out what had been there before. You can contact the Historical Society for any specific help as well, Bob Briere is always willing to share his knowledge, and set you in the right direction for more research.

I am off today, no work till tomorrow. The grass is still covered with dew, so the mower will have to wait till the later today for its run along the lawn. In the meantime, I will do some thinking on that walkway, and patio. I may even use some paper to lay it all out. If you know where I can get a large quantity of large, flat stones on the cheap, let me know.

There's just something about going to a stone yard, and paying a premium for rocks that brings out the frugality in me.


  1. Don't know if you also plant a vegetable garden, if your yard is like mine, when you dig a hole for a tree you get 10 feet of stone to start another wall, anyhow, opted for raised beds for the vegetables, wonderful.
    Also if you're putting down mulch, check out Velvet Greene on Route 20 , best mulch I've seen, really dresses up the flower beds.

  2. I have had lousy luck with vegetable gardens in the past. The tomatoes I planted last may were killed by a late frost, and their replacements didn't fair so well. A raised bed is something I would like to try. Velvet Greene is a great place, I should ahve mentioned them n the post. I have bought mulch and plants there in the past. Salli is very knowledgeable, and a great help to anyone. Her knowledge of herbs is fantastic!

  3. Hi Wally!

    I do have a suggestion: try selecting native plants instead of non-native plants. Native plants will take to the native soil and light conditions much easier, and native animals and insects will enjoy the blossoms (if flowering plants.) Birds that eat seeds from non-native plants pass them through their systems and further the growth of non-native species.

    Good luck with your yard! I'm sure it will be beautiful!

  4. Excellent suggestion! Thank you!

  5. lets see cape cod roses, japanese maple, up a magnolia for fathers day and you have...I yard!!


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