The Life of a Farmhouse

Captain Kangaroo talking with Grandfather Clock.
Captain Kangaroo talking with Grandfather Clock.

When I was a kid, I’d occasionally watch “Captain Kangaroo” on TV. One of the characters on the show was Grandfather Clock. He was a tall, normal-looking grandfather clock, except he had a cartoon-like face and he talked. He often talked about whatever was on his mind and how he felt about it.  I thought about Grandfather Clock today because I’ve been having a conversation in my mind with our farmhouse, another supposedly inanimate object just like Grandfather Clock. The farmhouse (FH) was rather talkative and she let me know how she was feeling. FH has feelings, too. At least in my mind she does.

Painting of the farmhouse about ten years ago.
Painting of the farmhouse about ten years ago.

What prompted this conversation is that the farmhouse will be going through another transition over the next month. Whispering Winds will be going on hiatus. The farmhouse will become home to a family for the next couple years while this family is in a transition period.

I asked FH how she feels about this change. She responded, “I’m looking forward to having Mike and Nancy live here. I’ve enjoyed welcoming new people every week or so, but I’m ready for some consistency for a while.  And, Mike said he loves to do yard work. I know you and Mim try to keep up with the weeding, lawn mowing, trimming shrubs, and cutting asparagus and rhubarb, but I can tell it’s a struggle for both of you to keep up with everything. I think Mike may treat the yard more lovingly than you have been doing lately.”

“That’s probably true,” I agreed. “But won’t you miss all the warm feelings shared by the people who come here for retreats?”

“Oh, I’m sure I will, but I expect we’ll go back to welcoming guests here again before too long. I have a 122-year history of welcoming guests into my rooms. I’ve had thousands of people within my walls. Some have stayed for just a day or two. Some guests have become part of the family and have stayed for several years.”

“That’s a long history, FH. Tell me a little about it.”

Marian's grandfather, Martin Kenseth, plowing with horses.
Marian’s grandfather, Martin Kenseth, plowing with horses.

“I don’t remember my first couple decades very well. I know I was built in 1890. My memory of the first family who lived in me is pretty fuzzy. But I remember the second family well. It was your grandparents and your mom and her brothers. They came to live here in 1908. Your mom was just three weeks old when they moved in. A year later your mom was blessed with a baby brother, and then a few years later she got another baby brother. The whole family worked really hard on the farm – milking cows, taking care of chickens, and driving a team of horses to work the fields. But no one worked on Sundays, except for what really had to be done, like milking the cows. Instead, everyone went to church both in the morning and in the evening. But the afternoons were for relaxing and having fun. Throughout the summer, all the kids from church came out to the farm to play baseball on the lawn by the road. Your grandma made root beer for everyone to quench their thirst. All the kids had so much fun!”

“Yeah. I remember my mom talked about how much fun they had playing together here. Everyone really liked my grandma’s root beer, too. Another thing my mom told me about my grandma is that she was constantly rearranging the rooms in the house. My mom said that at some time or other, every room of the house was her bedroom. Is that true?”

FH laughed. “Well, she may have exaggerated a little. But your grandma did move things around a lot. That’s one way she kept me clean. When you move all the furniture out of a room, it’s easy to clean it thoroughly before moving any furniture back in.”

“When I grew up in the house, I always had the same bedroom.”

Building the new barn about 1955.
Building the new barn about 1955.

“Yes, I think your mom compensated for the disruption in her life of constantly changing rooms by never, ever, changing the rooms or rearranging any furniture within a room when she was in charge. When your grandparents retired, they moved to a small house in town, and your parents took over the farm. Your mom loved living here. Your mom and dad modernized the farm to mid-1950’s standards. They built a new barn and they made quite a few improvements to the house – like indoor plumbing, electricity, and a furnace. They added a new kitchen, too.”

“I’ve always loved living here, too. It’s out in the country, but it’s close to town. It’s just so peaceful here. That’s what most of our guests have said about our home. It’s so peaceful.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Marian. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to serve as a peaceful refuge for so many people. I think one of the reasons for the peacefulness people sense here is that God has been directly invited several times to be present within my walls. Your mom first had a house blessing sometime in the 1970’s. The pastor walked through the house, room by room, with your parents and some of their friends and invited God to be present at all times in each room throughout the whole house.”

“I remember my mom telling me about that, but I was living in Chicago at the time, so I wasn’t here for it. But Mim and I had house blessings, too, when we turned you into Country Comforts Bed & Breakfast, and when we became handicapped accessible, and when we became a retreat center, and…”

“That’s right. But you’re getting ahead of my story. After your parents died, you decided to have your brother remodel me into your dream house. What a “facelift” that was! You stretched me from a 1500 square foot century-old farmhouse into a 3000 square foot country home with plenty of space for guests. The expansion was a real shock to my system, but I’m glad you did it.”

Mim's mom (Selma), Mim and me on the front porch
Mim’s mom (Selma), Mim and me on the front porch

“I’m glad we did it, too. We completed the remodeling just in time. About half a year after we moved within your walls, Mim’s mom had a stroke. She became our first long-term guest. She lived with us almost five years.”

“Mim’s mom liked to have guests, too. Quite a few of her friends from Minnesota came to visit and they stayed in my rooms for a few days when she was living with you. That was a good warm-up for my next phase – when you named me “Country Comforts Bed & Breakfast.”

“You have gone through a lot of changes, FH.”

“You’re right about that. A lot of changes and a lot of guests! Over 2,000 guests stayed in my guest rooms over the next five years. They came from all over – from 45 states and 12 foreign countries. It was so much fun to share the peacefulness of the farm setting with so many people. Some people fell so much in love with me that they came back again and again. Some of them even chose one of my rooms as their favorite to return to a couple times a year.”

“That’s when Mim and I decided it was time to stretch you even further – we put on another 600 square foot addition so that we could more easily accommodate people in wheelchairs and with other physical limitations.”

“Yeah. You thought you were doing it for B&B guests, but God had something more in mind. After September 11, 2001, travel declined significantly. You decided to adapt all my doorways a little, put in permanent ramps, and you changed my name again – from ‘Country Comforts Bed & Breakfast’ to ‘Country Comforts Assisted Living.’ That was quite a change, too, but those years were very satisfying. I became ‘home’ to ten elderly people over the next five years, two or three at a time.”

“How did you feel in 2007, FH, when we decided to leave you and move to a new condo in the pasture? You knew we were trying to sell you. Did that hurt?”

“I was a little apprehensive, not knowing who would come along to buy me. But, with more than a hundred years of God bringing the right people through my doors, I knew whoever came next would be the right people. When no one seemed to want to buy me, I couldn’t understand why. But then it became clear. And you caught on, too. God wanted us to be together a while longer. That’s when you renamed me ‘Whispering Winds Retreat Haven.’ I became a B&B-style retreat center. That was my best identity yet. I love having people come through my doors to spend quiet time praying and listening for what God has to say to them.”

“And that brings us to the present – on the verge of another change. Are you okay with it, FH? To have just one family living with you for a couple years?”

“Like I said before, with all the house blessings we’ve had, I know that God will always be within my rooms. Whoever comes through my doors will be blessed. I’m sure that will be the case for Mike and Nancy, and for whoever comes after them, whether I return to being Whispering Winds and welcome more guests coming on retreat, or whether there is some other use for my next phase. I know that God will always be with me, and that makes every next phase a great adventure.”

“I’m glad you feel that way, FH.”

“There’s something I’ve been wondering about you, Marian. When my ‘Whispering Winds’ identity goes on hiatus next month, are you going to keep writing the Whispering Winds Blog?”

“I plan to keep writing every Monday, just as I have for the last couple years. Obviously I won’t be talking about what’s going on at Whispering Winds, but I’m sure God will prompt me to write about other things. I really enjoy the online conversation I’m having with my readers.”

“Good! I’m ready to move on to my next adventure.”

“Me, too!”

The farmhouse this fall
The farmhouse this fall

7 responses to “The Life of a Farmhouse”

  1. Oh, my goodness! Your Farmhouse has so many stories. I am certainly looking forward to whatever the next one will be. But this is such a big change. I do hope all is well?

    1. Thanks for your concern. Everything is going well. Mim and I have been so busy with changing the focus of Country Comforts Assisted Living from typical assisted living to end-of-life care, that I have felt overwhelmed with managing Whispering Winds too. A two-year hiatus for Whispering Winds is welcome relief. Then we’ll see what the next phase is for the farmhouse. With its 122-year history of being a home centered on hospitality, I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next, too.

  2. Brenda Stolzenburg Avatar
    Brenda Stolzenburg

    Thank you so much for your weekly blog, I enjoy it very much. I especially enjoy all the pictures of you, Mim and your beautiful farmhouse. I have gotten to know you better through your writing and look forward to reading your completed book one day. You have a gift for taking the ordinary moments of life and turning them into something special. I hope you both enjoy your much deserved rest from yard work and maintenance!

    1. Thanks. Glad you enjoy the blog. If I can stick with my plans, my first book, LISTENING FOR GOD: 52 REFLECTIONS ON EVERYDAY LIFE, should be published early next year. It’s currently in the design stage at the publisher. My second book, COME, LORD JESUS, BE OUR GUEST, is the one I’m working on at Christmas Mountain this week. I hope to complete the first draft this week, and then finish all my revisions in January during another week at Christmas Mountain.

  3. Gretchen Lord Anderson Avatar
    Gretchen Lord Anderson

    Good to hear FH’s thoughts. She’s so beautiful…inside and out. 🙂

  4. Marian,
    I am eagerly awaiting to see what your forthcoming blogs will be about. This was another wonderful blog and very endearing having your farmhouse speak for itself. I read “Guideposts” and so enjoy the monthly writing called “His Mysterious Ways.” Wouldn’t it be interesting to have people share on your blog there interesting, and perhaps amazing, experiences that are definitely God-given. Or perhaps people sharing an event that truly brought them closer to God. Anyway, these are some personal areas I find so very interesting. Whatever you write about in your forthcoming blogs, they will, undoubtedly, continue to be as enlightening and insightful as they have been in the past.

  5. Hey there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through some of
    the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be
    bookmarking and checking back often!

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