Poetry Friday: The Props assist the House – Emily Dickinson


We first saw the inside of our 1861 farmhouse on a bleak mid-winter day.  The dirt road leading up the hill to it was icy in parts, and the driveway to the house itself was a challenge to maneuver without slipping and skidding all over the place.  Our broker led us to a side door, the window pane to which was broken.  The storms had fallen off a few windows, and screens hung askew off others.  It was not a promising start, and I could see that our broker was puzzled about why we would want to see even see this house, given that she had just shown us one that was “all done and move in ready”.

The farmhouse had been unoccupied for some time, and we could see our breath in the pale sunlight that filtered through the windows as we went from room to room.  At some point, I think it was when I stepped onto the front porch and saw the view of the Black Creek Valley, I stopped listening to the litany of wrongs that our broker was pointing out at every turn.  By the time we’d toured the barns and walked around the property as best we could, I knew that this was home.  And that this home would require a lot of work.

That work began in earnest this year, my first of living at the farm full time.  Bit by bit, we are addressing that “litany of wrongs” I had found listening to so aggravating and beside the point that first day.  You love a house for inexplicable reasons, especially if it is an old house which speaks to you.  Our broker, lovely person though she was, seemed not to understand this.

The biggest project, we knew, was the kitchen.  Having renovated a kitchen once before, I know what we are in for: weeks of camp style life, untidiness, chaos.  But a part of me looked forward to making new discoveries about the history of the house – which part was added when, and perhaps what this part of the house looked like when originally constructed all those years ago.   And, I have not been disappointed.

For instance, the house was built with a back porch which was later enclosed to enlarge the kitchen, here’s the original clapboard:


and the many wall paper iterations of the kitchen that followed:


and the way the original wood stove was taken out to make way for a range:

Slowly, in my minds eye, I am getting closer to envisioning what this house looked like before it became my home.  I feel closer to understanding its soul.

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7 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: The Props assist the House – Emily Dickinson

  1. Tara, I have loved following your adventure with the farm. Uncovering the wallpaper in the kitchen is so intriguing. We found yellow chicken wallpaper during our kitchen renovation-very 1950s-like. A few weeks ago we traveled through Central New York loving the country roads and farmsteads with red barns. I thought of you then. Someday I would love to see the finished product of your labors. Happy renovations to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure I would have had the courage to take on this kind of task, but I admire your tenacity. We are in the process of renovating a house my partner and I inherited from his parents. The basement is done and now we are arguing over what to do with the main floor. I look forward to learning about your progress.

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  3. How perfectly an old soul this house is…and I can see the attraction. There are layers of life there. Just perfect for thinking and writing and spending time. Enjoy the “work.” Thank you for sharing a bit of your joy with us in The Props. I have so enjoyed this visit.


  4. Oh, my heart! Besides being a poem about houses and lives, this is a poem about teaching! I had the joy last week at the district convocation of one of my former students affirming the scaffold (me)!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Tara, I was delighted to find your post about your first encounter with the farmhouse and to find Emily Dickenson’s poem included with it. I am reaching out because I, too, had a very similar encounter with an old farmhouse on a hill, and my experiences with the Victorian eventually led to my new novel manuscript Blueprint (yet to be published). The novel also references the Props Assist the House and brings the first families to live in the house to life. I am happy to share a copy if you are interested in reading Blueprint. PS – I am a retired art teacher/art educator.


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