The Farmhouse Windows

When Carolyn and I moved into the 1794 farmhouse on what would later become the Currant Farm, the first feature that captured my imagination was the twenty-one, 6 over 6, double hung, sash windows most of which still contained wavy glass panes from the 18th century. Sash windows were invented after the Great Fire of 1666 in England. They were conceived as a means of escape. But I was not thinking of escape as I sat in one of the downstairs rooms for the first time and looked out through the hallowed glass at the late summer hay that climbed up the hill from the ancient stone wall on the other side of the lane. I mused about how many eyes have looked through this same undulating pane at this very scene over the last two centuries. That moment was the first of countless occasions I have gazed through the farmhouse windows and felt a direct connection with the former farmers and families who grew up and grew old in this storied farmhouse and experienced this view, through this very glass and the contemplations and emotions of their moments.
The house needed a lot of work back then. I decided to start with the windows because they were the true connection between the house and the farm beyond. The 200-year-old sashes and frames were fused together from decades of paint. Each was lovingly taken apart, scrapped down to the bare wood, sanded, repaired and reinstalled. When the house was built, each window would have been hand made so there were minor differences in sizes. I made sure to treat the fragile glass with the care of fine ornaments so that each frame could be returned back to the place it’s lived all these years with its original wavy glass pane. The unique rippling of the glass was caused by the glass blowing process used to make them back then. No two alike. The project took close to a year to complete.
The hill across the lane is no longer home to hay. I’ve converted to the honey bee wildflower field for my apiary. I feel a sense of alliance with nature when summer adorns the 6-acre hill with the wildflowers I’ve seeded and weeds brought in by dozens of my feathered neighbors. The result of this partnership between the birds and I is a pollinator’s Shangri-la. My bees, which dwell a mere 50 meters from this Eden of nectar and pollen, produce the most exquisite honey. And since this medley of flowers and weed seeds has become home to insects and spiders in multitudes that rival the stars, it’s a songbird’s paradise.
As the summer wanes, the view through the windows reveals the pollinated blossoms falling from the stems, leaving a crop of countless seeds softly dropping to soil below to become next year’s progeny. The colors of the late summer hill are painted by the pre-frost golden rod and the purple and pink hues of the autumn asters. It’s about this time that the hardwoods on the top of the field begin to sing their kaleidoscopic adieu in the flat sunlight of autumn.
The first crystals of frost in the corners of the antique slips of glass on a frigid autumn morning always excite me with the anticipation of a crackling fireplace, sweaters and hearty harvest meals.
These are but a few of the everyday miracles I view from the farmhouse windows.
Mostly though, I am humbled by the awareness of the hundreds of eyes that have also contemplated the farm and their lives through these very windows. Farmers looking out to see if it’s finally begun to rain on the newly planted seeds or has finally stopped raining before the crops are washed out. Watching the beautiful, deadly crystals of a late spring frost that have killed this year’s blossoms along with this year’s crop. Contentedly viewing a torrential summer rain that mercifully held off until all the hay was harvested and stored away in the barn. Or the excited eyes of children with noses pressed up against the cold, aged glass viewing the new fallen blanket of snow and a mother later watching them build winter’s first snowman while contemplating wet boots, soaked jackets and hot chocolate.
A nervous young girl anxiously watching for her new handsome beau to ride up in his newly painted horse drawn wagon clutching freshly picked wildflowers. A worried father vacantly staring at the empty dark through that same window, waiting for his precious daughter to return from the dance.
An anxious mother fixated on the empty void beyond a single pane with glassy eyes, desperately hoping today will be the day her son returns from a war.
Throughout the history of this old house, all the emotions of humankind, all the emotions of a simple farmer’s family, joy, fear, anticipation, disappointment, excitement, sadness and love have played out though these humble panes of
ancient glass.
Cheers from the Currant Farm,
Greg Quinn