52 Ancestors – #39 – Grandpa’s Farm

My parents were “city folk.” My mother was born in the beautiful city of Vienna, Austria and emigrated to the New York City suburb of New Rochelle in 1938. My father, Alan Samuel, was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York before moving to New Rochelle where he met, then married my mother. (She actually did marry the “boy next door!”) Following a short stint in Japan, (Dad was in the Navy), they settled in the city of New Haven, Connecticut in 1958. In 1959, we moved to the suburban town of Hamden. By 1961, my parents separated. My father moved to New Haven, then in the mid-1960s he and his second wife emigrated to Toronto, Canada where he would spend the remaining years of his life.
Other than Mom loving her gardens and Dad digging a brook trench in the backyard of our Hamden home, I never thought of them as “outside people.” So, I was quite surprised when my father and his third wife purchased 50 acres of farmland in a little town about an hour away from Toronto.
Google satellite image of the farm, You get a sense of the length of the driveway from this photo.

I don’t know the exact circumstances of the purchase (somewhere in the early 70s, I think), but my father told me he had always wanted to own a farm, that he loved being able to “work the land.” O.K. I always thought of my father as an “academic.” In fact, the only “hands-on” thing I ever knew about him was a story my mother told me – he smashed a hole in the foundation of our house in order to create a window in the basement. They ended up having to purchase a custom-made window since he never measured the hole first!!
Anyway – back to the farm. In the beginning, Dad and Valerie only stayed on the farm during weekends and summers when Dad wasn’t teaching. Eventually, he retired to the farm full-time, hoping to make a go of the land by growing and selling Christmas trees. In 1987, he built a kennel and Valerie opened her business, Guelphline Kennels, where she bred and sold Labrador Retrievers. (We were the proud owners of one of her pups, who we named Magnum) 
Valerie captioned this July 1987 photo.
“Alan is building him and others a kennel-see how appreciative the pup is.”
Dad and Valerie weren’t just creating a farm, they were also creating a family. Within a few years, they adopted a boy and two girls (names withheld for privacy reasons) who would become my 9th, 10th, and 11th siblings.
So – that’s the back story. Let me share a few of my memories of visiting the farm, which I’m sure are quite different from those of siblings who lived on the farm full-time.
My first memory of visiting the farm was the summer of 1974. Things weren’t going well for Richard Nixon at the time. I have a vivid memory of my father trying to rig up some kind of antennae for the tiny TV so we could watch Nixon’s resignation on the news.
My next memory probably was the same summer. Valerie took me aside and informed me that should I ever find myself “accidentally pregnant”, she and my father would be happy to raise the child. I guess they really did want a family together!! I was just 19 at the time, by the way.
The log cabin was really quite rustic in the beginning. There was nothing really separating the sleeping areas from the bathing area upstairs and the first floor was basically an open space with a small kitchen on one wall.
The land was very overgrown. A long dirt driveway led (and still does – see satellite photo above) into the property from the main road. I have a vague (and frightening) memory of waking up in the bushes alongside the driveway. I had fallen asleep while driving the long trip from Connecticut and went off the road! On the right side of the driveway was (and still is, I believe) a rusty building that served as a pig barn. Just past the cabin was/is a large barn for storing equipment. Behind the barn was/is the pond. More about that later.
After living in very rustic (aka “barely livable”) conditions, Dad upgraded the cabin. He built the chimney for the fireplace himself (Oh! Just remembered – he did build a gorgeous rock wall after terracing our Hamden home’s backyard. See – that’s why we write these stories down. Looking back now, I guess he really was an “outside” boy.) Ambient heating was installed under the first-floor tiles to keep the room cozier in the winter. Most importantly, an addition was built that housed a brand-new kitchen and living room space and several bedrooms and bathrooms.
My memory is a little sketchy on timelines. (Total disclosure – it’s a little sketchy, period!) At one point, in the 70s, my mom and stepdad visited the farm. It was the one time we all were at the farm at the same time. (“We” included my brother who is the child of my mom and step-dad.)
1970-something. Left-to-Right: My Mom-Doris, my stepdad-Alife, my stepmother-Valerie, and my Dad-Alan

Left-to-Right: Dad, sister Betsy, Valerie, me, sister Kathy, sister Jeanne, Valerie’s son. In fromt: brother Dean.

The pond in 1970-something
Fast forward to October 1986. That would be the next time I visited the farm. Our daughter, Caitlin was one-and-a-half years old. For the previous ten years or so I had only rare contact with Dad. (He did come to my wedding in 1983 with all his kids though!) Now that Dad was a grandfather, it seemed a good idea to try and build a relationship. I must admit he was ready for that! Probably a subject for a separate post, but Dad really enjoyed being Grandpa! 
Going up to Canadian Thanksgiving that year was a lot of fun! (Except for the pot-bellied pig who ate Caitlin’s cereal!) According to pictures, my sisters Betsy and Kathy were there as well! My favorite memory from the Thanksgiving meal was my father’s discovery of the pan of stuffing in the oven – as we were washing up the dishes after dinner!
Dad, flanked by Betsy on the left and Kathy on the right.

Scott in 1986! Perfectly dressed for farm life!! Isn’t that a great picture?
In the summer of 1987, I made a return trip to the farm with Caitlin, accompanied by my sister, Kathy and my friend, Lois. Caitlin enjoyed the big red tub and had loads of fun with the kids.
1987 – Dad’s three kids in between my sister Kathy on the right and myself and Caitlin on the right.
Nice view of the pond through the window.

1987 – Lois, me, and Kathy. Yup – That’s a Green Party T-Shirt right there!!
We made a few return trips over the next few years especially after our second daughter, Meghan was born. The pond was always a fun spot. Until Dad told us there were leeches in the water. I’ve pretty much blocked out the day we emerged from our dip in the pond and discovered the “attachments” on our bodies!
The most memorable visit was in 2007. My father was turning 75 and he wanted to have all his children in one place at the same time. The farm was the perfect location. Everyone, with one exception, attended. (I’ll be writing about that event in a future post) Suffice to say, it was a somewhat healing experience. And the last time I saw my father at his home. He passed away just a year later on August 15, 2008, after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.

2007 – Family reunion for Dad’s 75th birthday. It’s so sad to see how many people have passed since this pictire was taken/

2007 – Grandpa and his most of his grandchildren!

Following my father’s death, there was concern about what would happen with the farm. His wife had passed away a few years earlier and the three children who called the farm their childhood home had differing opinions. In the end, the youngest daughter and her husband bought out her siblings and they now own the farm, which is now a protected area. As stated on the website of the Ontario Farmland Trust   “Made possible by the dedication and generosity of the late Mr. Alan Samuel and his wife, the late Valerie Stevens, as well as their children, the easement protects the property’s unique agricultural and natural features in perpetuity.”

While we only visited a few times, I know our children have fond memories of their holidays at Grandpa’s farm. 
Be sure to check my previous post about my dad to view a gorgeous photo of the farm taken by my sister, photographer Kristen Samuel-Stevens.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge for this week’s topic, “On the Farm.”

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