Forward, in reverse – and retreat?

I grew up in the country, but I’ve spent most of my life in small towns or suburbia. At age 72 and approaching retirement, when many folks would be thinking of moving to a 55+ or retirement community, Susan and I are selling our house on a fifth of an acre and have bought a small farm of about 5.5 acres. 

Susan says it’s all about the fives.

Instead of moving toward an easier life, we’ve chosen a more strenuous one. Moving in itself is a major chore, and then there’s the job of getting an overgrown property with a house and three outbuildings in shape. Some days, I feel that I’ve traded the cushy life of a professor and writer for the roles of maintenance man and groundskeeper. 

My pretty Prius has turned into a truck. Fortunately, it came with heavy rubber mats in the floorboards, the hatch, and even on the back of the back seats. They’ve been folded down and haven’t seen the light of day for six weeks as we’ve brought multiple loads from one house to the other and hauled lots of left-behind junk to the collection center. 

But it’s all worth it. We traded a modern brick home with 2650 square feet for a yellow farmhouse built in 1905. It has two stories but 800 fewer square feet in floor space. Lots of furniture and other items have been given away, and untold boxes have been stored under beds or in the attic. 

The floors aren’t perfectly level, and the doors aren’t overly square. The bathrooms (both downstairs) are tiny, and the upstairs ceilings are only seven feet high, but it’s home, with every imperfection adding to the considerable charm of its other features. 

I’d always hoped to return to the country after retirement, so the move came a year earlier than expected, but the property was too appealing to pass up. In addition to a two-acre pine forest and a host of giant oaks, hickories, ash trees, and a variety of fruit trees, it features an unusual bonus. 

Down the hill from the main house are two outbuildings designed for temporary lodging. One is a “tiny house” cabin, 12 X 12 feet of coziness, with a loft bed and an L-shaped covered porch that wraps around two sides and includes a mostly enclosed kitchen. The porch overlooks a fire ring and picnic table, with woods beyond. 

The second lodging is a 28-foot Airstream trailer mounted on a permanent foundation. It was gutted and then redone with mythical murals from one end to the other. It also features a covered porch overlooking a sunken garden with a fire pit and woods beyond. 


A large raised wooden platform further down the hill and deeper into the woods provides a nice opportunity for tent campers to set up with their own picnic tables and a small kitchen available in the barn. 

It is our hope that these facilities might become places of refuge for ministers, artists, writers or other creative folk who would like to spend a few days getting away for a quiet time in touch with nature, with themselves or with God. 

It could be a good place for annual sermon planning, for which we could supply a set of Nurturing Faith Commentaries. It could also be an ideal setting for deep thought (poetry books provided) or artistic expression through coloring, painting, or crafts—we could even include some inspirational materials. 

Each lodging space has one double bed, but we could add a cot or airbed if several friends or a Peer Learning Group should be looking for a retreat site that’s high in character and low in price (for the present, just donations to help cover expenses). 

Guests are welcome to keep to themselves entirely or to share some front porch conversation time with an “elder” who understands confidentiality.  

We’re calling the place Inkberry Hill – a nod to the ink involved in my writing, which will change directions in retirement – and to the “berry” in Paintberry Studio, the home of Susan’s beautiful portraiture and nature-inspired art. 

Anyone wanting to learn more or schedule a retreat date can contact us at

While waiting to host the amazing guests who will come our way, we are spending time on our knees rooting out crabgrass, Bermuda grass, and various invasive species from unwanted places as we plant garden spaces or prepare them for future planting. 

If that’s not getting in touch with the earth, I don’t know what is. 


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