My grandparents’ farmhouse was a special place in my childhood and still is.
Seaway News Interview
Howard Beaudette may have chosen to be an accountant for his career, but his second calling was to be a gentleman farmer, or by his description, a farmer wannabe.
Howard, his wife Noreen, and their daughter Suzanne have lived on their 150 acre “hobby farm” on Pleasant Valley Road near Ingleside since 2007. The house is located on a 50 acre tract with adjoining outbuildings, combines with another 100 acre parcel used to grow cash crops and raise cattle.
The original 200 acre property ( Lot 28, Concession 5, of the former Osnabruck Township) was granted by Crown Patent to Louis Gautier in 1797. It came into Howard’s mother’s family – the Hodgins – in 1852. Howard’s great-great grandfather was a stonemason, and he was the one who built the original home in the 1850’s. Constructed with stones quarried locally, it had two sections, with the summer kitchen without a basement being a later addition.
Windmill Construction began the building of a modern addition to the original home in 2006 and the family moved into it in 2007. Only the most discerning eye would know that it wasn’t part and parcel of the original structure where Howard grew up with is farming parents and seven brothers and sisters. Although the original house was built using stone from the area with mortar produced from a lime kiln located on the property, stone from Quebec was used for the new structure.
The summer kitchen is now the dining room with new pine flooring over the original wooden floor beams. All the paneling is made from butternut, and the 22 inch thick walls make for deep window sills. In keeping with the history of the house, the room is decorated with antiques, including an old wooden ice box that has been converted to a liquor cabinet.
A narrow door in the dining room opens to an equally narrow staircase that leads to a guest bedroom, the only other part of the original farmhouse that is currently being used. TheBeaudette’s have yet to decide when, or how, to renovate the interior of the remainder.
When Howard bought the family farm from his siblings in 1984, he had all the stone work repointed. He first rented the old farm house while he and his family lived in Ingleside, putting in long hours to upgrade lawns and farm buildings. When they made the decision to move back to the country, they hired an architectural designer, Charlene Zanbelt, to draw up plans for their new home. The design came as a result of many discussions with Howard and Noreen as to what they wanted in their new home. They wanted lots of light, lots of room and lots of storage space. Noreen insisted that the bathroom on the upper level have a window, and she got one. It actually looks down into the great room/sitting room, but the window is indeed there.
The home is filled with character, with all the modern conveniences blending in with the old country look. One of the walls in the new kitchen is the outside wall of the old summer kitchen.
The new addition is an open concept post and beam construction, with the two main centre posts measuring 25 feet in height. The combination great room/sitting room, kitchen, eating area, laundry room, bathroom and storage area complete the main floor layout. All the cabinetry in the house – the dining table, hutch, benches, built-in spice cabinet, coffee table, etc. were designed and built by Dave Fougere, Cabinetmaker. The original design called for a fireplace to the ceiling but the Beaudettes chose to install a propane unit which is surrounded by a stone wall and hearth, built from stones from the area, so that the corner beam remained exposed.
The barn on the property is newly constructed from materials taken from a century old 80 foot bank barn from the MacGregor family farm, near Martintown. However, it blends in like it’s been there forever. There is also a grapevine covered stone wall, which has been restored by Howard.
Noreen, who worked as a hairdresser for 20 years, showcases her decorating talents throughout the house, and has certainly made the house a “home”. Noting that she learned a great deal about country living from Howard’s mother, she enjoys some of the “old time” skills, such as pickling, preserving, and making bread and pies.
The Beaudettes have 20 head of Scottish Highland cattle and a few pigs and chickens on their so called “hobby” farm. They also plant a forty-acre plus cash crop which varies from year to year and maintain large vegetable gardens and apple trees.
Moving back to the country just came naturally to the Beaudettes. It was just like “going home.”
My Family Connection to the Farmhouse
My mother was Howard Beaudette’s sister. She grew up on that farm, and although she couldn’t wait to move to the city of Cornwall as a teenager, we (my parents, siblings, and I) went to visit my grandparents there often and have many fond memories of the farm. I am certain my love of gardening and the appreciation of the beauty I see in nature came from this portion of my family history.
After my grandfather died in 1984, I went to the farmhouse often to visit my grandmother and to take her to run her errands. Her commentary as we drove by the local landmarks is still very fresh in my mind.
As the years go by, I still love visiting this farmhouse. My grandkids do too, I started taking them during the pandemic when we couldn’t go anywhere else. They could run around outside at the farm, visit and feed the animals, and enjoy the fresh air and scenery. My oldest grandson loves to ride on a tractor with “Farmer Howard.”
Recently I spearheaded a project where recipes originating from this farmhouse were compiled in Mama’s Farmhouse Recipes.
Although many things have changed, the memories always come flooding back.
My mother’s name is still handwritten in the cement doorstep outside of the barn; I guess she wanted to leave her mark there after all…