Wendy and Nick aren’t afraid of challenges.
Nick, a fashion photographer, left his home in the UK and moved to Portugal.
As a teenager, Wendy modeled in Europe for Yves St. Laurent and Valentino. She started her own modelling agency in Portugal at only 18. She and Nick met there, married, and started working together.
Next, they moved to Canada and built successful careers. They and their family had a comfortable life in Toronto.
Then came the big move to the country, 5 kids in tow.
Wendy remembers neighbour after neighbour saying: “I give you 3 years.”
The big move fell on Hallowe’en, and that was the first problem.
There’s a tiny pioneer cemetery next door to the farm and the children were convinced there’d be ghosts on Hallowe’en. They refused to come along.
Nick remembers: “We had to farm them out to friends in Toronto for the weekend while Wendy and I dealt with the movers and sorted out to arrange everything in this dilapidated space…… In the end it was a good thing they were not around so we could get everything sorted before they came out.”
The barn’s foundation needed urgent repairs. Those repairs had to come first.
That winter was brutal.
“We literally camped in the house from fall to spring. In a cold house a quarter the size of our previous home.”
Months later, Nick and Wendy knocked down some internal walls, turning three tiny rooms into a kitchen-breakfast room. They also built the pool.
They sent out a change of address card to their friends, titled “The Boothmans are outstanding in their field”.
But first came the episode with “Farmer Nick”.
“So now I was living on a farm, I needed a tractor. Of course a big John Deere is most young boys’ dream, so I found myself a great second-hand deal.
There was some tweaking that had to be done to it so a week or so later, I got home from Toronto with Wendy and the children and there it was – perfectly parked in front of the driveshed by the house, facing down the drive and the key in the ignition. Wendy and the children went inside to get organized for dinner and I jumped on my tractor.
“About 30 minutes later Wendy came running out of the house frantically waving her arms in the air. I was across the courtyard at the top of the drive, by the barn. I turned off the tractor to ask what was wrong, when she pointed behind me. I had ploughed up the courtyard – 2 foot furrows… including the telephone lines! It took 2 days before we could get a car out. Of course the children were thrilled to miss school.”
As they renovated and settled in, they also learned about the history of their new home. The Boothmans were only the third family to own the house.
Back in 1837, brothers Tom and William Elliott walked nine miles into the Kendal bush from Newtonville and chose this land for their farm. Their parents and three sisters came from Ireland the following year and the family built their first house.
The permanent dwelling – the farmhouse — was built in the late 1850’s. Several generations of Elliotts lived here.
One Elliott was a master carpenter. He added the part of the house that’s now the Boothmans’ kitchen-breakfast room.
Soon after the Boothmans moved in, a 75 year-old man showed up unannounced, walked to a corner of the kitchen and said: “I’m standing in the spot where I was born.”
It became an annual visit by Reg Elliott, whose ancestors had built the house.
Reg also checked on the renovations. Once, after Nick had installed a brand-new corn-burning stove, Reg glimpsed the corn in the stove and remarked: “That’s a helluva place for a bird-feeder!”
That first winter, the nearby ski-club was a god-send. The children spent Saturdays and Sundays there.
That summer, the family “lived” in the newly-built pool and garden – swimming, barbecuing, and playing guitars.
The children loved the farm.
“They found it a safe place for them and their friends. It was friendly, quiet and calm, surrounded by nature. They hiked, swam, hung out, camped on the grounds. And they rode their horses. We all rode.”
Top 3 Photos by Hamlin Grange, the rest by Nicholas Boothman
Part 3 comes next!