Feed Winnie, Hall Farm
Feed Winnie, get milk, juice, are listed as the to do list on the chalkboard in the main house. “Don’t touch the carbon steel knives or get them wet, “are the only things I’m instructed I can’t do. I’m here for two weeks on my first artist’s residency.
“It’s exactly .7 miles from the large tree that forks to Grafton to get to Hall Farm. Bear right. Don’t take 35 at that fork and go left to Grafton. You’ll see the mailbox, reflective letters and then a long uphill, bumpy, rocky, dirt road to the tip top and a little sign in the bushes reads ‘Hall Farm’ and you are there.” Drive left. Drive left. Go right.”
There is a brown-sided house, red-doored with long windowpanes and a white knob to open. Phil Schoolman greets me. He is tall, 6’ 5”, is there a height requirement?’ I ask upon applying for the fellowship. He played college basketball in D.C. and has an easy, open, smile that genuinely says, ‘welcome’. “Hey, you made it right?”
Phil shows me to my room. My quarters are a big, open-eaved bedroom, white brass bed, sitting high up off the floor almost making it difficult for me to climb into. The too firm mattress is covered with a handmade white antique bedspread.
There is a long wood planked folding table with a reading lamp, a small dresser, and a fan in the window. There is another found office chair and another small trundle bed in the other corner. Three other women have rooms and share this original ‘farmhouse’ with me; they are all writers. I am the only visual artist asked to come.
Phil and I go up into the ‘barn’ that has been converted into their main living space; three levels of large loft space that has been very carefully thought out and electronically wired. I notice a wiffle ball lodged in the beer empties in the mudroom as we enter and a badminton birdie is caught way, way up in the top rafter of the ceiling. There is a huge fireplace; one of the only things left from the original barn and side-by-side bedrooms for Phil and Scott who is also tall at 6’3”. The office rooms overlook the pond and cut into the side-wall are floor to ceiling windows framing the view. It feels a long way from Brooklyn.
P. Schoolman is listed as our master chef for our fellowship stay at the farm. He wears a headset when he calls or takes incoming calls so his hands our free to make our dinner every night. He looks like a Wall Street broker making deals. Scott’s job is to lay out breakfast; coffee cups, cereal, fruit bowls and utensils on the long full-length table and to clean up after dinner every night. The first one up makes the coffee and while I am there it becomes my job and my routine.
The writers have their own individual separate writing cabins or rooms scattered around the property. It is an unspoken common courtesy not to talk to or interrupt anyone you see writing or working.
I have been given a white screened in cabin right on the edge of the pond. It is the focal point of the property. The ‘hub’ of Hall Farm. It is the landing point for kayaking, swimming and Phil tells me for ice-skating in the winter. There is a permanent ring of rocks set up for a campfire and four worn gray wooden Adirondack chairs to alternately be used for reading, sleeping, talking, napping, sunbathing, or to just silently gaze out over the water and blissfully do nothing at all. A place to just be quiet. On the other side of ‘my’ studio is a hammock strung between two trees.
A little ways out in the woods they have their own baseball field. Phil has also mowed paths to other parts of the property where groupings of chairs have been randomly placed where fellows can sit and contemplate.
“Hey maybe you don’t get anything done here, but if by coming here and then leaving all your family stuff behind you get it and it comes out six months down the line in your work, then that’s the point.”