After several attempts to reconcile with my husband I made the choice to leave. I returned to a prior relationship that I’d ended in a last ditch attempt to make my marriage work for my toddler’s sake. We went in search of a new homestead for children and critters and to start a new, fresh life together. Not knowing what we were really looking for, we ended up looking at this huge mountaintop homestead in Maine under an hour from where I grew up—and falling under its spell.
Being a nerdy, modern homesteader with kids: I googled the best schools by judgement of their STEM standards and jazz band programs. I decided on four final school districts to look for a home in. I really wanted a quiet place with a quaint, sleepy downtown and no WalMarts nearby. It needed to be a place that I’d want to plant my feet and grow roots. Bucksport seemed to have it all, and more.
In July, I stumbled upon a strange mountaintop homestead in Maine for sale online. Abandoned in the woods of Maine for at least four years the climate had taken it’s tole. Parts of the roof leaked, a window had cracked, spiders and mice had moved in. Dead flied adorned the window sills, corners and floors and hung like sinister decor from the wooden beams overhead.
It had once been a single family home, then converted to a four unit rental but was only built in 1996. The walls are insulated concrete forms or ICFs; which are like big lego bricks made of sturdy foam insulation that lock together and are hollow so concrete can be poured in between them. The floors are also concrete with radiant heat—that may, or may not work. Some of the copper pipes had splits that needed replacing and a portion of the radiant heat shark-bite pipes had been torn out of the floor and repaired.
The outside is natural wood siding stained gray, a big draw for me since I loathe vinyl siding. The paint is faded, and in some places bare with some of the knots shown through or knocked out entirely. On each corner there are holes pecked and chewed by woodpeckers and squirrels. But with all the repairs and love this hidden mountaintop homestead in Maine needs, the price was right.
The land here is filled with wild berries and edible plants. An abundance of whitetail deer, turkey, porcupine and partridge roam the mountaintop daily. On an evening walk to the mailbox I found a pile of bear scat not 100 feet from the house. Song birds and squirrels chatter the morning hours away and owls pay homage to the cool summer nights with their lonesome, moaning hoots. Once there was a stocked trout pond here, but it has long-since dried up. All of this seems worth the work fix the massive structure up. It feels a bit like it’s been sitting here waiting for us with time passing it slowly by.
The two larger roofs are metal and without peaks. Two smaller roof portions that connect the levels of the house were shingled, adorned with leaky skylights and in poor shape. The two smaller roofs needed replacing immediately and it just happened to be full sun and in the 80’s those few days we worked on them. Skylights took hours to cut in and flash around. The two larger rooftops are metal and run to gutters perfect for rainwater collection. We picked up some blue food-grade barrels from a bear baiter who had cut the tops off.
Rhododendrons took over the front and sides of the home and staghorn sumac reclaimed the yard after the last owners walked away. We bought a used riding mower to beat the yard down with. It caught up on a blanket hidden under a layer of sweetfern and had to be pushed out and detangled. Much of the area we hope to be a lawn is at such a slant that the riding mower feels it will tip right over. The berry canes, shrubs and cherry trees have moved in and the mower can only do so much. It seems we’ll need a real tractor to bush hog it rather than struggle to mow it. Which is more fitting for a mountaintop homestead in Maine. Some of the larger shrubs had to be sawzall-ed off in order to set a trap down to collect shingles as we scraped them off.
In the grander scheme of things much of the work can be done in winter and the worst of it was hopefully the roof which is done. Two lofts inside need stairs, they currently have no access other than a painter’s ladder. Cheap carpets are filthy with stains, one of the toilets only flushes well when the moon is waning and a cloud passes it over at midnight—or at least that’s what we figure. A window is cracked up in a loft and another had to be glued and clamped. Some groundwork will need to be done before things freeze up to fix a wall in the basement where a door used to be. The water is running under the wall and onto the garage floor.
Winters are harsh here in Maine. I enjoy focusing on growing indoor plants to transplant outside as soon as temperatures allow in late May or June. Natural light filters endlessly through the home with windows, skylights and glass doors at each turn. Sunny days are dazzling. A supply of ample sun and space to grow all winter will keep wintertime blues at bay.
The home isn’t without it’s downsides too; no woodstove or even a chimney and only gas for heating with electric ignition gas stoves that are useless in a power outage. An outdoor boiler would be suitable here and a couple smaller woodstoves to heat the far reaches of the massive house. A mountaintop homestead in Maine just isn’t complete without a woodstove at it’s heart.
One room on the first floor has an indoor lap pool. Another room is 30 by 30 feet, carpeted and wide open with a loft above. A year ago I was owner financing a dumpy trailer with holes in the roof and floors. This strange house has four bathrooms, two kitchens, a laundry room larger than any living room I’ve ever had and two private loft offices that have a 50-mile view of the rolling low mountains, Upper Penobscot Bay, and a small Marina.
All the space makes me feel piggish after having grown up in a family of five with in a small trailer in the woods of central Maine. Cautious excitement keeps me from jumping for joy with much work ahead before winter sets in. A mountaintop homestead in Maine sounds extravagant, but in all honesty will be a lot of work.
Over the past few weeks we moved the rabbits and poultry here. New structures had to be built and old ones moved up the 1/3-mile, uphill, winding dirt road. Each night my body is sore in a damn good way. More to come as the renovations continue on our mountaintop homestead in Maine.