Give me that countryside
Later in the day, Barbara, an internist, serves up fluffy stacks of hay to the sheep and goats and collects eggs laid by the hens. In the summer, she pulls potatoes and broccoli from her garden for a homemade dinner. In the winter, Barbara and Don and their two daughters, Ariel, 17, and Kayla, 14, make apple cider using a press on their property.
Both natives of the metropolitan New York area, Don and Barbara never imagined they'd one day be living in the Midwest raising chickens and goats and making their own maple syrup. Then Don received an offer from a hospital in Cleveland. They first bought a nice house in a stately Cleveland suburb, but after a few years they seemed to be drawn farther from the city, to a more rural setting.
Still, Barbara wasn't convinced she was ready to take on the farming life when a realtor showed her the property in 1992. "I rejected it immediately," she says. But something kept drawing her back. "The next day and every day, I drove a half hour, parked the car, and stared at the house. I thought about all we could do and experience here."
She brought Don to look at the place, and they both decided then and there they had to buy it.
"We didn't expect to live in an old farmhouse. But sometimes something just grabs you," Barbara says, as she gently sways in a wooden swing that overlooks the pond in her backyard.
What attracted the Brinbergs to this place was the sense of serenity: 10 lazy acres that included a century- old main house, an apple orchard, several outbuildings for animals, and a vast open area for gardening. They knew the house and grounds needed some work. "The first night we were there, it rained and water came through the library roof," Barbara recalls.
They spent the first year making repairs and enhancements, such as strengthening the infrastructure of the house and restoring plumbing to the outbuildings. "We thought somebody had to renovate this place. It might as well be us," Barbara says.
Fortunately, Don is the type of person who enjoys household projects. He became adept at repairing electrical wiring and sweating joints. In addition to painting an existing fence on the property and putting in a two-seater swing by the pond, Don built a rock wall around the garden that - to his amazement - required 3 tons of rocks.
When they moved in, no animals were living on the property. Within a few years, the outbuildings were animated with the sounds of horses, sheep, goats, turkeys, and chickens. (Five cats, a dog, a parrot, and a rabbit also call the property home.)
"Animals are wonderful companions," Barbara says, while tossing hay to the goats. "They don't have a meanness to them."
As the Brinbergs settled into their rural life, they found themselves doing things they never imagined, including taking in a newborn sheep whose mother had an udder infection and couldn't care for him. "He lived in the house with diapers on," Barbara remembers.
Barbara realizes her daughters had to sacrifice things by living in a somewhat remote area.
"It is isolated," she says. "There are no sidewalks. We had to do a lot of driving the girls to their friends' houses." Now that they are teenagers, they seem to appreciate the lifestyle more, Barbara adds. "And when they get older, they'll love it."
The family has had many fun and rewarding experiences that they wouldn't have been able to share in the suburbs, Barbara notes.
"We've made maple syrup, birthed our own sheep, learned to ride horses, and made grape and raspberry jam."
Barbara has become an avid gardener and bird watcher. Each summer, she awaits the return of barn swallows, who build a nest in a venerable tree in the backyard.
The pond provides year-round family activity: paddle boating in warm months and ice skating in winter. "Managing this place takes up a lot of time, but we like it," Barbara says. "It's very rewarding."
Guests from the New York City area admire the life that Don and Barbara have fashioned, even if they don't share the couple's fondness for a rural environment. "Most of our friends think we're nuts," Barbara says. "But they love coming here. It's like coming to a resort."
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