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Gertie

“No, you may not get a dog — not yet!” I said to Tammi, who was very disappointed. “Let’s wait until we are on the farm, then you can get your puppy.”  I was concerned we’d have a puppy failing miserably at its potty training while we were trying to show our home to prospective buyers or renters — let alone the 25 chicks in the kiddie pool.

Little did I know, like any good wife, Tammi already had the perfect pup picked out — a rescue nonetheless.  She was a mixed collie / great pyrenees — great herding dog potential.  She had already begun the paperwork and was just waiting to pull the trigger.

A few days passed until 3-20.  I was in Boston, on business.  Tammi woke me in my hotel room with a phone call.  We chatted amicably – the usually good mornings and I love you’s.

“Don’t you have anything else to say to me?”  she asked nonchalantly.

“No — just that I love you, dear.  You’re amazing!”  said I, not taking the hint.

A few hours later, I called her again, this time from my desk at our Quincy office.  We had a similar exchange ending with that same question. Again, we ended with pleasantries.

Over the lunch hour, I sat down in the cafeteria with my tray and immediately thought I would call my wife, like any good husband would. This time, the conversation was a wee bit more tense and ended with the same question.

“Don’t you have anything else to say to me?” she demanded.

“Uhhh — obviously I’ve forgotten something,” I said, “but I have no idea what it is — I’ve already told you I love you and miss you and would give anything to be home with you…”

“Try HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” she bellowed.

At that moment my pulse quicken.  Beads of sweat formed on my brow and under my arms.  My cheeks went flush and my jaw dropped.  Someone walking past asked if I was alright.  I nodded slowly.

“What?” I tried to recover. “Isn’t it tomorrow?  Wait — what day is it?”

I was completely stunned.  In less than two years of marriage, I had already forgotten my wife’s birthday!

“Ok — Ok,” I said, thinking quickly, “how about you go pick up that puppy right away…”

The voice on the other end perked up. “Really?” she asked. “OK! You are forgiven!”

When I returned home the next evening, I was greeted by my wife and our new puppy.

“Think of a German-sounding name,” she said, beaming.

“How about Gertie?” I suggested.

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Today, we learned our mortgage for the farm at 1602 West Lisburn Rd., Mechanicsburg, PA was approved. Settlement is scheduled for March 30 — one month away!

Now, those of you who know us are well aware we don’t know a thing about farming! Fortunately, we don’t intend to do this for a living — but rather as a hobby and for a little personal security during troubled times. We also view this as a tremendous learning experience and intend to share our mistakes, discoveries and eureka! moments as we go.

First, a run down of the property and some thoughts about our plans:

The 4+ acre parcel contains an old brick farmhouse that started out as a log cabin in 1790. It was since enlarged several times. The place has “good bones” — log, brick, plaster, wide plank floors, a huge hearth — lots of crooked floors, crooked walls and cracked and crooked ceilings!  According to some research at the Cumberland County Historical Society, the property was owned by Daniel Baker, a member of the Church of the Brethren, who came to the area from Lancaster County in the early 1800’s. His son, Christian, lived at the farm (or at least owned it) for most of his life, into the late 1800’s. Most of the improvements to the house are likely due to his efforts. For this reason, we have decided to refer to the property as the Christian Baker Farm. It was so noted on the 1858 map of Cumberland County — the very map used by Confederate soldiers foraging in the Carlisle – Mechanicsburg area prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. Of course, at that time, the farm included quite a bit more land – most of which is still farmland, but owned by someone else.

About a mile west, along West Lisburn Road, Baker’s Cemetery can be found. Daniel and Christian and their families are all buried there.  This further confirmed our decision to name the farm after them, given their involvement in its improvement and their eternal proximity to it.  Any old Dutchman knows you want to be on the good side of the spirits!

More about the place — three acres are fenced in pasture, containing an ancient bank barn, still intact. Two Nubian goats – a mother and daughter – Twinx and Nellie – already occupy the pasture and barn and will remain when we take ownership. We plan to have several sheep on the land to keep the grass down. Apparently, the barn is also home to a couple of barn cats – desirable for their penchant for keeping the rodent population down.

Between the house and the barn is an old wooden pig sty – circa 1900. We believe this building will function well as a chicken coop. Yes — we plan to raise some chickens – not to eat, but for their eggs.  It is an important part of the bargain — Tammi gets her farm and I get fresh scrambled eggs every morning.  We can also sell some to the neighbors!

Of course, you cannot have a farm without a dog!  We have discussed breeds and are looking for a good herding dog — a collie or one of the sheep dogs.  Apparently German Shepherds can’t be trusted around the chickens — at least that’s what we found on the Internet!

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