We bought a farm! Now what?
Greetings friends! Do you love old stone farmhouses? Does the thought of fixing up a derelict vintage house make your palms sweat, in a good way? Do you believe that “green” is the best color for a building? So do we! And that is exactly what led to our, seemingly insane, decision to click “bid” in an online auction for an abandoned farm. Apparently, we were the only ones crazy enough to do so, since no one bid against us. We look forward to having you join us for the ride as we endeavor to bring this 1744 gem back to life.
However, this story starts a long time before that innocent mouse click. My husband, Jason Kliwinski, refers to it as “Lia’s farm obsession.” Hey, he married me knowing about said obsession, so he only has himself to blame. The origin of this saga actually began before I was born though, when my parents Mary Jane and Kris, put $16,000 down on a 100 acre farm in East Amwell, just a few miles from Gaia’s Way. That farm was a derelict too, and had been on the market for quite some time with no crazy takers. Enter my parents, who, while certainly working in the construction industry, were more of the suit-and-tie lawyer/engineer persuasion. Taking on an 1850’s farm with holes in the roof, racoons in the attic, and a super creepy basement was something of a leap of faith. My mom can tell you stories all day of what they did to “survive” in that environment. That was 1980, and while many years have passed and the farm is no longer in the family, it has since developed into the beautiful and well-known Unionville Vineyards. Growing up at Unionville cemented my love for all things old house and farm, and no doubt contributed substantially to my determination to make my career in sustainability.
Fast forward a few decades, I met Jason, when both of us were working at an architectural firm in Hopewell, NJ. We discovered our mutual passion for green building, and a couple years later started our own business, The Green Building Center, focused on being the one-stop-shop for all things sustainable building. Jason is an awesome architect, with 20 years’ experience designing green buildings. Historic preservation is one of his passions, so tackling the renovation of a derelict farm, complete with historic and archaeological easements, in the most sustainable way possible, should be a piece of cake, right? And let’s not forget my mom, Mary Jane, who in 2016 decided that, after 40 years, she’d had enough of being an attorney and that she wanted to join me in my business, Simply Sustainable, convincing anyone who will listen that healthy and green building products are the greatest thing ever!
So, to wrap this tale up, in August of 2017, I was driving to work in Lambertville along the River and low-and-behold, there was a tiny “for auction” sign by the road in front of the abandoned farmstead I’d always wondered about. We were in the market for a farm, and Mary Jane and I had been out looking while Jason rolled his eyes at us. I figured, why not check it out? So, we attended the open house in September. Full disclosure here, it wasn’t love at first sight on my part. I thought it was too little land and too big a project. But the others prevailed, and the property’s charms grew on me, enough so that a week later we we’re clicking that “bid” button on the GovtDeals website. Our fancy bidding strategy was all for naught, since we were the only bidders, and a few minutes later received a “You Won!” email. A year, two weeks, and four days later (that’s a whole different blog post) we are now the proud owners of the newly christened Gaia’s Way Farm!
We are planning to document the whole process of fixing this place up, from the amazing finds in dusty corners, to the painful approvals processes (we have no less than six different government organizations that require signoffs) to how and why we will be selecting the green/healthy/local materials that we use. We invite you to join us on this adventure as we will appreciate all the cheerleading we can get!