The 100-plus acre farm on which we live has been for sale for some time. It’s a huge chunk of land, and the restrictions on subdivision for this area are quite strict. Land cannot be subdivided into lots smaller than 13 acres, so it’s not the kind of parcel to move quickly on the market, and certainly not in the current real estate climate. The owners were hoping either someone would buy up the entire property for a horse farm or as an estate property, in which case we and the other farm tenants would likely be eventually turned out to the street, or that they’d be able to sell enough to open space that they could keep and maintain the main house and the barn and cottage apartments in which the tenants live. The latter is what has come to pass, with the official transfer of the fields and the woods to happen with the new year. A lucky break for the owners, and for us.
The unlucky ones were the family that had taken over the late property manager’s cottage a ways back in the woods. That house stands on the property that will be open space, and so it has to come down as a condition of the sale. The late property manager, who had lived there for somewhere around fifteen years, was very well liked around here. To be true, his duties as property manager were a little murky, as I can’t recall him concerning himself with anything to do with the apartments – but then, no one has: out here we largely take care of ourselves, and have the bill sent to the landlord if it concerns things like furnaces that are likely to outlive our tenancy.
What he did do, other than, or so he claimed, arrange for our dumpster rental, is run the hunt club. The hunt club paid an annual rent for the privilege, which was not inconsiderable. The property manager was a local guy and lived his life entirely for two things, lonely old women and hunting. He knew how to work the system. Because it’s a private farm, he and his friends were able to secure permits that enabled them to hunt around the clock and throughout the year. As he let on to us, there was some hedging going on as to what and was not a legitimate kill: infrequent pickups with camper shells would drive by late on the way down to his cottage, and he would later let on that some contraband trophy had been brought from elsewhere to be tagged here.
In any case, while hunting did continue more or less throughout the year, the tenants had pretty much unimpeded access to the fields and woods in the warmer months, and in colder months, when the pace of the hunting increased throughout the official hunting season, we knew to check and see if anyone had come down to hunt before heading out, though we could fairly well assume that we shouldn’t venture in the wilds during the day midwinter. The hunt club nominally continued following the death of the property manager, but the amount of hunting and the number of hunters declined. Oddly enough, this didn’t translate to increased access to the fields and undeveloped acreage, since the decrease in hunting activity meant an increase in the unpredictability of its timing, and, truth be told, the family that took over the empty cottage, and ostensibly some of the duties of management, made it evident that they were not particularly interested in socializing with the other tenants, and so we we simply did not know what was going on out there. Over the past few years, the fields in winter had become practically inaccessible.
That family is gone, and so has the hunt club, and so, for the first time ever, we have largely unimpeded access to the woods and fields year round. The first day of regular season the farmer showed up with his son to hunt, but other than that, this winter the woods belong, so to speak, to the tenants. So last month we decided to exercise the privilege and headed off along the farm road.