Americana: Exploring the Twelve Baskets Farm 01

Twelve Baskets Farm

It’s always exciting to search out an Airbnb address.

You never know quite what you’re going to get. Will it have air conditioning? A kitchen? What will the sleeping arrangements be like when you see them in person?

Sometimes, there are happy surprises and sometimes, not so much. Earlier this week, we cruised through Palmyra Village in New York, crossed the Erie Canal, the railroad tracks and then turned up a country road in search of Twelve Baskets Farm, the Airbnb where we had a reservation.

Jeff had reserved a two-bedroom apartment, since we’re traveling with his sister and her husband, Lynda and Barry Baxter. I admit that my heart skipped a beat when we pulled into the drive and parked behind the tractor in the open garage as directed.

The sconces on the covered porch and the old fashioned gingerbread trim murmured of an age gone by. Yet, the plastic toddler toys in the yard hinted that a younger generation now occupied the rural haven.

Inside, there was a modern kitchen with a modern fridge which held a dozen eggs so fresh that the hen’s cackle had barely died away. A little mason jar was marked ‘egg money, 25 cents each.’ I cracked half a dozen brown shells over some cheese in a skillet and hardboiled the rest to carry with us like happy memories. The yolks are brilliant yellow and the flavor is more robust than store-bought eggs.

Jeff and I often stay in Airbnbs and expect to meet the homeowner at some point in the stay. Sure enough, Jonathon and Shauna showed up after dinner for a chat. They explained that they named their farm “Twelve Baskets” after the twelve baskets that remained when Jesus divided a few loaves and fishes to feed 5,000 families. The name effectively reminds us of the abundance we enjoy as Americans, I think.

A page from a book about the early history of the county speaks of the farm’s existence well before the Revolutionary War. The note cheers the fact that in the 1860s the farm was held by a descendant of the original owner five or six generations back. The 1860s owner raised Merino sheep, which are valuable for their fine, soft wool. There is even a sketch of the house, complete with sheep and pigs, looking much like it looks today.

Now Twelve Basket’s Farm earns most of its income from renting out the built-on apartment as an Airbnb. It’s not the most posh, but it’s clean and comfortable. The windows and doors are still trimmed with the finely detailed woodwork from yesteryear. Many of the windowpanes still ripple and bend the morning light where the old, poured glass is in place.

As with many add-on projects, the rentable apartment has a somewhat odd layout, with the only bathroom accessible through the larger bedroom.

Jonathon explained that Lake Erie is near enough to temper the northern winter that they don’t have such harsh winters as many areas in the northern United States. Temperatures dip only into the single digits below zero, but rarely any lower. They are too far south to get the mega-blizzards from the lake effect. Though they currently raise only chickens, they lease the farmland part of the property to a farmer who plants wheat. Nearby, there are large apple and peach orchards.

The farmhouse has been extensively remodeled, though not by the current owners. They are in the process of repairing and restoring the old structure. A woodpecker has made a hole in the front porch post and there’s a bird nest in the corner of the covered porch. Old houses are a lot of work.

Most of the outbuildings burned down more than two decades ago. The house didn’t burn. Local legend suggests that the farm now named Twelve Baskets was a station on the Underground Railroad. Historians know that an Underground Railroad line ran through the area, but no records were kept of the secret safehouses for former slaves seeking freedom.

No, Twelve Baskets Farm is not posh, but it is a quiet, lovely relic of simpler days gone by. I’m so glad these little treasures of history are still waiting for us to come and enjoy.

Only in America, God bless it.

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