The Farm

The farmhouse sat very far back from the road. There were, at one time, two gravel lanes that led back to the farm buildings.
Cleo’s farm consisted of 110 acres.
One lane was used up until a horrible storm came through and washed out the small bridge that ran across a stream. That stream led into a sewage treatment plant, that then emptied into the Nashaminy Creek.                     

Nashaminy Creek

Part of that Nashaminy Creek meandered back through the other side of Cleo’s property.
There were two barns. The oldest barn was what we called the cow barn. It had 100’s of cattle stalls for milking. In the back there was the bull pen. At one point, Cleo had added onto the cow barn another partition that’s where calves were kept. One of the stalls kept the biggest hog I ever saw. His ears were as big as my face.
There were also goats. Lots of goats. It is not a old wives tale when you hear that a goat will eat anything.
There were plenty of cats and dogs. Most of the cats were feral and never saw a vet. The dogs were mutts. Lou would put large bowls on dry dog food out on the front porch in each evening.
Only one dog was well cared for. That was this nasty white Spitz, named Marshmallow. Cleo took Marshmallow with her everywhere. That dog had the worst temperament. It snapped and snarled at everyone and everything … except Cleo. I always thought that dog and Cleo suited each other.
The second floor of the cow barn was a huge loft. There was a huge door that opened to allow hay wagons, corn wagons and other equipment to be unloaded and stored there. The lofts were actually on both sides. Hay and other materials were stacked to the ceiling. There were hooks attached to a pulley system that was attached to the ceiling to make it easier to stack bales.
On the very top beam in the cow barn loft was a pair of Barn Owls. The owls were there the whole time I was at the farm. I remember watching this pair of Barn Owls. As a child I thought they were the same Owls, but I am not sure now. I remember watching the male owl fly out at night and return to feed his mate while she was sitting on her eggs. While sitting on her eggs she never left her nest. Eventually, I would hear the baby owls. He would feed Mrs. Owl for awhile longer, then she would fly out while he stayed with the young owls and she would return and feed him and the baby Owls. It was cool to watch. The nest was too far up for Cleo to bother Mr. or Mrs. Owl, and Cleo said she didn’t mind because Owls kept rodents away.
I do remember that there weren’t any rodents that I was aware of in the loft. I was thankful for that, since I had to sleep there a lot.  Depending on Cleo’s mood, I could stay in the house, in the cellar or be banished from the house altogether to the barn lofts.
The other barn was the horse barn. Cleo used to buy Jockey Horses. At one time she had over 30 horses. The stalls in the horse barn were large, and square in shape as opposed to the cow barn “neck type” harness the cows were kept in. The barn loft in the horse barn was smaller than the cow barn. There was one large door in the middle of the loft that went to the outside. This door was used to put the hay and feed into the loft. The only way to access this door was by opening it from the inside. To get up to the loft from the inside you went up wooden ladder and through a trap door. Hay bales and feed were put into this loft by setting up the conveyer belt to bring the hay or feed up. One person below on the outside of the barn would load the conveyer belt, one person at the top would unload the bales and feed as it came off. Each morning, hay bales and feed would be dropped down and distributed to the horses as needed.
Behind the horse barn was a large manure pile. Next to the manure pile was a piece of equipment called a manure spreader. The manure was spread in the fields prior to planting to fertilize the fields.
There was a large well that looked like a wishing well on the back side of the house in the back yard. The water in the well was not safe for drinking. It was rancid. The back yard had several trees – Pear, Apple, and Crab Apple.
There was a couple of chicken coops behind the horse barn. I was the one who got to rob the nests every morning.
Directly in front of the house was a large field, used mostly for grazing cows. The gravel driveway separated the two fields in the front of the property. On the other side, in front of the cow barn, was a larger field also used mostly for the horses. The other fields were used to grow hay, wheat, and corn respectively.
In the very back of the property was a wooded area. I remember I liked to go back there to get away from Cleo and Lou. I also liked to explore. I would often ride my horse, Candy, bareback. At the very edge of Cleo’s property was this old run-down one-room school house. Behind that were two old outhouses. Back in this area, strawberries and blueberries grew wild in the summer. I used to pick them and eat them. I used to love to tie Candy to a low tree branch and explore the old school house. I also would climb the tree’s. I remember every spring the most beautiful orange wild lilies would grow wild back there.

The House

I pretty much described the cellar at the end of this post.  

I spent a lot of time in the basement. Whenever Cleo was angry (or for whatever capricious reason she decided I needed to go to the basement) that’s where I’d be.  But I wasn’t always kept in the basement. It doesn’t take long to break a 3 year old and I had nowhere to run either. It was a big house.
The door at the top of the basement opened up into a hallway. It had one time been a grand house but Cleo and Lou had not kept it in good repair.
In the hallway, right directly in front of me when they let me out of the basement was the dining room. It was a very large room with very high ceilings with hardwood floor. The walls were covered in wallpaper – pale yellow flowers with a green background. There were white cabinets that took up the whole of one side of its wall. It had a large rock-looking fireplace with a large cherry table in the center. Around the table were 12 matching chairs. The dining room had its own outside entrance. This room was kept very clean because this is where Cleo would receive guests.
A room next to the dining room the door was always closed. It was a big room as well. The walls were white. This room was full all kinds of things, from TV’s, other electronics, and other items of just about every kind that were piled from floor to ceiling. Cleo owned rental properties in Philadelphia. She would steal from her own tenants, bring the items to the farm, and then sell them at the Montgomeryville Mart, a flea market down the road.
Going back down the hall past the root cellar door, there was another room that they called the “sitting room.” It too had a large fireplace. The walls were painted a pale green and there was a green couch and Lou’s recliner. There was a large cabinet where Cleo and Lou kept their alcohol. There was a regular size kitchen table. This is where they ate when they weren’t entertaining. You could walk through this room and through another door into the “Big Kitchen.”
The “Big Kitchen” was as bigger than I have since seen some industrial size kitchens. It had 2 large porcelain sinks. Cleo had her range, refrigerator and 3 large freezers where she would keep the butchered meat from the cows slaughtered that year. The walls were tan. I’m not sure if they were painted tan, or had just not been scrubbed and turned that way.
You could either turn left and go into the Dining Room, or turn right and go down 4 steps into the “Little Kitchen.” She had another freezer in this kitchen and an apartment size range. In the corner of the “Little Kitchen” was a pot belly stove. There was one door to the outside of this kitchen. There was another door that went up a narrow set of stairs to a small room with a cathedral ceiling. This room had a single bed and was decorated for a little girl. It was painted white.
There was no heat in this part of the house in the winter. The only heat came from the pot belly stove in the “Little Kitchen” below. If I left the door open it was pretty warm.
Going back to the hallway where the cellar was. There was a wooden grand-staircase. It was wide like what you would see in a old movie.
Immediately on the second floor landing was another door. This door had four locks just like the cellar door. The door opened to a room that Lou used. He called it the “play room.” There were lots of dolls . The walls were painted neon pink and there was a canopy bed. The bedding was white with tiny pink hearts. This room wasn’t a “play room” for me, it was for Lou for the men who Cleo brought to the farm who paid for time with me.
There was a blue tile bathroom. It was larger than my basement room. The floor was tile as well.
The second floor next to Lou’s “play room” was Cleo’s bedroom. I don’t remember much about her room.
Then if you go up the stairs to the third floor, you found Lou’s bedroom. He had it decorated with his military stuff and his military chest bars and stripes. He also had 2 purple hearts. He had pictures of his son that had been killed in Vietnam. Lou drank too much and would talk about “Sonny.” His son’s name was Gold.
Then you can go up to the attic. Cleo used that as another storage space for the stolen goods.
In the next post I will do my best to describe the farm itself.