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Conservation easement in Dunbarton provides peace of mind

  • A farm building on the property of Anne Farley is pictured in Dunbarton on Tuesday, December 31, 2013. Farley hasn't kept animals on the property for several years.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    A farm building on the property of Anne Farley is pictured in Dunbarton on Tuesday, December 31, 2013. Farley hasn't kept animals on the property for several years.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Anne Farley poses at her home in Dunbarton, which is part of a new conservation easement, on Tuesday, December 31, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Anne Farley poses at her home in Dunbarton, which is part of a new conservation easement, on Tuesday, December 31, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • A farm building on the property of Anne Farley is pictured in Dunbarton on Tuesday, December 31, 2013. Farley hasn't kept animals on the property for several years.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Anne Farley poses at her home in Dunbarton, which is part of a new conservation easement, on Tuesday, December 31, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

She’s never cared much for TV, so she never turns hers on. She doesn’t get what the fuss with computers is all about, so she’s never bought one. She’s never subscribed to a paper because she gets all the news she wants from the radio.

Seems all Anne Farley has ever needed, really, is her spinning wheel and garden and the peace and quiet of the countryside.

“I don’t desire much,” Farley said the other day, sitting in an old chair in her old house overlooking her expansive property in Dunbarton. She showed photos of what the house – and another one that adjoins it – looked like back in 1980, back when she and her husband and their son and their animals – a horse, a pony, chickens, sheep and a couple of goats – moved in.

She talked about the way things used to be in those days.

“I remember coming home at night one time, and there were trees on both sides of the road and snow piled up both ways,” she said. “It was like going through a tunnel.

“Now all the trees are gone and houses are built. It’s different. Well, everybody has a different view of what they like. . . . I like peace and quiet. I like open space.”

And so after 33 years of living on a sizable slice of acreage in Dunbarton, after laboring and tending to the chickens and sheep and goats, Farley has decided to preserve her land, ensuring that it will remain free from development long after she’s gone. Late last month, she finalized a conservation easement with Five Rivers Conservation Trust. It makes sure that 256 acres of her property off Grapevine Road will remain open. Forever.

Farley first began toying with the idea of putting the land in an easement a couple of years back. It has been listed in current use since the mid-1980s. But it wasn’t until last January, when she first got in touch with officials at the conservation trust, that things really started getting set in motion.

“I just felt like I wanted to keep it open,” she said.“To me it would seem a shame to have somebody come in here and put in roads and houses.”

Life on the land

Farley is 81 now, and has the place all to herself. Her son, now 43, moved to Seattle long ago. Her daughter, who is 52,

lives in Vermont. Her husband died two years ago. She got rid of the chickens, the last of the animals she raised out on the land, about three years ago. She keeps a cat named Fluffy inside the house. Fluffy found her about six years ago, when she wandered onto the doorstep.

Her chestnut hair has faded to a chalk white. She can’t get around quite like she used to. Her eyesight isn’t what it once was. But her mind is still sharp, and when she talks, she does so with confidence and poise.

“I love it here,” Farley said. “I like the privacy. I like the view. I like the fresh air. I really love it.”

She didn’t always live in such surroundings. She moved around from place to place as a child, because of her father’s job, and lived in all sorts of different places with her husband and kids before coming up here.

She spent time in Delaware, where she went to college and worked briefly as a third-grade teacher. She spent time in New Jersey. She spent time in Rowley, Mass., where she and her family raised some chickens and sheep on a 2-acre plot.

And then she moved up north.

She and her husband, Earl, bought the property in 1977 from some friends who owned it for only a brief period of time. They had purchased it at an auction after members of the family who settled the land and first built on it, the Lords, moved away. The Lords originally moved to the area in the late 1700s.

The two adjoined houses were run-down at the time and in need of some refurbishing. The Farleys fixed them up. They didn’t end up moving into the place for three years. When they did, they brought their animals with them.

They soon raised chickens and goats and sheep there. And Farley began growing vegetables in her garden. There’s one big barn – and a few other smaller sheds – scattered about the property. They collected eggs from the chickens and wool from the sheep.

Farley used a spinning wheel to turn the wool into yarn. She knitted sweaters and rugs and other items. She soon joined a local club for spinning wheel hobbyists, and she’s still a member. They meet almost every Tuesday.

“We bring our spinning wheels and our lunch,” she said.

Peace of mind

The easement, finalized at the end of December, ensures that Farley’s property will remain undeveloped forever.

No matter who owns it and no matter what year it is, no one can subdivide the land or build on it.

A small portion of the property, the part that includes the adjoining houses and most of the structures, isn’t included in the easement but can never be separated from it on a deed, meaning that it will always be a part of the property’s landscape. The property includes fields, wetlands and forests and other types of vegetation. And it’s located near Bela Brook, a town conservation area.

The easement also provides stipulations for what kind of recreational use can and can’t take place on the property.

Those who worked with Farley on finalizing it said it is a boon to land preservation efforts in the area.

“We are just so appreciative of Anne’s generosity and her commitment to conservation,” said Margaret Watkins, vice chairwoman of the Five Rivers Conservation Trust and a Dunbarton resident.

But for Farley, it mostly just provides peace of mind. Neither of her kids is interested in living on the property after her, so it will likely end up being sold someday. She figures someone will buy it. She thinks someone would enjoy the peace and quiet.

“Somebody will want to live here,” she said. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t.”

(William Perkins can be reached at wperkins@cmonitor.com.)

Legacy Comments5

What an incredibly generous gift for the Farley family to make. Thank you for helping preserve this beautiful piece of land!

Please elaborate on the following . . . "The easement also provides stipulations for what kind of recreational use can and can’t take place on the property." Did Mr. Perkins not think the readers would want to hear what kind of recreational use was kosher or not?

Thank goodness for "Current Use". This family has lived there for ~~30 years paying little in property tax but reaping all the benefits of State spending while others paid the full due taxes of a "Property tax State"...... I do admire her for living a simple peaceful life and a simple thank you from her to the rest of NH taxpayers would have been nice.

Yet another example of the unfairness of NH's property tax system.

Preserving Open Space is exactly what Current Use was intended to do-Kudos to Dunbarton and Mrs. Farley. I could talk about the unfairness of Current Use and how antiquated the law is all day long- Current Use was not designed to ESCAPE Property taxation, however with land values where they are, the loopholes in the law are being found and tested. There is a Supreme Court case upcoming on this very subject- I'm hoping the Justices read between the lines in this appeal.

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