LAST HOUSE ON THE ROAD: Excursions into a Rural Past by Ronald Jager

LAST HOUSE ON THE ROAD: Excursions into a Rural Past

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The reclamation of an 18th-century New Hampshire farmstead over the past 25 years provides an enchanting ""natural sequel"" to Eighty Acres, the author's popular 1990 memoir of growing up on a Michigan farm. Jager, a former Yale philosophy professor, and his wife bought the Cape Cod--style farmhouse and 100 acres near Washington, N.H., in 1966. Though they did not move in full-time until the late 1970s, renovation began almost immediately, as did Jager's research into the place and the surrounding community. They christened the spread ""Lovellwood,"" after the mountain that looms over the property. The house had been abandoned for years, and the woods were beginning to reclaim pastures and meadows, while some sections simply lay fallow. Jager learned that Ebenezer Wood, a Revolutionary War Minuteman, was the ""original settler"" on the place in 1780, or '81. When he began work on the interior, he discovered Wood's original framing -- ""built to last forever"" -- of pine, spruce, and hemlock beams, held together by oak treenails, or trunnels, as they were called. He exposed those beams, removing layers of wallpaper and cow-hair-and horsehair-bound plaster. Jager also discovered (while mowing the lawn) the original hearthstones Wood had chiseled from the local granite. They had been ""ditched"" by the Powers family, who'd bought the place in 1857, when they remodeled at the turn of the century. While the refurbishing of the house is the central topic, Jager also offers a look at contemporary country living and rural New England politics. He strings together several lovely natural history pieces, such as his eloquent proclamation on his love for the woods; his fond, reasoned farewell to deer hunting; and his cornucopian description of the forest's encroachment on a lush meadow he's trying to save. A joy: like getting a letter from a modern-day Thoreau, one who takes sensual pleasure in writing, and has his feet planted firmly on the soil.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1994
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Beacon