He must have bought acres and acres of land here on the Richelieu River years ago. (The Richelieu River drains out of Lake Champlain in Vermont and N.Y.State, into the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.) Some of it was orchard (this area is renowned for its apples), some of it just hills leading down from the mountain to the river. While he had a prospering business, he, as you will see, is one incredible stone mason. He has built retaining walls all over these hills, as well as stairways, bridges, gates, an obelisk, and even a pyramid - yes a pyramid! I have to ask him if he is a closet Egyptologist!! (Sorry I don't have pictures of the pyramid, but it is about 15 feet high and architecturally perfect, to my eye.) He also built stone walls to encase the brooke that runs through the property. Of course, apart from all the stonework, he landscaped these hills into a woodland garden - parts left quite natural and other parts deftly manicured.
As his sons came of age he apportionned them chunks of land on which to build their homes. The youngest son received a beautiful acre smack-dab in the middle of his father's manicured, "stoned" paradise. A piece of land held onto I'm sure by the parents because of its central and beautiful location. Whether persuaded by a second wife, or because of a family dispute, or whatever . . . this son decided to sell his acre. We were the fortunate recipients of this unfathomable decision. It was a little bizarre to notice that we occasionally felt "guilty" for buying the place - but if we hadn't snapped it up, the son would have sold it to someone else.
So here we sit in the middle of these acres of paradise - book-ended by the homes of father and a couple of other sons. They have been very welcoming, despite the shock, (we assume) of having non-family members plopped down in the middle of "their" land. Our homes are quite far apart, so there is a lot of privacy for all. We have done our best to keep the land in the style of his original design and there are no fences separating one person's land from the other's. It is so beautiful here (for which we take no credit - except for current maintenance of our part) we have people who come just to stand on the bridge below and enjoy the view. Some people think it is a public park and take a stroll to enjoy the gardens, brooke, several bridges, etc. Wedding parties have even asked to be able to take their wedding photographs here. BTW, our neighbour employs no gardners and still maintains his acres of park, and sometimes his sons' acres by himself. He is out there working on the land every day. He's a "John Deere" man. I have seen him hoist huge slabs of stone from his pick-up truck, using a steel bar and his knowledge of leverage, to the ground!
We often call our little spot here "Camelot" because " . . . there's no better place for happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot. . . . ." We also call it "Come-a-Lot" because our kids come out to visit all the time - that was part of our plan. : )
So let's start on a little tour:
When our 84 yr. old neighbour gave one of his older sons property across the brooke, he had to build a road and a bridge to allow vehicles to cross. I believe he constructed this bridge when he was in his seventies. His wife also indicated he did it in late fall or perhaps early spring with the weather being so bad he had to construct plastic tent-like coverings in order to work. The photo here is looking out from our house to the street. The sides of the bridge have big, graduated ledges going down to the brook, where children of all ages love to walk and sit. Foliage here covers almost the bottom half of the bridge - it extends down much further than you can see.
Below you see one of the many stairways on this hilly, terraced property. The brooke in this other shot is fast and angry after heavy rains. Note the stone walls that hold the brooke. All built by this one man. An incredible feat.
I think his stonework became a bit of an obsession. The obelisk was built after he had completed all the retaining walls and decorative stone elements in these acres of parkland. He has Egyptian hieroglypics on it - and I have never been able to ascertain whether they reference him or not. Perhaps it is his designated burial spot. It certainly seems he wants to leave his mark. And he has.
Stone walls keep the soil on the hills from washing away due to rains and create the pleasing structural elements of this property - apart from the statuesque trees which often appear as sculpture to me.
Barely visible is a green deck called a "belvedere". It sits looking out over land and the brooke a short distance from the house. I was told belvederes were built originally for young courting couples to have a degree of privacy while dating, but still be within view of parental eyes.
This is one of the few rolling (almost flat) areas on the property. Hence no stone walls.
Our part of the property ends about where you see the deciduous trees, several yards past the flower bed. Rabbits and ground hogs often come out here to graze - 4:30 p.m. prompt for rabbits and their babies.
This free-standing stone archway, gate and meandering stone path were some of the more recent examples of his work. An English style sculpted garden (not visible) graces both sides of the path.
More terraced land.
This grassy path leads down to one of our patios by the brooke.
This patio is one of the few areas we had built - retaining the look already created here. It is a sweet spot where the brooke curves on it's way down to spill into the Richelieu River. It is always 5-10 degrees cooler down on this patio - due to the dappled shade and the evaporation of cool water from the brooke. A lovely spot to meditate, read, rest or chat with a loved one. Our stone-loving neighbor monitored the construction from a polite distance and warmly gave a "thumbs up" to this addition to "his park". He and his wife can see it, if they crane their necks, from one of their decks.
And so our abbreviated tour is over, and we are back at the stone street bridge. Hope you enjoyed yourself. I have a few little stories to tell you about happenings here in Camelot/Come-a-lot, but that is for future posts. I wanted first to acquaint you with the lay of the land so that you would better understand the stories to come. Au revoir!