Rosie Oates' Once Upon a Time Sheep Farm

Rosie Oates' Once Upon a Time Sheep Farm

Name: Rosie Oates
Location: Greensboro, Vermont
Size: 1,500 sq/ft
Years lived in: 50, owned

Living green was never an option for Rosie Oates. It was a way of life. A sheep farmer and English émigré with a passion for all things culinary, she lived off the land, cooking up banquets of fresh garden goodness and doling it out to as many as she could pack into her little farmhouse kitchen. When the mother of four passed away in the late 1980s, her children, Zoe, Alex, Oliver, and Adrian made sure their childhood home would continue to be enjoyed for generations, and that Rosie's legendary hospitality would never be forgotten.

In this lovingly preserved farmhouse in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, Rosie Oates' legacy persists. A tower of dinner plates stacks up in a corner of the kitchen. A cavalry of wine glasses stands at the ready. Beds tuck into living room nooks. And just as they did in Rosie's time, family and friends pile around the dining room table.

The 189-acre estate is part of Vermont's "Land Use" program, which requires the property owners to maintain healthy forest ecosystems. Rosie's children take care of the land by clearing overgrown forests and haying the fields. And though Rosie's bountiful potager garden is no longer, the mint and chanterelles that grow wild among the pine groves are sought out each summer.

Rosie passed on both her creativity and her culinary skills, and it's not unusual to see upwards of twenty guests nestled side-by-side in her little dining room. But why say goodbye at the end of the meal? There's room for nearly all of them to stay the night. With seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and dozens of nieces, nephews, cousins, and step-siblings, beds are a priority. And here, no room is too good for a mattress.

Re-Nest Survey:

My/Our style: Whimsical country farmhouse.

Inspiration: Nature, the land, good food, happy memories.

Favorite Element: The back porch overlooking the mountains.  It is a serene place to sit, feel the mountain air, watch the birds, the steam rise from Eligo pond in the morning and the most magnificent sunsets in the evening. People gravitate to it.

Biggest Challenge: Finding time and funds for upkeep.

What Friends Say: Friends love to stay at the farm.  All the mattresses are new and comfortable. The living room has comfy chairs with lots of sunlight streaming in. The open kitchen and six-burner gas stove allows for many people to cook together and the dining room table is large enough for a big gathering to sit together for a fine dining, gourmet experience.  We shop each day, buying local foods including vegetables, fruits, cheeses, eggs, bread and meats.  Friends anticipate a summer feast every night at the farmhouse  

Biggest Embarrassment: Having friends visit and bats flying in the house at night.  Getting them out safely can be a challenge but we are getting better at it.

Proudest DIY: The spiral staircase Alex built when he was 13.

Biggest Indulgence: A new sewer system. 

Best Advice: My brothers and I (the four owners), take pride in our shared home.  It is a place where we bring our children and friends. There is so much for them to enjoy -- walking in the woods, hiking, climbing trees, taking long bike rides, swimming and boating in Lake Caspian. There is no TV or internet service, so games of cards, board games, foosball, croquet and ping pong offer a refreshing break from technology. Taking time to go there and experience this untouched place is something we strive to do as much as possible.

Green Elements/Initiatives: Preserving a historic family farm for generations.


The Greensboro and and surrounding county area is becoming famous for making and storing new varietal cheeses. Vermont is becoming the Napa Valley for cheeses. The cheeses have won international awards.  Artisan bread is also very popular.  Due to it's rural nature, people have built up cottage businesses, especially with foods that are shipped to New York and Boston. The growing season has been extended by building hot house greenhouses for growing mesclun lettuce and tomatoes. The localvore movement is extremely strong in the area. A local person started a microbrewery in his home after training in Belgium to great reviews. The area is also filled with artists, writers and potters.

Appliances: Our family friend refurbishes old industrial appliances for fun. He gave us a fabulous old six-burner stove. We found an energy efficient water heater at Willey's Store, a traditional Vermont general store that has everything from food, clothes, shoes and boots, any kind of hardware, housewares...

Furniture: My brother Alex built all of the counters and shelving  in the kitchen area when he was in his teens.  The barns were built by wood off the land and our mother would go to the lumber yard and get free scrap lumber to build siding and fences.  She always found a way to expand something with very little resources.

Accessories: The house has been broken into several times during the winter.  We purchased a new energy efficient refridgerator that cannot fit out the door.  The hand made dining room table also cannot fit out through the door.  All of us have brought furniture from our houses and yard sales that is comfortable but not valuable.   Other than plenty of beds for multiple guests and ample kitchen ware, the house is kept simple with no extravagance.

Lighting: Many lamps are handmade by our mother using old gallon basket wine bottles.

Artwork: My mother travelled around the world when we were young and spent a year in Indonesia.   Indonesian art is on the walls as well as paintings and murals from local artists who were here friends.

(Thanks, Rosie, Zoe (who completed our survey), Alex, Oliver, and Adrian!)

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(Images: Celeste Sunderland. Originally published 2010-09-09)

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