Perfect spot for people and animals


January 08, 1995|By Maryalice Yakutchik | Maryalice Yakutchik,Special to The Sun

On the living room wall is a picture of animals traipsing two-by-two toward the ark that Noah built. To the right are four massive windows overlooking 20 acres of Harford County countryside on which ducks, horses, turkeys, cattle, geese and dogs roam.

Almost Heaven Farm is the home of pygmy goats, potbellied pigs and the Pitzers -- who toil happily if endlessly at tending to their dream home/animal preserve.

Scott Pitzer, 47, a mechanical foreman at Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point, and his wife, Sandy, 46, a social survey researcher for ABT Associates of Chicago, have created a space they share with their animals.

Their family room's full of dogs; the natural pond in which they swim each summer is full of ducks. And Mr. Pitzer's woodshed is full of miniature horses. Munchkin, the potbellied pig, naps in Mrs. Pitzer's home office. You get the picture.

But maybe you don't. Because Almost Heaven Farm includes a carefully crafted home, with polished marble and hardwood floors, colorful stained glass and hand-carved oak cabinetry.

Mr. Pitzer, who was raised on his grandfather's farm, bought the 20-acre parcel of forested underbrush in 1979 for $29,000.

"I worked for two years just getting up here [to the site of the house]," he says.

Often camping out on the property so he could start early and work late on his days off from the steel plant, he first cleared land and constructed roads with a backhoe he bought for $3,000. He made bridges from old telephone poles over a tributary of Deer Creek, which runs along the property.

Then he saw a picture of a 3,400-square-foot, cedar-sided California contemporary in a magazine and decided to build it.

He sank footers and constructed walls. He put in the septic system and put on a roof. He moved in in 1981 and, bit by bit, finished off the downstairs, which includes a full kitchen, family room, two bedrooms -- one of which is Mrs. Pitzer's office -- and a bath.

"The house looks pretty good sittin' on the hill the way it does," Mr. Pitzer says in a rare passive moment.

He's usually too busy working on any number of projects to sit back. Right now, he's halfway through brick-facing the entire house.

He's also in the middle of constructing another horse corral and shed; there already are about a dozen outbuildings dotting the property, housing animals and machines.

A handmade fence encircles the property; "I cut every picket right on that saw over there," he says.

Almost as often as Mrs. Pitzer feeds the animals, he splits wood to feed the shiny red stove in the kitchen, as well as a furnace that consumes about six cords of wood a year to heat the whole structure.

The couple pays no heating bills. Nor do they have to "exercise" to stay in shape. "Everybody else is paying to go to a spa," says Mrs. Pitzer, "and here I am slopping the pigs and Scott is cutting all our own wood."

He rarely has to cut down any good trees, says Mr. Pitzer: "I take the ones that have either blown down or died. We lost quite a few in last year's ice storms."

Most recently, the couple finished the second story, which includes a loft area, a living room and kitchen, a guest room, a master bedroom suite/deck and a marble bath with a Jacuzzi.

"Scotty cut the trees and planed the wood for this oak trim around the fireplace [in the living room]," Mrs. Pitzer says.

She also boasts that he made the deck where the couple enjoys summer breakfasts, as well as relaxing to the gurgling song of the nearby waterfall.

"This whole ridge was rock," Mrs. Pitzer says, indicating the terrain just off the deck.

"I said: 'Do something here, Scotty.' So he hand-picked all the rocks from our stream; I tried to help him, but he didn't like my choices."

That there's a bit of conflict is hardly surprising; it's only Almost Heaven, after all.

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