Though the Christmas holiday has passed, Bill and Pat Hahn will continue to bask in the glow of the five Christmas trees that decorate nearly every room of their home until the end of January.
The painted wood reindeer will remain grazing on the couple's lawn. The pine wreaths with their bright red bows and the electric candles decorating each window will still welcome winter visitors to the couple's small farm outside Westminster.
To be honest, there's a little bit of Christmas in every day at "A Separate Peace," the log cabin the Hahns share with their children -- Lee, 6, and Lane, 4 -- in Carroll County's slowly developing Bachman Valley. The house is named for Pat's favorite book, the classic young adult novel by John Knowles about a group of boarding school boys during World War II.
Though their home sits back from the road on a short lane and they don't have time to entertain as they did before they had children, Pat said she's never been able to bridle her enthusiasm for Christmas. She begins hanging garlands and putting up trees, big and small, the day after Thanksgiving.
Keeping with her country theme for the house, the effect is pleasant but not overpowering. Many of the decorations are made from natural materials, such as the pine boughs in the large crock near the front door. Others, such as the kitchen tree with its white and yellow dough ornaments made in school by Lee, are tied to the room they're displayed in. Pat pays close attention to detail: An old wooden hay rake hanging on the living room wall has a garland of gingerbread men and dried apples woven between its tines. An antique children's hymnal lies next to a small Nativity scene, displayed on an old hoosier.
She is equally understated with her year-round touches. Visitors can see her love for the holiday in the red-and-green cherub stencils she painted along the ceiling in the master bathroom. It's there in the family room, subtly hidden in the cranberry-and-forest-colored plaid sofa and chair Pat bought last fall. And her feelings can't be missed in the restored antique sled. Rescued from certain rot in a Pennsylvania barn some years ago, it now sports a holiday wreath every day and holds a cheery cargo of smiling teddy bears.
College sweethearts who met as agriculture students at the University of Maryland, College Park, Bill and Pat grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore and Howard counties respectively, but were raised by parents who were farmers at heart. After the couple married, they lived in a tenant house on a farm owned by Bill's family before finding land of their own. They gutted and restored the old farmhouse, at the same time saving to build the log home they'd dreamed of.
They bought their 8-acre property in 1983, undaunted by the trees and brush that covered it. With the help of family and friends, they cleared the land and started construction. "It was a different kind of house, being a log home, so we were lucky because everyone wanted to help," Pat said.
The spruce logs were part of a kit the Hahns bought. The couple paid a contractor to frame the home and put in the floors. But they tackled equally difficult tasks -- installing insulation, the septic system, the concrete basement and all of the ceilings -- themselves.
The Hahns continued their tradition of a home-grown construction crew when they decided to expand their basic saltbox design and add an upstairs bedroom after Lane was born. A contractor friend raised the roof, but Bill undertook the rest of the work. He also built the matching log garage. More recently, he and Pat's brother extended the wrap-around porch dTC "though my brother told us after the porch was done to never ask for his help again because he was sick and tired of carrying tree stumps around," Pat said with a laugh.
The two-story home with finished basement is a showcase for the antiques and family pieces the couple has collected over their years together.
Built in the old-fashioned style, the stairs to the second floor are located square in the middle of the front entry. The living room to the left leads around past the fireplace to an open country kitchen. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer an unobstructed view of the back yard with its elaborate wooden jungle gym, above-ground pool and deck, grape arbor, vegetable garden and small livestock barn.
The Hahns share the property with deer, foxes, birds and other wildlife.
A combination laundry/mud room -- a must on every farm, especially one that's home to two rambunctious kids -- a playroom and a powder room complete the first floor.
The upstairs bedrooms continue Pat's natural theme. Lee's room -- redecorated this year -- is wallpapered with plaid and pinecones, broken only by a border of black bears. An old wooden chicken crate, hung on the wall, holds his collection of plastic dinosaurs. A quilt hangs on one wall in Lane's room across the hall. Her antique bedroom set came from a farm sale, held after the owner had died.