Farm, garden are secrets hidden from rest of world


August 20, 2002|By Debra Taylor Young | Debra Taylor Young,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

JOAN SIPES OF Sykesville knew the moment she and her husband, Walter, pulled into the tree-lined driveway that she had found her new home.

"I don't care what's at the end of the driveway," she said to him as they made their way up the lane. "This is it."

At the end was a 50-acre farm with a house dating from the 1800s that had been abandoned for 18 months. They were not looking for an old house to fix up and really wanted only enough land to keep a few horses and a mule, but the entrance to the property was breathtaking.

Upon inspecting the house, they found that a faulty furnace had blackened the interior walls. The place was a mess, Sipes said, and no flowers or gardens grew on the property. But she was infatuated.

Seven years later, Sipes boards eight horses on the farm outside Sykesville - three are hers and the rest belong to five women who have become close friends. She and her husband grow hay for the horses and keep a few chickens and dogs.

The couple restored the interior of the house and bumped out the back to create an eat-in kitchen. The grounds have been landscaped and include a fountain and several small gardens with benches where visitors can sit and relax.

Sipes' favorite additions to her property are two gardens enclosed by white picket fences.

The first bears a sign that reads, "Spring's Garden." Here Sipes buried her beloved quarter horse, Spring, who died from Cushing's disease after being her companion for 21 years. Inside the garden is a statue of an angel standing over a flowerbed and a stone with the inscription, "If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane, I'd walk right up to heaven, and bring you home again. In Memory of Spring, 1976-1997."

The second garden was created when one of her friend's horses, SweetBriar, died from an illness at age 19. Sipes recently had bought the book The Secret Garden for her granddaughter and read the book with her.

She approached the friend, Nancy Straus, with the idea to create a hidden garden, like the one in the book.

"I told her that I thought we should make a secret garden around SweetBriar," said Sipes. "She thought it was a great idea."

The second garden, hidden behind a tall, private gate, is much larger, with angels, cherubs, a birdbath, and many other ornaments. SweetBriar is buried there with a mule named Little Bill and two cats. A memorial also commemorates two children.

One child, simply known to Sipes as Kira, was an acquaintance of Sipes' three grandchildren who died at age 1. The other child, Ian McDermott, 6, was the son of boarder Sue McDermott. Ian suffered from a birth defect and died as a result. Connie Warren, who also boards a horse at the farm, created the memorial for Ian.

"We associate the Secret Gardens with the song Precious Memories," said Sipes. "I should have made the garden a lot bigger. I had no idea it would take off this way."

The Secret Garden has become the gathering place for Sipes and her friends after riding horses.

For Sipes, the farm is a secret garden, hidden from the rest of the world by the long driveway.

White Rock barbecue

White Rock United Methodist Church will hold a barbecue from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The event will feature cooked meats and homemade pies.

The church is at 6300 White Rock Road in Sykesville. Advance orders: 410-795-1110.

Debra Taylor Young's neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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