A Trip Down Memory Lane Crafting Retreat
A small lane off a gravel road leads to the Memory Lane Crafting Retreat, nestled in the beautiful rolling countryside just outside of Orangeville in northwest Illinois. A 2,000-pound cow named Blosom greets visitors to the retreat, certainly making an impression for the many who say this marks their first experience on a farm.
“I named the retreat Memory Lane because this place was designed to create wonderful memories for those who stay here,” says owner Patty Hanson.
She opened the farm as a retreat after the passing of her father, Gene Meads. A retired milk inspector, Meads always wanted to own and work on a farm, so in 1989, he bought the neglected property in rural Stephenson County. His friends and family members thought he was in over his head, Hanson recalls, but her father had a vision. He gutted the house, keeping only the original stone fireplace, and had ash trees milled for the remodel, which included modernizing the kitchen. He also tore down a few unsalvageable sheds and expanded the pond.
Meads had helped on his grandparents’ farm as a young man but never lived on one himself. Still, Hanson says, he always liked to tinker and figure things out – so he welcomed the transition to farm life.
When Hanson and her family moved back to Orangeville in 2001, she helped her father on the farm, finding the work and lifestyle a comfortable fit.
Meads passed away suddenly in 2010, leaving his daughter to manage the farm and house. Selling or renting the property didn’t seem like the right thing to do after her father had spent so much time and energy creating such a lovely place, Hanson says.
She decided the farmhouse’s natural light and open floor plan would make a wonderful craft retreat for women to come and quilt, scrapbook, have Bible study or bake cookies for the holidays. The retreat officially opened in 2011 and accommodates up to nine people.
“Dad would love to see so many people enjoying the house,” she says.
Hanson brought in 5-foot tables, comfortable chairs and natural-light lamps for groups to work well into the night. The table space doubles as plenty of cooling space for guests making large batches of cookies.
She also decorated the home with family heirlooms: family portraits adorning the walls, an antique sewing table next to the stairs and her great-grandmother Lois’ needlepoint works hanging on the walls and woven into the seats of chairs. Outside, the wraparound porch overlooks the man-made pond, the hayfield and the barn – all of which frame the sunset.
“Women come in from the city [Chicago] and love to watch the hay being baled,” says Hanson, noting that often her visitors have never before stepped foot on a farm.
Meads began raising heifers in the late 1990s and had as many as 53 head of cattle at one point, while Hanson raised ponies for her three children to show in competitions. The farm still has about 13 ponies, countless cats and Blosom, a Holstein who became a mainstay after Hanson learned the cow couldn’t bear calves.
Today, the 13-year-old Blosom functions as the ambassador of the farm, often adorned with a hat for the holidays or special occasions – a practice she doesn’t seem to mind.
“The ladies always ask how Blosom is doing,” Hanson says.
Hanson loves to visit with the women who come to stay, and many groups return for the scenery and wonderful accommodations. She knows her father would be “tickled” at what she has done with his home – and all of the new memories created by the myriad of quilters, scrapbookers and other guests who have spent time at the retreat.
“What he created, I maintain in his memory and his honor,” she says.
[infobox alignment=”full” title=”Make Your Own Memories”]Memory Lane Craft Retreat is located in Orangeville, about 20 minutes northwest of Freeport and two hours northwest of Chicago. To book a reservation, call (815) 868-2363 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, visit memorylanecraftingretreat.com.[/infobox]