Rocky Pastures: One of Bloomberg Businessweek’s “Best Homes in Maine”

I found another shot of Rocky Pasture’s walled garden/study entrance on Bloomberg Businessweek’s feature “Best Homes in Maine“; this shot shows the balcony overlooking the walled garden.  I don’t know why, but I really like this shot; it seems to highlight Roberts’ enjoyment of his garden.

Balcony overlooking walled garden. Picture sourse: Eileen Roberts, Anne Erwin Sotheby’s International Realty. Located on: http://images.businessweek.com/ss/07/12/1220_best_homes_maine/source/5.htm

Rocky Patures: The Necessity of Dogs for a “Well-Conducted Home”

Kenneth Roberts posing with his dogs by the fountain in the walled garden of Rocky Pastures. Courtesy “Vintage Maine Images” and the Maine Historical Society
http://www.vintagemaineimages.com/bin/Detail?ln=1381

Kenneth Roberts on dogs (such a great quote!): 

Dogs have always seemed to me an essential part of every well-conducted home….I had visions of leading  an ideal life in a rambling farmhouse  of great simplicity but extreme comfort…Those visions were rosy and indefinite, except for the dogs.  I had clear ideas on the dogs that would surround and inhabit the farm.  I would have several utilitarian dogs: a few setters to assist me in gunning for partridges; two springer spaniels to precede me through swamps and alder thickets during the woodcock season; a dachshund to make things uncomfortable for foxes and woodchucks that have retired to their holes; and above all I wished a lot of wire-haired terriers, for no particular reason except that they pleased me, even in their obtuse and imbecilic moments.  In all, I figured, I would need about forty dogs (“Dogs In a Big Way” in For Authors Only).

Be sure to visit Rocky Pastures, the fulfillment of Kenneth Roberts’ “ideal life in a rambling farmhouse of great simplicity but extreme comfort,” from June 23 – July 14 during the Kennebunkport Historical Society Designer Show House.

Here are Paula Robinson Rossouw’s dogs in the spot where Kenneth Roberts posed with his dogs 73 years ago. (Photo courtesy of Paula Robinson-Rossouw)

Kenneth Roberts the Man: On So-Called Experts

(This post is similar to a  post from 3 years ago, though here I hope to point out something I didn’t then.  The quote below also appears in that post in a much shorter form.)

As one reads through Kenneth Roberts’ essays, she will notice his disgust with the so-called experts of his day on issues such as planting, fishing, and diets.  The way in which he directs his disgust towards them, though, is quite humorous as he makes himself the ignorant, hapless soul (regarding whatever topic he is discussing) while mentioning the experts and their views in rather glowing, hyperbolic language.    The result is akin to the philosopher’s tool of reductio ad absurdum: the picture Roberts’ paints in reality makes the “expert” look rather silly and ignorant while Roberts emerges from the essay unscathed by the fad of the day.

Perhaps the best illustration of Roberts’ method is presented in a quote from his essay “An Inquiry Into Diets” found in his For Authors Only and The Kenneth Roberts Reader:

One of the foremost diet books says that if a person follows the proper diet, he becomes tranquil, thoughtful, and philosophic; overwork is impossible; business worries are unknown; irritation vanishes.  It was all too clear to me that I was in a bad way; for whenever my eye struck a newspaper report of the activities of the House of Representatives, I became irritated.  Almost everything that was done in the House of Representatives seemed irritating…

When I read about such things, I not only become irritated: I become profane – so profane that my language sometimes shocks even myself.

This, of course, is another sure indication of acidosis.  If I were on a proper diet, nothing could imitate me.  I would remain tranquil and philosophic while reading about the House of Representatives.  I would continue  to be tranquil and philosophic, event though the House of Representatives should be successful in its efforts to bring the nation to insolvency and ruin.

I may as well be frank.  The diet books had me, to put it crudely, scared (In The Kenneth Roberts Reader, 88-89).

And such is Roberts’ attitude toward dieticians in this particular example, and to so-called experts on the whole.    In a day when it seems we’re inundated with a cacophony of voices telling us what to do, it is somewhat refreshing to know that this is nothing new, but has gone on for quite some time.  And in the midst of the noise of self-proclaimed experts, Kenneth Roberts added his voice among those voices calling people back to common sense and reason.

Rocky Pastures: Designer Show House in the News

As we get closer to the Rocky Pastures Designer Show House, the show is making the rounds in the news.  Seacoastonline.com posted an article titled “Show House to be Summer Highlight” in which they highlight the event and point out that this is the first time the estate has been open to the public.  IN addition they highlight some of the designers for the Designer Show House, particularly  Bree Clark, of Wright Interiors in Kennebunkport and Cathy Rowe of Kennebunk’s Well Dressed Interiors, who will be designing the family room.

Again, the dates are June 23 – July 14, and visit the Kennebunkport Historical Society website regarding tickets.  If you live in the area, don’t regret missing this event!

Rocky Pastures: Design Show House Events

The Design Show House, sponsored by the Kennebunkport Historical Society, is only a month and a half away!  The Show House runs from June 23 – July 14 and is open to the public at $20 per ticket.  This is a great opportunity to see the estate of a great historian and author, so if you’re in the area, be sure to visit!

In addition to taking in the beauty of Roberts’ estate and viewing the various design rooms of New England-area designers, KHS is putting on several events related to Kenneth Roberts (note that the locations for these events are not at Rocky Pastures).  Below are the events as listed on the Design Show House website:

  • Monday, June 25 – The Colony Hotel – Lunch and Learn – Featured speaker is Joyce Butler, historian, archivist/curator, and writer. The topic is “Kenneth Roberts: The Man.” Guests will look at the talents and colorful personality of one of America’s most loved writers of historical fiction. Butler will chronicle his life at rocky Pastures and tell anecdotes of his family and friends. This intimate portrait is sure to delight all.  Tickets to the show house are included. $45 per person.
  • Monday, July 2 – The Colony Hotel – Lunch and Learn – Featured speaker is Sandy Oliver, renowned food historian and writer. The topic is “Kenneth Roberts’ chapter on food in his book, Trending into Maine. This chapter unleashed a torrent of reader response that intiated the cookbook, Good Maine Food, authored by his neice and secretary, Marjorie Mosser.  Tickets to the show house are included. $45 per person.
  • Monday, July 9 – The Nonantum Resort – Lunch and Learn – Featured speaker is etiquette specialist Andrea Pastore. The topic is “Navigating a Place Setting.” Andrea will present ettiquette situations and thoughtful, fun and useful solutions. For more information about Andrea, visit http://etiquettesolutionsbyandrea.com/.  Tickets to the show house are included. $45 per person.

I find Joyce Butler’s Lunch and Learn rather intriguing!  If you have a chance to visit any of these events, feel free to let me know how they went and what you took away from these events.

Keep your eyes open for forthcoming posts on Rocky Pastures as we lead up to KHS’s Design Show House.

Kenneth Roberts in the Blogosphere: Fishermen’s Voice

While searching for tidbits on Kenneth Roberts and his love nature/hunting/fishing, I came across an article written by Tom Seymour of the Fishermen’s Voice, whose subtitle on the webpage states: “News and Comment for and by the Fishermen of Maine.”  What’s of interest to this website is Tom’s article on Kenneth Roberts and the value of his works to American history and to the history of Maine (titled “Kenneth Roberts – Maine’s Contribution to American History”).

In this article, Seymour provides a general survey of Roberts’ writing career, particularly of the novels Roberts’ is most known for.  However, in this article, Seymour provides some tidbits of Roberts that I found intriguing and humorous:

Kenneth Roberts had a habit, according to his friend Ben Ames Williams, another great, Maine author, of believing what people told him. That innocence nearly cost him his life when, going on the word of acquaintances that skunk cabbage was edible, he put the thing to the test. Skunk cabbage only presents itself as edible when in a 100-percent dry state, something that requires not only tedious processing, but also takes one year or more to achieve. Otherwise, the plant excites such a fiery sensation in the mouth and further down the esophagus, that it can, indeed, prove deadly.

This annecdote is a great glimpse at Kenneth Roberts the man, whose intensity is matched only by few (in my opinion).

Seymour speaks highly of Roberts and his ability (rightly so).  He says of Roberts’ works:

Young people, from the 1930s to the present time, have cut their “history teeth” on the thought provoking, intense and suspenseful novels written by Kenneth Roberts, of Kennebunkport, Maine.

While I think it is true that students in the past cut their teeth on Roberts’ novels, I tend to think that it’s not so much the case any more these days as it’s rare to find someone who has at least heard of him, much less have read his novels.  Nevertheless, Seymour rightly points out that Roberts’ works is still of value today in that:

Roberts’ contribution to educating the youth (and older people as well) of America lies in his unerring historical accuracy and an innate ability to make interesting and immensely entertaining reading of what otherwise might remain dry, historical side notes.

This is a great read, even if you already know of Roberts’ and his contribution.  Thanks, Tom, for helping to keep alive the works of a great author!

Kenneth Roberts in the Blogosphere: King George Inn

King George Inn. Photo courtesy of http://www.wfmz.com found in the article by Frank Whelan titled “King George Inn has been refuge for travelers and local folks since 1756”. No name provided of the photographer.

An interesting article in WFMZ – 69 News website highlights an over 250-year old inn called King George Inn and it’s most current owner, Cliff McDermont (title of the article: “History’s headlines: King George Inn has been refuge for travelers and local folks since 1756.”  The inn has hosted guest from the time of the French and Indian War on up today.

The article tells of when Cliff McDermont became interested in the inn.  He had stopped by the inn in the 1960s while traveling on family trips, and fell in love with it.

The inn reminded McDermott of those described by historical novelist Kenneth Roberts in his books about the French and Indian War era. And that image was coupled with tales of the inn he heard from the owners about times there during the Prohibition era of the 1920s.

The novel the article refers to is Northwest Passage, though I am not sure where it is mentioned or under what name it is mentioned in the novel – any references are welcome.  The article does note that the inn has undergone various name changes – the most used name being White Horse Tavern.  You can visit the inn’s website at: http://www.kinggeorgeinn.com/.  A great piece of American history that dates beyond the Revolutionary War, and a great mention of Kenneth Roberts by the inn’s current owner, Cliff McDermott!

Get to Know the History of Maine

Kenneth Roberts was unashamedly loyal to the state of Maine, particularly to the areas in which his family originated.  Roberts even exerted his energies in writing books on the virtues of Maine in Trending Into Maine and Good Maine Food.  If Maine was of great importance to Kenneth Roberts, then I felt it would behoove me – a Louisiana native now living in Kentucky – to get to know Maine.  But besides my own selfish reasons, I feel that any Kenneth Roberts fan that does not reside in Maine would get to know Roberts better by knowing the great state in which he lived and worked.

Two great places to visit are:

  1. Kennebunkport Historical Society. You can read their newletter The Log here and follow them on Facebook here.
  2. Maine Historical Society.  You can join the society and have great access to resources to study up on Maine history.  You can also follow their blog Maine Historical Society Blog and follow them on Facebook here.

Take a moment to visit these sites!  I will be adding these links to my blogroll for easier access in the future.  For those of us who do not live in Maine, this is one way in which we can feel a part of the great state of Maine that Kenneth Roberts loved.

***Postscript: I had visited Maine back in 2009 for only two days (I had to help a friend move things out of storage in Maine to bring to Louisville, KY).  We didn’t get to see much, but what I did see made me fall in love with Maine.  I long to go back one day and spend more time visiting and getting to know this beautiful state!***

Rocky Pastures: Before There Was the Walled Garden, Part II – Rocky Pasture’s Predecessor

Perhaps I may be regarded as allergic to noise.  Possibly I am – and then, again, I may merely be one of a multitude who realize that noise is a form of torture created and tolerated by idiots.

-Kenneth Roberts in I Wanted to Write (pg. 189)

***The following is part of a series to promote Rocky Pastures and the Design Show House the Kennebunkport Historical Society is sponsoring at the estate on June 23 – July 14. You can visit the KHS site here. One of the designers, a friend of this blog, can be visited here.*** 

1 Linden Avenue, Kennebunk Beach, ME – Roberts’ predecessor to Rocky Pastures, and the subject of his essay “The Little Home in the Country.” Courtesy Portland Monthly

Kenneth Roberts’ search for solitude culminated with his building of Rocky Pastures in 1938, but as stated in my previous post, his search first led him to what he eventually called Stall Hall.

Stall Hall is the subject of his humorous essay “The Little Home in the Country” in For Authors Only.  In this essay, he comically relays his toils and trials of making his home a fortress against the outside world and the noise it brings.  I contrasts his toils of renovating Stall Hall with the supposed ease of renovating as presented by the “experts” of his day. 

These experts paint a picture of idyllic serenity, where foliage and flowers bloom with ease, and one “by digging occasionally in the damp and fragrant earth, one easily induces unbroken slumber and raises gargantuan vegetables.”   Just as easy is the remodeling of a farmhouse, where:

In most of these whimsical pieces, a young wife leads her husband into the country, shows him a semicollapsed  cottage, and talks him into buying it.  Then the two of them, with an old hammer, a borrowed saw, and a few secondhand nails, proceed to hammer it into perfect condition.

Little did he know, he would be renovating or remodeling some aspect of Stall Hall practically every year he lived there.  He says:

I do…desire to cry a bitter cry against the manner in which occupants of little homes in the country, and prospective occupants of such homes, are led to embark on ventures without being warned of the grief that may await them if they permit themselves, as I once did, to believe implicitly in catalogs and incomplete directions.

In honor, I’m sure, of his toils with Stall Hall, Roberts’ developed a motto for his home, “Nobody Ever Told Me About That.”  As stated in my previous post, the solitude of the area in which Stall Hall resided would soon be disturbed by the “first green, first and second fairways, and second tee” of Webhannet Golf Course (see an article dated in Oct. 2010 on the then-sale of Stall Hall from which this quote came) and his neighbor’s garages.  Upon making the decision of devoting his energies to writing historical fiction, Roberts, along with his friend Booth Tarkington, purchased another stable nearby and converted it into a “New England-Spanish workshop with a courtyard capable (I fondly imagined) of frustrating people determined to drop in for a cozy chat when I was most eager to work” (I Wanted to Write, 169).  He would name this Blue Roof.

I’ve yet to find in any of the resources I have what Roberts’ thought of Rocky Pastures after its construction, but I can only imagine that he had found what he was looking for.  Surrounded by natural beauty, his study walled in by the walled garden-far away from any neighbor or golf course-and separated from the highway by a half mile driveway, Roberts could now write without the distraction of the world.

***Note: Stall Hall was for sale at the publishing of the Oct. 2010 article “Kenneth Roberts and His Beloved Money Pit” in the online version of Portland Monthly. According to verani.com, Stall Hall sold in March of 2011 for $755,000.

View of the outside of the walled garden from potting shed. Courtesy of Paula Robinson Rossouw

The french doors of the study lead out to the walled garden. Immediately to the left upon exiting is the water feature. Photo courtesy of Paula Robinson Rossouw.

The last photo here is of Roberts’ study today.  This room, among others in the house, will be transformed by various designers, including Paula Robinson Rossouw, from June 23 – July 14.  Be sure to visit!

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