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Frost Farm, Derry NH: Plenty of Time and Seclusion
by Phyllis Ring

Poet Robert Frost only spent a fraction of his life in Derry, New Hampshire, but
those years resurfaced in his poetry all his life and laid the foundation for his
literary career.

Today, visitors can tour the farm where his family spent nine hard summers
and chilly winters without electricity or running water. Restored and operated
by New Hampshire’s State Park Service, the property is a local and national

Frost lived on this chicken farm for 11 years
Frost, his wife, Elinor, and their four children lived on these 13-acres from 1900-
1911 while the poet experimented with poultry farming and wrote poetry
whenever he could find the time.

The surroundings offer a timeless connection to both nature and Frost’s work in
all four New-England seasons. Lilacs bloom in spring, surrounding pasture
and woods glow green in summer, and a host of beautiful old maples make for
brilliant foliage each fall before snow blankets the ground.

Open every day in the summer
The modest farmhouse and its accompanying barn are open for tours and
special events Wednesday - Sunday only May 5 - June 27 and September 8 -
October 11; Daily June 28 - September 6. Hours: 10am - 4pm.

Although the house had several owners after the Frosts moved away, its
interior has been restored to the simplicity of Frost’s time. His eldest daughter,
Lesley Frost Ballantine, served as consultant during the restoration, decorating
the rooms as she remembers them from childhood.

Special touches include Frost-family china in the dining room and a
reproduction of the family wallpaper in the kitchen, where Frost stayed up late
writing at the table after his family retired to bed. The poet astonished his
neighbors by milking cows at noon and midnight in order to maintain his
nighttime writing schedule.

Where Frost began to write in earnest
Derry was where Frost first began to write seriously. He never planned to stay,
or be a farmer, although his mind returned to the farm for poetic inspiration all
his life. Ironically, he did return to the farm in later years and was turned away
unrecognized by the owner.

In the attached barn, visitors can view photographs of Frost and his family
interspersed with quotes and excerpts of his work. A film offered here is also a
good foundation for the house tour, providing background about Frost’s life,
poetry, and his Derry years.

The stone walls that inspired the poem "Mending Wall"
Behind the house and barn, a wide, accommodating trail follows the stone
walls that were the inspiration for the poem “Mending Wall.” Here, he
repaired the wall with his neighbor, reinforcing their belief that “Good fences
make good neighbors,” often because they encourage cooperation as well as

The trail follows a roughly half-mile course through the quiet woods behind
the house. Many features in this landscape found their way into Frost’s poems
over time, and 23 markers along the trail point out particular spots that
inspired or appeared in his poetry. The well-known “Hyla Brook” flows
alongside the trail, and the woods are a cool retreat in summer.

Derry, N.H.: Where Frost was the happiest
The town of Derry has grown from the small village Frost knew to a town of
about 22,000. However, Pinkerton Academy’s clock tower still marks the
horizon two miles up the road from the farm, a distance Frost covered on foot
when he taught there to supplement the family’s income.

The farming tradition Frost pursued in Derry had roots in the town’s settlement
in 1719, when it was known as Nutfield, the site of European settlers’ first
cultivation of potatoes in America. Although New England’s farming has
diminished, you still find farms in the hills around Derry and can pick bushels
of fruit in nearby orchards.

When asked once where he had been happiest, Frost once replied, “Oh, I guess
it was when I lived in Derry, New Hampshire.” He credited Derry with “plenty
of time and seclusion,” essential ingredients in growing poetry, as well as
quality of life.

See also:
Literary Tourism in New Hampshire

For more information visit the Robert Frost Farm website

About the author New Hampshire writer Phyllis Ring has published articles and essays
in a variety of magazines including Christian Science Monitor, Delicious Living, Hope,
Ms., and Yankee. More information about her current writing projects can be seen at
Frost Farm, Derry, NH.
Photos by Gene Tencza
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