jj4ez377.jpg

Sitting at a wooden table in the Colonial kitchen of the Robert Frost Farm, established poet and writer Bill Gleed looks out the window from a chair he often chooses when writing. In addition to his literary accomplishments, Gleed is also the caretaker for the Frost Farm.

DERRY — On a typical summer day, wildflowers blow freely in the breeze and the wooded paths surrounding Frost Farm may be a bit muddy from a cool rainfall.

“It’s quiet today,” Bill Gleed said. “Sometimes I like these days on the farm.”

Gleed is the caretaker for the property where poet Robert Frost and his family once lived.

Fittingly enough, Gleed also is a published poet and essayist as well as a college professor.

Seated at a desk inside the dark, worn barn on the Route 28 property, Gleed sells books, leads streams of Frost fans through the farmhouse’s rooms, and might spend an afternoon writing alone or with his assistant, Steve Ormond, 19, nearby.

“I write things, when it’s not too busy,” said Gleed, who in 2004 had a reading of his work at the farm and was recruited by a trustee for the caretaker position.

Frost, his wife, Elinor, and their four children called Derry home and owned the simple, white clapboard farmhouse, barn and property from 1900 to 1911, while the poet taught at nearby Pinkerton Academy.

Much of Frost’s poetic inspiration came from what he viewed from the window of his home, or while walking the perimeter of the property. The same is true for Gleed, who says he also draws inspiration from the surroundings.

“And I enjoy getting to spend the summer here,” said Gleed, who lives in Danville when he’s not working at the farm.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the farm entertains thousands of people in a typical summer season, many of whom pay to take the official tour. Others choose instead to meander the meadows, traipse over trails, and see the spots Frost liked to write about.

“He is read all over the world,” said Gleed, who grew up in Haverhill, Mass., and whose father was a longtime trustee of the John Greenleaf Whittier birthplace.

Gleed said he’s been host to visitors from about 40 states, Hawaii included, as well as ones from India, Africa and beyond. Even many of the people who live in or grew up in Derry are stopping by for their first time, he said.

Gleed says his role as a caretaker is varied.

“I tell people I can do a tour for fourth-graders or can do a graduate-school class,” he said, adding he could also polish off a rest-room repair or cleaning project if need be.

He’s proud he can offer visitors so much knowledge about Frost’s life in Derry.

Frost hoped to have his wife’s ashes scattered in Derry after she died, Gleed said. But when the poet returned to town years after moving and saw how the property had fallen into disrepair, he decided to place her remains elsewhere.

The state eventually took control the farm in 1964 as a historic site. With the help of Frost’s eldest daughter, Lesley Frost Ballantine, and a group of early supporters the restoration began. The property opened for public visits in 1975.

Today, volunteers and organizations “adopt” the farm throughout the year to make sure it remains historically intact and preserved.

The Derry Garden Club, for instance, oversees the gardens and landscape. Americorps students have worked in the fields. Derry Village Rotary Club members take on major upkeep projects during the year.

“Frost wanted this place to be his memorial,” Gleed said. “This is a place he felt closest to.”

When he is through his chores, Gleed takes time to reflect on where he is, often sitting near the kitchen window at a timeworn table, jotting down simple words that may someday become a verse.

“I’ve written a lot in this house,” Gleed said, “but it’s like taking batting practice with Babe Ruth’s bat.”

Trending Video

Recommended for you