Anyone who can work from home and live in the country, pay attention: I have found your paradise! Chefs and gourmands, go from ground to garnish in five minutes. This is truly one of the most amazing properties I have ever seen, and it is just an hour east of Dallas on I-20. There are so many “firsts” and innovative design touches in this compound, you do feel like you are in the heart of Preston Hollow but have just kind of helicoptered over the traffic.
Well, you could very well have: there is a helicopter pad and even a fuel tank, so you won’t run out of gas.
Located near the quaint town of Canton, county seat of Van Zandt County, home to the famous “First Monday Trades Days” flea market, you are in God’s green acres out here with trees, water, rolling hills and the freshest air you can find. And even better, you can grow your own food! Top notch medical facilities and equally excellent schools are available nearby. At night, you hear no sirens or tires screeching — just birds and the jack rabbits scurrying through the grass. Rather than watch traffic jams on the mixmaster with a glass of wine while you cough cough on polluted air, you can count the bats flying over the house from the back porch. Like a natural Mosquito Mist, these guys eat the mosquitoes and keep them off of people. Canton has a country club with golf course, a new Splash Kingdom, not a $3.5 billion Dreamvision vision, no Starbucks but Val’s Italian in town. Recreational lakes are thirty minutes away — Tawakoni, Cedar Creek and Lake Palestine.
Of course, why would you drive there when you have your own lake?
Why would you even leave this pastoral heaven except to go to church and shopping? Like I said, if you can work from home even two days a week, listen up.
Once upon a time, a dear daughter acquired 30 acres from her father, every blade of grass brimming with family memories. She had a dream of building a family compound that offered acres of romp room, and room to raise fresh fruits and vegetables, a few free-range hens, to provide her family with truly organic food. She wanted the kids to have a swimming hole that would be better than any camp’s. When her daughters grew up and had families of their own, they would bring everyone back to the farm-ette in east Texas, creating precious memories of fun and good family times that even Larry Ellison could not buy.
The setting was Miller Farm, which came about when the daughter bought an additional 62 acres, creating 92 acres of east Texas paradise. (800 raw acres abut the property, so there may be room to add additional acreage.) A live tributary called Lacy creek runs right through the back 60 acres. There are three ponds, all stocked with bass and perch. There is a hay meadow of five acres, a commercial greenhouse heated by two propane heating units, and a pole barn house for the chickens, who have the run of the place like it was the Ritz. They should create a reality show about these chickens. Beside the one-quarter acre fresh garden that produces lettuce, beans, zucchini, peppers, pumpkins, even melons, there is even a vineyard that produces grapes.
Yes, you could even stomp grapes and make your own wine out here.
But as Porgy and Bess might say, the living is easy, because this homestead is not your typical farm house. Built in 2004, it is essentially a Preston Hollow mansion in the Piney Woods. The home is 6,600 square feet with formals, three living areas, a den, six fireplaces, guest bedroom and ginormous master bedroom with a total spa bathroom. Upstairs is set up as a huge exercise/game room that could easily be converted to more bedrooms or a bunk room for grandkids.
The compound also has not one but three guest houses, each more amazing than the other. Plus the home is sited on the land so it faces the largest private lake, creating not just amazing views, but perfect views in every season from every room.
Let me take you through:
From the front, you appear to be entering another tasteful, well-built stone manor. But inside it all changes. The foyer is enormous — in fact, a grand piano looks small in one corner — and opens us to the heart of the house. To the left is a huge study, to the right a large dining room with the most brilliant storage I have encountered: not only does this room have double-door closets with shelves to hold china, silver, seasonal, a Butlery was constructed in between this room and the kitchen. A huge Butler’s pantry, this room is big enough for a chest and has more closets plus a counter with sink and dishwasher. Basically, a whole meal could be served from and cleaned up in the room, which abuts the amazing kitchen.
Did I tell you we are on all tile and hand-scraped wood floors?
Directly straight off the foyer is the enormous great room, measuring 23 by 30 feet. This room has soaring heights but the warmth of a wood ceiling and rock stone walls with a huge fireplace and wet bar/service area on the far wall. This room leads to another living area loaded with huge divided light windows overlooking the lake and property. From here are French doors to the huge patio.
The kitchen should win a design award or five. Located to the right of the Great room, it is 11 by 22 feet large and literally begs you to cook. It screams for the organic food grown five feet way to be prepared here with the help of two warming drawers, a Wolf gas range, a huge Sub Zero refrigerator, a wine cooler, extra freezers, icemaker, a refrigerated drink drawer, huge island with bar sink, a pot filler, even a nook off the main room that serves as a private little “Mom’s” office.
The kitchen is also beamed and large enough to hold a large table and chairs, and it also has a morning room with fireplace.
A small hallway off the kitchen leads to a guest room, powder bath, laundry room, and a side grilling porch: meats grilled on the huge outdoor grill won’t offend guests on the back porch with smoke, so thoughtful.
The master: a mammoth 19 by 25 foot room with fireplace, sitting area loaded with sunlight, spa bath with huge tub, and closets that will put those on Beverly Drive to shame. Her closet is more like a room to itself, with wallpaper, a full island, and doors masking the clothes. There is even a restful window seat. So your closet is not a madhouse loaded with hangers and mess, but an actual serene room. And there are two, one for her, one for him. To start the day dressing in this tranquil room would definitely lower blood pressure a notch or two.
If that won’t do it, the bath will. The free-standing marble tub is imported, there is a dressing table and vanities, room for a fainting couch, and huge windows, even a window seat overlooking the pond.
This is absolutely the most family-oriented and conceived home I have ever seen. There is even a beautifully constructed bookcase lining the walls of the master hallway loaded with books and photos.
T he main house is spacious, with what basically accounts for entire rooms as closets, but the great surprise is the three guest houses that dot the property, a few steps away from the main house.
The first is so close you can see it from the porch: the “Dairy Barn” is fashioned after an authentic French dairy barn. You enter in the middle, the center foyer creating a breezeway that opens on one side to the main house, the other to the grasslands in front of the lake, loaded with swings, playhouse and settees. To the right is a charming one bedroom, one bath apartment with living area and kitchen. Oh, to be a guest here: I could just eat that white farm-front sink. To the left of the breezeway is a huge game room with TV, games, snack bar, extra sleeping beds, and a half bath. The Dairy Barn has it’s own laundry and easy-clean concrete floors: this is the place for kids, dogs, guests, even a wild party or two.
Next is the “Hen House”, located near the greenhouse and hen chateau, another charming one-bedroom apartment with a precious mini kitchen, bath and living area.
A bit further down the road is an entire extra 1500 square foot-ish house called The Parsonage. Turns out one of the churches in town was going to tear down an old Parsonage. Miller Farm’s owners agreed to salvage it by moving it to the property where it was beautifully refurbished into a two bedroom, two bath home with kitchen and living room. The wood floors are original to the Parsonage, the metal roof is new and imparts a Hill Country flavor, and the back screened porch overlooking the eastern edge of the lake is (yet, another) perfect place to relax.
Each of the guest houses has a satellite dish, separate heat pumps and air conditioning units (though you won’t need them in spring) and aerobic systems.
Oh yes, there is a copper roofed gazebo built onto the lake, fully lit, visible and accessible from all compound structures except, perhaps, the Parsonage, which has it’s own glorious views. There is also custom lighting around the trees.
535 Private Road 604 is about 5 minutes outside of Canton on a remote road with an elegant front drive-up. Listed with Virginia Cook’s capable Simone Jeanes, asking price for paradise: only $2,450,000. I can totally see someone sell a large home in Dallas, Preston Hollow or Park Cities, pack up the kids and dogs and head straight to Canton. The schools are excellent, the pace is slower, and this is as close to organic farm living as you can get without, well, actually having a full-fledged farm. The greenhouse is 30 feet by 96 feet, commercial size, and has protected dozens of plants, roses and even berries. (Right now it is full of plants dug up for the winter.) The garden is good for sweet potatoes in the fall, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce in the spring. After the frost you plant corn, tomatoes, okra, peppers, beans, eggplant, even melons. There have been successful crops of plant pumpkins and fragrant cutting flowers which you can gather in your apron, just like Martha Stewart!
And with all those guest-houses, there is room for veggie-loving caretakers.
Full-time farming is relentless: there are endless chores, duties, and animals to care for. You work your fingers to the bone and work off any heavy meals that come from the hearty kitchen. For most of the 20th century, Americans tried to escape farm life by fleeing to the city. But increasingly, more people are wanting to go back to the farm, or at least a farm-like lifestyle with fresh, organic gardens. Some really prefer the lifestyle, some are making a huge social point:
“I wanted to work independently and work with people.” Capron, a Denver, CO, native who studied German in college before spending several years working at a brewery and bouncing back and forth between Germany and the U.S., fell in love with farming when he lived on a commune during one European stint. He told me that his motivation to farm comes largely from an aversion to participating in a capitalist economy that he views as exploitative. “Socially, wherever you go and whatever you buy, it supports this slavery in different parts of the world,” he said. “The tomatoes you eat come from an indentured servant in California, and my jeans come from a sweatshop in Honduras. So I see [farming] as a way of not allowing for slavery and not being accountable for slavery.”
Whether it’s a concern for social justice, a need to be part of the environment, or a desire to escape a fast-paced, seemingly destructive urban society, Miller Farm is where you can come to peace and change the world. Because the family compound really IS your world, all your’s for the keeping.