We are Brian and Maria Chamberlain, the owners of The Inn at OxBow Acres. Brian served in the military for 31 years in the United States Marine Corps, New Hampshire Air National Guard, and United States Air Force. He currently works for the Federal Aviation Administration as a radio/radar technician. Maria is a former nurse, homeschooling mama, and Area Representative for Classical Conversations. How did we end up as innkeepers? Well, despite the fact that we have seven children and are well acquainted with cooking, laundry, and scheduling, this really wasn’t on our family radar. But it’s a natural transition at this point in our lives. For the full story, keep reading.
My husband was eating breakfast at our old familiar haunt in Southern New Hampshire when he ran into a friend and told him about our recent move. His friend’s eyes grew wide. “Milan? Way up in the mountains?? That’s God’s country!”
“God’s country?” Brian replied. “I’ve got a seat right on his doorstep!”
That’s a pretty accurate description of this lovely place we call home. The breathtaking scenery and riverfront property captured both of us last August. Mind you, we had no intention of ever leaving Strafford, NH. We bought 15 acres there the year we married (1984) then sold it in 1987 and bought our first home – a tiny 18×26 two-bedroom house on 2.67 acres. We lived there for 13 years making updates and a 16×20 addition which really wasn’t well planned for our rapidly growing family. Our second daughter was two weeks old when we moved to that little house on Old Ridge Road. Seven years later our son was born, and we started the addition. By 1998 we had five children in a cramped one-bathroom home, and we were making plans to potentially care for our aging parents. It was time to relocate. We were under contract for our dream home on a river in Barnstead when the seller had “remorse” and did everything he could to frustrate us. Although our real estate attorney said he didn’t have a leg to stand on, she asked how long we were willing to fight for it. “He could drag this out for five weeks, five months, even five years.” Our first home was due to close in four weeks, and we had five kids, a herd of dairy goats, chickens, and dogs. We started searching frantically for a farmhouse that would accommodate all of us, but nothing seemed suitable for our needs. The pressure was incredible. It truly brought us to our knees.
The moment we went to pick up our deposit on the Barnstead house, a 1790 Colonial listing rolled off a fax machine. The stately home was structurally solid, but was in need of work. However, the property was gorgeous! The former owners were our former 4-H Extension Agent and her UNH horticulture professor husband. Cultured grapes, raspberries, beautiful shrubs, wisteria, apple, quince, cedar trees and more were established and thriving! We had one of the prettiest yards on Second Crown Point. We loved it! But expensive renovations were needed. Septic…furnace…well…windows…roof… Goodness, in the winter there was frost on some of the interior walls! And we weren’t the only residents – winter brought in quite the assortment of critters skittering throughout our walls. Brian would make tally marks in the rat traps!
By 2007 we had added two more sons to our crew bringing our household to a total of 9. That year we also started on the interior cosmetic renovations. As a girl, I had momentarily dreamed of being an interior designer. My first opportunity began by planning a more functional kitchen. That would be an entirely new blog post, but suffice it to say that carpet in a kitchen/dining room with seven kids was challenging. Eventually, we completed redecorating the entire downstairs in 2018, and then we completely finished off our attic to house our visiting adult kids and grandchildren. That was also the year Brian’s mom came to live with us. Nana had developed dementia and needed total physical care. For almost two years, the newly decorated dining room in the very center of our home became her bedroom, and to keep peace the Andy Griffith Show played in our living room for hours each day.
Honestly, things were majorly stressful. We had two young teen boys living in a nursing home environment during a controversial election year and COVID. Combine hyped-up testosterone with irrationality, and then close down a divided country. This is the environment we lived in, and it wasn’t healthy for any of us. I found myself getting anxious and depressed about the state of our country and getting sucked into the mire of social media. My one escape was to go to my backyard “retreat” as my daughter once called it. I tended my cheery flowers and vegetables in-between tending to the needs of my mother-in-law and boys. The beautiful yard looked more and more lovely each day.
In June of 2020, my youngest said, “We ought to move. I’ve never moved. My friends are moving or have moved. That would be fun.” I thought he was out of his mind! If you asked me, “Maria, what would put you over the edge,” MOVING would have been the answer. Then in July our next-door neighbor – who grew up in our house – sold his home to live in Maine next to his parents. A couple of weeks later, my son visited a friend who lived across from a lake and started talking about how we should move to a lake house. I was a little peeved. After all the blood, sweat, and tears we’d invested in this home, and he wanted to move! Brian, however, had always wanted waterfront property. Practical me was opposed. “Why would I want a postage stamp-sized lot with outrageous taxes? We have seven kids and ten grandchildren – we couldn’t even have a cookout. Neighbors would complain.” Nonetheless, they started looking at the MLS.
I escaped outside and was happily watering my sunflowers when Brian said, “You gotta see this.” He showed me the Milan property. I have to admit, it caught my attention. But after mulling it over while waving away mosquitos, I decided to put it out of my mind. Why would I ever want to leave my home? We had been connected to this town for 35 years – 20 of them in this well-loved Colonial.
Right around this time, our youngest daughter Abby had graduated college and was looking to move into an apartment. I wasn’t crazy about the apartment location and remembered that Brian had said something about a co-worker selling his home in Maine. This was closer to my daughter’s job, so we called and found out it was still for sale. It was a Saturday when Brian showed me the Milan listing and on Tuesday, we went to go see the Sanford, Maine home with Abby and her boyfriend. Discussing the purchase afterward at an ice cream stand, Brian said, “Your mother doesn’t want to go see the place I want to buy.” He showed the listing to my daughter and she and Caleb both exclaimed, “Why WOULDN’T you go see that?”
Why wouldn’t I go see that? This burning question made me call about 877 Milan Road on August 5, 2020. After talking to the owner, it did sound pretty awesome. On August 8th , we came to look.
Another blog post (or two) would have to describe how this property contained everything we had ever talked about over 35 years of marriage. Every half-hearted desire or mention. It was kind of crazy. And impulsively – based on all these “signs” – we put in an offer and listed our home. It was a complicated property to purchase, and the closing finally happened on November 25th. Within an hour of being here there were more complications (A FUTURE BLOG), and within a month we realized that the magical mountains had clouded our vision to the many needed upgrades. We have pretty much gutted the entire home and are replacing everything…windows, doors, electric, septic, furnace… It begins again. But once again we are captivated by beautiful shrubs, flowers, mountain views, and incredible skies that make you stare in wonder. Where once we were pulled down into the mire of everything that was wrong in the world, we are now drawn upward. Once again, I get a clearer vision of what is true and good and beautiful. We’ve been able to relax and restore our vision and perspective. It’s true that “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful!” There’s so much to explore in the Androscoggin Valley, and we would love to share our little piece of heaven with you. Our hope is that you’ll enjoy the view from our doorstep too.