In 1959, Carl Fulco, a masonry contractor living in Baltimore's Hamilton neighborhood, purchased 55 acres of farmland in Freeland, in northern Baltimore County at the Pennsylvania line. A circa 1840 masonry farmhouse, red barn and wagon shed came with the property.
Fulco's son Rick was 9 years old at the time and dreaded the thought of moving from city comfort out to the boondocks.
As it turned out, his father hired help to live in the farmhouse and cultivate the land, while he and Rick took weekend day trips to the property, bringing back vegetables for city friends and neighbors.
Rick Fulco's memories of that time are as vivid today as they were in the late '50s. Only today, he marvels at the two-bedroom home he was able to build on 17 acres of the original parcel, and the country lifestyle he has come to appreciate at age 57.
"My dad became sick in 1990 and asked me to check on the farm," he remembered. "As it turned out, I asked the person renting the farmhouse to leave, and in the process of renovating it, I realized how peaceful it was up here."
Fulco asked his dad if he could have part of the farm property to build a house for himself, and in 1995, his life changed forever.
On what he called a "shoestring budget," Fulco, a sales manager at Norris Ford, built himself a brick and frame Cape Cod off a narrow two-lane road that slices through fields of soybean, corn and wheat - still cultivated by farmers who rent the land from him and live in the old farmhouse.
Fulco's dream home is encircled by a white fence, guarded by tall maple trees front and rear that provide cool shade.
Fulco paid $200,000 to get "under roof," but spent three times that amount for upgrades that included an impressive open oak staircase at the home's entrance hall, a covered front porch that traverses the home's 84-foot width, a rear deck and a two-car garage.
Over the past 12 years he also has added oak hardwood floors throughout the home's 3,400 square feet and installed dark granite kitchen countertops.
In 1996, when the house was 90 percent complete, he met and married his wife, Betty, a registered nurse. Together they've created a comfortable, relaxing farmhouse.
A favorite room is the country kitchen at the rear of the 30-foot-deep home. Here, pine wainscoting reaches halfway up the walls, where it meets cream-painted surfaces. Warm maple cabinets complement an Amish table and a set of oak chairs.
"All I had was a bedroom set when I moved in," Rick Fulco said. "Betty picked out the furniture."
Betty Fulco's touch warms a living room dominated by a brick fireplace with carved oak mantel. A brown leather sofa and loveseat sit atop a woven rug of bright country floral print. Other features are a bronze wall sculpture in the shape of a billowing tree and a large, three-tiered cherry entertainment unit.
The Fulcos' second-floor loft has three large Palladian windows. The loft's open main room is devoted to children's furniture and toys - for visits from grandchildren from past marriages. A guest room and bath are on the east end.
It is for the grandchildren, as well, that Rick Fulco has built a miniature Victorian playhouse among the front yard maples and a jungle gym beyond the back yard deck.
Life is good in Freeland. And the irony is not lost on Fulco who, so many years ago dreaded being uprooted from his boyhood Hamilton home.
"Sometimes I think about moving," he said. "But I'm so sentimentally attached to this place."