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Mountain Home Magazine

Blessings from the Homestead

by Beth Williams

For a barn that has been around for more than a hundred and fifty years, Homestead Blessings Barn is aging very well.

It’s had some help.

Over twenty-one years ago, Susan Efthimiou and her husband, Marcus, went looking for some property. They found what they were looking for just outside of Corning in the town of Caton. They initially purchased a huge old farmhouse and some land, and eventually ended up with 100 acres, the farmhouse, the barn and some other buildings. A “hobby farm,” as Susan calls it.

They raised nine children on the land and home-schooled them. The old barn was an integral part of their family life—the scene and source of imaginative play for the children. Around five years ago, though, after a very harsh winter, the barn lost its main foundation and the family knew it had to either be torn down or restored.

Susan and Marcus had a fondness for old barns and would often drive through the New York and Pennsylvania countryside looking at them. They were upset when they saw old barns in a state of disrepair and neglect. Faced with their own barn in disrepair, they knew what had to be done.

“We did most of the work ourselves, along with the help of a very good friend,” Susan says. “Two of our boys were eight and ten at the time, and were being homeschooled. They would rush through their homework as fast as they could so they could go out and help with the barn. They were so interested in all aspects of the barn renovation and architecture plans.”

The barn was lifted three feet on pilings, and figuring out how to raise the barn up without everything falling was quite the engineering feat. When the barn was again on a solid foundation, and a great deal of repair completed, their daughter, Christianna, led her horse, Rebel, into the barn. Christianna, who had recently become engaged, looked around and decided this was where she wanted her wedding. Susan recalls leading Rebel out.

“Sorry buddy, we can’t put a horse in here; this barn was meant for something else,” Susan told him.

And that is how the old barn started its new life as a place for celebrations and new beginnings. Fitting, since the barn itself certainly was given a new beginning. The before and after pictures show the amazing transformation.

After several months of intense work to outfit the barn with everything it needed to be a comfortable, practical, and functional place to hold a wedding, in October of 2016 Christianna and her fiancé became the first couple to get married in it. One month later, Susan and Christianna joined forces to start Homestead Blessings. Susan is the owner-operator and Christianna is the director of operations.

Susan describes her daughter as an amazing wedding director, phenomenal director of operations, and the best event planner she has ever seen. “She is completely on-point, and handles everyone in every wedding party in the best way,” Susan says. “She has been like that since she was a child. Even though she was our third born, she took charge of family events and directed her brothers and sisters,” her mother laughs.

“We initially thought we would just be doing a few weddings a year, but our first year in business we did twenty-two weddings!” Susan continues, somewhat amazed. Clearly a rustic barn lovingly restored and sitting on a beautiful piece of land calls out to many couples looking for the perfect place to be married.

There are multiple ceremony sites outside. From grassy knolls to deep woods to open sites under towering hemlocks to a gazebo, there is no lack of space for the betrothed to exchange vows in the special way they want.

“There are no cookie-cutter weddings here,” Susan says. “We had one bride who wanted to come in a horse-drawn carriage. Another bride had her husband-to-be’s favorite old tractor restored to mint condition and didn’t tell him. She rode that tractor out of the woods to their chosen wedding site. The look on the groom’s face was priceless—he was so moved.”

Homestead Blessings, in addition to the barn and land, also offers rentals of vintage furniture and place settings to provide another way of giving each wedding couple just the right touches for their ceremony.

“We have buffets and tables in purple, green, blue, burgundy, black, and ivory—all colors—and we give them names—Amelia, Heather, Victoria,” says Susan. And if Homestead Blessings doesn’t have what someone is looking for to provide that special wedding day touch, they will do their best to find it. “I would love an excuse to buy a red velvet couch!” Susan exclaims.

Last May, five days before her daughter, Mikaela, was going to be married at the barn, a fire broke out at their farmhouse and destroyed everything. Family mementos, tools, linens, all of her wedding dresses were gone. But that did not stop the wedding. An outpouring of help from friends, the community, and Corning, Inc. made it possible to have the wedding happen as planned. “We can’t let something like a fire steal our joy,” Susan says.

And that kind of attitude has endured at Homestead Blessings Barn. “When something goes wrong, we fix it. Last summer (the wettest summer on record in our region for those of you who forgot!) contractors set up a tent over a drainage ditch instead of where we told them to set it up and there was almost a river in the tent, but that didn’t stop the bride and groom from having a positive attitude. We put in a thirty-four- by forty-four-foot heated concrete pad so that will never happen again. You can put a huge tent on that pad!” Susan laughs.

Weddings generally happen May to the beginning of November. Wedding parties can rent a farmhouse on the property if they want to be on site for a few days before the wedding. They have a Christmas market every December and smaller events during the winter months—vow renewals, elopement parties, wedding and baby showers, to name a few. And based on Susan’s enthusiasm and positive outlook on life and love, any event held at Homestead Blessings Barn (10981 West Caton Road, Corning, New York 14830, (607) 368-4306), will be very special.

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