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Killdeer Valley loaded with farming antiques

By JONATHAN CRIBBS
Associate Editor

WOODBINE, Md. (April 18, 2017) — Killdeer Valley Farm might not exist today were it not for the frustrated and, some might say, harsh disappointment of a wealthy grandfather.
It was 1892, and the grandfather had stipulated in his will that his inheritance of about $12,000 — a fortune at the time — not go to his daughters who had married men of whom he disapproved.
Instead, it went to his grandaughters, including Florence Conaway, who, as a single woman at just 19 years old, purchased the farm right next to her sister’s nearby farm in what is now Carroll County.
It was the start of Killdeer Valley Farm, which has survived four generations and was recently named by the Maryland Department of Agriculture a Century Farm, a designation given to family operations that have existed for more than 100 years.
Today, Florence Conaway’s grandson, Ken Pickett, lives on the 63-acre farm with his wife of more than 50 years, Susan.
The barn was built in 1896, a meat house made from sawed lumber was built four years later and a dairy building made of German clapboard was also built. The main home where the Picketts now live was built in 1910. It’s no longer just a home, but a headquarters for the extended Pickett family.
A dining room filled with quirky antiques can comfortably seat three or four families.
The home’s history has been slowly compiled by Susan Pickett, who came to the farm as Ken’s bride in 1961. One day while rooting around in the attic, she said she stumbled onto old deeds and and legal papers detailing the farm’s narrative.
“I love history,” she said, sitting next to her husband earlier this month in a cozy living room surrounded, again, by quirky, colorful antiques and wall hangings. “I’m thinking, ‘My heavens.’”
Ken’s parents bought the farm during the Great Depression, and Ken and Susan took over in the early 1960s shortly after they were married.
They farmed until 1972 when Ken purchased a business in Frederick to make more money. Pretty soon, keeping up with work on the farm became burdensome. They grew corn and soybeans and also had a herd of Angus beef cattle.
“With the business, I wasn’t getting home until 9, 10 o’clock at night, and the cattle hadn’t been fed, and stuff, so I liquidated everything, the equipment, except for the tractor,” Ken Pickett said.
Since then, the farm has been rented to another farmer who grows corn, soybeans and hay on the acreage. But the farm retains many family pieces that go back decades if not a century: butter churns, a coffee grinder, cherry pitter, apple peeler, butchering kettle, old farm implements and pictures. A rocking chair. Old books and bonds. Pictures of long-dead relatives hang from the walls. An interest in older things also spawned Killdeer Valley Farm Antiques and Collectibles, an antique business housed inside the barn a stone’s throw away from the farm house.
The inside is flooded with rich antiques and quirky finds, luring antique hunters from all over, Susan Pickett said. They’re open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., she said, but they’re flexible, available for most people who call ahead.
Looking forward, they said, they’d love to pass the farm on to a family. They have two daugters, however, who have their own careers, so they think about their grandchildren.
“A deep desire of ours is to perpetuate it. Hopefully. We can’t control their lives,” Susan Pickett said. “If people like us don’t preserve what was, the next generation, like our grandchildren, wouldn’t even know how things existed. I mean, have you seen a coffee grinder used or a butter mold?”