An hour north of Indianapolis, a farming couple and 60 alpacas invite guests to sample their corner of paradise in an 1850s cabin.

By Timothy Meinch
Indiana cabin

The moment I open my car door, farm smells and noisy songbirds whisk me far away from the radio static. In lieu of a bellhop, a stray alpaca struts across the gravel driveway. Chickens form a welcome party at my feet, scurry out of reach, then linger close by. Even the landscaping lets out a raspy bark before the bushes part against the roly-poly waddle of … a polar bear? No, a Great Pyrenees, Tim Sheets says, emerging from the farmhouse. He introduces me to Jack and his shy counterpart, Frost, who stays hidden in the shrubs. "Let me show you the cabin," Tim says.

On the porch, another farm friend awaits: Charley the black cat. Home movers relocated this cabin from 3 miles away in 1988. Tim and his wife, Beth, then set about restoring the pre-Civil War relic. They added a shower two years ago and listed it as a vacation rental (from $150/night) on Airbnb and Hipcamp. Under a maple tree near their farmhouse, it's become a rustic harbor for anyone seeking a break from modernity.

Photo: Barb Tulit Groves

You can smell the stories in the antebellum wood beams, oil lamps and a musket. A tattered flag hangs on the wall above an ancient Bible that might disintegrate if touched. The original narrow staircase leads to a second level with four beds. A porch swing hangs on the added balcony facing Heritage Farm's storybook red barn, where the alpacas feed each morning. "Feel free to wander the grounds," Tim says after I settle in and accept an invite to help with chores the next morning.

Before bed, I wander. In the pole barn, I find a couple of alpacas plopped in front of industrial fans and munching on hay. Tim introduces me to Kenji, Vinnie and Jeremiah, who is a seven-time champion at regional and national fair shows. The Farm Store attached to the barn sells alpaca wool socks, sweaters and yarn (many items are Beth's handiwork) plus honey from the farm's beehives.

A couple of short paths behind the cabin lead past a long zipline to a footbridge and creek. Pooled above a simple stone dam, the water is surprisingly clear and irresistibly cool. I slip out of my shoes and down the bank. Shadows scurry away from my splash. Then I wait. Crayfish slowly peek out from the rocks, and I pluck a pair out of the current, starting a game of catch-and-release that takes me back to my childhood growing up beside a creek in northeast Ohio.

After the sun sets, I open a bottle of wine under string lights on the cabin's large back deck. Somehow, it's already 10 p.m., despite the glimmer of July sunlight clinging to the western horizon. On select weekends, Tim fires up the stone oven beside the cabin for pizza parties that entertain overnight guests and a couple dozen locals.

When I step onto the balcony before sliding into bed, I can faintly hear the trickling creek. The night is still, except for a haze of fireflies that laces through the tree line. It flickers into the distant field like fairy dust below a sky full of stars.

Photos: Barb Tulit Groves

Quick Look

• Bring cookware, drinks and food to cook over a grill or firepit. A sink and mini fridge on the deck makes it glorified camping, 10 miles from groceries and pizza in Flora.

• Four beds sleep six in one big room. Heritage Farm also allows camping and rents a modern guesthouse on the land. Find Heritage Farm and other Midwest farm stays at farmstayus.com.

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