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  • David Leavitt

David: Eating the Elephant


Sitting area on main level with view down the hallway toward the main hall


I remember being a young boy in small town America on one of the last Saturdays before school started. Our family had a piece of our yard that had been intended for a vegetable garden, but which we hadn't used as one for several years. Consequently, the plot of ground was overgrown and weed infested. I woke up that Saturday close to the beginning of school to my dad's announcement that we were going to reclaim the "garden spot," as we called it in our family.


The ground was rock hard, some of the weeds taller than my small frame, and it seemed impossible that we would never get it cleared and ready to plant into grass. I complained loudly to my father, who was pulling weeds alongside us. After putting up with my complaining for a while, he stopped working and said to me:

"David, if you're going to eat an elephant, you can't focus on eating it all at once. You've got to eat it one bite at a time. Do that, and eventually, you'll eat the whole elephant. Don't focus on the entire garden spot. Just clear the little spot right in front of you. Keep doing that, and eventually we'll be done." He was right. Before the day was out, we'd finished the job.


I last visited Knockderry Castle on 27 and 28 of March. Soon after I arrived, the rain started falling and didn't stop until after I had left the castle. We had teams of workers and consultants all over the castle either clearing garbage left at the castle fifty years ago, or trying to figure out drainage systems, heating, plumbing and electrical systems. And there are so many other experts that we need to weigh in on things: Stained and leaded glass experts, art restoration experts, elevator experts, and the list goes on and on.


I found myself wondering: What the hell did we do? Then my dad's declaration from so many decades ago came to my mind: "You can't eat an elephant all at once. Just do it one bite at a time." That refocused me and helped me to understand that the same is true with restoring a castle. It can't and won't happen all at once. In fact, we don't want it to happen all at once. We'll take it one bite at a time, both enjoying the good and getting through the bad. And we'll do so remembering that the process of restoring a castle is what we want to experience.


Hopefully doing so will change the punctuation and emphasis of our blog title. When we're done, it will change from What the hell did we do? To What the hell did we do!

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Melissa Jenkins
Melissa Jenkins
23 août 2023

There are so many abandoned mansions, castles, and homes that people show on TicToc, Instagram, and Facebook Reels. Wouldn't it be wonderful if people chose to bring those all back from the brink? Especially those with a history. I just adore what you are doing and must admit quite jealous that you get to do something I've only dreamed of doing.

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