Editor’s note: Open Doors is a series in which photographer Anna Solo visits the homes and workspaces of fascinating Seacoast people.
Ten years ago, when Janee Beck took her first trip to New England, she chose to couch surf at a home in Eliot, Maine, rather than stay at a hotel. She could not have imagined that home would one day be her own.
Born and raised in Cloquet, Minn., Beck’s adventurous spirit and desire to meet locals while traveling affordably gave her the courage to stay with a stranger when she first visited the Seacoast. But her love of the area’s authenticity, history, culture, and food, as well as a connection with her host, Ric, are what brought her back in 2015. She and Ric, now her partner, live at Hidden Meadows Farm and Vineyard in Eliot.
Beck’s red farmhouse, which the couple shares with her cat, Malone, and dog, Molly, is on four acres of land that contains a vineyard, a brewery, a lavender field, fruit and vegetable orchards, flower fields, beehives, a barn, and several apartments and suites that make up a private bed and breakfast. Almost everything they consume is grown and harvested on their property, with Beck serving not only as host to a throng of annual visitors, but also as a private chef to her family and friends.
Beck’s signature ingredient is lavender, which she uses in everything from appetizers and desserts to homemade body oils, scrubs, and soaps. It’s even used in the beer that Ric brews in their garage brewery.
At age 38, Beck has been an antiques dealer, real-estate agent, cafe owner, and operations manager at a bed and breakfast in Minnesota. She’s had roles in retail, fitness, human resources, and as a senior caregiver and behavioral aide. Her most notable role, however, is being a mother, with a 20-year-old daughter and 6-month-old granddaughter.
In Eliot, Beck oversees the B&B and prepares homemade granolas, fruit soups, and jams to stock in the rentals. On top of all that, she’s pursuing a personal chef business, offering private cooking classes and preparing meals in clients’ homes, whether it be a dinner for two or a large party.
“I like to call it a ‘private chef experience,’” she says. “It’s new for me, it’s challenging, but (it’s got) everything that I love … people, food, creativity, and sharing.”
Beck, whose parents owned two restaurants, also volunteers as a rotating chef at St. John’s Church in Portsmouth for The Common Table, a program that provides a free lunch to the community every Thursday. Recently, she has made several appearances at Atrezzi in Portsmouth, where she does kitchen demos using ingredients from the farm.
Though Beck’s days are filled to the brim with various responsibilities, she wears a seemingly permanent smile on her face. It’s evident as she walks to the lavender field, or harvests berries, or even just mows the lawn. With her cat trailing behind her, Beck works with the passion of someone who truly loves her natural surroundings.
“I don’t just see my surroundings; I feel them,” she says.
On the lush property, every detail is intentional. The large porch, overlooking a sparkling blue pool, features a patio set and a stone fire pit. To the left is a Tuscan-style dining pergola covered with vines and flowers, and a table lined with white candles in glass hurricanes. Nearby is a pond with a waterfall — a spot where Beck often lingers.
In the house, the kitchen is the center of attention. Warm lighting and a constant waft of delicious aromas fill the rooms. The living and dining areas are filled with art, craftily placed bouquets of lavender, and wildflowers. A stone fireplace is set in a cozy corner of the wide entryway. A mixture of old and new artifacts, a nod to Beck’s time as an antiques dealer, line several shelves.
Entertaining is a big part of Beck’s life, and being on the Seacoast has brought her closer to what she loves: people and food.
“I knew from the moment I came here that I wanted to live here. There’s abundance and variety, incredible places to eat everywhere. There’s support in new ideas, movements, interests. People discuss and people listen,” she says. “It’s a refreshing mentality of openmindedness. That’s what I love about it.”