Monday, November 25, 2013

Farewell to the Family Farm

"Our" farm.  The term is apt.  My family arrived there in 1857.  Nobody had worked the land prior to that.  They bought it from a man who got it as a grant after service in the War with Mexico.  He never went near the place.  And before that....Lakota following the bison.  And as they found out to their eternal grief, the native sense of ownership differed a great deal from that of the encroaching white man.

It was an active farm until about 15 years ago.  A couple of aged bachelor farmers hung on until the last one died at age 90, still telling wild tales he heard from his grandmother who had been a young bride on the homestead during the Civil War.

It was an old fashioned German farm.  Crops, dairy cattle, pigs, chickens, a little of everything.  The soil was fertile and the family frugal, so they prospered over the years.

They never had to modernize too much, and were in fact a bit suspicious of change.  So the old stood alongside the, well alongside the slightly less old.

When the place finally became vacant the buildings just seemed to give up hope.  Ghosts held sway. Roughly a dozen people were born in the old farmhouse.  Roughly the same number died there.  A young son trampled by runaway horses in 1885.  All but one of my grandfather's siblings taken by diphtheria in the 1890s.

My father, now 91 and in a nursing home, is the last person living who was there when the place was fully alive.  He was offered a chance to go visit it recently.  He said he was just too tired.

A nice young couple have purchased the home acreage (the cropland was sold off a while ago).  They will of necessity raze some of the old buildings, but they will also bring the place back to life.  They have a new baby.  They are planning a couple more.  The man intends to brew beer in the old milk house.

They are even talking about raising a few bison, bringing history around full circle.

Some images from a farewell trip.

The house is circa 1875.  Parts of the barn are circa 1860, with newer sections just piled up on top.

One item I was tasked with retrieving was an antique bed and headboard.  When we dismantled the bed frame we found the bold claim VERMIN PROOF marked on it.  My wife will be pleased.

My kids are old enough not to fall for it, but I wonder how many youngsters today would look at this turn of the (last) century school writing slate and think:  "Hmmm...pretty early model iPad there."

Also up in the attic, an "Indianapolis Kraut Cutter".  This is only one part.  The whole thing stands about four feet tall and looks like it would make short work indeed of a head of cabbage.

As I said, ghosts hold sway here, but friendly ghosts.  I found a huge stash of my grandmothers's mending things.  Hundreds and hundreds of buttons.  She died forty years ago and I am sure my fingers were the first ones since then to touch the collection of buttons from coats, overalls, long underwear.  She saved every one of them and no doubt spent many a winter evening fixing and mending so as to get just a little more wear out of things.  No need to buy new...

I do not think the garden was kept up after her death.  But outside the house I found her watering can. It looks as if it was set down yesterday.

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