Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Herd About It?
by Ana Grarian

Last night I got to thinking about the first farm my husband and I lived on. It was a huge sprawling place with 18 rooms. It was two houses built together. Obviously it started as one house and then another was added when the next generation started it’s own family. It had a dining room that held a table that could seat 36 people. In those days farm harvests were done by groups of neighbors sharing equipment and horses. Harvests were social events as well as hard work.
Last night I began to think about the barn. It was a lovely big barn that was situated so that the storage end of the barn protected the animal side from the cold northwest winds and yet could be opened up in the summer for wonderful breezes.
It dawned on me that this barn never would have held much livestock. There was a big box stall that probably held a team of horses. There were about four stanchions for cows, a pig shed, and a loafing barn, but I don’t know what they had there – sheep? Beef cattle? The main part of the barn had a huge mow. You drove up into the barn and the mow floor was about five foot off the ground (the loafing shed was under this) On the other side was storage for equipment and grain and a tack room.
This farm supported the large family and built a very nice house. Now I wish I knew more about the folks who had lived there. How many acres did they farm? Did they have a cash crop? Why weren’t they there any longer?
A few years ago I happened to meet the Grandaughter of that farm family on a bus ride. Now I wish I had written down her name. I may still see if I can contact her. If she’s still alive, I want to know more.
I knew that my elderly, well off farm neighbor had made it on ten cows, shipping only the cream and feeding the skimmed milk to pigs. Now I see that most of those big old barns in our area did not hold very many animals. Even with the hard work of doing chores the old fashioned way, there would have been time left for friends and family. Actually doing things the old fashioned way required working with friends and family.
I need to go sit down with some of my older neighbors. I wish I had done that more before some of the oldest ones had passed away. And I wish I had listened better.

By AFarmer

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RS Janes
14 years ago

Thanks for that, Ana. It seems that the farm life they lived is going by the wayside these days, unfortunately. Politicians squawk about helping the family farmer, but none of them do very much — most of the money goes to the big agribusinesses that then take over the farms truly run by families, ruin the soil, and pollute the land and water in the process. More stupidity that will not go unpunished, and nature can’t be bought off with political contributions or distracted by marketing campaigns.

Ken Carman
14 years ago

This reminds me of a similar situation. My father retired from a well paying NYC job early for a pittance to go back where he came from: the Adirondacks. He called himself “the ding-a-ling hermit of Twitchell Lake.” He was proud of that. For the first few years after we bought the place we had an outhouse where; even at beyond 50 below, 40 below not abnormal for a week or so, we brought the toilet seat out with us and didn’t linger.

I met a family from Beaver River Station that first year called the Thompsons who have lived in my little retirement-burg who still had attitude when it comes to government interference. This isn’t the rather ignorant Neo Con talking point drivel, but driven by experience where the government comes in and decides what you can and cannot do with your own property, and sponsor stuff like trains with tax money/toll road funds that compete directly with you. Though I certainly don’t always agree, I understand why they feel that way.

One of my main lessons regarding this was on a tourist trip through the Okefenokee. I was on tour and my wife had come to see me. While on the tour boat I met and chatted with an elderly man who had lived as a young boy on an island in the middle of the swamp: how they got in and out, outhouses, the nature of living in the middle of nowhere and how wonderful it was: how it compared with “civilization.” He told me how they got supplies during the time fishing, hunting and making stuff out of local stuff nature supplies wasn’t adequate. We compared walking through swamps and knowing where to step; where gators might be, to snowmobiling across half frozen lakes or walking from a hill way out of town in the winter: snowshoeing, to school. Supplies, of course.

When the government decided to make it into a park the crats’ came in and basically told them to leave. They had squatter’s rights however: they’d been there for many generations. No one wanted the place previous to this. When that didn’t work offered a pittance for the property. I learned a lot about that kind of country life from him and especially how to deal with my own eminent domain case.

I am not a “get the gov out of health care but don’t touch my Medicare kind of guy. But I do believe that when people can turn into slime is often when they are in mid-level management and they have ill-conceived policies/decisions from the top to enforce; whether part of the government or business, whether dealing with people who live on farms, the middle of the woods or a swamp… or building a Walmart or 4 lane behind my little valley here in Tennessee.

RS Janes
14 years ago

@ Ken: Since I’ve used an outhouse in warm weather (oh, the smell!) just reading about using one in minus-50F makes me go from John Wayne to Poppy Bush in a heartbeat. I’ve met a few of the rural no-government types, but I’ve never heard one of them complain about the lousy govt installing sewer pipes to their property. The truth is, liberal or well-intentioned conservative, any large human organization will have its share of deadwood and idiots — it comes with the territory — but when you remove the profit motive, you also dispense with the worst of the grifters and hucksters. And, of course, in the case of the govt, you at least have some opportunity of changing things; with private companies, you’re out of luck.

@ Ana: I hadn’t heard about that, but your theory would make sense. Someone told me in an area near Chicago that used to be farms and prairie, the developers built a suburb around a beautiful old mill and bridge. Apparently the bridge needed minor repairs, but the mill was in fine shape — a family was living there and maintained it well. The developers bought the family out and, at great expense, tore down the old structures and built a new bridge and mill. The only problem was, the new construction looked liked something at Disneyland and not the real thing. That was odd. Maybe the solidly-built old mill made the homes in their subdivision look shoddy by comparison. That wasn’t a problem with the new one — it fit right in.

RS Janes
14 years ago

@ Ana: Outhouse technology has improved, so it’s not the same as the old wooden shacks with the half-moon doors. I don’t know what the cost is, but they have them now that purify and compact the waste into neatly disposable bricks, so that you don’t have to keep moving the thing periodically; and others that use natural bacteria to eliminate the odor, sanitize and break down the waste so that it can be used as fertilizer, or even safely dumped in a clean stream without polluting the water.

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