We have had rain for weeks, no, longer than that… for at least two months. Constant angry overcast skies with only minutes of sunshine every few days and everything from showers to downpours to stormy thunder and lightening. Even when we lived in Japan the monsoon season lasted only about two weeks. Things have been so wet and soggy that I feel like before long mildew and mushrooms will begin to grow on us all.
There is a bright side to this incessant precipitation. The grass is emerald green, the trees are festooned with healthy leaves, and gems of wild flowers sparkle in the tall grasses.
Sometimes after a hard rain it is fun to put work aside and walk the grounds to hunt for treasures that have washed up to the surface. These found treasures are tidbits of history, a link to the families that inhabited this land before us. You can find pieces of pottery, broken crocks and porcelain canning lids or ancient door locks and square headed nails.
Its fun to imagine what part these items played in the everyday life of the people who used them. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank them for the hard work and perseverance it took to clear this land and make it into a working homestead.
After a hard days work we stretch out on the couch and complain about our soar muscles while we snack on foods bought at the grocery store and watch a movie. I don’t believe the people before us had quite that luxury. If our garden fails we can fall back on the grocery store, for them a crop could mean life or starvation. A day of work to clear this land was a day behind a hand saw and mules or oxen to clear the trees. Supplies were brought in by wagon on less than passable roads. Well sometimes the pot holes and muddy ruts of our roads could be just about as treacherous.
I can imagine this farm as it might once have been. The hills behind us would have been cleared of trees and apple orchards planted in their place. The sweet smell of apple blossoms in springtime must have been wonderful when the breeze blew down from the hills into the hollow. The wooden post and barbed wire fenced pastures would have been inhabited with cows or sheep. And like PHF the barnyard would have been filled with the songs of hens and the crow of the reigning rooster. There would have been a vegetable and herb garden and the lady of the house would churn fresh butter on the porch while her laundry flapped in the breeze on a handmade clothesline. In the evening the light of an oil lamp would glow behind the window. There would be no solar electricity. At some point the oil lamps would have been traded in for gas lights.
They certainly would have had a smoke house to cure the hams and bacon that would be supplied by the hogs lounging in the mud of the pig pen. Come fall when the mist hangs low on a chilly morning, the holler would be filled with the aroma of curing ham riding on a stream of smoke.
A hand built barn put together with square headed nails would sit off from the house. The rough board building would house the work horses or mules, their tack and harness hung up on pegs waiting for the next job. It would smell of polished leather and manure mixed with the sweet scent of hay stored in the loft. The heat of the animals would warm the barn on cold night, their presence giving it an atmosphere of peace. There would be essential tools to repair any object that needed fixing, because you just didn’t go down to the country store to buy something new. You repaired it until it couldn’t be repaired anymore. Neighbor would help neighbor and Sunday would be set aside for the Lord.
Oh yes, this soil contains the blood and sweat of farmers from long ago. It’s seen skinned knuckles and soar muscles, laughter and tears, birth and death. What stories it could tell. The house and barns are gone, the apple trees gave way to new hardwoods and the only thing left of the barbed wire fences are rusty strands grown into the bark of a tree. The patriarchs of this land are laid to rest up on the hill in mostly unmarked graves. The headstones or wooden markers gone long ago. The broken fragments of crockery, rusted square headed nails and the cleared pastures are the only testaments that they were ever here. Thank you Morgans and Starkeys who I believe were the first to settle this land and if not they carried on just like Sonny and I hope to.
We say we live the simple life. Well, it is if you compare it to the life of the city. The work can be hard and sometimes we have failures, but I’m not sure we would last a day in the life of the original owners of this farm. Would we measure up to the strength, savvy common sense and undying faith it took to build up this farm? I don’t know, but I like to think that they would be proud of what we have accomplished and that their contribution has not been forgotten. I think that even with all their struggles they would say that life was good. And so it is, even when the sky can’t seem to stop crying.