Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Farm and Why it was So Loved

The farmhouse was very old , we found the year 1829 etched into the attic boards of the old part and 1867 above the woodshed when we were exploring. Imagine living in a house that had seen so many prior generations living in it. The rumour was that a retired sea captain had the house built after he decided to leave the life of the sea. Treasure was said to be buried somewhere near the house and for us that explained the odd old coin that surfaced in the garden or by the lilac bushes. When they installed the plumbing (and the houses first bathroom with running water!) in the 1960's Mother told the fellow who excavated for the tile bed that if he found the treasure, we would share it. Mother was a romantic at heart, even though there was little time to indulge those sentiments, and the thought of a treasure and an old sea captain really peaked her curiosity.

Coming to the farm meant meandering down a long lane, bordered both sides by oaks and elm trees that were absolutely regal in the summer, framing the passage way with a living, green canopy. The lane itself was covered with crushed stone, that was variably dense or sparse depending upon whether we had money to buy a load or two of gravel or whether we used the stones that we ourselves picked from the soil of the garden. We picked stones out of the garden to save the ploughs we used from damage and to make the plants germinate and pierce the earth without obstacle.

Father loved to garden; he loved it his whole life. He ploughed in the early days with one of the work horses and a plough that he "walked" behind. I still remember the reigns from the harness slung over his shoulder as he "drove" the plough. I can still hear him urging the old horse on with his slow and steady voice, calming and encouraging old Jim to first of all, continue; and, to move along in a straight line from row to row. It was a dance of sorts, a little awkward for sure, but captivating to watch. Father knew just how much to spur the magnificent partner on and when he needed a break to rest and for that long, refreshing, drink of water. During the break Father would scratch that place under Jim's harness collar where he knew (somehow) that it would be itchy and, behind the ear, under the bridle, where a rub was always welcome. They would rest a while together, Father whispering and the old horse nuzzling, and then, together, finish the job.

Inside the farmhouse the smells of fresh baked bread or pot roast in the oven would permeate the air. Mother would be busy getting a meal on while Father worked. There were always seven of us for supper, sometimes more. Because Father loved to grow things, we had fresh fruit and vegetables with meals. The farm came with a small apple orchard but we never fully understood how to care for it so it seemed to produce a little less every year. We also had two cherry trees and in the back of the farm beside the "far" well there was a pear tree. I discovered the pear tree with my brother Fred one time when we went looking for the cows out there. He somehow knew where it was; possibly from his hunting trips with Father. The cows ate all the low hanging fruit so he picked me a pear as far up as he could reach from the height of our horse, Tina. It tasted tart but so good. No preservatives there.

So the farm helped to sustain us through what the land had to offer, what the animals produced for us in milk and meat, and, with the shelter provided by a century old home.

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