Farewell to “The Farm”

We always called my Grandparent’s house “The Farm.” Purchased in the early 1940’s, it was home to their six children and their home until they died. It was a beacon of love for the growing extended family and housed not only holiday celebrations, but an every Sunday family tradition during the school year when everyone gathered  for Sunday afternoon football, games of euchre, and heaping helpings of Grandma’s goulash, green beans, corn and homemade bread.

The house was already old when my Grandparent’s bought it. The stone basement walls, the tree-timber beams and hand made nails presumably were produced from the land itself. When my mother lived there as a child it was heated by a wood stove in the kitchen.  Water was hand pumped from a well in the backyard. There were no indoor toilet facilities and baths were taken in a galvanized laundry tub with water heated on the stove.  Modern plumbing didn’t happen until around 1948.  Heat was provided by a coal burning furnace during most of my childhood, only replaced with a modern furnace under Grandma’s extreme protest some 40 years later.

The 10 acre  plot of land ran all the way down to the river, and hosted a pine forest, planted by my Grandmother in hopes to sell Christmas trees. They quickly grew to a tall dense forest, but supplied fresh trees for most of the family every year.  All that remained of the original apple orchard was one surviving tree in the cow pasture when I was a kid; the rest destroyed by frequent lightening strikes. Several black walnut trees grew in the backyard, producing smelly green balls that turned your hands black. Grandpa used to gather them and strew them in the driveway, collecting the treasured nuts once the hulls broke down. Winter nights were spent digging the meat from the shells as he listened to the radio or watched television.

My earliest memories of “The Farm” included an old wooden barn, which blew down in one of Michigan’s violent windstorms. It was replaced by a neat cement cow barn, with one large box stall for Grandma’s pet cow, Josie. There was a pen for Petunia, the pig, next to the run where my Uncle’s hunting dog Judy lived. Freddy, the shaggy farm dog, lived in a doghouse under one of the walnut trees.  I grew up drinking fresh raw milk, straight from the cow, and strained through a cheesecloth and enjoying the best home-made dill pickles on the planet.

Grandma grew a huge vegetable garden and filled the land around the house with giant, brightly colored flower beds.  She cursed the weeds and worked the loamy black soil early every morning. Afternoons were usually spent canning,  using her produce to host  Sunday family meals.

“The Farm” and the people who lived there formed me.  Although they are long gone, their memories live on.  I still make Grandpa’s favorite cake, a yellow sheet cake frosted with vanilla icing and topped with shredded coconut.  One bite takes me back to visits in Grandma’s sunny kitchen, listening to the grown ups talk and playing with Grandma’s ever present kittens.  Gingerbread  Windmill cookies have the same effect.

Grandma carried most of her recipes in her head and shared her knowledge as special gifts.  I treasure her baked beans, mushroom and cabbage, and potato salad recipes.  One bite is all it takes to erase the years.  Like her, I am an avid home canner and love to cook from scratch, just as Grandma did.  And, I love having a cat.

Grandpa died in 1972,  and Grandma in 1995.  After Grandma’s death, the farm was sold to people who built a large new home back toward the river and the original farm house was abandoned by the new owners.G. Small homestead 2 Continue reading

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Construction Zone!

Thomas Jefferson began construction of his mansion “Monticello” at the age of 26 and did not consider it complete at the time of his death, at age 83. For most of his life, his home was a construction zone.

I can relate to that! Both my husband and I grew up in “unfinished houses.” While not palatial estates by any stretch of the imagination, it seem our parents were always tweaking our homes, adding upgrades to the floors, expanding rooms, or adding design elements here or there. The smell of fresh sawdust triggers a flood of happy childhood memories for both of us.

This tradition has continued throughout our marriage. Because of the experiences from our childhoods, we were not afraid of “fixer-uppers” and houses that needed some TLC. We have moved frequently through my husband’s career and have purchased a home at every stop along the journey. True to form, we have added rooms, replaced roofs, upgraded kitchens, and/or finished basements in every house.

Because we are creative, we tend to act on the suggestion of “wouldn’t it be nice to have x, y, or z at this house?” and then we proceed to tear out walls and transform the structure to our vision. It hasn’t happened overnight; the process has spanned years in some cases, and the fragrance of my marriage has been a combination of sawdust, drywall dust and paint!

No matter where you may be living, there is another home improvement project taking place on a much grander scale. If you are a Christian, you are the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit. When we accept Jesus Christ as the Lord of our life, we become alive to spiritual things and the Holy Spirit moves in. He guides us and helps us in our inner remodeling project, as God slowly transforms us from our selfish stance of, “Life is all about ME” to the very image of His Son, Jesus Christ, bearing a heart of love for God and others.

This is definitely an “upgrade” but, much like Thomas Jefferson’s construction project, it is a process which takes time. God has a magnificent vision for our life, but it is not fully realized nor completed until we reach heaven. He consistently continues to tweak and improve us through circumstances, people, and Bible study, giving us opportunity to become more and more like Jesus in our reactions, thoughts, and words.

Dear Christian, if you find yourself feeling as if your walls have been broken down, that you are surrounded by the debris of shattered dreams, and find yourself knee deep in the crumbled plaster of dashed expectations, take heart. Your reconstruction is in process! Things must first be torn down in order to be rebuilt. It is a process and it takes time.

You may be frustrated by the construction mess and wonder when the 2×4’s and sawhorses will cease to be a trip hazard in your living room. Why do the same old sins seem to trip you up, time after time? The process does not happen overnight, but the day is coming when you will have victory.

When the “fresh paint” smell of Jesus begins to permeate your life, you will carry that fragrance where ever you go. The people you meet will notice it, catching a whiff of something different, like an exotic perfume. Those who have known you will begin to notice the changes, the new beauty and grand design taking place in your life and will want to know what has happened. Your “house” will be fresh and new and others will notice and want to know how your life has changed. And, you will be able to share about your personal remodel by the Master Carpenter and invite them to join the construction zone.

A nostalgic good bye…

In a few days I will return to my house in Michigan and prepare to list it for sale. It is a bittersweet feeling. This house has been my address for over 13 years, which is the second longest span of time I have ever lived in one place. There are lots of memories there.
We intentionally sought a place that needed lots of TLC when we bought it. Our children were quickly approaching their own launch into adulthood, and the life skills of remodeling are best taught with hands-on instruction. The house had “good bones” despite the many cosmetic issues and neglect. We replaced most of the floors, all of the doors, and re-did the kitchen. The “virgin” basement was transformed into a finished living area, complete with second kitchen and bathroom. We learned how to cook on a woodstove during power failures, raised chickens and gardened, dug a pond and built a barn.
The “Great Room” has hosted numerous holiday gatherings of friends and family, weekly Bible studies, and other celebrations. This house was our Granddaughter’s home for her first 5 months of life, and was a place of shelter for her parents when between jobs. Favorite memories are of campfires down by the pond, and sitting on the porch swing watching the fireflies dance in the fields.
I love the winding tree-lined lane that leads to the house. I love the wind-swept fields and watching the blue herons fish in the pond, the geese that return every spring to raise their babies and the small herd of white-tails that we try to outsmart from our garden. And it is hard to let it go. It is a little bit like a death.
As much as I love the house, I cannot live there anymore. My health prevents me from attempting to endure any more cold Michigan winters. Despite my husband’s retirement, my new career prevents me from wintering in a warmer state and spending my summers up north. And that is okay because I really love what I am doing. It is all good, but I still feel sad at saying good-bye to the house in Michigan. Or rather, I think I am saddened at the finality of that chapter of my life coming to a close.
God is always faithful and has a wonderful plan for my future. I can trust Him to lead and direct me into His very best. He is in the process of writing another exciting chapter of my adventure through life with Him.
Turn the page. A new chapter begins.