When I bought this old farm my neighbors were old farmers. Traffic
was generally of the tractor variety, so not much at all. But,as Bob Dylan sang, 'The times, they are a'changin.' The old
farmers died and for a long time their land was leased to mega-farmers who were not local. They'd arrive each spring with
huge costly equipment, prepare the fields, plant corn and beans that they'd harvest in the fall and then vanish. That's just
how it was--until recently.
The field to the north sold and the
new home under construction is all the chatter on the road, although most of it is speculation; owners in their 40's, no kids,
just a dog and they drive expensive cars. Sounds good to me, especially the no kids and just a dog part.
But, to the east, the changes are rather worrisome as that property directly adjoins this one. Until several months
ago the occupants were a quiet old man who liked to mow his grass and his middle-aged son who waved when he drove down the
road. Never any problems unless the old guy decided to shoot a skunk from his bathroom window at 2:00 AM. Then he died and
relatives who had never been seen before arrived like ants at a picnic and all peace and quiet disappeared.They were the dukes
of hazard and that's where an event occured last week that emphasized just how much has changed around here.
Loud profanity sifted through the trees that balmy afternoon. Odd, I thought, but not my business until the altercation
escalated. Around these parts, any cussing disagreements take place behind closed doors if they take place at all. (We like
to think we are all quite civilized....) Then, the ambulance arrived.
lights and the beep, beep, beep of a backing vehicle drew me from my office to creep down the nature trail to investigate.
Peeking around pine trees that border my property and that where the dukes had been having their dispute I saw two strange
women wringing their hands as an EMT worked on a strange man lying flat out in the middle of the lawn. 'Not my business, I
reminded myself and returned to my office, but 45 minutes later I crept back to the pines for another peek.
The fellow who had been on the ground was on a gurney being loaded into the ambulance. This is only remarkable because
nearly a week later absolutely no one on the road, nor anyone else knows anything about the incident. Who were these people?
Was someone shot, stabbed, knocked out? A heart attack perhaps? No one has a clue--or cares. It's not even road gossip.
I miss the old days when tractors driven by old men in dirty coveralls sputtered up the road; old guys like Kenny.
I miss him and his farm (pictured above before it was razed) where despite all the junk that littered the place, it represented
a quieter time. Everyone looked out for Kenny. We took his free-ranging cows home when they wandered down the road and we
all mourned when he died. I miss Mr. G, the oddball who lived further down the road and rode a mule that was more suited for
a ten year old than for a grown man. The saddle he plunked on the little molly was big enough for a Percheron horse. He was
a curious sight and he frequently elicited tsk, tsks from neighbors, but like Kenny, he's also gone. I miss Mr. C. who looked
like an old movie star, chattered away like a squirrel and who used to plow a ridiculously-large garden plot for me.Even the
guy from what was locally called Filthy Farm was a popular subject of road gossip, especially when the manure in his barn
grew so copius that it blew out a side wall. Later, the fire department used that barn for a 'training drill' but they weren't
aware of the explosives hidden in the rafters. That sure woke things up around here and provided fodder for lots of talk.
But, all that has changed. Now a supine stranger being hauled off in an ambulance
doesn't even rate road gossip. I miss the way things were.
In the field north of this farm, construction of yet another new house
is about to get underway. Pink flags mark where the driveway will be and further back more flags define the position of the
proposed house. The sign at the edge of the road identifies the builder as Old World Homes.
In three years my own house will be 200 years old and it's as sturdy today as it was when John Grog (Graugh)
built it in 1821. I like to think about all the people that have called this place home since it rose from a landscape I can
only imagine. The stair treads are cupped from countless feet that have trudged up to the still-unheated second floor and
in the winter icy drafts creep across the floors despite my efforts to caulk the leaks. All of the doorways slope at awkward
angles, but that's okay. Sturdy though it may be, it's far from perfect, but it's perfect for me.
I look at the exposed post and beam construction with its hand hewn timbers, mortised
joints and big whittled pegs and wonder how long it took to build this simple shelter. I'm sure it took longer than it will
take to build the new Old World Home.
"Mouse? What mouse? I'm half blind," says Henry.
There is a mouse under the floor of the bathroom shower and the scratching
skittering sounds are making the cats crazy. I suspect this is the same brazen rodent that ran fast as a race car through
the living room last week with three cats and one dog in hot pursuit. He successfully evaded all of them and made his escape.
Based upon previous experience with shower dwelling
mice, the problem is that once under the fiberglass floor, the not-so-clever fellows forget how to get out and eventually
expire there. FYI: It takes about three weeks for eau de death to dissipate or for me to just become nose blind to the stink.
I suspect that Miss Pittypat, (the most recent feral feline to show up here) is a better mouser than the four fat freeloaders
currently in residence.
I first saw the calico
a couple of months ago crouched in the field north of the barn. It was one of those rare sunny days and what first appeared
to be a round rock was actually Miss P. trying to warm herself. I spoke to her and she bolted, not to be seen again until
this week. The poor creature was eating bean nachos that I'd brought home from a disappointing dinner at a Mexican restaurant.
She ate the entire Styrofoam container of the dismal fare (rejected by the hens). She was later seen fleeing from the
garden shed where I'm now putting more appropriate cat food. The plan is to trap and spay her and then if she is so inclined
she can live comfortably at the barn. To be continued....
Until very recently, the girls in the hen house have been on an unauthorized
extended holiday. ‘Not a single egg for months on end. I had to resort to purchasing eggs in addition to buying chicken
chow for the free loaders.
The store bought variety was very disappointing indeed. While the carton proclaimed
the eggs were from "cage-free" hens, this designation has little bearing on the quality and taste of the actual
egg. It's all about their diet and there's a huge difference between cage-free, but incarcerated and free-range chickens that
peck around eating a natural diet. But, it is important to boycott companies whose eggs are produced in poultry concentration
camps where the birds have their beaks burned off, are stuffed into tiny cages and subjected to a cruel existence before going
on to an equally-cruel slaughter.
Anyway, the holiday here is over. Nearly all the girls are cranking out beautiful
tasty eggs each day, but apparently no one told Goldie they'd gone back to work. Today, as if to make up for slacking on the
job, the pretty little Araucana laid not one, but two eggs although the bonus egg won't qualify as Grade A large. I think
she was just showing off.
I used to keep a lot of chickens and sold eggs. A little hand-lettered sign at the
end of the drive brought a steady stream of customers who found the lively flock performing their happy hen dance very entertaining.
That was then. These days the five hens and Randy Rooster are all I care to keep. They provide enough eggs for me and a couple
of friends and they're still happy to put on a show for anyone who stops by. Life without chickens would be empty.