A Farm Mystery Solved
After much research, I found out a few years ago that this wonderful farm house on The Currant Farm dates back to Circa 1794. It was the first house in this immediate area. I often ponder the lives of the people who lived here and worked the land. The births, the weddings, the celebrations and the passings. The twinge of sadness some families must have felt as they moved on from their ancestral home and the joy of new owners, anticipating a future rich with crops, livestock, children and memories to be made.
When Carolyn and I first moved here over 20 years ago, the frames and casings of the original windows, most of which were welded shut from decades of paint, were lovingly taken apart, scrapped down to the bare wood, repaired and reinstalled. 200 years ago, each window would have been individually made so they were each a little different in size. I made sure to treat the fragile glass with the care of fine ornaments so that each frame could be returned back to the place it’s lived all these years with its original wavy glass pane. The unique rippling of the glass was caused by the glass blowing process used to make them back then. No two alike. I have, countless times, gazed through these panes onto the hillside across the lane which is now the honey bee wildflower field. I’ve marveled at the verdant green of new spring grass which always seems to appear overnight every year. I feel a sense of pride observing the 6 acre hill of summer wildflowers, which I’ve chosen in partnership with the birds and animals and from which my bees create the most incredible honey. I am often caught breathless by the millions of hardwood leaves at the top of the field each interpreting the infinite hues of the autumn sunlight in kaleidoscopic wonder. And I am struck with the pious silence of a chapel in the woods when the early frigid mornings gift me with crystals dancing in the first sun in the corners of each ancient glass slip. Mostly, though, I am humbled by the awareness of the hundreds of eyes that have also contemplated the farm and their lives through these very windows. Farmers looking out to see if it’s finally begun to rain or has finally stopped raining. The eyes of children excited by the new snow. A young girl watching for her new handsome beau to ride up in a horsedrawn wagon clutching newly picked wildflowers. A worried father vacantly staring through that same window waiting for that daughter to return from the dance. An anxious mother fixated through a single pane with glassy eyes, hoping her son will be returning from a war.
Throughout the history of this old house, all the emotions of humankind; joy, fear, anticipation, disappointment, excitement, sadness and love have unquestionably been contemplated while staring through these portals.
As I stroll the fields and woods of the farm, I imagine the calloused hands that laid each stone in the miles of walls. I envision the 200 springs that greeted the plows and as many autumns when the last of the harvests were stored away or carted off to the mills. Once in a while, my attention is unexpectedly captured by the unintended beauty left by a particular stroke from an archaic broad axe on one of the hand hewn oak beams in the old English style barn. Or the setting sun might highlight the exposed tip of a single hand whittled hemlock peg that came from a tree right up the hill. The end is flattened from being pounded into the hole drilled through mortise and tenon holding those oak beams fast for 2 centuries. The ancients that built this assembly knew that a hemlock peg would shrink and expand through the seasons at a different rate than the oak beam and ensure a tight joint for as long as the barn stood.
Shortly after we first moved to the farm, I noticed, on one side of the 18 foot tall double barn doors, there was a series of countless vertical scratches in the soft pine frame about 5 feet high. They were obviously deliberate, relatively the same length, and otherwise random in their strokes. I considered these markings for years trying to divine the purpose or cause. One evening, as I was closing up the barn at the end of a long day, I dropped the 2X4 into its cradle securing the doors and suddenly, had an epiphany. A long ago farmer, at the end of another hard day, would have closed the doors to the cow barn as I had just done. After he lowered the securing board into its cradle, he would have pulled his pipe out of his pocket, stuffed it with tobacco and struck a match on the soft pine door frame, about 5 feet up, to light his evening smoke which was, no doubt, his end of day ritual and reward. Of course, no farmer would have struck a match and lit his pipe inside the hay filled barn, so this was the spot.
The currant harvest is finished and the little black and red jewels are all nestled away in the freezer for another season. As I sit on the front porch of this old farm house watching the last rays of sun at the top of the field across the lane kiss the trees goodnight, I am joined with all the farmers who tended this land and loved this house, who have sat right here on this porch, savoring the satisfaction of another harvest as I do. We share a sacred kinship. We are eternally bonded by soil, seasons, history, and place.
Cheers from the Currant Farm,