Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Farm Story

Our lovely friend Bill, the multi-talented "simple farm boy" was talking about barns the other day. He shared his love for them, and asserted that he could look at a grouping of farm buildings and tell their story. Bill's account resonated.

I have been meaning to "tell the story" of this wonderful collection of farm buildings for some time. Since I first encountered them, early on the morning of the last fine day of autumn, before the morning haze had lifted.

I hasten to add that my story is fictional. I don't know the history of this farm or its family. I do know, all too well, similar stories that have happened over my lifetime, in my home county of Prince Edward, among our neighbours and our family.

The day I stopped, there were no signs of life. No vehicles. No farm equipment. No livestock. Not even any rubbish. Just a grouping of farm buildings with a once fine house. Trees, a grassy lane. Empty, like perfect movie set for a turn of the last century farm drama.

So. What does this set tell me? It's a big house. Built as second, or likely third house, after a first log dwelling and a later frame one. By this time, the farm was prosperous enough for a large L-shaped house, and the family was sufficiently well-off to afford some spool and bracket frippery on the verandah. White brick lintels over segmentally and round arched windows. A door on the second floor suggests a roof balcony at one time, maybe? Elegant bay windows on the west side, and on the facade hint at taste and position in the rural society.

Did the family have sons who were expected to take over the farm, in the old way? Did this happen for a generation, maybe? There are two front doors; was this a double house shared by parents, a son and his family? But then did grandsons opt for city work and city lives, as in our own family's story? Or were there daughters only, who joined other red-brick farmhouse families along the road?

The old well pump still stands out front - someone proud of the old ways, wanting to keep a reminiscence? But there's a new concrete verandah and steps, likely replacing a failing wooden one contemporary with the posts and gingerbread. There was a time when concrete was the new best thing - but also a practical, low-cost alternative. Happened on our farm, when the aging wrap-around wooden verandahs became unsightly, and there were other places for the scant income.

The lovely gable designs haven't "seen a coat of paint in a while" as dad would have said, and spoolwork is missing. No time and money to keep up with these unessential bits of the farm. Chimneys look sound.
So. What is the real story of this lovely house and farm buildings? Are they going to stand here in solitude until they can't stand any longer, another bit of our rural past fading away, replaced by a spiffy faux craftsman style country home subdivision? Or are they waiting for a nostalgic family member to retire and return to this place of memories, ready to rehabilitate it and bring it a new life? Maybe even a young family who wants to put the good Hastings County soil back to work?

This farm is waiting.

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