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A Clean Slate

April 17, 2014

Jane and I ruminated over that very subject the other night.

"Cuds True"

“Cuds True”

Since “we’re” not milking, I still like to spend a little quality time with Jane.  I yak, and she chews her cud and sniffs my hair and gloves to see what’s up.

She heard me rummaging around in the tie stalls catch-alls, and was curious what I was doing.  Spring cleaning was up, which is much more fun in the barn than in the house for sure.  Pawing around in the dark corners near the mangers is sure to bring something to the top.  Good thing bugs don’t bother me, because I am sure spiders and other fun critters abound in the recesses of those stalls.  I found a little galvanized bucket of stuff, junk mostly, that I think my kid squirreled away at some point when she was tiny, and sort of a klepto.  A cracked Fiestaware teacup, horseshoe, T-post clips, pliers, and a cool old fence tightener, plus other odds and ends of stuff you might find in a barn.

Me and Jane pondered the idea of a new barn ca. 1987 that was full of old stuff.  I babbled on about old farms and old farmers and how farms collect stuff.

Actually I pondered, Janey just cudded with approval.  Kind of like nodding to your spouse when they are talking… .
A clean slate?  What is that?  I am sometimes envious of folks who start out farming in some place new or at least new to them.  Whether it be a bare piece of land that was carved off some other farm or forest, or a farm.  You see it’s pretty easy to trash the previous owners when you have no connection to them or the junk piles.  One man’s junk, is well, another man’s junk, if you know what I mean.

planting raspberries

planting raspberries

So, because I am always trying to fit new things in with the old, I get pulled up short quite a bit.  You would think planting a row of raspberries would be a simple thing.  Just do it.

"treasure" hunter

“treasure” hunter

Well, I have to say our berry patch has been the bane of my existence for the last twenty years.  Here you either build an eight foot fence around your garden compound for deer and elk abatement, or you place your gardening plots close to your house and keep a dog or three.  So my choices are either take up more space in the pasture and add a wildstock fence, or stack that berry patch in the zone within close proximity of the house.  Complicating that second choice is that the only open area is right where an old building used to be.  Namely a shop that spanned horse power days to petroleum days.  We have learned over the years that old building sites that contained fuel, batteries etc., are not always the best place for long-lived perennial plants like berries.  I had one row left that I knew was a good, clean berry loving spot.

So what becomes a simple – strip the sod, amend the soil type of afternoon turns into an archaeological dig of sorts spanning more than a couple of decades.  And unlike a new to this land person, I am curious about my findings.  Whose hands touched those metal reminders of  farming seasons past?  I don’t cuss them for leaving a mark, it’s a tiny connection to the what living and farming went on here before.  It’s part of my past.  But it’s not a clean slate by any means.  It’s more a diary of farming in the days before plastic.  I shudder to think of the next hundred years, drip tape, row cover, greenhouse plastic, plastic gas cans, even in the woods, a plastic wedge and a pop can will show how far we’ve come.  Rusty old metal parts and pieces do eventually blend in.  Plastic not so much.  I’m torn, I’m pretty used to the wonders of plastic, and I know that legacy will be with us in the future too, just like all this stuff in the farm shop turned berry patch.

from soup to nuts

from soup to nuts

This is just what we found this time, when we first worked this up with a disc and harrow twenty years ago, we found things you don’t want to find with a disc…

This week’s haul ranged from rein terrets, railroad spikes, square nails, round nails, round stock, glass shards, babbitt, buggy parts, and hooks, right up to a modern-day fuel pump piece and some kind of shaft from some long ago beat up piece of farm equipment.


So I sifted and inspected.

Added to replace what I took away, and in the row that contained the few heirloom raspberries I have saved, (for what reason I am not sure, they are not that productive – a connection perhaps?) I planted a nice bundle of new berries.

All the while, thinking contemplative thoughts about junk, dogs, farms and clean slates, or lack thereof.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. April 17, 2014 3:28 pm

    Love some of the goodies you found. I need to get my berries planted too.


    Cottage Making Mommy

  2. 12Paws permalink
    April 17, 2014 4:30 pm

    Very cool post! An old deserted farmhouse & barn can bring tears–as I always ponder about the lives that lived there.

  3. sherry permalink
    April 17, 2014 4:52 pm

    I’m constantly finding ‘treasures’, our house has been here for 128 years, the barn even longer. Takes me forever to get things done, I always have to stop and inspect the latest ‘fossil’.

  4. April 17, 2014 5:57 pm

    Six of one half dozen of the other I guess – ten years into this place and the earth is still spitting up shrapnel that should have found a home at the dump. Plastic, metal of all sorts and my absolute least favorite – broken glass. Bottles. Windows. Hydro insulators. Buried barbed wire fencing gets me going – I’m always worrying for the livestock.
    By the way, your advice on the cow/calf issue worked our ‘moo-tifully’ 😊

  5. April 17, 2014 5:57 pm

    I have to ask just what things you found with the disc twenty years ago!

    • April 17, 2014 7:15 pm

      S., big stuff, I can’t remember specifics, all were destined for the scrap metal pile though.

  6. CassieOz permalink
    April 17, 2014 7:34 pm

    The pix of Jane through the web-gate are wonderful. She looks as though she understands every word (just like my Jenny).
    On a totally different note, do you have to trim Janes’s hoofs at all? I’m about to start on that adventure and it terrifies me.

    • April 17, 2014 7:41 pm

      Cassie, even if she doesn’t understand me, she’s a good listener 🙂

      I’ve dodged that bullet with my cows – my girlfriend has two cows that need trimming though and she’s had a guy that boogered up her cow, and now she has found a decent trimmer and they are doing great. Good luck!

  7. April 17, 2014 10:04 pm

    At some level it is just great to find a piece of the past buried in the ground, but I can imagine sometimes a clean slate is easier…

  8. April 18, 2014 12:39 am

    I’ve been able to make good use of a lot of the junk I’ve found here – fencing, roof shingles, lots of lumber & concrete blocks are always handy. Some of the old wagon chassis will be useful and some brought a good paycheck at the dump. I actually love taking things to the dump, lol.

    That gate is beautiful, BTW. My girls usually hang out wherever I am when I’m working outside – they seem to really enjoy being talked to.

  9. April 18, 2014 1:50 am

    Though this land has been continuously farmed since the late 1600’s when it was “bought” from the Indians, we’ve not found a lot besides broken glass/china and nails. The one find was a 1810? Canadian coin in poor shape. Most of the stuff is found right around the tobacco shed, and there was no house until we built in 1983.

  10. April 18, 2014 4:33 am

    We find odds and ends but our place wasn’t occupied by farmers, it was occupied by troops during WW2 and so we find bullets, gas masks, phosphor bomb cases, hand grenade, mortar bombs and a German gun (rusted) to date. The hand grenade still had the pin in it, but it was removed after a couple of years of being sat under an old oak tree by the bomb squad – we even had a tv crew for the event. I think I would rather find your kind of hoard though 😀

  11. Bee permalink
    April 18, 2014 6:32 am

    We bought this ranch in 2006, but it had been a ranch since the 1880s at least. It had been abandoned for at least 50 years when we bought it. We’ve unearthed or found horse-related equipment, irrigation flumes, logging gear, old perfume bottles, a wringer washer top, canning jars, arrowheads, spear heads and Indian grinding stones. What I value more are the old fruit trees, grapes and asparagus — we’re slowly getting them pruned and clearing out the brush and wild blackberries.The old barn wasn’t salvagable, which was a shame, but we managed to save the doors and will rehang them when we get the new barn built. Being a history buff, I love the connections with the past.

  12. April 18, 2014 7:39 am

    Beautiful soil. Gotta love good dirt.

  13. Sheila permalink
    April 18, 2014 5:38 pm

    One place we looked at…50 – 100 ft from the house they had dug a huge hole, and inside that hole we found electric fans, metal ducts, trash, and lots of other stuff. The house still needed a ton of cleaning and we never looked in the barns…Who knows what else was going in those holes. It sure wasn’t a very good selling point.

    Oh the stories I could tell…one house with no sewer or septic. There was a pipe sticking out of the ground going down the steep hill…That too was right outside…had to walk by the pipe end to get up to the garden area.

    But finding old rusty stuff is fun…my daughter has found tons of rusty things at my aunt’s farm, they have an old rusty bucket to put them in, and all the kids love trying to fill it up.

  14. erikamay85 permalink
    April 19, 2014 6:38 am

    My farm is younger. I find more modern stuff, though on occation i find something wonderful like the half of a yoke. I have what looks like a 3 way pulley coming out of the ground right now. Many of my dishes & cups are field finds…mostly i find clothes. ?!

  15. April 21, 2014 11:59 am

    Glass. I find glass everywhere. Everybody in the neighborhood used to dump their trash in the washes…and it washes through. This weekend I found a plate, a soda bottle and an old can of hairspray. The hairspray had, apparently, been a coyote chew toy.

    I do wonder about axe heads the pigs uncover. Why on Earth did that get left out? But more than that, I wonder about that coyote. What was he thinking? Did the last of the pressure release in his mouth? He apparently went back for more afterwards. Did the pack fight for the odd blue cylinder? What made it interesting to them? Was it just fun because one of them thought it was fun?

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