Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The old mantel

The old piece of wood sits against the wall. A lovely old piece full of memories of a house back the lane.
I remember asking Mom the age of our lovely house on the hill. She told me that it was at least 65 years old. Considering that I was a child when I asked, the house must be ancient at this point in my life. The house on the hill.

Old houses dotted the community when I was growing up. I remember as a teen dreaming of one day living in a little ranch-style home. Now as a woman of many decades, I appreciate those old houses more and more. I want to know their histories. I want to once more cross the doorways into history.

Mom and Dad decided to take the small rooms in their house and make a couple of larger rooms for a more modern family. Gone were the days of the woodstove and the vents in the upstairs floors. It was time for baseboard heating and more space. We had grown up sitting in the windows of our house, watching Dad in the field as well as the sparse traffic on Neff Road. It wasn't until the wall was stripped of its plaster during the remodel, that I understood why those windowsills were so deep. The outside walls of our house were made of hand-hewn logs. Huge logs chiseled and stacked within the walls. Our basement walls were made of fieldstone with the ceiling beam also of that hewn wood. Again, something else I never really thought about. An old house with a history hidden within the walls.

My grandfather's house on Byreley Road was built by said grandfather Isaiah Loxley. A modern man, he built the house with all the modern bells and whistles. It even had a bathroom inside the house! It was a beautiful house with French doors and window seats. A home I wish I had today. He had one of the most modern stoves and closet space galore. A house we all loved for its beauty and grace. A house built by my grandfather and his sons. My guess would be that the lumber for the house was milled in the woods at the back of the property. Another Loxley house with a history.

Uncle Keith and Aunt Kate Loxley had the most unusual house. Oh, how I loved it. We don't know the history of the house, but it was a house like no other. The large brick house was in an L-shape with a raised cement platform across the side of the house. The rooms on the first floor were fairly small with the upstairs separated into several rooms with one big room in the middle. They could possibly have been rooms for boarders. The heavy doors had latches. A large enclosed porch ran down the Neff side of the house. We have no history of the house. The house could have been a waystation for a stage or passing wagons. The house was very old as seen in the old red bricks. A history lost, but another of the old houses that I still carry with me.

The old piece of wood is a reminder. For each room of that house on the hill where I grew up had a different symbol on the door mantel. The door of the small room that grew in size with the remodel, lost its mantel to the barn where it collected spider webs and dust. When the farm sold, it came home with me to Oregon. It is a warm reminder of the houses within that quarter of a mile on Neff Road.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Thinking of all you moms

If you don't have a mother, I would stand in. 

If you don't have a child, I would understand. 

If you are a child, know that you are loved. 

If you are a daddy mom, know that you are admired. 

If you are a mother, you know the depth of love. 

If you are a grandma, then, of course, you understand. 

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are blessed to have a mom, blessed to remember a mom's love, blessed to be a parent, and most of all, blessed to have know what it was like to be in your mother's arms. 

Happy Mother's Day with love.

Monday, May 4, 2020

The ribs of a barn

The barn. The big, beautiful barn. Most of my life my Dad's name was on the side of the barn. I was never sure why since most people knew who lived there already. And, of course, I knew who lived there. I think maybe it was the pride in this wonderful barn. It was a groundbreaker.

The barn was built when my oldest sister was just a little girl, long before I came onto the scene. Monroe Riffel helped Dad build this new style of barn. It was the first of its kind in the area for this barn did not have pillars holding up the roof as did my grandfather's. Nope. The rafters curved along the vaulted roof.

The history of Dad's barn is the history of many barns in the area. Back then a sawmill was set up in the creek bottom. Dad and Monroe cut the trees and planed the wood. With his team of Belgian horses, Dad took the building materials to the site of the barn. There a foundation was poured and construction began.

As an adult, I am amazed at the practicality of this barn. Most 'kids' who played in that barn remember the big door over the front of the haymow. Yes, that was a place we sat to take in the view. In fact, the window looked directly at my bedroom window. Many a time I sat there in the barn with my feet hanging over the edge, looking out over the fields and neighborhood. I might see Doris Lavy sitting on her porch or Hollie Stager plowing a field. I could see the bridge and look over the creek bottom. Here life on Neff Road was captured in the frame of a door.

This barn was practical. On each end of the haymow was a door that lowered on pulleys. It was as if the top of the barn was being lowered. These doors allowed air to flow through the barn keeping the mow cool, keeping dampness at bay. My sister June thinks that maybe in the early days, hay and straw were blown into the barn through those doors. Bales were transported from the wagon bed to the haymow via an elevator. One man would stand on the wagon loading the bales onto the elevator, while two or three men moved them from the front window, stacking them along the sides of the loft. When the bales rose higher, the elevator was moved to the end of the barn where a higher window allowed the bales to come into the barn high enough to make stacking more efficient. What a barn! What a wonderful barn.

Once in awhile, someone would come to see this new marvel of a barn. It was a barn built for milk cows, and, in my opinion, a place for childhood memories. Yet over the years, my view of that barn across the yard changed. I learned that Dad had his new herd of milk cows destroyed when they contracted a disease. The dreams of a young couple were crushed; however, you can't keep a farmer down. Dad raised beef cattle and sheep. The old milk parlor remained coated in dust and cobwebs. It was a reminder of the past. Yet the rest of the barn was full of life. The old white barn built from the lumber of the land became a symbol of survival. It was a place filled with the laughter of children and the sweat and determination of that family whose name was on the barn. It was always the view from my window.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

From my window


My bedroom window overlooked the backyard and barnyard. It was a window on the world for a little farm girl. Many a time I sat there looking out, watching chickens outside the chicken house pecking in the dirt for worms and cows milling at the back gate. Many mornings I saw Dad backing the Covington Creamery milk truck between the corncrib and the barn, the barn my daddy built. In warm weather, I could hear the tractor and perhaps spy Dad on the red Massey tractor with his faithful cocker spaniel riding along as they crossed the field. This was my window on the world for most of my growing up years.

I want to write about the views from that window for those views not only capture the sights of life on the farm but also captured the lives of those who lived on the farm. Two friends have told me that I am an observer. It shook loose an awareness that rather stunned me. I had been an observer all my life. And as that observer, I can now share what I saw from my window.

I hope you will find some enjoyment and perhaps memories of your own as I share these memories. Perhaps we can capture our histories together and bind them into a quilt of what life was like in Darke County, Ohio. I lived on Neff Road. Maybe you would like to learn about the incredible childhood I experienced with animals as my closest neighbors. A life built on soil, sweat and love. A neighborhood that extended far beyond one road. This is the view from my window. 

Come share the view.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The cook has left the kitchen

Fried chicken. Can you smell it? Um.....I think I can smell it. Yep, I can! Mom is in the kitchen using the old iron skillet to fry up another one of those critters that live across the yard. Fried chicken. Oh, Mom, you knew how to take that skillet and make memories for your girls and anyone who ever sat at your table.

Fried chicken. Mom never allowed her girls do any of the cooking, so we didn't even know how to do the simplest dishes. I don't think I had ever made anything during my life on the farm. But I can wash a dish, a potato-caked-on pot, a pile of plates and a potato masher with the skill of a woman on KP. So, when I became a bride, I found the kitchen a foreign land in which someone should have tested my skills before the ring landed on the finger.

I can laugh now, but in truth, I was terrified. We were having our first dinner guests. Yes, I was doing the cooking. The best gift we got when we were married was the Betty Crocker Cookbook. Being a country girl, I didn't know what to fix for people who lived in town. My experience had been watching Mom cook for farmhands. So, I thought I would do what Mom always did. I would fix fried chicken. Sounds easy, right? Well, you weren't a Loxley girl or you would know better. I turned to Betty Crocker. She, of course, considered that there might be clueless women out there and had a simple recipe for fried chicken. I followed it to the letter.

When the couple arrived, I was standing in our little, townhouse kitchen frying up dinner. Melanie walked over to me and said, "You're using a cookbook to fry chicken?! Everybody knows how to fry chicken!" Okay. I died right there on the spot. I was angry with Mom. I hated my husband for having such rude friends. I was embarrassed right down to my chicken feet. As you can tell, this incident has remained with me to this day. It is rather like the first time I had a baked potato wrapped in foil and had no idea what to do with it. So I sat looking at it. Hm.

Oh, yes, I have had my kitchen bumps and bruises along my many decades. I couldn't even make Jello! However, at this present age of chuckling at the past, I realize that I was meant to eat out and not cook. And, perhaps I had an aversion to wringing the neck of those nasty birds in the hen house. Kitchen utensils were not made for these hands. Paper plates are my best friends. Now I can make peace with Melanie and her rude comment, because she did not understand that I was made for greater things. At least this is how I reason it out now.

Can you smell it? I can. Fried chicken. I love it. And, I am sure there are chickens out there that are thrilled that I have not gone through life killing off their ancestors. I admire Colonel Sanders and his ability to carry on. Yet, it is not Mom's chicken. Hm. Where's the menu?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

I will make do

As kids, we made do with what we had for entertainment. We used tobacco lath for horses, burlap bags for everything from costumes to doll bedding, bales of straw for forts and corncribs for playhouses. With friends, we put on plays, searched the creek bed for turtles and frogs and discovered new things in nature with each season. We could make do.

Cambridge Dictionary: Make Do: to manage to live without things that you would like to have or with things or worse quality than you would like: ex. We didn't have cupboards so we made do with boxes.

Make do. It seems like all my childhood was 'make do'. We did not have much but made do with what we had. A word came up in a conversation with my sister June. Bandana! Any farm kid knows that their dads had a stack of handkerchiefs (or bandanas) that we girls nabbed when we were going to 'make do'. Of course, Mom grabbed them for our runny noses and used them to cover our chests covered with Vicks when we had a cough or wrapped around our necks for the same remedy.

As for us little ones, those blue and red bandanas became diapers for our dolls and sheets for their beds. In church, one of these lively cloths became Cats in a Cradle. Sometimes coins would be tied into the corner for our Sunday School offering. And to keep babies entertained, they became great peek-a-boo cloths.

Then we got a bit older. Mom would take bandanas and create bathing suits for her little girls. A couple tied made the bottom and a string gathering the cloth in the middle then tied behind the neck with the ends tied in the back of the child made the bra. Bandana beauties! Then we got even older. Those bandanas became headbands, neckbands and headscarves.

We saw those handkerchiefs hanging out of our father's work trousers and watched them flap on the clothesline. We carried them into the field to wipe away the sweat. Somehow they became that overlooked staple that did so many things. We never thought about it. We just made do. Everyday things were essentials in times of need. They even went on to be fads.

Yes, we can all make do. We can manage to live without things that we would like to have. In this process of 'make do', our world will rejuvenate itself. Streams and rivers will rest. The air will clear. The earth will make do reliving the peace and clarity it once knew. Perhaps this is a wake-up call for us all. As for now, I will make do.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Myriad of March messages

I love to check out the Farmer's Almanac! Who doesn't?!  I grew up with it. Farmers believed it while the rest of us heard it quoted often. This is the source of the following exposé of March. "Dad, you would be proud of me."

I thought I should see if March 1 is a lion coming in or maybe just a cute, wooly lamb. My first glimpse was fog outside the window followed by sunshine and spring flowers, adding color to the neighborhood. The budding trees just opened with the first flowering. My verdict: A lamb. Definitely a lamb. This saying probably came from some long-ago ancestors who believed that the weather foretold things to come. This truly is not so much a weather predictor as perhaps a hope. If it comes in roaring, at least let it leave softly. Since our weather has been the mildest on record, I would say that we are probably looking at a sheepish ending to the month.

Here is one I had never heard before: A dry March and a wet May? Fill barns and bays with corn and hay. Well, my friends, this one does not make sense. The barns are full for winter feed. Hay is baled and stored. Corn has been shelled and ground for feed or stored in the corn crib to use as needed. 
If I remember rightly, hay is not baled until May or later. Rather hard to bale it and fill the barn if it is not ready. (Oh, I think I have a headache.)

Another keeper: As it rains in March, so it rains in June. You and I both know that there is no predicting this fact. This was probably believed by the same people who hoped that the lioness that arrived at the beginning of March would surely change and make a cuddly lamb exit.

Here is a rather redundant one: March winds and April showers? Bring forth May flowers. Early flowers will absolutely bloom in May primarily because they are perennials. I believe that we started thinking about planting the garden in April/May. I seem to remember planting zinnias in the garden with Dad and Cousin Gene in May. That might have been the year I thought I would surprise Dad and pulled out an entire row of weeds, aka zinnias. Never planted in the garden again.

Ever heard this one: So many mists in March you see, so many frosts in May will be. I know it is in the Almanac, but I'm thinking perhaps this is an Irish Almanac.

Thank goodness this is the final one: Is’t on St. Joseph’s day (19th) clear, So follows a fertile year; Is’t on St. Mary’s (25th) bright and clear, Fertile is said to be the year. No, I did not misspell Is't. I am thinking once more we are across the pond. If you can match these dates with the appropriate weather, then you might want to get a Farmer's Almanac next year.

I have my own saying for this new month. If there is peace and love at the beginning of March, there will be harmony and joy at the end of the month. Yep, I like mine straight from Pam's Almanac.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Wool, wings and wonderment

So we bought this big ball made of twisted sticks and filled with alpaca wool and hung it in the tree. It goes well with the little basket that we bought last year. It seems, indeed, that we have become friends of the birds. And we love it!

I look at the nesting material within this crazy looking ball of wool and wonder why we didn't create something like this long ago. You know that feeling you have when you walk into a store and find something that costs a small fortune and is a really great idea and wonder why someone in your family or you didn't come up with the idea before? Well, that's more or less the way I feel when I look at these two things hanging in the tree. The little basket is a refuge/escape for little birds being pursued by some critter like that nasty Steller's jay that hangs out in our back yard. We have never seen any bird go into it but feel satisfaction knowing that they have an escape room. So now we have this big ball of fuzz that the hummers seem attracted as it is nesting time. We like to think that we are indeed feathering (wooling) nests. Alas, it seems we fall for birdy accessories, but then we don't have a dog.

I know I often talk about birds, but you don't grow up on Neff Road without having a deep appreciation for the sweet things. However, having said that, I do find it weird that long ago we sat listening to birdcall records at Granddad Loxley's house. It might have been a bit odd, but then a bird hidey-hole might be a bit off track as well.

Perhaps it is retirement that makes one more aware of the joy of birds. Perhaps it is entertainment for those wondering 'what would you like to do today' when all days run together. For me, it was born in me along with the smell, the feel, the very soil of Neff Road. Dad could whistle bird songs. He would whistle to a singing bird then tell me to listen. A duet between a songbird and a songster. I wonder if that makes my grandmother Whistler's mother. Ah, but I get sidetracked once more.

I will be heading to Indiana/Ohio this summer to spend time with my sister June. Once more I will sit and marvel at the cardinals that for some reason cannot fly over the Mississippi River to Oregon. Fireflies have that same problem. Of course, their wings are shorter. I will listen to the songs of different songbirds as I watch the orioles, which are more colorful than ours, flit by. And, once more I will be home.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Farmer Fun Facts for February

Wow! That's a mouthful! I thought it was time to have some fun since February is a slow farming month. Now I am a farm girl, yet I realize that I do not know everything, even though you thought I might. I did some research on a few sites and found facts that will awe and astonish you. (Well, that might be a bit over the top.)

Let's start with cows. Did you know that no two cows have exactly the same spot pattern? Not even twins. Perhaps it is due to their short memories that they space out on who is who in the bovine community. Of course, as we all know, and perhaps wonder how anyone can know, cows have a memory that lasts for three years. AND, perhaps they can remember longer but as is also known, cows know their names, but they don't always come when called. Another cow piece of trivia is that a cow will lie down when a storm is coming. To clarify this a bit further, cows will lie down to nap and sleep without a storm approaching.

Then we have goats. Goats are not prejudiced. They like people and their livestock friends. They were actually the first domesticated animals. Goats have rectangular pupils. They can see in the dark. I just think they are cute as the dickens. And, I have a deep love for those wooly sheep. There are forty-seven breeds of sheep here in the U.S. Seven to ten pounds are freshly shorn off them each year. Now this might seem like a lot, but all this wool is merely enough to make a man's suit. Just one pound can make ten miles of yarn. There are one-hundred-fifty yards of wool in one baseball. Baaaaaa.

Here are just a few random facts that I am sure you did not know. The longest recorded flight of a chicken (now I do not know if this a boy or girl chicken) is thirteen seconds. And those silly birds can make over two hundred distinct noises for talking to one another. But let's not forget the pigs. We could actually pit onev against a chicken, because it can run eleven miles per hour.

Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world. There are nine hundred million acres of farmland. Farmers, you live in a wonderful world of nature and mystery. Don't ever forget to be in awe of what the earth gives to your hands and our hearth. Thank you for putting up with a silly lady.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The future built on the past

Where once it stood a field stands fallow. No longer do swings creak with the rhythm of back and forth motion. There is no dust rising around the merry-go-round. The bats (both kinds) are gone.  The corner of Hogpath and Byreley stands empty with only sounds and sights of the past, residing in those who knew the halls of Franklin School.

It was just a walk down the road. A leather belt wrapped around a few books and possibly even a slate was slung over a shoulder or dragged dangerously close to the ground. It was a trek down Yount Road then around the corner store onto Red River/West Grove Road where the one-room school sat, waiting for the kids with scuffed shoes and perhaps even bare feet. Now only a memory of those who still remain and those gone.

The old brick schoolhouses dot the country roads. Some are now residences while others stand empty. They preserve memories of the children, teachers and a community who loved these buildings, who built these buildings. They cry out in a voice from long ago that spoke of the importance of education. They stand as a sign of progress in a time when wagons and horses were the only other travels on the gravel roads.

Progress is necessary. It is built on the very roots of such schools. Now instead of a slate or an old Underwood typewriter, computers are used. Latin is no longer taught. You can choose from a variety of tongues. Kids advance more quickly and so, too, must the schools. Kids no longer play jacks at recess or jump rope. Their lunches are more likely prepackaged from the grocery or even from a vending machine. In some schools, the kids sit on the floor surrounding the teacher. Parents and teachers are in contact via the computer, and kids have study time at school on the computers. A sick child will miss nothing with such great communication. Schools are preparing for the present and the future. They are building on the footprint of those before them.

The future built on the past.