After living on the same farm for 45 years, I have accumulated a lot of junk in our old three-story barn.
When Miles Smith owned the property in the 1800s, the barn was home to dairy cattle, a few horses, and possibly some pigs. Worn down in places where the cows stood while they ate and were milked, the floor was replaced in 1969. All of my livestock now have other shelters with more-durable and less-absorbent concrete or gravel floors.
That freed-up the barn to host things like antique mirrors (which haven’t been friendly lately); expensive rugs that the cat decided were scratching posts; bulky cowhides; boxes of books and memories; more than 100 stacking chairs; and even a parachute that’s an unlikely relic of a high-school romance of 50 years ago.
I did have a plan, and it went like this: Anything that was no longer needed would go to the barn. After 10 years, if it’s still no longer needed and is in good condition, it would go to the Salvation Army. Of course, 10 years was optimistic, and 20, then 30 years passed like a storm cloud in a nor ‘easter.
Last summer, my visiting high-school friends Russ and Rick toured the barn, looked at all the stuff, and shamed me into doing something. Husband Bruce and I, with some help from farm-store staffers Joan and Marianne, loaded those hundred chairs onto a trailer for a one-way trip to the dump. But before we left, Bruce posted the chair opportunity on Facebook. A neighbor saw the post and claimed 20 of the metal chairs. The rest made it to the dump, where perhaps pickers claimed more of them. Three loads later, most of the barn furniture was gone. One load of metal office furniture went to Schnitzer Northeast in Concord, and we got $39.84 for it!
The dump can be a fun place to visit. I ran into Jim, a friend of a friend, yesterday at the dump as he was unloading furniture. He was cleaning his basement of stuff accumulated over 10 years. But he decided that he could not part with some of it, like the wire racks, which he took back home for perhaps another decade.
Sometimes I’ll come home from the dump with more than I took. Who could resist that slightly scratched end table? Or the rabbit cage? I only had to saw off an inch or two from the legs to make it stand straight. Who doesn’t need a rabbit cage?
In the ‘Farm of My Dreams,’ there is no junk. But the farm I am running is a place of thrift where constant repairing and re-purposing are the rule.
Although progress has been substantial, my barn still contains scraps of lumber, unsorted paperwork, lengths of rope, and assorted tools and hardware, plus family memorabilia and photos from the 1960s.
Yes, the rugs, mirrors, and parachute are still in the collection. Just in case. My cat might need to sharpen his claws, or the cows might want to ruminate over their reflected appearance, or my ex-boyfriend might need to jump from a disabled airplane. You never know.
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Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, in Loudon, N.H., where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.