Monday, October 24, 2011

Starting a Second Decade of Woodsong Autumns

Fall change is in the crisp air. As I drove home from Katherine’s on Saturday night down our lane, two deer were munching a late night supper in neighbor Scott’s fields. Their alert raised eyes reflected the car lights briefly, but they quickly went back to eating. Soon those crops will be harvested and the deer will have to find another soup kitchen. Last night as I drove down the lane, I saw that Brian, Mary Ellen, and Brianna had been there during the afternoon to move their parked farm equipment on down to their Harrisburg fields.

Hearing a wild goose call this morning made me look out the window hoping to see an overhead feathered friend flying south, but I only saw our two remaining ducks swimming together on the lake. We have gone from having an over abundance of wild fowl at the lake to a much diminished population since Gerald stopped feeding them. We have finally accepted the fact that baby fowl will not live long here with all the predators waiting to ponse sometimes even before they hatch.

When I changed our sheets Saturday morning, I went ahead and put the extra blanket on the bed that I had just been tentatively laying at the foot of the bed just n case we needed it. Fearing front, Gerald picked a bucket of ripe tomatoes and a bucket of green tomatoes from the garden for fear of frost. I have tried to share the ripe ones; and last night as I watched Book Notes, I wrapped the green ones in newspaper to continue ripening and carried them into the garage. I know many people like fried green tomatoes, but somehow I have never tried to make that dish. I feel guilty enough when I fry okra, which our family loves, so I don’t feel inclined to experiment frying tomatoes. But we will enjoy having home-grown tomatoes probably into the beginning of winter as these green ones ripen.

The sweet gum tree out by the garden is now gone all red, and I so enjoy looking at it out the kitchen window. Gerald planted that tree as a tiny plant no bigger than an onion slip over ten years ago before we moved here. Gerald found the baby tree in a flower bed at the north of our other house, where evidently a bird had dropped the seed since we did not have any gum trees in our yard there. Now it is such a lovely shaped tree and taller than the martin house on the other end of the garden. It is beginning to shade the north part of the garden, so I suggest that is another reason to make the garden a little smaller next summer. The tree must definitely stay.

Another tree I look at almost daily when I awake is outside our bedroom window-- the pin oak that Gerald planted after we moved here ten years ago. Its branches usually have a bird or two lighted in them. It has been such a pleasure to see that tiny slow-growing tree reach its present adolescent height.

Many years ago when we would drive home from the University of Illinois where Gerald was in grad school, we would pass a beautiful new farm house beside the road. One of Gerald’s professors had told the class that the farmer who lived there built that new house towards the end of his career and almost immediately he had died leaving his widow alone there. I could never look at the house without a lump in my throat. When Gerald started getting very serious about building this house, that story was one reason I was reluctant. (Besides the sadness of leaving behind the house that held all the memories of rearing our children.)

Finally, Gerald asked me if we’d likely both live five more years, and I knew we likely would. And then the question was: would it be worth it to build and move if that were so? We both decided it would be worth it. In the memory-ridden house, we recalled that Gerald had knocked out walls, put up walls, enclosed porches, made the bathroom work when we first moved in, remodeled that bathroom at least twice while adding two more in a major remodel for the entire house, and on and on. No wonder Gerald was sick and tired of working on that house. Well, we moved into this house on October 14, 2001, when it was not yet completely finished in order to accommodate the family who had bought our old farm house.

So we have now lived here ten years, and I am realizing that referring to this as our “new” house is no longer accurate. It has definitely been worth it. Twice, we have had families living with us—part of a family one summer while Jeannie took classes in three different colleges to get the art classes she needed and Katherine’s family for six months while a slow and incompetent contractor did a major remodel to make their house more accessible. One summer while the Taylor camper was not available, Mary Ellen’s family spent a lot of weekends with us. And with Gerry and Jeannie’s family members divided between north and south of here, we have been able to provide bed and breakfast when needed. We could have done all these things in the old farm house, but certainly with a great more difficulty and not much comfort for those involved. I don’t think much of that would have happened. People asked us why we wanted four bedrooms, and I suggested they come sleep on our floor with our holiday overflow, which would be much worse if not for the Taylor camper. There really isn’t any room that has not had considerable use.

I knew one of the things I would miss most when we moved was the beautiful old maple trees at the other house. Yet it seemed like every time I finally got the limbs picked up after a wind storm, that very night we’d have a rain and branches would be blown out to be picked up again. We felt bad for the new owners who have twice had devastating disasters from those wonderful old trees, and they have had to remodel and repair resulting damage to the house. At our age, those problems would have been even more difficult for us. We have thoroughly enjoyed watching all the trees Gerald planted grow, but he put them all away from the house. We no longer have to pick up limbs or rake leaves each fall as we did over at Pondside Farm.

Has there been upkeep on this house? Definitely. If you are not renting from a landlord who does repairs, you have to expect that. From the beginning, things had to occasionally be finished up, repaired, or changed. Yet I think it was more pleasant for Gerald to do those tasks in a new house than one he was bored with working on. For the past two years, I kept telling myself I’d repaint the ledge of the window over the kitchen sink, but I dallied enough about doing it, that by this summer I was afraid of crawling on top of the counter to do it. Of course, Gerald did it along with getting the garage door and front entrance doors changed. I am wondering what our second decade here will bring.

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