The View from Mary's Farm for December 2005
January 1, 1970Hello, friends,
Thank you for the overwhelming response to the collection of essays, published just two months ago. Very gratifying and heartwarming.
As of September of this year, the barn site, described below, was an emerald green lawn, flat enough for croquet. In the spring, apple trees will be planted. The barn is an indelible part of my existence here, but I'm so glad not to have to worry about its possible collapse this winter. Not everything always goes as smoothly as we hope but, a few months later, it's hard to remember all the turmoil over a small project. I wish you all a merry Christmas and a new year filled with many blessings. Love, Edie
Seven Years on the Farm
Some of my friends believe that every seven years, a cycle completes and another one starts. Roughly, in my mind, I think this has been true for me. Now, again, I seem to be closing a cycle I never knew I’d begun. On December 12, 1997, I signed the papers that deeded over to me the place everyone around here knows as Mary’s farm. Since my date of purchase, much work has transpired here, but the first job, performed by Ethan Tolman, from the neighboring town of Nelson, was triage for the sagging barn behind the house. He used an iron brace to reinforce the barn’s rear entry and his excavator to try to keep the ancient barn from falling down.
The building has held since then, all through the many storms and the enormous changes that have taken place within and without the house. But my search to find a way to save the barn failed and so, late last fall, after I had emptied the barn of its contents, the process of taking it down began with the arrival of a barn broker named Ernie LaBombard, who dismantles New England barns and resells them all over the country.
He arrived with a crane and set right to work, climbing up into the rafters to first pull out the pins, the little magic fasteners that have held the barn together all these years. On the ground, I watched what was both fascinating to see and painful to hear. His efficiency went against the grain of my reluctance. With the pins removed, his crane operator plucked the posts and beams one by one and laid them gently on their flatbed trailer. The air filled with the shrieks and groans of the ancient barn coming apart, mixed with the blunt growl of the machinery. Up in the hayloft, Ernie walked about like an aerialist, gesturing and directing.
What likely took a summer to build, was coming down in a trice. Within the span of five hours, they eviscerated the old structure, essentially filleting it like a fish, plucking the bones and flipping shingles and boards to the side like so much waste. By three in the afternoon, the old barnyard now silent, the men were strapping down the long, straight, handhewn pieces of the frame to their truck, wrapping up just another day of barn harvesting.
It was odd, indeed, to see the trucks driving out the driveway, my barn on board. Even odder was to see what was left of the barn, standing as it always had, roof completely gone but nearly all siding boards upright, as if its support system were still intact. The remaining boards soared into the air, in place but askew, a suit without the man. What could possibly be holding them up but centuries of habit? Some weeks and several wind storms later, a different crew came to gather the boards, another surprisingly swift and deft operation that left, at last, a huge pile of rubble, rife with the scent of history.
In strange synchronicity, on the week of December 12, Ethan returned. Light snow falling, he worked, delicately clearing the site with the heel, hand and toe of his excavator’s bucket, erasing the visage of a structure that had stood stoutly on that land for nearly 245 years. It wasn’t until he drove away with the remaining bits of the old building in his big red dump truck (the last thing he loaded on was that iron brace he had installed seven years ago) that I thought of that seven-year cycle. I have no idea what it all means. I don’t plan to leave this place but I plan to plant an orchard where the barn once stood. No doubt another cycle, its significance as yet unknown to me, has already begun.
A collection of Edie’s essays, The View from Mary’s Farm, is now available from www.edieclark.com.