Guilt and the Homestead Mentality

| 5/20/2010 11:39:35 AM

Tags: Homestead, Farm, Progress,

A photo of Drew OdomThis past week I was in Dayton, Ohio for my "day job." After I landed at the airport I had to drive about 13 miles to the center of Dayton where my company's office is.

As I was driving I past what seemed to be about a 60-year old farm in less than perfect condition. It seemed so odd to me sitting there on its own – one house, one large barn, two silos, a chicken house, and some fencing – less than a mile off of I-75. There were no cars in the driveway, and no real sign of life there. It is a miracle I didn't run off the highway staring at the potential of such a homestead. I immediately began to wonder, "Who owns that? Do they still live there? What did they used to farm? Is the soil still good? How did the Interstate get here so close to them?" And then it hit me.


I felt a pang of guilt in my stomach as I pondered how we had allowed places like this all over America to be overrun by "progress." How long would it be before that farm became an exit ramp or a TravelStop or some form of strip mall?

I guess I have reached a new place in my relationship with the land. I can no longer pass by such a home – an institution, if you will – without silently mourning the loss of our agrarian society. And for what? Progress?

What about you? Have you had these feelings recently? Where do your thoughts take you?

5/24/2010 2:44:17 PM

Dave, so true, about the size of the imagination!

mountain woman
5/23/2010 2:21:25 PM

Hey Andrew, Our place is in Theodosia, Missouri. A beautiful, small, ranching community on Bull Shoals Lake. Just feel as though we are doing our part preserving this piece of history and both MM and I love small houses. I also have lots to say about McMansions and the destruction they have done as they have sprawled into rural lands. We hope some lucky person or couple is going to love the farm we are redoing. It's not about profit. It's about saving history and land.

5/22/2010 8:34:02 PM

@funny farmer - Bless you for your efforts. I could talk all day about the McMansion issue - its rise and, now, subsequent fall. It is a sad state of affairs for sure. But the same way we, as a nation, allowed it to occur, we must now pick ourselves up, reestablish what is important and necessary, and provide what salvation we can. @Shannon - You summed it up. It IS sad to watch. Indeed.

s.m.r. saia
5/22/2010 6:15:44 AM

Funny, the way you were sizing up that farm. My husband and I used to do corporate book fairs (in office building lobbies), and for many years we couldn't drive past a big office building without thinking wow, I wonder if anyone is doing a book fair there, I wonder how many employees are in that building, what the potential for profit might be. I guess it's human nature to assess everything from one's own particular perspective... :0) The part of Southern Maryland where I live still has evidence of the way things used to be - beautiful old barns and other outbuildings behind houses; there's some lovely old buildings like that even in my own neighborhood. A friend of mine just bought a really old house with a nice little old red barn behind the house across the street. It's such a lovely view from her upstairs windows. They don't make me feel guilty so much as wistful. They seem so out of place now in thier surroundings that looking at them is almost like looking at a picture. Not exactly what you were talking about, but I can't help thinking when I see them that sooner or later they'll probably be torn down for townhouses...In the meantime when I walk around the neighborhood looking at them gives me much pleasure, even if they're not all that they used to be. Over the years I've seen neat little old houses and gardens in this neighborhood torn town and converted to big, new, expensive houses that have no character by comparison. It's sad to watch.

funny farmer
5/22/2010 4:05:33 AM

I almost cry as I drive past once beautiful decaying barns....I always think of the work that went into constructing them and the great hand-hewn beams from trees the size of which we don't even have anymore, and the animal life that once flourished there. I look at the derelict houses and wonder who lived there, had babies there. And know that houses are not built that well anymore. I, too, always want to 'fix them up' and bring life back. We as a country are allowing an important part of what life should be die. Seeing the building of MacMansions and malls on the fertile and now wasted soil just kills me. So glad I am not alone in these feelings as I feel like a nut half the time having my heart so heavy driving along. "Progress"? More like wanton waste to my way of thinking. We need some sort of national trust that would keep these places whole and allow them to be bought and refurbished MINUS the price tag of "developers". Amen to any entity that saves even one of these glimpses of a beautiful past. The hard work that went into building these places, clearing the land, producing REAL food should not be tossed to wrecking balls and bulldozers. For me I am delighted to be 'fixing up' a wonderful small farm house and little barn. Even a smaller barn such as mine is made from the great beams and has a wonderful hay loft, stalls below. And my little band of critters keeps the place doing what it was intended to do.

5/21/2010 9:42:24 AM

@Dave - Georgia has gotten the same way. You cant hardly find an acre for less than $6k and even that is usually fully wooded with no septic, well, or access to city services. Add in the expense of having to have an easement or driveway and you are talking $12k or so just to get land ready to build on. It hurts to see the derelict buildings and to know how there is so much desire to restore them but then hear the crushing tales of people whose efforts have been slighted by redtape and price inflation (usually caused by prospective land development.) Until then, I will continue to motivate people to follow their dreams as I try to my own!

nebraska dave
5/21/2010 8:50:28 AM

Drew, here in the heart of the Midwest many derelict farm buildings can be found. They are from an era when small farms existed before corporate farms took over. It is sad to see all the wonderful old ornate houses from the small farm owner just decaying. I want to fix up every one of them. My desire in life was to be able to get a small acreage with a set of old farm buildings to keep me busy the rest of my life, but land here even with no buildings is thousands of dollars per acre. I just never could afford the price of the land. So I’ll just have to be happy with the urban ranch. That keeps me busy enough. I guess it’s not the size of the property but the size of the imagination the keeps a guy like me busy. I hope your travels are always as exciting as your posts.

5/21/2010 6:35:39 AM

@Mountain Woman - What part of the Ozarks? I worked at a mission base there in Ozarks, Arkansas for a while. The mountain was called Manitou Mountain and was run by the Nizza family for YWAM (Youth With A Mission). There was some beautiful land out there. I think you hit on an interesting point. Urban areas are every bit as important as rural. They serve a purpose for the economic and industrial arena. However, they don't need to continuously sprawl into suburbia (which takes away our precious land) if they build and operate smartly. It takes a partnership between us all on our various levels to make our world work. It isn't too late but enough IS enough.

mountain woman
5/21/2010 5:12:25 AM

Andrew, We feel the same as you. In fact, we were on vacation in the Ozarks two years ago and we discovered a 60 acre ranch of the most beautiful, forgotten land that was destined for the wrecking ball, house and all. Long story short, we purchased it and are renovating it for someone to farm and love and live a rural life. It's possible for us because Mountain Man does all the work so we have no real cash outlay. We need vibrant cities and people who like city living need to stay in those cities and we need to stop sprawl. The amount of land we are losing each day is incredible. Not sure it isn't too late to stop the tide of destruction but there's always hope.

paul gardener
5/21/2010 1:16:22 AM

I know that feeling Drew. I have it all too often. P.S. That's why my wife drives most of the time.. farm oogling! Best to you Paul~

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