Ill afforded sentimentality

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Farm pictures shrunk 008.JPG

This is the last of the original 1912 buildings on the farmstead and it is not long for this world. The only thing holding up that building was the 1952 pickup truck-- which was pulled out and collapsed the west side of the building. I'm sentimental about these buildings in a way that my neighbor says he and his fellow farmers can't afford to be. Life can be hard and cruel on the farm. Attach your heartstrings to a building and they'll get pulled down along with the building.

I'm reading The World Without Us right now. It's an ecological trip through various parts of the world if humans are wiped from the face of the planet in an instant (i.e. not dragging down the entire planet with us over the coming centuries). The author quotes a farmer as saying if you want to bring down a barn put an 18 inch hole in the roof. In 10 years the barn will be dust. It's true. Drive around rural Minnesota-- not the collar suburbs or the exurbs-- but the far agricultural corners of this State. There are no animals in barns. The barns, where they still stand, are surrounded on every possible side with corn and soybeans. There are no pastures and there are no functioning barns. I think that SE Minnesota might be faring better than other parts of the State, but wouldn't count on that. My sister and her husband have a dairy farm there- a confinement dairy like the majority of dairies. But there are a few pasture based dairies left. Not here.

I feel grief, a heavy sadness at this building coming down. Yes-- we will salvage the wood and Yes-- it will be the bus shelter at the end of our 1/2 mile drive or the siding on the "chicken coop of my dreams" yet to be designed and built (and the chickens are waiting!!).

I feel grief that no one cared to fill the 18 inch hole in this granary. It was a two story granary. Beautiful, but not useful to modern agriculture. If you are working from morning until night-- your fingers swollen with arthritis-- your farm on the verge of bankrupcy-- you don't have the luxury to buy the supplies, take the time and take the physical risk to climb atop an 85 year old granary that serves no modern purpose. There isn't room for sentimentality.

I feel grief that all of these buildings are going away-- more and more every year. And believe me when I tell you that modern buildings-- like granaries and confinement feeding operations-- are not built for beauty. Out here form follows function in 2007-- and the form of industrial agriculture is not beautiful. Somehow I believe it was more than that in 1912. I don't know for sure, but I have a sense. There are some core pieces of beauty inside our house-- I've seen some lovely hand carved rafters.

I can afford to be sentimental. I have a job in the City. I don't have my heart in my throat to just hang onto the land in the face of industrial agriculture.

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I think farmer's lack of sentimentality about buildings can be a little like a CEO of a corporation saying the only thing to be concerned about is profits per quarter, or dividends per share. An attitude like that makes life much simpler, and when you waver from that, life becomes a never-ending series of value judgements that can make you feel like you've lost your way.

And, since the margins in industrial agriculture are narrow, with wild cards of weather, markets, and government programs, many farmers feel like only a narrow focus will help provide for their families.

Nice blog, though. I love the egrets, too.


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This page contains a single entry by Kathryn Draeger published on October 16, 2007 9:39 PM.

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