Handwriting on the wall

My husband Jordan and I are the fifth generation to live on the family farm. His great, great grandfather settled the homestead a century ago. Over the years, many of the old buildings have fallen into disrepair and, instead of tearing them down, we’ve decided to fix many of them up. With help from family and friends, we’ve begun the process of restoring the old buildings, one by one. Most recently, we have set our sights on cleaning out the old granary, fixing the walls and putting steel on the roof. We plan to repurpose the building for raising calves and, upstairs, for storing hay (or maybe as a fort for when our daughter is older).

We spent a couple afternoons upstairs in the granary clearing out corn and oats that had been stored for decades. Thankfully the shoots in the granary floor made cleaning pretty simple; we pushed the grain down the holes the same way his forefathers would have done. Once the floor was swept clean, Jordan and I stood and admired the room. It was as if time stood still. The wood planks that were hidden under all that grain were in pristine condition and the original purpose of the granary became even more evident. As the afternoon sun spilled in from a small window, we discovered a hidden treasure.

On the wood-planked walls were notes written by his grandfather Melvin and Melvin’s brother over 70 years ago. The words from the past were penciled in script. One message read, “Shoveling succotash, June 20, 1935, 13 yrs. old, MJH.” Another said, “Putting siding up on north wall, August 1, 1942.” His brother wrote, “Shoveling succotash, rainy, cold year, grain looks good. June 21, 1935. ROH.” As we stood in the empty room of the granary reading the messages written so long ago, Jordan experienced a moment of nostalgia. We could almost picture his grandpa as a 13-year-old boy, shoveling grain alongside his brother. We reflected on the hard work, struggle and daily toil they went through to operate the farm. 

We will never know what Melvin was thinking as he scribbled on the wall. Was he thinking of future generations who may read his message? Or was he simply passing the time as he waited for the next load of grain? Whatever the reason, we consider the handwriting on the wall a unique treasure: a memory of the way farm life used to be and a reflection of Jordan’s heritage. Although cleaning and restoring the old buildings on our farm is the more difficult route, discoveries like these make us proud we are finding ways to use the century-old buildings. When we were finished working on the upstairs, Jordan left a message on the wall. “March 2012, mild winter, fixing up the granary. JDH.”

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