The farm’s previous owner has many treasures, still stacked and parked in the barns, loitering like unsavory characters in tall weeds. Three tractor-trailers have come, loaded up, and gone. They made a dent, but barely.
In our backyard right now sits a four-foot high loading ramp, handmade last month from old barn timbers. A rusted pickup missing essential parts perches on the ramp, like a Dukes of Hazzard stunt that froze just before take-off. If the snow holds off, a fourth tractor-trailer will come next week. If not, that pickup truck will wait until spring to complete its trajectory.
It’s hard to estimate, but at least six, maybe eight more semi loads will need to leave the property. Furniture, unusable farm equipment, used tires by the dozens, moldering sofas and televisions, antique (read: decrepit) cars, stacks of semi-useful wood, sheets of tin, used bricks, a sink and toilet, shingles, and much more. All of it will travel 600 miles to the previous farm owner’s new home. With luck, it’ll all be gone by late next summer.
In 1953, when my grandpa bought a Pennsylvania farm for my aunt and uncle, they kept a fire burning for six months, incinerating trash and debris from barns and overgrown land. My dad remembers his five-year-old self feeling spooked by those outbuildings, lurking with other people’s crumbling possessions. That spring, when my grandpa set plow to the land, though, he never hit a rock bigger than his fist, easily churning a rich furrow behind him.
This upstate New York land holds our future. For now, though, the farmstead sags, burdened by one man’s obsession with solid evidence of the past. Helping him move some old lamps and small tables, I asked him if they were from his childhood. “They’re from my father’s childhood in Brooklyn,” he said, shaking his head. “Everything has a story.”
Other stuff, he admitted, he has no idea why he kept it. I can only imagine how unsteady he must feel with his reassuring pieces and piles being jumbled and moved. When I was a kid, I saved a scrap of my old bedroom carpet as they rolled out the new stuff. Letting go is not my strong point, either.
This spring, we will try to ignore the junk, and the junk removal process, while we plant trees. By summer, we will have tomatoes growing and probably chickens for eggs and meat. We’ll begin to assemble our own collections of hopefully useful treasures.