The farm is my home, and I hope it always will be. The other place I think of as home is gone. Not just in the sense that Mom & Dad don't live there anymore, but that it is literally gone, the house and garage have been razed, it's just an empty lot now. It took a long time before my stomach didn't churn and my eyes didn't tear up driving by after it was gone, even though it stood vacant for some time before that. But for those of us whose family has gone completely from a childhood home, I think it's pretty common to drive by and take a peek to see what the old homestead looks like, how it has changed, and what favorite memory triggers remain the same.
The short version of our farm's history as I know it is that it is 50 square acres because it was presented to a member of the Carbaugh family as a grant for military service in the Revolutionary War. Yep, back in the 1700's. The Carbaughs lived here, farmed here, ran a blacksmith shop for years, and passed the farm down generation by generation until sometime in the 1970's. At that time it was sold to an Amish man by the name of Henry Mast. His family lived and farmed here until, desiring a home closer to the rest of the Amish community, sold it to Tom & Betty Stevenson, my husband's parents, in January of 1990. Two hundred years of farming in a nutshell. It is a very cool, and very rare, thing to have such a historic home, and to know much of its history intimately. The farm is a special place, and I have come to understand that it in some ways is like the moon, and these families are like the tide, always drawn back.
We know that the last weekend in June is always "Carbaugh weekend". Although the family has long since moved, they still hold their family reunion in the area so they can come and visit. Each year I glean little gems of history and memories of the family who founded the farm. Plus, they bring me fresh sweet peaches all the way from South Carolina! Up until this year Harry would come visit, and was the last remaining Carbaugh who grew up here. At 92, he was simply not well enough to make the journey north, and I was sad that his face wasn't among the reunion crowd. His stories were always the most interesting to me, and it was always the most amazing when it was about something visible, something that is just now a part of the fabric of the farm. He has told us that he planted the pine trees in the front yard many years ago, that he got them at school for Arbor Day, when there was still a small schoolhouse in the town of Nebraska, now underwater at the end of Tionesta Lake where it meets Tionesta Creek. Tiny little saplings then, they tower over our two-story farmhouse now.
Although Dan's family knew the Masts and the Amish community in general fairly well, I really do not. But last week, it was another workday making pickles when a knock came at the front door. When I answered, the Amish couple on my porch explained that the wife, Sarah, had grown up here, and that they now lived in Tennessee. They had travelled back to the area to visit family, bringing their eight unmarried children (they have 14 total) with them. They asked if they could look around the home place and show the children where their mother grew up. Of course, I agreed, and welcomed them but unfortunately, I needed to attend to my canning. You don't need to explain more than that to an Amish woman who has just shown up unannounced at your front door, and they thanked me and that was that. At least for a few minutes, until some of the girls needed to use the restroom. So (this is a fantastic example of what I mean when I say my days never go as planned) I find myself making small talk with Sarah about the house, my life here, how her father built the beautiful wooden cabinets in which I keep my dishes while the girls use my only bathroom, between the living room & kitchen. They then excused themselves and again left me to my work. I finished up with the pickles and set them in the canner, so while it came to a boil my time was more flexible. Still in my apron, I went out to chat with the family and showed them around the farm stand and we talked about what we do, and what they grow at home. One of the girls tried to offer me money for one of the cookbooks in my little free cookbook library, but I simply asked her to think of her visit here whenever she uses one of the recipes.
As my visit with Sarah and her family came to a close, they headed back to their buggies. One of the last things she said before we said our goodbyes was "I'm glad the pine trees are still here. They make it feel like home."