Thursday, September 10, 2020

Time of the Signs: More Midwest Musings

Yesterday morning dawned sunny and coolish for a day when later it turned 90 and humid. So, I thought, I'd better get out and do some work around the farm early.  

My first task was replace the old farm sign. Sixteen years ago, I had a nice handmade wooden sign welcoming people to Ploughshares Farm, the name of our place. Originally, it was a nice stained piece of wood with letting and a picture of a ploughshare on it. Over the years the finish wore off and the wood began to age in not good ways, so we painted the background, repainted the lettering and logo, and edged it in green. 

That worked well for a while, but time, weather, and some wood chewing insects took their toll and as you can see from the top photo the sign was falling apart. Pieces fell off it it regularly and had to propped back into place. So the time came for a new sign. 

I picked the new sign, done by a local shop, up earlier in the week. I loaded up my tools and new the sign in my little utility cart and headed out to the road. Removing the old rotted sign was easy at first. Pieces fell off. But the sign's mounting board proved a bit more difficult. I'd mounted that sign with four 4" deck screws. And they were still holding tight. Besides that, they didn't want to let go. One battery on the drill/screwdriver went dead on the top screw. And some doofus had failed to charge the back up battery. Doh. So I took the batteries back to garage to charge, and picked up a screw driver to get the screws out. 

Twenty minutes and a few breaks later (old men with heart conditions take lots of breaks) the four screws were finally free. And one of the batteries was charged just in time to install the new sign. I figured, after measuring twice (my father's voice in my head) that 3" screws would be plenty long enough. A few more measurements and pencil marks and use of a level, the new sign (bottom picture) was up.

A vast improvement. As I stood there, I looked down the long lane admiring my work and also the work of others at Ploughshares Farm over the years. The east side tree line along the lane had once been a scrum of bushes and trees and old farm fence that my dad, son-in-law Michael, son Tim, and I had chain sawed, hand sawed, and more to clean out and leave about 30 good trees (it's a long lane!). On the west side I saw another almost 30 trees and bushes -- these all planted by Nancy and me fourteen years ago, except two maple trees that had sprouted in Dad and Mom's flower garden. Dad dug them up and brought them 210 miles to our place and planted them. They're now over twenty feet tall. 

The two tree lines form a nice canopy over the lane, a shady (most of the time), pleasant view that leads back into another woods (the lane takes a sharp eastward turn toward our house a third of a mile away. The house can't been seen from the main part of the lane). Though a lot of human labor went into that view, mostly it was nature at work. Trees and bushes did what trees and bushes should do and grew and grew. And I was the beneficiary of their work that day. And, indeed, I am almost every day.  

While I was sad to take the pieces of the old sign down to the burn pile, I was grateful for the way it stood as welcome for a decade and half. It was an invitation to many folks to visit the farm, stay awhile, see its transformation from farmland to prairie and woodland, and enjoy the trails and wildflowers and tall grasses and butterflies and birds and occasional fox, wild turkeys, bunnies, and deer. What they may not have seen is the slow transformation of my soul and life that comes from living and working here. And ike that old sign, I'm older, too. And falling apart a bit more each day -- at least physically. 

But I'm not quite ready for the burn pile!

Now a new stands out by the road. The invitation is still there -- just a bit easier to see with its new paint. It's an invitation I hope you'll take advantage of if you're ever out this way.

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