The farmyard has changed in response to fluctuations in row crop and livestock markets and to the inescapable cycles of wet and dry weather. But, there have also been modifications to accommodate family generational changes. We’ve got a set of four air photos that illustrate a few of those progressive changes.
Some of the buildings described in recent posts are visible in this shot: the Big Barn that has been torn down and burned, the Windmill (marked with an arrow), the two Metal Sheds, and the Silo with nearby Hog House and Corn Cribs that have all been demolished. There’s also a pretty good view of the “Greats’ House” built by the homesteading ancestors. I plan to eventually share some old-time photos on the ground that show the house from several different perspectives when the trees were all much smaller. Off in the distance you can see cattle grazing in the Creek pasture and a nearby farmstead that has been totally removed so that the site is now part of a row-crop field. They’re also marked with arrows.
This perspective gives an even better view of the Big Barn, Hen House, the two Metal Sheds, and the Silo-Hog House-Corn Crib complex. But, there are also some things marked with gray arrows that haven’t been described. The small granary has been removed; those tiny white boxes are beehives (the man who owned the bees paid his “rent” with a case of honey); and the Little House is just peeking out from the trees. The Little House was used by several cycles of hired men and their families and it was my parents’ first home as a newly married couple. The pens that show up around the Metal Shed and Hog Barn reflect the sheep operation that had been part of the farmyard in the two previous decades.
Raising sheep was a project that both brother Bob and I did through high school in the 1950s and 1960s. Dad fed cattle, but the sheep were mainly our responsibility. It helped pay for college and helped us both make our career decisions. I left the farm to be a geologist, but Bob’s training and experience were aimed at bringing him back after college. He was supposed to be the fourth consecutive generation of our family to farm here. That all changed when he was killed in Viet Nam in 1970. The two black and white photos bracket a time about ten years later when that new reality had finally hit the farmyard. There would not be a new generation from our family taking over, so there were few changes and what changes there were came slowly. The two color photos shown below are from about thirty years later when Margaret and I returned to be the fourth generation in our family to live here but we did not run the farming operation.
Our “new” (it’s actually ten years old by 2010) house is probably the most conspicuous change. There are several groups of cattle in the pasture, but they’re now distributed through smaller paddocks designed for rotational grazing. The clump of trees shown with a yellow arrow, started as volunteers inside the Corn Cribs; the Corn Cribs and Hog House and Silo are now gone, but those trees mark the spot. Margaret planted the three pine trees just to the left of the Corn Crib trees. She likes evergreens. The two Metal Sheds remain as enduring landmarks and the Hen House still stands. But, the Big Barn has collapsed into a pile of rubble waiting to be burned and there’s another burn pile in the lower left corner of the picture. Our renter who is doing the rotational grazing has been very patient with the slow pace of cleanup and change around the farmyard. My parents still live in the Greats’ House through most of the decade while Margaret and I are more busy with grandchildren than with our careers. The farmyard has been mostly a retirement community.
Things really have started to change by 2017. The folks moved off the farm in 2009 and passed away in 2014. Margaret has planted more trees south of our house, but to the north the old ash trees that once surrounded the Little House have been thinned out by old age and chain saws. The Greats’ House and adjacent Garage are used for storage and so is the Metal Shed on the left. But the other Metal Shed has been cleaned out and the metal panels outside are positioned for handling cattle. There are other changes related to our renter’s cow/calf operation: two watering tanks are visible at locations 1 and 2 and the dark green paddock in the lower right (3) is seeded to warm season grasses. The bare strip that looks like a driveway running from newest tank (2) and down along the warm season paddock (3) is actually where a new rural water hookup was installed. The location of the Big Barn is shown by the bare patch (4) where the bones of the barn were buried. Even though it’s not our family, another generation has started to reconfigure the farmyard for a farming operation in the twenty-first century.
Images from Google Earth and those taken from drones have probably put the original air photo company out of business. But, I do appreciate the time sequence preserved in these four photographs spread over almost forty years. They document changes that were not so easily perceived while actually living through those years.