A Pear From the Past

There were once lots of families living on this farm.  In addition to the house where my family (the farm’s owners) lived, there were at least seven other houses with families living in them.

Only three of the old tenant houses are still standing, but even with all traces of the old houses gone, it’s pretty easy to tell where they once stood.  If you find fruit trees, nut trees and domesticated flowers growing wild, then you can be sure there was once a house nearby.

One of old, long-abandoned houses

One of old, long-abandoned houses

We heat our house with wood, so I spend a lot of time cutting wood this time of year. A few days ago I took the chainsaw to get to work on an old oak that that had fallen over on the other side of the farm.

Firewood

Firewood

On the edge of the woods next to the fallen tree I noticed an overgrown Asian pear tree.  Sure enough, it was growing near the remains of one of the old houses.

IMG_4735

A closer view--high in the tree

A closer view–high in the tree

The lowest pears were at least 20 feet off the ground and impossible to reach. But, using a stick as a missile (a skill I developed as a child here) I managed eventually to knock down one of them down.

The pear was good, but sadly the effects of multiple freezes had taken it beyond its prime.

I’m sure the folks who planted that tree so long ago would be pleased to know that all these years later someone on White Flint Farm would take a break from work to enjoy a pear from it.

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20 comments on “A Pear From the Past

  1. Despite the early hour, I know This has made my day … I love it … thank you.

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  2. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, here in Nebraska many home place houses sit empty as the large farms grow larger. Always around the main home of the farm foraging is a plethora of good finds. As you have found there are most certainly fruit trees. But the never fail patches of rhubarb and asparagus are always found some where on the property. If those homestead buildings could write books, a wealth of information about homestead farming could be learned. The history of the generations that cared for the land on small farms is being lost. The farmer’s connection to the soil is being lost as well. The extra hired farm hands are being replaced with monster machines that crawl across the fields planting, fertilizing, and spreading chemicals for bug killing all in one pass. I’m glad to see a small glimmer of hope across the country with small scale farming making a return. Even in my Dad’s day 60 years ago, the small scale farming wasn’t enough to support a family on its own. My uncle was not small scale by any means but he did custom corn picking during the fall and worked at the welding shop during the winter months. Supplemental income has always been a way of life for my farming relatives during the winter months. I hope that your Winter months allow you to find supplemental income as well.

    Have a great wood collecting day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      You make a great point about the asparagus. I haven’t looked carefully for that. I remember my mother saying it grew wild on the farm where she grew up (likely somebody in an earlier generation planted it). I’m going to be on the lookout for it.

      We had hoped to keep the veggies going through most of the year, but the early freezes wiped us out. (Meanwhile it was 73 today, close to a record high. Good grief.) We’re still trying to figure out the most productive ways to spend the winter months. We’re working on some ideas for how to generate off-season income.

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        This is actually the best time of year to be looking for asparagus patches, as it’s much easier to spot once dormant… You’ve already had a hard freeze, so it may have already dropped its needles, but the stems should still be a fairly bright golden-yellow. By Spring they’ll be even more obvious as their dead-grass white skeletons tower o’er everything else.
        Around here, it’s a bit of a Ditch Divers’ competition to see who can be the first to strike green gold. Oh and, if it grows down there, watch out for the Poison Ivy. Up here, it seems to me, they tend to like the same growing conditions ):

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  3. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    What a great story Bill!
    So, in spite of being “extra mushy”, what do Asian Pears look/taste like compared to a Bartlett or Anjou?
    It looks so sad, the old building… But, as my parents’ were wont to say (back in the day when they were Olde House shopping) “At least her roof-line’s still good and square!”
    And there’s just something about an old tin roof, isn’t there? In spite of how rough the wood has gotten, with so little sun to keep it dry, just look at how little rust there is on the roof, even after all this time! (Oh geez, I sound like my parents; )

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    • Bill says:

      Asian pears are crunchy and not as mushy as the pear-shaped pears I’m used to (Kieffer is the variety I grew up eating). An Asian pear has an apple shape (and texture). They’re my favorite.

      You’re right about the importance of the roof. These old buildings will stand for a long long time as long as the roof stays sound. But as soon as they start leaking they’ll go downhill very fast. The buildings we were able to save were the ones that had good roofs.

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  4. Great story and photos! 🙂

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  5. shoreacres says:

    I can’t remember if I told you — I found Asian pears in the grocery. I suspect your Asian pear was better, despite the multiple freezes. The one I bought to try had a really bitter skin, and was a bit tasteless: like an apple that’s gotten entirely too much water. I can’t find anyone who grows them here, so it may be one of those local delicacies.

    Still, to your main point: yes. There are fruit trees, and especially pecan trees, that mark the old homesteads. I don’t find them sad, but a little melancholy, in a nice way.

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    • Bill says:

      A lot of the fruit sold in grocery stores is old. A pity you didn’t get a good one.

      Pecan trees are good markers here, as are black walnut trees. It can take a long time for a tree to become productive. I admire the long view toward the future the folks who planted them had.

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  6. What a poignant and fascinating post! There in the USA you seem to have some of your abandoned “archaeology” still above ground, as you have so much space to spare. Here in the UK it’s underneath us as we have so little room and have to clear things away to build on top of them…
    All the best 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      Good point. On our farm I sometimes find old rock foundations of long-gone buildings. I have no idea what they once were.

      The things from the past that are buried here (like arrowheads) have been buried by time.

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  7. Lovely story Bill. Reminds me of a song by Kate Wolf about an old lilac bush and and apple tree having a discussion about whether people will ever return : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q83NqwtdBZk Don’t know if you are familiar with Kate, but I think you would enjoy her. –Curt

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    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Great song Kurt, thank you! Exactly the feeling I was trying to grasp about the old house in Bill’s photo… I get it from all the Old Ones that’ve been left behind – can’t help thinking of the families who lived there – all the hard work it took to build these homes and barns in the time before electricity and engine power.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Oops, sorry Curt!

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      • Thanks Deb. Kate Wolf, who has now passed away, did an excellent job on the song, plus many other folk songs she wrote and sang. There is a festival in Northern California honoring her.

        I grew up in foothills of California where we often found fruit trees left behind by people who had come out for the California gold rush and settled in before moving on.

        –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Curt. I had not heard that before. Very nice.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. associatedluke says:

    I wish we’d discover the secret to time travel. Or making walls talk. Who lived there? What did they do? What’s the stories those buildings would tell? I LOVED this post. I love old buildings and artifacts from the past. And mystery. I crave it. This was the best thing I’ve read all week. Thanks!

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Luke. Glad you enjoyed the story. I know some of the old stories from around here, and have tried to pass some of them on to my children, but there has been much history lost and forgotten. I have no idea who lived in that house, for example.

      I remember hearing someone say that she had a job that required her to move a lot, but that she always planted a fruit tree wherever she was living, even if it was a rental house. She liked the idea of leaving behind a tree that would supply fruit to future residents. I like that way of thinking.

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