Climbing a large rock pile and checking the chicken coop are two fond memories of my childhood playtimes in Grandma’s farm yard. Farm families have a hard time saying goodbye to the memories held with the “home place”. Letting brother take over the yard, or selling out evoke tears, and a deep sense of loss in some folks.
The loss is about the change of ownership and control that begs the question “where are my roots now? Where is my sense of place?” The sadness comes with a loss of connection to your family of origin and wondering if the new owners will respect your need to visit now and again.
In our farming culture, we have rituals like auctions sales, fall suppers, and fairs to mark certain seasons or events. I think it is time to create some traditions that work for families to mark transition and change in moving from the home place, with positive actions. I’ll call it talk, walk, and mark.
TALK. Avoid the “nobody asked me” syndrome. This typically happens to the non-farming children, usually girls, who aren’t invited into the farm family discussions about the future of the home place. My friend, a professional who works with families, shared the hurt feelings she felt when her family overlooked involving her and her sister in a family meeting . Tears may be mixed with the talking, but that’s okay. Share feelings and expectations about how to honour childhood memories, and a deep connection to the home yard. The next generation may want access to share the sledding hill, walk in the bush, or skate on the dugout, even if the property has been transferred to a sibling or new owner.
WALK My elderly friend found a lateral branch that he had bent 60 years ago to make a frame for a play tent for his younger sister. The branch was fixed by the growth of the tree, and he was amazed by the memories that flooded back! Walking around the yard as a family or gathering for a picnic can create a special sense of connection. Our siblings dashed through the snow in our backyard at Christmas, and re-lived the fun of the tire swing, forts, and a game of fox and geese. If you are selling to new owners outside of the family, you might like to get permission to walk the property in the future.
MARK. Someone once said that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. On our yard special trees mark the death of my sister, my mom, and my father-in-law. Yet a large Scotch pine also marks the date of our marriage. Trees are symbolic growing markers of special times. When we levelled a vacated yard site, I asked for 3 large cottonwoods to be spared as a marker of “Primrose Farm”. These trees are a curiosity to the neighbours, but I don’t mind them being called “Elaine’s trees.”
You might want to keep a scrapbook of memories of the home place. Use a digital camera to capture your fondest images, and mount them on foam core board inside an old window frame. Weld a sign that recognizes the date of the homestead with the family name. Collect horse shoes, rocks or farm tools that will remind you of your roots.
We sent a digital photo of a coloured large photo of the farm circa l960 to be re-produced by an artist on a cream can for our urban sister. She was thrilled to have a keepsake of her family home. Quilts with photo pieces and sacred stitches can also capture the family’s ties to their childhood home.
Saying goodbye to the home farm can be done in a myriad of ways. Help the person grieving the loss find a special way to keep a connection to their roots. If a garden full of flowers is about to be desiccated, call family members first to see if there are garden treasures that can be transplanted. Save pieces of barn board for special framing projects. Photograph special sites or objects before they are sold or ploughed under.
I entertain my husband’s family at the home they were raised in.
I have to view my Granny’s rock pile from a distance, as a stranger owns that yard.
Find ways to talk about, walk about and mark the special connections you have to your home farm, especially if you are preparing to say goodbye.