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September 2013



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Saying goodbye...

For much of this year, my paintings, sketches and journal entries have been centered around this old place. I rediscovered it last year, and it captured my imagination. Thirty years ago, I bought milk there, and spent many lovely afternoons sharing a cup of tea with the farmwife, discussing the weather and our gardens and the changing nature of farm life.  They sold their milk to a large bottler, but kept back a bit for their own use and for people like me, who still treasured the rich golden cream that rose to the top of each bottle as it had when I was a child.  I remember licking the rich yellow stuff, almost butter already, from the cardboard cap that sealed the old glass bottles the milkman brought to our door.

It was a different time, and buying milk here, years later, gave me back a bit of that.  Taste and scent can bring back strong memories...

Times change and so do we.  I moved to town, and began to do more freelance work.  I mostly lost touch with my elderly friend, though years later, when I served on our town's Parks and Recreation board which administered the Senior Center, I had the opportunity to assure that she had transportation in to the center, for fellowship and recreation.  The connection was still there...continuity.

Last winter when I found myself again on the old gravel road, I was sad to see the house was boarded up and the yard now little more than a pasture for beef cows.  Still, the memories were sweet and strong, and I painted the house, the barns, the view from the hill, and the creatures that still live on the farm.  You may have seen this most recent painting on my Flickr album, here www.flickr.com/photos/cathy-johnson/ and in my new online gallery, here: cathyjohnsonart.blogspot.com/2008/12/vassmers-winter.html --I posted it there just yesterday.

Below is one of the earliest sketches, from my journal:

Many Long Years Ago...

Vassmer's Milk Barn--ink, watercolor, watercolor pencil

And the small dairy barns, above...and in the spring, from up the road:

Vassmer Spring

I featured it in one of my YouTube slideshows on painting on the spot here:  au.youtube.com/watch

Last night there was a brief note in our local paper that "a 150-year-old farmhouse south of town" had burned, a suspected arson, and I thought "oh, no--please not!"

Today, the first chance we got, we drove out to the old place...and there's nothing left but blackened timbers and twisted, rusty metal.  Nothing remains of the home but the propane tank on top of that windswept hill...

I feel as if I've lost an old friend.


So sad! I must admit that at barely 41 I too am mourning the passage of people, places, abilities and also, more and more often, memories of these...

Edited at 2008-12-04 01:31 am (UTC)
Thank you, Natalie...so much changes, so quickly. A lot of the farmland that made us what we are, here in the Midwest, is now crowded with McMansions...the 21st Century version of Ticky-Tacky.
I'm sorry to hear something like that. Having a certain affinity for old farmhouses myself.

It's just a bit similar to our first farm (original part dating to 1840's), and that tough old girl has weathered a lot (about 10 floods that got into the house, our experience being the #5 and #6 all-time records), but at least not the permanent destruction of a fire. And arson, at that.

Yes, old farmhouses can be really great friends and comfortable companions - they have just the right amount of character and personality to make themselves a part of your life. Especially when you know some of the folks who made it home.

I got kind of dinged when the "cottage" across the road from our old place got gutted and totally renovated a few years back - yes, it was quite comfortable, but NOT the dwelling it had been....

A few years ago some idiot torched and old 1 room store around here that had been a free-black owned enterprise pre-Civil War - such a huge loss.
That's one reason I'm taking photos of the tiny houses I've been recording on Flickr...they get torn down, burned, or "renovated"--usually ruining whatever character or architectural integrity they had.

And God yes, what a loss with the store! I knew you'd understand...
we are going to lose an old friend, too--the church that hubby used to pastor, years ago, has decided to tear down the original building to make room for more new. it appears that it is beyond mere repair in their eyes, and restoration is out of the financial reach of the congregation. so, the church, built back in 1853 must go. i truly need to go up there and take photos before it is razed...

middle kid used to ride up and down on the bell rope when they'd ring it for services, or at midnight on christmas eve... i hope they preserve that part of it, at any rate.

at least we have the opportunity to say good-bye. it is not as though it will be disappear in a fire. that kind of end is always traumatic...
Oh yes, girl, do go take photos! The old log farmhouse I lived in for 7 years was taken apart and donated to a local "historic village" after we moved away--we were the last human beings to actually live in it. Pigs, after us...

The village fell on hard times and the logs rotted on the ground. I managed to rescue one little oak peg...


Rumi poem

I hope this helps...

Re: Rumi poem

Oh, that's beautiful, thank you Daphne!
Out here where all the "progress" is being made, by the Legends, they're tearing down a couple of wonderful old farmhouses to make room for the new Schlitterbahn Water Park. Because I need a water park in my back yard.

I guess it's a testiment to the fact that all things are conditioned, and all things will end.

Still sad.
I remind myself of that...funny, it's easier when my cats break something than when humans willfully destroy.
It's the knowing that the cats don't do it on purpose. Humans are supposed to know better, right?

Oh how I wish I could make everyone live up to my standards. : )
Yep. ;-) We get tired of dealing with orcs.
Orcs, Ogres, Goblins, Trolls, Truck Drivers, and Turnpike Workers. : )
Yeh, that! (And hey, LJ's back! Last night I couldn't read or answer comments.)


It does feel like losing a dear friend, and for us who have followed your paintings of this home,it touches us, too. I had to go read Rumi's GUEST HOUSE that Daphne cited. Thank you, Daphne, it IS comforting.
Yes, that was really a lovely poem...


message from df

I love that top watercolor. Really nice! The tree is stunning.

Re: message from df

Thank you! I'm very glad I did it, now...
I'm sorry, Kate; this is heartbreaking.

I have milk memories too... I lived in England in the early 70s and had unhomogenized milk in glass bottles delivered on my doorstep every morning. Foil tops though, but yeah, I licked them! :-)
When I first moved to Pahrump, I bought milk from people who had cows, just down the street. Skimmed off the cream and made ice-cream with it.
I have a friend in Massachussetts who still gets home delivery of fresh local milk.
I would LOVE some fresh milk! The last farmer I knew of to buy it from passed away a couple of years ago.

I think there was foil on top of the cardboard, later...and I don't WANT milk in plastic, thanks...