Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Dry Farm

A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days in Idaho at what is known as The Dry Farm, owned by my mother's family.  This may be obvious to everyone but my mom explained this to me as a farm that is dependent on the rains for moisture. No irrigating. We used to visit it when i was young. And I remember the land being very dry, or maybe that was just how I viewed it because of its name. "Yup, sure is dry, this dry farm."  Vast amber fields, tall grass. Hot.

I've been thinking that Idaho is sort of a place where time stands still. And if that's true, then it's even more true about the little white house that rests there. Built by my granddad 60 years ago, it served as a place for the family as he was a farmer by profession and they'd spend a couple of weeks there every summer.  Nearby is another tiny white house, broken down and filled with mice, where the hired hands would stay.  

The drive from my grandparents' house was short and you'd soon find yourself driving up through the hills through farmland until you turn onto a dirt road. After driving on that you'd turn onto an even DIRTIER dirt road-- or at least an even less traversable road, with two tire rivets so deep you had to drive to the side of them in the weeds. This causes some serious bumpage and you'd better hold onto your lunch. After a bit of this it was always exciting to see the tiny white house bump into view. So magical.  Seeing it this time, old feelings came back to me and it was really quite powerful, it having been so many years since i was last there.  It even took some time for the feelings and memories to re-emerge and I delighted in that the whole trip.

Here it is from far away:

getting closer...
(the tiny white speck to the right of the dome barn is the hired hands house)

 And the lady of the farm

While there I wrote a letter to my friend, and it sort of turned into a journal. I have been known to keep a trip/vacation journal and this place was sublime for it. I felt like Thoreau, something I have had on my list of to-dos for quite a while now.  So i've decided to share it with all of you with just a few edits, and some pictures scattered throughout, as you can see.  Umm.. let's see.  The journal/letter will be in regular type and added thoughts in italics. I'm only explaining this because it's hecka-long and you might forget. 

July 29, 2014

Here i am, at the little white house at the dry farm. My mom used to come here for 2 weeks in the summer with her family. 2 parents, 3 sisters. It is a kitchen space (including couch and table), 2 rooms with beds and dressers, and what used to be a shower that worked somehow. I don't know how because there is no running water.  No toilet-- there is a white outhouse. It is outhouse #2 and stands next to the older and more shambley outhouse #1.  it got filled to capacity sometime when i was a kid.  This place is AMAZING.  It's like the BEST playhouse your dad will never build you.  It's furnished with old things from my grandparents' house that is no more. For example, old but gorgeous baby blankets my grandma used for her babies, just piled in the closet.  The floor is blue, cream, and red checkerboard and the stove is a still functional WOOD BURNING stove/oven.  She cooked and baked by throwing wood into it all day long!!! Curtains at the windows, the walls are made of cinderblock and there is an ACTUAL CHAMBER POT in the shower/closet.  No electricity.  There are lanterns in every room.  I told my mom people would pay big money to stay here. I used to visit it as a kid and it was great.  There's a huge rustic barn and a big iron..uh.. what? It's sort of a barn but with a curved roof. I think it held tools and farm equipment and maybe tractors and whatnot. So a huge farm garage?? Anyway, the little white house was old and rickety and we never stayed overnight. But then when i was about 20 we all came up and cleaned it out and painted the outside. Since then it's been this weird oasis and my mom and her sisters have come up a bunch of times and i never have and it's always been a dream to do it with her. I'm finally, finally living it. It's me, Julian, my mom, Ash, and Anna.

Here are some pics of the interior as well as some relics:

chamber pot

Last night we sat out front in old chairs and we saw a moose just mosying (moosying?) by.  It is so, so, so quiet.  Crazy quiet.  Nearby there is an old shambly brown barn.  When we pulled up (from the bumpy dirty road) when we first arrived, there was a large white owl perched at a window in his barn, looking over his kingdom.  Just sitting there like he owned the place, because he does, apparently. I couldn't believe it.  Like this: [drawing]  It's a white owl! What the hey?? Isn't that insane?? I just can't get over it and, I dare say, I shan't.

This morning we went on a drive and visited my grandpa's old pond.  He died when I was...10? 11? my grandmother when I was 9.  At the pond we collected cattails to paint, Julian got stung by some nettle, and we heard THE strangest yipping sound.  Just a completely alien sound.  It sounded sort of like robot-puppies and my mom thought it might be foxes or coyotes.  We both reeeeally wanted to find the den but they stopped yipping and we couldn't spot anything.  I told my mom we were both going to really regret not finding those fox babies. She agreed but what can you do? Our human senses are not so keen.  It was so fun to go out and explore. I have no pics of the pond but I have fond memories of it. We used to fish there and my dad made me gut my own fish when i was like 7. That was a life-changer.

My mom told us everything about the land, what/who used to be there, what happened and how long ago, what smells or colors the wind was carrying at any given moment, etc.


Julian was having a bit of a rough time what with the nettle and also a bee having landed on his knee and all. He wasn't stung but the kid was inconsolable, ha ha.  HAHA it's funny when my kid is sad. but really, it was funny, and cute.

We stopped by to visit with my mom's cousin who also has some property, as well as a super fun party cabin. We played with his swings and toys and stuff.  It was a little unnerving but, we decided, ok, when the poor homeless woman came to push Julian on the cool tire horse swing. It really looks like they're having a lot of fun.

It is pure therapy being here.  Right now my mom is reading to Julian.  I think i'll go try to nap since it was 300 degrees F last night and I was sleeping next to a kicky squirrely Julian. 

July 30, 2014

Time has passed.  It is now the next morning.  I think i'm slowly becoming more pioneer as time goes on.  So after my pioneer rest, i got up and found my mom with the kids out back into the thicket amongst the aspens.  They were busy playing with fallen trees and dead twigs and hidden abandoned farm equipment from the year ____? That became sort of a treasure hunt because they were scattered here and there in the tall grass and you'd be walking along and all of a sudden--whoa, part of a combine!  Julian busied himself with projects of unscrewing rusty screws and hammering in twigs.  I sat on a giant moss-speckled rock and was serenaded by my niece sing in a poppy voice a tragic song about heartbreak and a traitorous ex-boyfriend.  My mom gathered dead branches to use for the classic old timey game Old Sow, where you hit a can or bottle into a hole in the ground. No, i didn't think it was Old Sal up until this very moment. I knew the real name the whole time. What i want to know is, who/what is the sow? Is it the bottle? is it ME?

After this we ate dinner and then set to painting our cattails.  Turns out acrylic paint doesn't work so swimmingly on the weird fuzzy brown exterior, but carving into them with a crayon DOES.  We stuck our finished creations into mouse holes and spent the twilight watching one poke out and in and out again from his hole.  The night was chilly which = awesome for sleeping.  Julian is THE cutest little squirt child in the morning and I wanted to tackle him awake.  

After breakfast this morning we boiled a kettle of water and used that (and ancient bowls) to wash up.  l-o-v-e this.  The outhouse was fine and breezy this morning.  I left the door open while I read a bit about Joan London (Lundin? Londen?) in Good Housekeeping.  Get this: She had twins via surrogate at age 50 and then AGAIN at 54! What the hey?? Apparently Joan thinks she can have it all.  It's looking like it might be sunny and hot today. I wonder if we should keep the shades down in the bedroom.  But what about our light? #pioneerproblems.
 More later...

Hey, back again.  It is now 8:45pm.  Ash and Anna are doing a craft and Julian is eating a cup of pears.  The sky is HUGE, like it really feels like you're in a giant half dome.  Or just a dome? And there are a million different kinds of clouds sprawled out.  Today after lunch we drove through Ammon (where my mom grew up) and pointed out all the homes where all her friends or cousins lived.  Man, her family owned this town.  Then we drove to High-C which, turns out, is actually spelled Heise.  It's a pool w/a  fun slide and then 2 hot springs pools-- one hot and one hotter. And since it's natural and comes from the hills, a strong odor of sulfur permeates so that when you're in the pool you feel like you're saturating in a nice hot batch of egg salad.  Since we've been living in the wild we all tried to take real showers there, with shampoo and razors, like a homeless person. This went half well, but that's twice as well as I cared for. Then we had dinner at a pizza place and got a lot so we'd have extra for lunch tomorrow.  All of us were so happy to return to the little white house again.  Four hours away felt too long.

I haven't seen the owl again.  I am convinced that he was an apparition, a ghost.  A ghost owl who USED to live here...100 years ago.  Well, I'm running out of light and Julian told me he's ready for bed.  All is right and quiet in the country...

July 31

Hey, it's the next day.  Well, I woke up early this morning to Julian full-on laughing in his sleep. I woke up inches from his giggly, closed-eye face.  Funniest/cutest thing ever. I asked him later what kind of funny dreams he was having and he said, "oh, I didn't have funny dreams.  Those were just giggles of the night." HAHA! :D


Hello. Time has passed yet again.  After breakfast this morn we went on a hot, dusty, weedy hike.  I got hot, and dusty.  And attacked by the long weeds.  The farmland is vast.  Rolling hills of greens and browns as far as the eye can see, with the shadowy outline of the Tetons in the distance.  Have I already mentioned the Tetons?  They're like a local celebrity. 

[I later found out you can see about a hundred miles out. 100!]

You can see the Tetons in the distance above Ash's head in this pic.

more badminton

I'm sitting outside while writing this, on one of the ancient chairs.  I just looked at the barn.  Still no owl (as expected).  I feel like, since he's a ghost, seeing him perched in the windowway there when we first drove up was some kind of eerie omen. A good eerie omen, since this has been the most perfect trip ever. All i could ever want in the world.

Pics of the dust hike:

Grandma and Julian looking at the biggest anthill--nay--MOUNTAIN ever. It was seriously scary.

After our sweaty dust hike and after lunch, we got in the car and bumpity bumped our way to the main road (or paved anyway).  Whenever we leave and re-enter the dry farm, I feel like we go through a portal to a different time, a la Stargate.  It's given the trip a very pleasant science fiction-y feel. 

Our first stop was at the cemetery to visit the graves of my grandparents.  Bessie Rachael and William Lavern.  Bessie died when I was almost 9, Lavern when i was 11.  oh hey, i already told you this.  Well, each day here feels like 3 so, you know, i forget stuff sometimes.

Anna was caught mid-sneeze. So good


Anyway, then we drove to a place called Bear Country.. no, World? Man, Country is so much better, but I guess the Berenstain Bears have the monopoly on that.  But anyway, BEARS! We stayed in our car driving around looking at REAL BEARS.  And deer and a moose and a white elk(!!)  They say there are 1 in 6,000,000 of the elk. It was all pretty great.  There were also rides and a petting zoo AND julian got a new t-shirt of a glow-in-the-dark wolf howling at a glow-in-the-dark moon that he will grow to love.

Dang, I need to figure out how to get good at these pictures. I never put my head in the right place. 

We drove back, totally beat but enjoying the beautiful farmland.  Oh, one more thing-at the bear place a Chinese couple from Shang-hai visiting relatives in L.A. really took a liking to Julian--snapping pics of him and pics WITH him before you could say "Jack Robinson-whoa, that's super weird." Kinda crazy.

After a stop at JoAnn's while my mom went in and we all stayed in the car (and thus reverting to our youth--when my mom would leave us to go in a store saying she'd just be "two shakes." For the record, two shakes = anywhere from 20 minutes to FOREVER).  After a stop at Albertson's for a deli dinner we made our way back to the little house, through our time portal to a calmer, happier, simpler place and time where things seem a little more clear, make a little more sense.  I'm sitting here looking out over the land on the cusp of sunset and all of a sudden I can find my thoughts.  I don't know why or really how, but they go far, spread out, all the way to the Tetons.  

The kids and Ash are inside making things out of clay with grandma.  I should probably go in to join them but i cannot seem to move from where I sit. I cannot.  

We cleaned the house the next day using old things and old ways. Here are a couple of pics:

Also THIS: 

A potty chair my mom and sisters used 70 years ago. Amaaazing!

Epilogue, aka the end of the letter:

 It's the next morning, the day we leave. Julian is heartbroken.  I knew he would love it here and i was right.  Anna is excited to get back to electricity and flushing toilets but me, I'm not so sure.  I'm just not so sure. 


driving away


Joel said...

Let me know when your family opens this place as a tourist destination, because I want to be the first to book a week :)

)en said...

Right?? i need to figure out how to be making bank on this place. I'm glad you see the appeal. It really is so special.

Ashley said...

First off, I love the badminton action shots. I hadn't seen those. Secondly, that pic of you as the homeless woman still gets me. I laughed to tears yet again. I think it's the bed head that does it. It also illustrates one of the best things about the dry farm: not giving a rat's behind about anything superficial, least of all how you look. Bless that place.