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Learning in Freedom

Welcome to Learning in Freedom, a blog all about the learning adventures (and mishaps) of the Allen family. My four children are unschooled, following their interests and passions every day and living the lives of their choosing. The purpose of this blog is to share our every day lives (and my not-so-humble opinons) with anyone interested in stopping by. We hope this will give a glimpse of how natural learning unfolds from day to day......

Monday, June 15, 2009

Trip to the NW: The Farm

I have many things I'd like to write about our trip out West and all the things we did in those 10 days, but I'm not going to do it in order. Not chronological order anyway, perhaps order of importance to me personally.

There are very few places that remain from my childhood. Places I can plant my feet today at any rate. We moved. I left the church. Things change. But one such place remains where I feel that grounding, that connection to my childhood, my family, my ancestral history. It's my paternal Grandparents farm.

They bought some land in the 40's, with two young children in tow. The first summer on their land they lived out of a tent. Once the garage was built, they lived in it until the house was finished a couple years later. They farmed that land for over 40 years and continued logging and gardening until recently.

Inside, the cupboards are filled with home canned goods, just as I always remember. The woodstove burns warmly and Grandma sits working on her crossword puzzles, just as I always remember. As much as things have changed, many are the same.

The house smells like good food, at all times. I think the scent of all the jams Grandma made over the years, are permanently embedded in the very walls of the kitchen.

Outside there are poignant reminders of decay, of once-loved things being forgotten or neglected, of times past that linger with us now.

My Grandfather died early this year. His beloved Model "T" still sits in his workshop. I could almost hear our child voices laughing with joy as we climbed inside for a ride up the dirt hill. I could see my sister and I dressed up to ride in the Vernonia parade and lovingly recall Grandpa winding the old car up, regaling us with stories when things were "old fashioned".

"Tell us about old fashion times!" we would beg. He'd chuckle with amusement at our labeling of his younger days as "old fashion". His workshop is attached to the barn and still smells of oil and wood shavings. I can almost see him bent over a chunk of wood, turning it into a clock or some other useful item.

Wood was a part of his life from his earliest days. His father George Bidwell was a logger and Grandpa grew up learning how to log. Trees and wood, then later farming. That's what he knew. My Grandparents always worked with their hands, worked with the soil, with the resources they had.

I stood in this grove of trees planted by them about 20 years ago and remembered chasing cows in the pasture that used to roll beneath my feet, before these trees were here.

Grandma recalls the damage to this tree being done during the Tillamook burn, a series of forest fires my Grandfather helped fight. His name is mentioned at the Tillamook Forest Center where one can watch a movie about this important event in Oregon's forest history.

This land is sacred, and one feels it with every step. The trees seem to hold secrets we can only guess.

I remember exploring these woods as a very young child. Often with my aunt Carol Anne and her horse Sonny. She would take me down to the creek where the beaver dam was and we could see them at work. It was magic then. It is still.

Hiking these woods with my children was a joy, as we recounted childhood stories and memories. The circle continues.

I love the look on Jared's face when he doesn't know a camera is aimed at him. He is a deep well and I love that this picture captures it.

I loved this picture so much that I am posting two.:) My sister Heidi shot it and I can't decide if I love the black and white or color version better.

As we ambled along, Jalen started annoying some of the other kids. We were walking past a patch of clover and one of the adults tried to use a distraction; "hey Jalen, can you find a four-leaf clover?"

"ok", says my boy and starts scanning for one.

"I found one" he adds, about two seconds later, much to our amazement.

Sure enough, a lucky four-leaf clover had been found. The rest of us tried to find one to no avail.

Later in the afternoon, my niece Rylee and I have some adventures of our own. We went on a walk about, taking pictures and chatting about many things. I found a dead blue jay that I chose not to point out, knowing her love for all things living. Managed to capture a few photos before she caught up though.

We both scooped a bag full of soil from the garden to take home to our own gardens. I took her down to the beaver dam, so rich with my earliest memories of the farm. The entire hill behind that location had recently been logged and looked so raped and ravaged, yet the dam continues and the beavers seem oblivious to the plight of that land. My Grandparents used to own that 80 acre area but sold it to a logging company many years ago. They never ceased regretting that choice even to this day.

The grapevines will be lush and full later this season. Rylee and I pause there for some photos.

If I lay on this land long enough, I think I shall grow roots right into the ground that holds so many stories. To my left is the barn we filled with hay and chased farm cats, to my right is the location where the horse stall used to stand. I adore the smell of hay and horse manure which all stems from good memories at the farm.

My head points towards the garden where they grew so much food and beyond that stand of trees, the former strawberry fields. They are being used for hay now but even when I first moved away from Alaska as a newly graduated teen I picked berries there. It was an indian summer that year. I took one of my roommates to the farm and she and I gleaned what was left of the berries in October. I'm fairly certain I decided that day to never move back to Alaska.

There are some things you just can't do in the cold North, picking berries in October is one of them. I learned later that it's not a common thing for Oregon either.....which may explain my love affair with Tennessee today.

I lay there in the sun, recalling the night of trying to sleep in itchy hay while the cows made funny night time sounds. I felt the pulse of sun and earth, cradling me with my memories, connecting past and present. I never wanted to rise. But I did. And I trust that my own farm will be part of my story, of my future and my childrens memories too.

We reluctantly say goodbye and move on down the road for more adventures. Adventures that won't leave me clinging to the past quite so tightly, nor causing a lump in my throat at the recollection of it all. Adventures that hopefully don't include quite so many goodbyes. But then, that seems to be the only sure thing about this life experience...change.

So thank you Grandma and Grandpa, for your love of the land and hard work, for the strawberries and cherries and plums we ate until sick, for the crackling wood in the stove and the smell of berries cooking. Thank you for the nights filled with games, popcorn and stars brighter than I ever saw. The days filled with hoeing, hikes and swimming holes. For an old attic and cellar filled with curiosities, for a workshop filled with usefulness and a forest filled with sacred trails. For all of it and more I thank you.

To my sweet Grandfather; your accordian playing, wood working, farming, logging, strong, weathered hands will be missed. Memories and the spirit of your choices will last....long beyond you or I or any of my children. You remind me to choose well. I will feel your presence in the trees as I try to find my way back to the farm.....rest well old man.

*the above picture includes myself, Jared and Sierra (Jalen refused to be involved) along with my sister Heidi, her husband Martin and their children Kevin, Tristan and Calista and their friend Sarah, my sister Robin and her daughter Rylee and my aunt Carol Anne (my dad's sister and my grandparents late addition to their family) and my uncle Ed who got married in the house and for whom I was the flower girl at 6 years of age.:)


Blogger Snavleys said...

Beautiful post!! I'm so glad you are good with words because you just expressed what we all feel but can't quite express because we just don't have the words to do it. So I'm thankful that you've been given that gift. And I love the picture of all of us in the kitchen; not a picture I would have thought to take but we did a lot in that kitchen as children. And the mint green cupboards- no one that I know has cabinets like that:) Funny thing, last night when I turned on the TV "I Dream of Genie" was on. I remember watching that by the hours at Grandma Ollie's and then playing out the story at Grandma Bidwell's, underneath those big trees. Dana would put our hair in a bun with a little hair sticking out the top and we would fold our shirts up so that it looked like Genie. So many memories of that place.

1:33 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Wow, what a wonderful old farm. How incredible to go back to it and visit those memories. Must have been nice to share with your own kids. Your grandma looks so sweet. My dad was a military guy so we moved so much there wasn't a homestead to develop and my grandparents were never very agricultural, so there are only places to recall, but not a way to go back. I enjoyed your time travel!

10:33 AM  
Blogger Alex Polikowsky said...

Sounds lovely and enchanted!
I too have the same feelings about my grandparents hobby Farm in the moutains outside Rio de Janeiro.
So glad its still part of your life. My grandparents had to sell it when they lost a lot on money many years ago in the stock market.
I have visited once after that and for me that place will always be magical. Just like your grandparents farm is to you.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Coleen said...

this is a joy to read!

9:45 AM  
Blogger Sally said...

Your post left me teary-eyed. I visited my grandparents in Washington State this summer and had many similar feelings. It was very difficult to come back to North Carolina, though I love it here.

Thanks for writing and sharing this.


8:48 PM  

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