(thanks to Gary Truckey at La Ferme Sabloneuse for the inspiration for this post.
Be sure to visit him at https://www.facebook.com/La-Ferme-Sabloneuse-1691898761092072
When we think of hand-me-downs, our minds usually go to more tangible items, such as clothing, furniture, and keepsakes. However, some hand-me-downs are a bit less tangible, but just as precious, if not more so. My friend, Gary Truckey, lives on a small farm in Wisconsin. He has received a few hand-me-downs that, to him, are more precious than gold. Land. Tractor. Knowledge.
What is an Heirloom?
The dictionary defines ‘heirloom’ as a family possession handed down from generation to generation. We rarely consider land or property as an heirloom, yet we would readily apply the word to a piece of antique furniture that has been in the family for many generations. The word implies value to the point of pricelessness, whether the worth is in dollars or love.
When a man (or woman) works his land, it isn’t just a means to support his family, it is a labor of love. Regardless of the dollar value an assessor will place on the land, an heir will tell you that its value cannot be measured. If you stand still and look out over the fields, gardens, trees and ponds, you can almost see the sweat that an ancestor put into it dripping off the tree branches and glistening on the blade tips of the grass. The air vibrates with each heartbeat of every farmer who walked the land. Listen closely and you may still hear the echo of their grunts as they pulled felled trees from the woods; the sighs that floated on the skies at sunset as they finally closed the barn door for the night.
To be able to receive a piece of farm equipment as a hand-me-down is great. The fact that it still runs and does the job is beyond priceless. In Gary’s case, he inherited a 1938 Farmall Tractor. With occasional work and a tremendous amount of TLC, not only can Gary still plow his fields, but he can also feel the presence of his Pa guiding him in the proper way to do the job. (I confess here to a vivid green streak of envy for that tractor…) Even a hand plow or equipment for horse power is a rarity, especially if it works. And if it does, it would beg the heir to at least use it occasionally, to help them deepen their appreciation of the gift they have been given, and the people whose hands guided the plow or the horse.
Even more precious than land or equipment is knowledge. Being handed down the instructions on how to farm, the idiosyncrasies of equipment and how to get around it, or just how to love, live, give and create a happy, healthy life is one of the best gifts you can receive. It is knowledge that goes beyond the classroom and improves our practical skills.
After years of digging their hands deep in the earth, our ancestors knew every nuance of the soil – what would grow, what wouldn’t, what it was hungry for. They could spot an anomaly on their place a 100 yards off. If something was broken, they headed straight to the tool shed and grabbed the proper tools with hardly a thought. If a plant was drooping just a millimeter, they knew whether to grab a bucket of water, a handful of compost or a small cup of pulverized egg shells and a gardening fork. Our ancestors could also look up into the skies and study the clouds, the stars and the moon and know how to prepare for the coming weather.
What are you Handing Down?
You may or may not be in a position where you live on a piece of ‘hand-me-down’ land. If you do, then take a few moments out of your day and walk. Let your heart be your eyes so you can see the love that went into taking care of the place. Ponder the work your ancestor did to get it to where it is currently. As you return to the house, think about what you want to do to leave this land in a little better shape for your own heirs.
If you bought your land, there were still farmers that gave everything they had to create a home for their family. The land may now be in new hands, but know that you can still offer a precious hand-me-down to your own heirs. Consider keeping a notebook of thoughts, equipment idiosyncrasies, soil needs, and other helpful information that can be used for generations.
Know that the work you do today will be appreciated all the more to future heirs. And keep in mind that each heart beat you contribute will one day be joined by other family members who are learning how to live, love, give and create a happy, healthy life.
Mentoring is a way to hand down knowledge to others. Want to read more about it? Jump on over to https://www.thefarmwife.com/2015/07/21/basic-life-skills/