Sunday, August 21, 2011

These are the good old days. (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

The Barn Removal Project.

Or as we've come to call it, the Barn Razing (as in completely destroy and remove all traces of existence).

When we moved to this house and property, seven years ago, there was an old barn standing on its last legs. A barn with a leaking wooden roof, rotten beams, and due to the (now wet) straw insulating the walls, rotten everything. When we had our inspection prior to buying this house, the inspector told us the barn was condemned and we should not let anyone go in it. As a matter of fact, I never did go in it. We put a barrier of snow fencing around it to keep the kids away. Our insurance company had no problem with having us sign an "exclusion" of that building and so over the past years we've let trees and grass and weeds grow up around and through that old barn while it slowly and then finally sank to its knees. Old steel siding folded in, then covered the fallen barn as if with a blanket for its last sleep. In the Summer, it was hidden by the wild of green. In the Winter, it was covered with snow. Other than glancing at it over in a corner of the now non-existent farm yard in a nostalgic sort of way, we never thought of it at all.

Until the letter came. The letter explaining that we had 30 days to remove (or rebuild!) the barn or our insurance would drop us. Really? What about that exclusion? Well, that was then and this is now. The barn must go.

This letter coincided with a letter from our insurance agent telling us that our insurance company had become difficult to work with in the rural areas, she would no longer be representing them . . . and would we like to switch to a new company, one that would save us hundreds of dollars in the process?  "Why, yes indeed.  How convenient!" we thought.  Then we discovered that the new, friendly company also required removal of the barn––in fact all companies were now in agreement that the potentially dangerous old building would need to be removed.  And soon. Within 30 days of our new policy's start date.  By the end of August.

We literally stood staring at that thing, completely hidden by overgrowth, wondering how on earth we could solve this problem. Our preference for an easy answer . . .  professional demo, sorting, removal, hauling and dumping was looking to cost many thousands of dollars. So that was not an option.  We heard lots of advice . . . "People love that old barnwood! They'll even remove it for you!" Or . . . "Dig a big hole and just shove it in there - that's what the old farmers do." Or . . . "Have the fire department burn it for practice! That's only $600-800." Or . .  "Wait until winter, push it all into a field and just burn the whole thing."  Dear Mr. Friend suggested shoving it just ten feet north of the property line (through a few trees) and then claim it was his problem!  All intriguing ideas, but things we couldn't well achieve on a shoe-string budget, no large equipment, nearby flammable buildings and trees, those pesky new environmental rules about burying things, and a 30-day timeline.|

Finally, we thought of one possibility. It seemed a bit too easy and so probably wouldn't work. Could we burn it gradually on a campfire sized fire, piece by piece, sorting and saving the good to give away, and burning the bad? Working on it all of August? With a five-dollar burn permit? At times we thought- "Yes! We can do it!" A minute later we thought of other details - "No! This is impossible!" After all, this was completely not on the agenda this year. How could we spend that much time on it, all of us working, even if it worked? Three weeks ago, just before the date we were set to begin, we were very discouraged. The type of discouragement that makes your eyes fly wide open in the middle of the night with anxiety, but also causes you to cry out to the Lord for help.  The type of discouragement you see in each other that makes you want to smile and be brave and say out loud "It's all going to be OK."

I started mentioning this "barn project" to friends and the response was always the same.  A surprising enthusiasm, encouragement to ask others to help, and even to think of it as a party. A definite intrigue with the idea of an old barn whether it was going up or coming down. A universal desire to be a part of such old-fashioned, hard, manual work. A desire for their kids to have a chance to do that sort of "real" work. An outpouring of love and offers from many, and genuine sadness on the part of those who had other plans and couldn't come help. After all, that barn was put together by hand (and we imagine with the help of friends and family), why not pull it apart piece by piece with the help of friends and family? It sounds like The Good Old Days.

So we asked for help. And help came.  Mr. Friend came with his backhoe and his skilled use of it, and what we would have done without him I don't know. He has come early (accommodating us by waiting until 6:30am, when he'd been up since 4:00), and late–when Kevin got home from his city job. Whenever the big machine and his expertise would be of assistance. Fathers and sons have come to help, moms and a kid or two, entire families, and men alone or in pairs.  One day of particular progress we had two adult men in the morning, rain in the afternoon, and then a family with six children came to help in the mud of the evening. All these friends along with our own work crew did remove that barn.  I expected it to take every bit of that 30 days.  I was expecting to be rushed in the end. But that's not what happened.

In just six days the major work was done––and we had even taken one day off for sheer exhaustion, and the good excuse of rain. We breathed a sigh of relief and scheduled one more work day and more help arrived, just at the right time, even after we turned a few away because we thought rain would ruin the day. Now, just the odds and ends of splintered wood and dirt remain. Sorted wood, still good for use, is sitting here and there, but the barn is gone. We can prove it with photos for our insurance file. We are so thankful for the answer to our prayers that came through our Brothers and Sisters and good hard (but doable) work for our family.  The type of answer that teaches us all (not just the children) that the Lord still moves mountains.

Which is what reminds me that these are The Good Old Days, the days the Lord has planned for us. I want to recognize it as we go along, and not just with hindsight of years to come or through the romantic lens that doesn't see the grit in these good days.  I want to see it all and still feel the goodness.  The days of family, friends, and children still at home. Of hard work, too, and impossible needs. The days full of challenges that answer our prayers that our children will be prepared for lives of their own. Lessons provided by floods, and vans breaking down, and mothers on crutches when the house guests arrive, and hard work on barns, and depending on Brothers and Sisters when we'd rather not be in need. Lessons from hearing mom and dad praying for something to work out, with a feeble sort of faith. Praying themselves because they know it's something we really need, something really important that we can't make happen on our own. And then seeing the answers come one after another. And after that, seeing the greater provision of the Lord's design in all of these things, better than any plan we would have made for this Summer––back when we thought coffee on the deck, family bike rides, and maybe building a tree house (to teach the kids how to work a bit) was the best plan. The plan that defines and meets our needs, burns away the chaff, and draws us closer to Him.

I've looked at that barn coming down, looked at the friends coming together to offer hours of hard work, looked at the pieces of old wood and the old-time nails, looked at beams of the barn made of unmilled logs, and thought of that time of tremendous hard work on this farm 100 years ago when that barn was new. Work without machines and nearly without rest.  Work without a hot shower at the end of the day. An exhausted sleep on a hot summer night without fans or A/C.  A tenacity to build from the ground up, with no guarantee of success, that we can hardly imagine. Building projects, hoping for a good crop, investing in animals and newfangled machines.  Thousands of days preparing meals and feeding animals and cleaning up and making do. Marriages and children. Gains and loss. Hard times and good times and daily chores. Times spent on knees in prayer and times asking friends for help.  Answers and help provided.

The Good Old Days.

Lord, let me lean into these days and live life to the full as it unfolds . . . with thankfulness, trusting in You for the plan.


ps.  Kevin just came home and said a friend of ours (that we haven't seen in months) offered us a load of oak firewood, already cut, that they really have no use of.  Could we use it? My eyes are glistening. More answers to prayer.  One concern of the barn project was that Kevin and the kids had no time to begin to work on cutting the free firewood available from Mr. Friend's land for this winter (which we use for the major source of heat for our home).  This friend, with no knowledge of our need, offers an answer to a prayer barely asked in passing. Whispered lest we ask for too much. I am thankful and amazed. (The "load" turned out to be THREE cords.)

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