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  • Writer's pictureTina

Scars Marked a Life Well Lived

My dad bought back the family farm in the mid-nineties. At that time, the farm had been out of the family and used as a rental for more than thirty years. To say it was in disrepair is an understatement. One of the first things my dad did was stabilize the barn. He had the Amish make repairs and the old rotted beams replaced with steel beams. I remember him patting those steel beams and proudly announcing that this barn would stand for another hundred years. I think what I love most about this farm is that my dad loved it. Once the barn was safe, he turned his focus to the house.

I remember touring the house, which was filled with my grandfather’s improvements of dark paneling and wall-to-wall carpet and included the removal of anything charming or filled with antique craftsmanship. The upstairs floors, in particular, were wonky. My dad demonstrated to me just how slanted the upstairs floors were by taking a small ball and having me watch it roll to the center of the room. Remodeling this house was going to be a huge undertaking, and it was definitely a labor of love.

Originally, the farmhouse was what was called a two-on-two. There were two rooms at ground level and two rooms above. Interestingly, when the siding was removed from the house, the scar of a ladder going from the ground to the second story was revealed. When the house was built, it did not have an interior staircase. The ladder going up the side of the house was used to access the upper rooms. My dad always laughed and said only poor people lived in this house. With all the extensive remodeling, the house was torn down to the original studs; he never found anything of monetary value. There were no coins, no buried treasure, or gold pieces. He did find my grandparent’s marriage certificate under the floorboards, which was interesting. However, I believe my dad viewed this farm as the true treasure.

The decision was made to add several additions to the home. My parents added the living room with the first round of renovations. Later, the additions of the dining room and sunroom would be made. When the house was opened up for remodeling, it was discovered that ancient individual boards made of wormy chestnut ran from the basement to the attic. Can you imagine the age of those trees when they were cut down and turned into planks? I’m quite certain that we will never see boards that long or made of wormy chestnut again. With his knowledge, insight, and creativity, my dad had our dining room table built from those boards. He salvaged the wood, took it to the Amish, and had them build a dining table that ran the entire length of the room.

I remember when he came home with that table. He was as proud as a peacock at what had been built from the rare salvaged wood of his childhood home. The only thing that caused a lapse in his admiration was the Amish builder had filled in all the wormholes of the chestnut with wood filler. My dad viewed this wood filler as a personal insult. Every time we sat down to a meal, he would take his pocket knife and pick at the wood filler, growling under his breath, “Damn Dutchies!” The wood filler never gave way and remained locked in place for my dad’s lifetime.

After almost thirty years of wear and tear, the table was ready for a facelift when I moved into the house. I lovingly stripped the old, gummy finish from the tabletop, sanded it smooth, and removed the wood filler that infuriated and tormented my dad during his lifetime. Once all the wood putty was out, I declared, “There you go, daddy, that damn putty is out of your wormholes! Damn Dutchies!” I like to believe my dad smiled down on me and was pleased with my restoration. In reality, he was probably sitting and critiquing every move I made. I’m sure he would have sound advice and directives for me to follow if he were here.

After almost a decade of art projects, crafting creations, science experiments, and a one-hundred-pound mastiff mix who thinks he’s a tabletop sleeping cat, my dad’s table is due for another refresh. Although I can appreciate a tabletop in pristine condition, part of me feels a great affection for all the marks, scratches, and scores my baby’s lifetime of creativity has created. I may put the refresh off for a few more years. After all, isn’t it the scars, scratches, dings, and bangs that mark a life well-lived?

In addition to the table that was created from the house planks, I also had table-length benches built for each side of the table. My Uncle Brian, who is a talented woodworker, had some of the salvaged wormy chestnut planks from our farmhouse in storage at his garage. He graciously built me my benches and added another layer of history and family attachment to our home. I hope my bean never parts with this piece of our family home and history.

Although my blog writings began as an extension of our soap business, our family farm is an integral part of not only our business but who we are and what we do. Without our farm, our family business could not exist. Without our company, our family farm would deteriorate or, heaven forbid, not be in our family. When I write our notes that are included in our online orders, I usually thank you, our soap family, for supporting us. Your support indeed allows us to do what we love in the place we love the most. It’s all very Kum-Ba-Yah as my dear friend Jane likes to say. One could not exist without the other. So, thank you for keeping our dream alive. Also, I hope my random ramblings about farm-related/family-related stories don’t bore you.

On this cold November Wednesday, stay safe, be smart, appreciate the scars life creates, and know they are signs of a life well-lived, and of course, keep washing those hands.

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Nov 16, 2022

What a wonderful story! I love old furniture with a history, your table and benches are beautiful. So special. I think you can put off re-doing for a few more years! By the way, I for one never think you are boring, quite the opposite.

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