Friday, May 31, 2013

Twenty Five Years and 1,200 Sheep later

 Slippery Rock Creek near Elliott's Mill site.

Sometimes a random email from a friend can restart a dead blog. A lot has happened in the year since I posted what I expected to be a final entry in this journal.  Most notably is that this is the last year of the sheep business for us. When the Marcellus Shale boom came with truckloads of money to our little community. I said to my wife that "I guess we will see who really wants to farm now". I surprised myself in being one of those who did not. After 25  years, we are getting out of the sheep business. We had been downsizing, and the last of the flock has already been passed to a young farmer, and I could not be happier. I expected to miss the wooly little creatures, but have not. In fact, was actually ready to sell the whole farm and move on to something else. I had plans!

  • Move to Day County South Dakota and fish for Walleyes and Hunt Pheasant.
  • Move to the big empty part of North Central Pennsylvania, fish for Trout and hunt Bobcats and Coyotes with Dogs.
  • Move to Eastern Crawford County PA, where we also have family, fish the Allegheny River, and  buy some cut over timberland to improve. 

I can live with the Marcellus shale boom.  I am less happy that my community has changed in so many other ways, primarily by starting to become a suburb of a City known as "the Paris of Appalachia". I usually call it something more vulgar, by replacing the TT's in "PITT" with "SS", or the "P" with "SH".  

We are staying here because my wife, who has lived in such diverse places as Beirut, Lebanon and
Washington DC, has made a home here. Perhaps better than I do,  she understands this as home, and  us as the living continuation of a community bigger than us. That community  includes both our living neighbors and the dead.

I fish as much to clear my head as to catch fish. When I do catch fish, I need to cook them outside on a camp stove as my wife cannot abide the smell of freshwater fish or waterfowl. This morning, I fished the branch of Slipper Rock Creek about a mile from the farm. I was casting on the opposite bank from where one of my ancestors worked at grist mill here in 1806. He was referred to in an early local Presbyterian church history as "A German miller, named Grossman, who was a blatant and outspoken infidel." He apparently got religion very briefly during the solar eclipse of June 16, 1806, but left meeting and went back to work when the sun came back.

While I was ready to move out, I realize that it is something unique in highly mobile Twenty First Century America to still live in a community where my family has spent over two centuries. When my lifetime and memories are combined with those of our fore-bearers, a crick is no longer just a place to fish, but a part of who we are. I think that connection is part of agrarianism. It need not be a 200 year one of blood and DNA, but an attitude that this place, means something beyond other ones.