Originally I interspersed every one of Martha’s chapters with a short chapter from my own viewpoint, showing my return to the farm as well as my search for Martha. The editor liked my search, but not the return. This is part of an early scene of mine showing my family’s own struggles as we prepared to move to Martha’s farm. In general, I will try to post only the parts of scenes not included in the published version, although sometimes there may be a slight overlap. Thus, the posts may sometimes feel as if they’ve picked up in the middle of a conversation. Clip…..
Here’s the Cottage Grove house going on the market.
Before any of us could move here [to the farm] . . . we needed houses to live in. Had I known it would take so long I might have bought a bigger house in Cottage Grove when I moved there a few years ago after it became clear my dad needed me closer. At that time I lived alone and the twelve hundred square feet of my Victorian cottage there seemed perfect for me. After my dad died and we reached a decision that I would keep the farm and Carisa and her family would move here from Montana, we knew we would need a second house and some restoration on the old farmhouse.
Soon after the decision Carisa’s husband, Robin, got a job in Roseburg, a town in somewhat the opposite direction as Cottage Grove. Photojournalism jobs being rare, he felt he should take the job, even though the farmhouse wasn’t ready for them. The builder thought it would take a couple of months to have it done. We decided Carisa’s family could move in with me–the three of them, their two dogs, one cat and one fish. I had already acquired my other daughter’s dog. Robin would commute between Cottage Grove and Roseburg. Surely we could manage for two months.
But the two months stretched longer. I was anxious to get my own house started. Though relatively close, Cottage Grove was still forty miles from the farm, and it wasn’t easy to manage a farm from that distance. Fortunately, someone was close by to look out for things. Ed Cooley, the man who had worked with my dad since the 70s, was still renting cattle pasture from me and helping with the harvests and other tasks. From all those years working beside my dad, he knew more than I ever would about how things worked on this farm. Ed was one good reason my dad was able to stay on the farm into his late years, and one good reason I dared take it on when my dad died.
Anyway, two months in my little cottage became three, four, five. The cottage felt even smaller. Tempers flared. The fish couldn’t take it. He died. I could scarcely think, let alone manage. Having lived alone for almost twenty years I was used to my own space. And my daughter was used to running her own household. She was homeschooling Alex in the large country kitchen, the buffet in there given over to the paraphernalia necessary for that.
For a while we ate dinners in the dining room, which had become their bedroom, but that required folding up their futon every morning. We ended up eating at my little table in the corner of the kitchen, a perfect 30-inch-square table for me, but the four of us had trouble fitting around it.
Alex, at eleven, missed his friends and railed against Grandma’s stricter house rules. Articulate and dramatic, he would explode from time to time. “I can’t live like this anymore.”
Their big golden lab slunk off the couch whenever he saw me, head low, eyes guilty, knowing he wasn’t allowed there. The other little dog never understood. I had to put away all my breakable treasures to protect them from the lively cat that easily jumped to any height indoors.
While we struggled in our cramped space, I also needed to get this Cottage Grove house sold so I could afford to build my new house at the farm. This was summer 2008. House prices were trembling. I felt growing desperation to get mine on the market soon, but knew it wouldn’t show well with our menagerie in it. Finally after seven months, we told the builder my kids were moving into the farmhouse, ready or not. It was time to start the other house. That caused some consternation for the builder, as he contemplated having to work around the family and their menagerie to finish the job, but they made the move. Work soon began on the new house.
I had about three months of quiet in Cottage Grove–if you can count having a house on the market quiet, and running back and forth to a forty-mile-distant farm. Then my other daughter and granddaughter came to live with me. My small cottage became cramped again. We had to scurry every time our real estate agent wanted to show the house, with toys to pick up, the accumulations of too many people stuffed into too-small closets.
Time stretched while the new house on the hill took form. . . . After a year, during the near collapse of the housing market, the Cottage Grove house finally sold. Again I explained to the contractor we were moving in, ready or not. The move happened, and finally, with all my family around me in a lot more space, I was here to enjoy what Martha bought over one hundred forty years ago.
Note: My son-in-law Robin shared the magic of his photography in A Place of Her Own with pictures of the family farm. If you missed the tribute to Robin on my blog, or want to see the post again, click Spotlight on the Photographer to find it.