A fixer-upper

“Now, all amid the rigours of the year,
In the wild depth of winter, while without
The ceaseless winds blow ice, be my retreat,
Between the groaning forest and the shore,
Beat by the boundless multitude of waves,
A rural, shelter’d, solitary scene;
Where ruddy fire and beaming tapers join
To cheer the gloom.”  – James Thomson (excerpt from The Seasons: Winter, 1730)

Most of the land I walk on around home is not ours, but belongs to someone who no longer lives here and has generously given us permission to ride horses or walk on his land.  The old farm on the property has been abandoned for many years. It is bordered by low-lying areas that were too damp to plow, and therefore harbours the undisturbed soil that continues to nurture the native wildflowers that bloom there every spring. The hay field is overgrown, the earth rutted from having been tilled and then forgotten. I went there to see what might present itself, saw some crows flying along the tree line, disturbed by distant gunshots, and animal tracks in the powdery snow that looked like a rabbit being tailed by a coyote. The old vehicles near the barn stand out more in the wintertime when not hidden by vines and shrubs. I recognize them as vehicles from my childhood, similar to my dad’s work truck and a friend’s first car, even then a fixer-upper.

This scene of the abandoned farm reminded me of the poem by Wendell Berry,  Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front (you can find it here, at the journal In Context,  if you’re interested). He writes about topics such as rural communities, ecology, sustainable farming and having a connection to our place in the world. This poem, in particular, speaks to the losses experienced when we lose these places  of connection with our local communities and with nature, come to rely on ready-made resources to survive, and subscribe to a profit oriented mind-set. I’m grateful for this abandoned farm that provides a formidable home for wild things (and me!) to roam and grow.

Now that we have a bit of snow, the birds are enjoying the sunflower seeds in the backyard. This female Downy Woodpecker has been around all day. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, stories and words of encouragement through the past year, I’ve greatly appreciated each and every one.

43 Responses to “A fixer-upper”
  1. I love these photos, Cait! The winter landscape makes a perfect background for the bright colors and textures in the old truck. I will check out the writings of Wendell Berry. The subjects you mentioned are of interest to me. Last night I watched the documentary, Ingredients. I love to grow my own food and buy from local farmers.

    • Thanks so much for telling me about the documentary, Karen. I watched the trailer for it, and it looks great (the rattlesnake snap pole beans they mention in the trailer have become my favourite kind of bean to grow). With your long growing season, it must be ideal for growing your own food. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. What a beautiful post. I love Wendell Berry and his ethic. And to have a place like this near you — for nature to be and for you to explore and photograph and enjoy is something beyond measure. Thank you so much for sharing.

    And I wish you the best 2012 has to offer. Be well. 🙂

  3. skadhu says:

    Great pictures—the old trucks are lovely in the snow. I’m torn by the dualism they represent—a nasty, damaging intrusion on nature, but also shapes and colours and textures that are beautiful in themselves. In some ways it’s easier to appreciate the old vehicles—maybe they’re slowly transforming back into their constituent parts, so are less invasive, maybe it’s just nostalgia.

    Around here where I walk, most of the old vehicles aren’t quite so aesthetically attractive. They all seem to turn up in twisted, rusted tatters under slash piles from logging that was done years ago. (I keep wondering how old cars GOT under slash piles in the middle of a logging area—there seem to be an awful lot of them. Maybe it’s better not to ask.)

    • I appreciate you saying that, skadhu, it really is an intrusion. Slash piles from logging are pretty hard to get through without adding old vehicles to the mix, it doesn’t make any sense does it? It didn’t feel exactly that way with these old vehicles, though, since I didn’t come across them in the forest or swamp, but when I chose to walk up to the barns where they were last parked. Living in a farming area, it seems impossible to not come across some signs of civilization, past and present, wherever we walk around here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and best wishes!

  4. Fergiemoto says:

    That old truck has a lot of character, but it sure is a fixer-upper! Happy New Year!

  5. sandy says:

    If you can fix up that old truck, you are good! We had a couple of places like that near my family’s ranch, when I was young.

    Happy New Year to you!

  6. Sybil says:

    Happy New Year Cait ! The rusted old vehicle has its own beauty …I think your wise comments sum up a lot of what the “Occupy” movement was all about.

  7. montucky says:

    It’s good to have such a place nearby to roam around on. I also do some wandering through the more remote regions of a ranch near here. The old vehicles and buildings always make me wonder… are our newer, more modern ones really all that better after weighing the costs and the stress of buying them, and having to depend on more and more technology that must be used in their maintenance? It used to be that we drove the cars; are they now driving us?

    Happy New Year to you and your family! I hope it will be a wonderful one!

    • Thanks montucky, I hope you and your family have a wonderful year, too. I know what you mean about the vehicles these days, it is such a different landscape than a few years ago. I have so enjoyed seeing the beautiful images from your wanderings through the mountains this past year. Happy New Year!

  8. Ian Lunt says:

    What fantastic colors, the old truck looks fantastic in the snow. Thanks for a year of gorgeous blogs, and best wishes for a wonderful year in 2012.

    • Thanks for your support and good wishes, Ian! I look forward to learning more about ecology in your part of the world through your very interesting work, and am grateful to have found your site. I hope the year ahead is a great one for you!

  9. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

    A beautiful post! It is always sad when wilderness has to come under the yoke of urbanisation and so many species disappear because of loss of habitat! I hope there will always continue to be some havens.
    Thank you for your wonderful posts- looking forward to more in 2012!

  10. I love that old yellow truck! My dad had an old 1950s era Studebaker I have very fond memories of riding in as a kid.

    • Thanks Oregon, it’s nice to see your avatar full of sunshine on this cold night up here! It must have been great to ride around with your dad in one of those. What a great memory 🙂

      • Oh! It’s cold here in Georgia too! We’re down to 21F with wind chill, and the temps are going to keep dropping overnight. But, lucky for me, it will warm back up again to the 60s. Weather like this is hard on the critters. I don’t mind it much except for that.

  11. Kathy says:

    The old truck evokes feelings of nostalgia–and Wendell Berry’s poems always evoke many sorts of feelings. I haven’t re-visited his words lately, so thank you for the nudge. Oregon just mentioned an old Studebaker–my husband has a 1949 Studebaker truck that we use to haul wood! Thanks for visiting my blog.

  12. Lisa says:

    When this post arrived in my email inbox, I thought it was going to be about a house. I am pleasantly surprised to see this gorgeous, abandoned truck in such bright colors against a gray winter day. You’re lucky to have such a treasure (practically) in your own back yard!

  13. Barbara Rodgers says:

    Who would have thought that a fixer-upper could give so much color and brightness to a quiet winter scene? Beautiful pictures and wonderful quotes, Cait… The Wendell Berry poem would be perfect to have on an inspirational poster. I love the woodpecker, too. Hope your New Year is full of ever more joy, wonder and creativity!

    • Thanks so much, Barbara. I agree, the Wendell Berry poem does have that kind of feel to it. I’ve appreciated your encouraging words this past year. All the best for the new year to you as well!

  14. Simply beautiful ~ Thank You!

  15. Donald says:

    with your wonderful eye for interesting things, you will NEVER run out of things to photograph! happy new year to you!

  16. These photos are wonderful! Inspiring. I especially love the third one as we share the old truck’s ‘view’. If only each person took the time to explore their outdoor space – whatever it might be – and allow themselves to become connected with it, I believe the world would become a calmer place.

  17. Lyse says:

    Beautiful photos! I often find old vehicles way back in the woods here in Nova Scotia and some of them are aesthetically pleasing in a certain way, even though they represent people being careless with the land.

    I really enjoy the writings of Wendell Berry. My Dad read one of his poems to me when I called to talk in November. My Dad had just been out kayaking on Remembrance day – said he wanted to be out in the elements that day rather than by a cenotaph. I copied out the poem and used it in my holiday card this year:

    The Peace of Wild Things

    When despair for the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    – Wendell Berry

    Thanks for sharing your photos and writing on this site.

    • That is such a beautiful poem, in your holiday card and here. I love the way both Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver write about their connection with nature, they express what it feels like and means to them so wonderfully. Going kayaking sounds like a meaningful way to have spent that day. I hope you and your family had a great holiday, Lyse! Thanks for visiting 🙂

  18. You are so fortunate Cait to live near that abandoned farm. That looks like such a picturesque place to experience nature. Your photos exude serenity. The quotes compliment the photos nicely. And the poem is definitely thought provoking. That being said, it saddens me to see the loss of our nature habitats. Lately, it seems to be a real challenge to save them from over development. Hopefully, our mindset is beginning to understand the importance of our connection with nature. Wonderful post Cait! 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Donna! We are lucky in that respect, there’s not much development in this area of the province in general, and there seem to be a few small scale and organic farmers that are able to keep a business going. I hope all is well in your part of the world, and that you are having a great new year!

  19. jakesprinter says:

    Great post I`m Truly Impressed love it 🙂

  20. Cher says:

    My husband is rebuilding a 1941 Chev truck in his spare time, it was in much
    the same condition as this truck is in when he started. I can appreciate the beauty
    of a truck like this as I see his work progress on it. There is nothing like the satisfaction
    at the end when the shinny new truck is rolling down the road.

    If I had an e-mail address I would be be more than happy to send before and after pics.

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