The other day, I finally got around to cleaning out several dozen crates that had been stacked precariously against a wall in the packing shed. To my surprise, I found them still filled with petrified pears. They looked dried out and old, but I didn’t realize how old until I dumped them out and noticed newspaper lined the crates. The date read 1987. I was 10 years old when these pears were picked and left to rot. What happened that season that these pears weren’t sold? Why were they kept here, only to be discovered 24 years later?
Pears from 1987 still in their crates
Mysteries like this abound on the farm. From early 1900s wedding photos stacked in the tractor shed, to equipment abandoned in the field. They all beg the question “why?” There are fewer and fewer people left to answer those questions. As we get to know our neighbors and the Lockport community, some answers are starting to surface. For instance, the other day, the farm manager who had worked for my great-grandmother as a boy told us that the pile of 100 some-odd stone blocks that lie in a jumble between the orchards was actually salvaged from the Lockport Union School when it was demolished in 1952. The blocks were re-used to build this decorative wall along the front lawn.
Lockport Union School (1891-1952)
The old school entrance is now farm's front archway
Realizing that so many questions about the farm can never be fully answered, I resolved to clean up the place and put things back where they should be. It’s the right thing to do to move ahead. While still on my cleaning binge, I entered the muddy, dank basement of the packing shed. There I dug out the following:
Under the tractor shed
41 apple cider jugs (that had all exploded with fermented apple cider)
10 bushel baskets
11 empty buckets of paint thinner
9 grape crates
2 cat skulls
A container of antifreeze and an old shovel
I don’t know why all that stuff was abandoned down there. But, I cleaned out the space, salvaged and stored what was worth saving, and threw out the rest. I admit, it felt great. There is something strangely therapeutic in cleaning up messes left by your ancestors.
What a mess, ancestors!
There will always be more questions than answers about the farm’s history. But the importance of these questions will diminish over time as we change our sights from the farm’s past to its future. The best we can do now is document our progress and leave a record for future generations about what we’re doing and why.