“Rough” was probably a generous description for the appearance of the hog shed at the farm earlier this year. Contemplating the shed’s future (something involving a bulldozer had not yet been ruled out), I wondered about its past.
My great-grandfather and grandfather both diligently completed their farm record books. They saved them with the same level of commitment! Having unloaded Grandpa’s forty years worth of check registers several years ago, I easily referenced the now down-sized record stack to find the “Inventory of Farm Improvements” in the account book from 1934 and learned the hog house was built in 1903.
According to the hog inventory, there were 56 little pigs in eight litters that year.
Since paint won’t cover holes in the roof — and we all need a makeover at least every 113 years, the old pig abode has received a few more substantial improvements over the summer. Here it is getting a new roof and prepped for a fresh coat of paint.
During this phase of the hog house renovation, we rooted up plenty of reminders of my grandfathers’ frugality and resourcefulness. Recycled license plates turned up everywhere. They were frequently used as roof shingles (“a good roof keeps the place standing”), as well as numbers for each sow’s farrowing stall.
My mom stops by occasionally to check progress and share stories. She confirms the family’s roof priority. Even if other things went undone, the grandparents never let a roof go unrepaired. She also remembers how her grandmother kept her grandfather from a gluttony of frugality with gentle reminders to use his frugal nature efficiently. “Albert, it’s not progress if you waste a dime’s worth of shoe leather trying to save a nickel.”
Although the hog house was for raising pigs, Mom says she did some growing up in that shed too. She recalled a day years ago when her dad recruited her to help clean it. The usual help with that job, her older brother, wasn’t around that day, so Mom’s 11 year-old self stepped up to the task: Scoop manure. Toss it into the spreader. Repeat until spreader full. Rest briefly while contents are dispersed on the field for crop fertilizer. Repeat sequence.
“It was an unpleasant, all day job, but I stayed with it and didn’t complain,” she remembers. When they finished, her dad said, “I’m proud of you. You worked hard until the end and didn’t complain or ask to quit. Most kids wouldn’t have done that.” Mom says she’s thought about that job and those words from her dad many times through the years. She believes they were some of the best preparation for the future she could have had.
Turns out the hog shed is still a good place to raise young ones. There are several projects still to complete, so the doors to the freshly scrubbed and cleaned inside stay open. A mama swallow took this as invitation to make herself at home.
We gave the hog shed a little more than paint. In the process, it has returned to us some real stuff of substance. A history lesson. A few memories shared with family. A little insight to those who came before us. A reminder to appreciate our home, and of the joy of extending hospitality. A good bit of encouragement and hope for what the future and the next project might bring…
So as summer is winding down, the hog shed stands, much refreshed, as a reminder to keep the door open to possibility.
May we all be blessed with more of life’s good stuff!