Thursday, May 6, 2010

Farm: A Photo Visit

                              Doris & Vic L at Farm (circa 1985)

Dear George,

In the early 1960’s my folks (Vic and Doris L) and Vic and Ruth Mars invested in large plots of adjoining farm and forest land near Birch Creek, about six or seven miles north of Menominee.  My parents’ half included an old, broken down farm compound that dated back to the late 19th or early 20th century.  The cabin was built with huge rectangular logs, and the farm complex included an old red barn, a garage, and several outbuildings.  Some time later my parents thought about renovating the dilapidated buildings on the property, and they recruited a couple of local construction experts and craftsmen, first Jim Dama and then George Jansen Jr. (who was known to everybody in town but Vic as Bud), to help them in the process.  They completely renovated the cabin, whitewashing its interior, installing a new kitchen and bathroom, and decorating it with artwork and family belonging.  A chicken coop became a two-room guest house; another storage building, a pool room.  Eventually the barn was subdivided into multiple rooms: a woodworking area, a music room and library, an art studio, a legal office, and two bedrooms.  A silo was imported, and a rooster weathervane was added to the barn. As Farm took shape, my parents began spending more and more time there, and soon they were faced with the dilemma of maintaining two full-scale households.  They decided to dispose of their house on the Menominee River where we had all grown up, a distressing prospect to their children.  My parents offered it for free to any of us who would move there, but there were no takers, and they sold river house for a paltry amount in the early 1970’s.  Our entire family, by then spread from the East Coast to the West Coast, began gathering at Farm every August for a reunion, and we had many joyous times over the years.  The grandchildren in our four families grew from infancy to adulthood over this period and formed close attachments to one another, to my parents, and to our family property.  Here are some photos taken by Vic, my nephew Chris, my son J, and myself which help give some of the flavor of Farm which remains to the present day.

This is an early aerial view taken by Vic.  The main house (or cabin) is at the upper center, and the two-room guest coop is behind it to the left.  The barn and the silo are at the lower left, with the pool room next to the silo and the garage at the center left. 

Birch Creek flowed through the property.  My dad bulldozed out a huge cavity in the earth, had a dam built, and created a pond which he stocked with fish, and at which he fed the migrating ducks.  Here’s a picture of Farm from across the pond with Doris and family friend Jean Worth looking over the scene. 

My dad had a great love of the land at Farm and planted thousands of evergreen and hardwood trees on the property.  We watched them grow from seedlings to a mature forest over the years.  He staked out hiking trails, giving each a name (e.g., Main St.), and labeling natural landmarks after his grandchildren (e.g., Jennifer Lake). 

The two bedroom cabin was cozy and attractive.  My mom’s favorite spot was a chair near the north windows where she watched the birds, and we enjoyed the potbelly stove on cold winter days.  Peter and Faith were married in the living room in August, 1968.  I was best man, and Katja was the maid of honor.  A bat flew over the couple’s heads in the midst of the ceremony, though they never saw it.

My dad turned the weathered barn into a work of art, installing stained glass windows of his own creation.

George Jansen Jr. built the gazebo down near the pond.  It became the site of many late night family gatherings and lots of laughter.   

We spent hours competing and joking around in the Silver Dollar poolroom.  Steven was the family champion, and the rest of us could only hope for a lucky break.  Here is Vicki taking on her brothers (note the intense competitive expression on her face).

With squirrels in the walls and mosquitoes buzzing around, Katja was less than enthusiastic about sleeping in the coop.  Steve and Margie solved the problem by staying at Lauerman’s Bed and Breakfast in town, but I was committed to the coop (which, of course, was free).

As the years progressed, my dad became enamored with the idea that Farm would become the homestead of all our family members, and Farm took on a mystique all of its own.  He created a family flag and minted our own family money at a local foundry.  We were all amused and appreciative of his strong and loving sense of family.  My mom died in 1986, my dad in 1993, but their spirit lives on.



G-Mail Comments:

-Linda C (5-6):  i love the pictures , the place is wonderful, no wonder you all love it.

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