Kids grow more disconnected from farm life

Published 9:43 am Monday, June 30, 2014

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

It is Thursday. As I write this column, the day after the first Wind Down Wednesday of the year in the city of Albert Lea, I still am basking in the glow of a wonderful afternoon spent in Albert Lea.

I was lucky enough to be a part of an author meet and greet that Prairie Wind Coffee hosted on Wind Down Wednesday for authors Al Batt, Julie Bronson and me. I brought my granddaughter with me to the meet and greet so she could experience Wind Down Wednesday. We both thought it was fun and interesting viewing the talent that was displayed up and down Main Street.

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My granddaughter is a resident of the Twin Cities and she described Wind Down Wednesday to her mom and dad on the telephone as a miniature version of the arts and craft fairs that she has attended in the big city. In her mind, it had the big city arts and crafts flair.

The people who came to meet and greet the authors were having a great time, too, and each one had a different favorite vendor on the street.

I enjoyed myself inside the coffeehouse meeting my readers but also reminiscing with a cousin of mine who happened to visit from Wisconsin.

Julie Bronson’s photo book and stories highlighting old barns and abandoned houses had us reminiscing about our grandmother’s house. We were both very young when our grandmother was alive, but we both remember her old, small farmhouse with no electricity and no running water. What we remember the most was the wasp nest in the corner of the house that was always there every year.

Anyone entering the front door had to make a bee line around the wasps and a fast running dash to get into the front door of the house. Both young and old did this, but the kids did this because we were all scared of getting stung.

There were many old, abandoned houses in Bronson’s photo book that reminded my cousin and me of our grandmother’s house.

I am fascinated by old barns. Looking through Bronson’s book and reading a couple of the stories brought back memories of the barns on my grandparents’ farms that had hay lofts, cool stalls for the farm animals and little creatures hiding in the barn along with the animals.

Actually, one of our barns housed cows and a chicken coup in the same space. Recently I made an old barn part of my story in my young reader series that I write, because I wanted to introduce memories of the barns that dotted the countryside when I was young to my grandchildren. I wanted to introduce them to my experiences growing up and spending time in those barns.

As my granddaughter and I had a snack before driving home from Wind Down Wednesday, old barns and abandoned houses were on my mind. Our conversation centered on the small houses.

My granddaughter wondered about a family she knows that lives in a small house. She asked, “Do the kids have to share rooms?”

The house she was referring to was much bigger than the houses of old and the abandoned houses in the pictures.

We compared the houses in the pictures we saw earlier in the evening to today’s houses and how many children usually lived in those homes. Kids slept in attics and more than two children slept in the tiny bedrooms.

I referred to a house similar to the ones in the pictures not too far from my home. I explained that six children resided in that home at one time and there were only two bedrooms the size of my office. My granddaughter did not understand how so many people could fit in the tiny home.

I miss the countryside dotted with old wood barns. In their place are more modern, efficient steel buildings that pepper the farm yards. Most of them look alike, unlike the barns of old that had characteristics that made some of them unique.

The thoughts in my head questioned whether my great-grandchildren will know what a barn is. I had so much fun in the barns on the farm in my youth. I learned about animals and feeding in those barns. I savored the smell of the hay in the hayloft and still today when I happen upon that smell I think of my grandparents barns.

As I browsed through the pictures in Bronson’s books of the barns of the past, I could see the uniqueness of each one. I could see through the rotting boards and cracks in the walls and imagine the splendor that once had marked someone’s farmyard. I could almost hear the voices of the past echoing in the abandoned spaces that the pictures represented.

There are people who renovate old barns into homes to preserve the history. There are others, like Bronson, who preserve that history in photographs for the next generation. I imagine my ancestors felt the same way I do about the changing landscape and appreciated those that recorded their history.

Driving back to my home I felt very blessed. Batt always keeps me laughing with his wit. Bronson tweaked memories of days gone by. Chatting with old friends and new friends always makes me smile. Exploring the vendors on the streets of Albert Lea and sitting in Prairie Wind made for a perfect day.

Thank you, Albert Lea and Prairie Wind Coffee, for the experience.


Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at Her Facebook page is