Here are a few photos that seem to illustrate the innocent and fun times we had while living on that Owen County “homestead”. Back in the days when idealists forsook the suburbs to live independently on the land and learn to do for themselves we found our first issue of The Mother Earth News in 1973 and began to dream of our big move to the country soon afterwards. We thought it was appropriate that we bought the first piece of this homestead in the summer of 1976 and returned to Indiana that year after leaving what might have been a fast track career at Bell Labs. (Fast track to oblivion eventually as it turns out.)
One of my most prized possessions was the wringer washing machine. I could remember my grandmother using one and these were renowned for energy efficiency and water saving features even in the 80’s. Clare loved bathing outside and this was our ritual when we lived in our little cabin next to the “big house” as it was being built. We gave the wringer machine to another couple when we purchased a new sudsaver for the bathroom of the new house. I let my hand get stuck in the wringer once but there was a safety catch that I hit to release the wringer before there was any lasting damage.
The old barn was falling down but we still needed it to shelter our tools and animals. It was a happy day when we were finally able to pull it down ten years later. Our kids spent a lot of time outdoors and not fully clothed. During this time Dave cut all the grass around the house and garden with this small gas push mower. I remember that it took him about seven hours to do the whole thing and the grass in Indiana grows fast in the spring months. This was a huge chore and we did not get a riding mower for several more years. Someday we thought we would be old and rich enough to have a real tractor.
In the background of this photo the view out the back living room window of the cabin shows lumber stacked in preparation for the new addition to the big house. The cookstove is on the right, one foot is visible, the sewing machine cabinet from Grandma Dibble is behind the kids (I’m pretty sure Drew’s outfit is home sewn and maybe Clare’s is too though I don’t remember for sure.) The step up to the living room side of the cabin is fenced off for baby Drew’s safety. Probably so that he won’t climb the loft ladder alone. Drew is chewing on a green bean. This is a good view of the bowling alley floors. This is why Drew tells his friends that he was born in a bowling alley! The little cabin really was pretty comfortable for the family built with lots of recycled materials and fixtures just as the Mother Earth News recommended.
Clare was careful that all of her dolls and animals were comfortable before they fell asleep. This window was way too dangerous for children and a long fall if one of them had crawled through it. In another year or so from the time of this photo, Clare will let the window drop thinking Drew would hold it himself and Drew’s head was cut by the breaking glass resulting in a life time scar on his forehead.
We were proud of this garden. We turned all the soil by hand. My first reaction when my daughter started to turn this same soil was, “Get a tiller.” But we “double dug” with a turning fork and planted in long beds that could be reached from each side so that we did not step on the tilled soil. Black plastic was laid between the beds. Later we would experiment with raised beds made out of boards cut from our trees. The kids and the veggies all grew at at alarming pace. The tiny white box in the background is the beehive. We would eventually have two hives. We caught a swarm for the second one, a great adventure at the time. Dave’s transition T-shirt refers to a software project that he worked on in 1980.
What is a homestead without a source of milk and eggs? We changed Fairy’s name because the Faerie Queene was by Edmund Spenser and Spencer, Indiana was our new hometown. The kids named one of her calf’s Sprite after their favorite soda pop. Fairy was a pet cow who would get out of her fenced pasture and stand outside our windows bellowing to be fed or milked. She was gentle and sweet though she could kick over the milk bucket or swat you with her tail when annoyed or uncomfortable.
Fairy would roam at least once each year and be located miles away in a farmer’s cornfield. Luckily we never lost her to bloat or poisoning. We would walk her back through the woods and along the creek bottoms taking the same path home that she escaped by. She finally got “low in her hips” as the vet said. He said there was nothing we could do and she died at Thanksgiving (in 1990 I think) after more than 10 years as our favorite (and only) family cow.