This week we are seeped in history and thinking about the place we call home, our little Willamette Valley farm. We’ve got a big project going on – reclaiming our barn, which dates back to the days of the Oregon Trail.
Our 10-year-old son, Landen, is learning about the Oregon Trail in school. That’s the route pioneers drove wagons traveled 2,200 miles East to West across the United States. They started along the Oregon Trail in the year 1843. The trip took 5 months. To give you some perspective, Oregon didn’t even become a state until 1859.
Can you imagine? No showers. No cell phones. Everything you owned, or needed for the journey, came with you. They really didn’t know where they would end up. There were no YouTube videos describing the journey in detail. They used their imagination, dreamed big and took a leap of faith.
When I asked Landen what he was learning about the Oregon Trail, the facts that stuck out to him most were that:
- The pioneers traveled in “trains” with bunches of families so they could help take care of each other.
- They circled their wagons when needed so nothing could get in or out.
- If you made it all the way to Oregon and you were a man you got an automatic 320 acres. If you brought your wife, and she survived, you got 640 acres.
And yes, Landen did count out points one, two and three in response to my question.
This Old House
The little house we live in sits on the remnants of one of those 640 acre plots. It’s surrounded by half a dozen houses. Descendants of those pioneers currently live in those houses. We’ve lived here for almost 11 years. It’s our first home purchase, but we have always felt more like stewards and less like homeowners. This land and dwellings were here long before us and hopefully will be here long after we are gone.
Except for the barn. Ahh, the barn. One of the greatest features on our land is an old barn. It stands 32 feet wide by 42 feet long and about high 35 feet to the peak.There is little documented history of the barn and house. My husband, Jesse, looked at the first road survey of this property, dated 1905, and learned that at that time it was owned by the Owings family. Our neighbors have filled in some more gaps of family names and activities that have taken place here.
Reclaiming Our Barn
But the barn is leaning and no longer safe. It’s taken us years to finally decide to take it down. It’s taken a couple more years to find the right people to help us. We finally met Terry and Denuta at Salem Salvage in Salem, Oregon. They are lovingly taking the barn down by hand. They reclaim all the materials they can, then find furniture makers and home builders to reuse it. The barn will have new life. It would have been easier to burn it down, but that just didn’t seem right.
We, too, will be using many of the reclaimed materials to build a new family gathering place and Rootopia studio.
Please indulge me over the next several months as some of my posts will undoubtedly contain more about the barn demolition and the new Rootopia studio. We’re totally immersed in both learning about our history and being very aware that we are significantly shaping the future. We’re digging in and building a new home to bring you even more great gardening and cooking activities you can do with kids. We’re working long hours pulling nails, stacking wood, drawing plans and making tons of decisions for designing something that will stand the next 100 years. I hope you and the next caretakers of this land like it!
If you’re willing to share, I’d love to know more about where you call home and a time when you dreamed big and took a leap of faith. Tell me about it in the comments!