Giving up the Family Farm, Almost
by Guest blogger: Lynn McMahon
of The Grover Family Homestead
Listen to her podcast HERE
I’m Lynn McMahon and I live on my family’s 128 year old homestead. 128 years is a long time for one family to keep a house within the family. Here’s the story of my Sentimental Journey.
My husband’s great grandfather bought the original property, approximately 1/3 acre in 1896. The original homestead home was finished in 1908. This is the home my husband and I live in.
His daughter, my husband’s grandmother, built another house with her husband on the homestead property after she married. That house was lost during the Great Depression and they moved back into the original home with her parents. After her parents died she remained here and raised her family. My husband’s grandmother lived here until she was unable to care for herself. That is how and when my husband and I came to moving unto the homestead.
When we first moved here I never thought this was going to be our long term or maybe even our forever home. We had four children and the house seemed to be getting smaller and smaller. On top of that, I was growing tired of city life. The noise of neighbors and cars seemed like it was 24/7. We also had this small yard with a postage stamp garden. I wanted to farm! I wanted to move!
That move almost happened when we put an offer in on a house years ago.
We found a house on four acres on the edge of town. It seemed perfect. It was an older home that belonged to a family that was selling it to settle an estate. We put in what we thought was a fair offer for this fixer upper house with potential. The offer was rejected, even after a counter offer. The realtor said people selling their family homesteads often do that. They add “sentimental value”. I started thinking about that. We would have probably had to sell our home to purchase that one. Would we too place a value on sentiment? Of course we would have I’m guessing.
Could I imagine anyone not in our family living here? How do you calculate the monetary value of 128 years of family celebrations and history? My mother in law was born in our living room. The family’s plumbing business ran out of our kitchen and laundry room. We have a pink “Cadillac of Toilets” in our main floor bathroom. A plumber told me this when we had to replace the toilet seat. Apparently it was a very 1950’s and expensive update!
There are many more stories about the house itself but I have memories to share about our yard and garden too.
We own 1/6 of the original 1/3 acre property. The original shed that was built here on our homestead is still being used by us.
There was always a garden on the homestead next to the shed and there still is. My father in law shot a skunk was living under the shed. You can’t do that within city limits now!
When we started digging our first garden here we found some family treasures. A tin child’s tea cup and a china doll’s body that belonged to my mother in law. We also found a few mother of pearl buttons and some clay marbles.
It’s not only my husband’s family that is in our yard and garden, my family is out there too. Raspberry bushes that my dad dug up from a worksite that were no longer wanted. Orange day lilies that came from first my grandma and then my parents. Japanese maples, roses and a Serviceberry tree that were planted to commemorate anniversaries and birthdays. Our new raised bed garden with heirloom vegetables and flowers to share with our family, friends and neighbors.
And then there is the lilac bush.
My mother in law who lived into her 90’s remembered that that lilac bush as a child. It is a constant reminder on the homestead to all of us that we have planted deep, strong roots here. Every winter I say a prayer that the snow doesn’t get too heavy or the wind too strong that the branches break. I look forward to the blossoms each and every spring. They don’t just provide a heavenly fragrance when the wind blows in the kitchen window or in a bouquet, but the main ingredient for lilac jelly, lilac water and lilac simple syrup.
May it and our family continue to bloom here for the next generation and beyond.
By the way, the house we put the offer on did sell and a new subdivision went in right next door.
About this author:
Lynn McMahon lives with her husband Mike and their Walker Coonhound on their family’s 128-year-old urban farm homestead bought by her husband’s great grandfather in 1890 on the outskirts of town. They are the 4th generation living in the house and growing food on a small city lot. They’ve raised 4 children there and now with 8 grandchildren visiting, the 6th generation is connected to the very same land.
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