Tag Archives: dirt roads

Tearing Down Wallpaper

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Our goat Naughty passed away last week. We knew this day was coming as he had slowed down, was losing weight and seemed to be having some trouble eating. I never knew I could cry so much over a farm animal. I made a little tribute video of him and posted it on social media. It made me feel good to share with others, the joy he provided to us.

Watch:  The Naughty Movie

We never really knew how old he was, though through some conversations on Facebook following his passing we learned he was likely 14-15 years old. That’s pretty good for an old goat and it comforted me that he had lived a long, happy, carefree life, much of it with us.

I haven’t written on this blog in years. I started it back in 2009 and it was in 2010 that I began adding to it on a regular basis. 2013 was my last really active year, with a small burst of activity in 2015 and 2016. It was a love/hate relationship I had with this site. Building a readership was invigorating. Putting words on a page that someone else, often total strangers, enjoyed reading was a treat that I had never experienced before. It gave me a focus during a somewhat stressful period of life. I was introduced to many people that I still have never met in person but who I am connected with on social media platforms and would consider “old friends.”

On the other hand, over time it became another thing to worry about. “What do I post next, what am I going to write about, gotta keep the hits coming!”

I liken it to our old brick farm house on Brown Road which we actively began renovating a few years after we moved in. I loved it, this newfound hobby of which I had little to no experience; building and painting and installing floors and bathroom tile. I jumped at the chance to dive headfirst into a project, logging countless hours on weekends and evenings, swinging a hammer and using power tools I’d rarely touched before, getting my hands dirty, choking on the dust and soaking up the paint splatter with yet another set of old clothes that would soon end up in a trash bin.

And then one day when things were kind of status quo, when the house was livable as this quirky combination of renovated farmhouse and bad 1970’s chic, when our kids were taking up more and more of our time with sports and school activities, I suddenly didn’t like it anymore. I was tired and I stopped. Cold turkey. Believe me there’s still plenty to do and I’ll occasionally tackle a smaller, more manageable project with the hope that I get inspired again to finish everything that’s on “the list”.

When Naughty passed it hit me hard, not only because I had grown quite attached to that ornery old coot, but it was in 2010 when I had just started actively writing this blog, that we also adopted he and Heath, our first two goats. Suddenly there was this whole newfound theme to write about; our little “farm” on Brown Road, with its historic old house, long wooden fences, grazing goats and an idyllic dirt road with a corn field on the other side. I had visions of Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion dancing in my head. I joked in posts about becoming famous while often carrying this fame on the backs of my two new, soon to be legendary goats, Naughty and Heath.

They gave us story after story to recall, some of which sit within these pages, others that we’ll have to remember from photos or social media posts or the file cabinets in our slowly deteriorating memory banks. In our local circles we became the family with the goats and it’s to this day part of our identity. Heath passed away in 2014 and now my buddy Naughty was gone too. We were down to two goats from our peak of five. I felt like a small but very relevant part of my past had been dredged up and ripped from my heart.

Clearly this blog never reached those levels of Garrison Keillor infamy just as our master bedroom, up until a few months ago was still covered in ugly 1980’s wallpaper, with the same dirty blue carpet, there when we moved in, still sadly covering what I know is a gorgeous 120+ year old wide plank wood floor anxiously waiting a belt sander and a few coats of stain and polyurethane. Even so, Naughty and Heath did go on to become somewhat well known and adored locally, as well as the three other adopted goats that have crossed our paths in the interim years.

A few months back, on a whim I started tearing down that ugly wallpaper in our bedroom. Underneath I slowly and patiently revealed the old, sexy plaster walls that hadn’t seen the light of day in decades. Next I’ll pull up that carpet. It felt good to dig into that project, to once again take on that role of caretaker, and I could sense the old house relishing in the attention she was getting.

The bedroom is still not finished but eventually it will be… I promise. Our old house has been a work in progress since the day we moved in. The “to do list” changes, it morphs and fluctuates, and sometimes we just shove the list in a brown paper bag and carelessly toss it into a closet, like you do with your clutter when you are preparing to have guests over for a party.

Perhaps this blog is a work in progress also. Today I tore down some wallpaper.

Thanks Naughty, I’ll miss you buddy!

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Old Barn Coat

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I’d seen the catalog images hundreds of times. The classic LL Bean Barn Coat. Worn by handsome, rugged guys with peppered hair, stubbled faces and crow’s feet that deepened the harder they would smile at the camera. The backdrops of their imaginary lives, idyllic rural landscapes painted in autumn colors or with fences lining fields of grazing horses. The assumption was rural New England or Bean’s hometown state of Maine but it could have been anywhere, left purely up to the imagination of the reader, the buyer, the consumer.

Granted, they were models, likely from the famed Ford agency in Manhattan, but I wanted to be those guys, to wear that coat and be rugged and handsome and capable. To work hard and play hard, to be one with the outdoors, to drive a pick-up truck on dirt roads and do jobs worthy of wearing an LL Bean Barn Coat, a coat that combined classic fashion with heavy-duty, rural durability.

I bought myself an LL Bean Barn Coat somewhere in the mid 1990’s. I don’t remember the exact year but it was close to twenty years ago. My choice, the traditional Khaki color with the hunter green collar, a coat made from heavy canvas, with a removable, insulated flannel liner and deep front pockets that would keep my hands warm on cold Fall Michigan days. I was young, mid-20’s, newly married and kid free. I had a new career under my belt and endless possibilities on life’s horizon… and now I had an LL Bean Barn Coat.

For many years it was my regular coat. I wore it to work and I wore it on dates with my wife. I wore it to restaurants and the grocery store and on trips back East to visit my family. I wore it to apple orchards and pumpkin patches and while shoveling snow in the winter. I probably wore it to the hospital when my daughter was born in 1997. I wore it while working around my house, while chopping wood and raking leaves and repairing fences and painting barns and mowing grass.

Over the years my LL Bean Barn Coat became less and less my everyday coat and more and more something I wore when I knew I was going to get dirty. It had become permanently stained with dirt, splattered with red barn paint and faded from long days in the sun, the rain, the snow and trips through the washing machine. Plus, like most people, my attitudes about fashion fluctuated from year to year and some years I was much more fitted dress shirts than flannel button downs, and much more black leather jacket than khaki LL Bean Barn Coat. But my trusted coat is still with me, it still hangs proudly in my mud-room and close to twenty years after purchasing it, I still wear it regularly when I am doing jobs that are worthy of wearing an LL Bean Barn Coat.

I’m a much different person now than I was in my mid-20’s and I like to think that, just like my LL Bean Barn Coat, with its dirty, stained and faded patina, I have aged gracefully, not only on the outside, but the inside as well. I’m not sure I ever became one of those guys in the LL Bean catalog or if my life has developed into the storybook that those images in the catalog portrayed. Sure I have the crow’s feet and a few gray hairs and the rural life and the dirt road and the pickup truck. In reality though, if I can claim to be anything like the guys in those pictures, I know where credit is deserved; the woman I married, the family she and I have built and fostered and my general attitude about life and how I have chosen to live it.

Because a fulfilling life has much less to do with the coat you wear and much more to do with where you choose to hang it.

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