The Farm Chronicles: Raindrops keep falling

Northeastern Ohio in the springtime is usually pretty wet. Spring rains fill the low areas with water, giving birth to tadpoles and hiding places for salamanders. There is nothing like a spring Saturday morning walk in the woods along the creek after it rained all night. My buddy Sonny and I would often launch little boats made from branches into the creek and follow them through the rushing waters and woods from one side of the farm to the other. Many times we would get bogged down in the mud with water brimming into our knee-high rubber barn boots. No doubt, we often came sloshing back to the house with that terrible feeling of cold water squeezing out of our socks and back in again with each step.

We counted on the spring rains because they were good for the crops. Every farmer embraces rain in the spring to a point. They seem to know instinctively when there is not enough rain or there is too much, but it’s not measured mathematically, it’s a spiritual thing. Often the rains would cause a delay in spring plowing because the fields were too wet to hold up the tractors. It was not uncommon to drive down the road and see tractors buried up to their axels waiting for a dryer day to be rescued from the rich Ohio soil. Sometimes our mechanical manure spreader’s wheels couldn’t get enough friction to turn and just leave tracks in the mud across the fields. This resulted in a huge manure pile just outside the barn door that would have to be removed when things dried out. We weren’t the only ones that suffered this fate.

Overall the spring rains were a good thing for the crops, but not so good for the house. The original part of our farmhouse was built by my grandfather six generations removed in about 1818. It consisted of three rooms—two downstairs and one in a half-story upstairs. It was built like a fortress with four-inch thick planks pegged together standing vertically on a stone foundation. About 40 years later, another addition made it a federal-style two-story house with a parlor, living room, a bedroom downstairs and two upstairs. The half-story became an attic and there was also a third-floor attic. A hundred years later, my parents “remodeled” the house by eliminating some rooms, adding electricity and some plumbing. In all those years, the roof of the house was just shingled over or patched, but never properly updated. The rains exposed this.

We often had to get out pots and pans to catch the raindrops leaking from the ceiling, meaning there were even bigger leaks in the attic. So, with a flashlight, as these things usually happened at night, we would search the attic to set pans under the leaks. This went on for years. Until one particularly hard rainy night we were all up trying to catch the leaks, ran out of pans and buckets, and couldn’t sleep because of the drip, kaplunk, drip, kaplunk all night long. Mom was fit to be tied. Proverbs 27:15 says “A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.” Dad experienced both until he finally agreed to fix the roof. But that went only so far. Years later, Chris and I raised the attic to a full story and actually replaced the roof—about six layers of shingles. It’s a wonder the roof didn’t collapse. One more raindrop might have done it.

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Bill Wilson