Sunday, April 5, 2015

♫ Diggin' Up Bones ♪

On October 31, 1972, Halloween, we moved out here in the country to our little piece of heaven on earth, a small acreage with an old farm house that had most recently been a migrant workers' shack, a barn, silo, granary, and chicken house. My in-laws helped us buy the place from the nearby landowner, F. G. Martinez and his wife, Gertrude, who lived east of us at the Martinez Corner, a ninety-degree-turn on the highway that has been the site of many car accidents over the years. Bob and I were both working full time so we built on our house evenings and weekends. With limited time, energy, and money the construction of our home became a lifestyle, a long, drawn out affair that allowed us to keep the costs down but sometimes drove us a bit crazy.

We've long been interested in the history of our place and thanks to the land abstract we received from Mr. Martinez we can track the change of ownership over the years but have yet to identify the builder of the house and barn or the year they went up. We were fortunate to hear from a couple of people who lived here around 1918-1925, renters who farmed the land for awhile and moved on. The house itself revealed a few of its secrets including an old photograph that Bob found inside a bedroom wall when he was tearing out the plaster and laths upstairs. On the back of the photo someone wrote "Billy and Jack Schwartz". I've included the photo here.

I've been keeping notes about the place since 1973 but made little progress in reconstructing the history of our place until recently with the advent of the internet and the use of Now I know who Billy and Jack Schwartz were and have learned much more about the August Gross family who lived here in 1920. My hope is to gather enough information to write a history of our place and flesh it out with the names of the various owners and renters. I'd like to know who planted the old apple trees and the seckel pear tree that is about 100 years old now and barely hanging on.

In about 1974 we disassembled and discarded the chicken house whose construction was much inferior to the other buildings here. We had the silo torn down for it was crumbling at its base and presented a hazard to our horses. The old barn is on its last legs too, temporarily propped up by wood poles wedged in place along the east side. The combination of strong west winds and cribbing horses took it's toll.  In 2011 we had a new roof put on the granary and braced the building on the east as it was starting to lean that way, just like the barn.

In addition to the dome we built a new pole barn on the place and an enclosed garden surrounded by cedar fencing. Aside from that the most obvious improvement to the place is the addition of trees, lots of trees. It's been almost 100 years since Billy and Jack Schwartz lived here and we've been here for forty-three. We love our home and would like to think we gave new life to this hard luck farm and made it a place of good memories for many, the Russell Place.

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