Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Illinois: The Farm

It has been four years since I last set foot on my family's farm. Our land, our Tara, our Downton Abbey.

Two weeks of every summer until high school my sister and I spent here learning to cook, bake, sew, and read to our heart's content. My grandma worked at the library in town and she always took us to check out books on the first day of our stay. We'd take trips to nearby places and parks that were full of history - the Indiana Dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan, Springfield, Illinois to see the home of Abraham Lincoln, and Hannibal, Missouri to Mark Twain's stomping ground. It was two weeks living a life of simplicity, one distant and removed from everything we knew at home.

This time, I returned to the farm to celebrate my grandpa's birthday. It took us an extra day to make it out there, our flight being cancelled for a snowstorm that dumped a few inches but was nothing to a place that regularly sees 20+ inches of snow at one time during a normal winter. Plowing snow keeps my uncle, who does a majority of the farm work now, busy during the "slow" season, when the ground is too hard to plow or plant and not much will grow.

In addition to photographing the celebration, I wanted to make some images of the farm. I do not know when life will lead me back to it, but it is a place that has left its mark on me, and certainly the lives of my mom and her brother and sister. There are parts of me that I know I owe to this place - my need to economize (that I fight against daily, because I am not by nature a practical person), my "protestant work ethic" that prevailed over my life until I left school, my need to make things with my own two hands, my love of the earth and protectiveness of it. I know that I need to preserve the farm in my memory as it is now, because farming is craft that, in a world of instant gratification and resistance to bone-tiring labor (of which I am most certainly a part of), becomes harder to pass along to the next generation.

My grandpa requested that I only take pictures of the pretty parts and leave out the junk - his words, not mine. Because I didn't see any junk. There's a saying, "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without," which very well sums up the philosophy of living on a farm. So yes, there are some worn out and used up parts of the landscape, but that's entirely a part of the beauty and the story. There is no place on a farm for anything impractical or too-pretty-to-use. It's going to end up muddy, dirty, rusty...because that's how you know it's doing it's job.

At one point in his life, before running the farm full time, my grandpa was a mechanic for GM, which means that between farming and being a mechanic, he can probably fix just about anything. And ever since, my family has been as loyal to a brand of cars like they were family too.

Inside one of the barns is a collection of equipment and machines - some of which cost more than a house. When I walked in, at first I felt very small. And then it hit me that relatively speaking, the costs of starting my own business have been minor compared to what it takes to run a farm. While the land might be passed down from generation to generation, the tools needed to make it successful are not.

Umm...this is not a macro (close up) shot. The tire treads are really this big.  

We joke about the frequency of talk about the weather in the midwest. But for my family, it's not just a polite topic of conversation, it is a crucial element of their day and livelihood. My grandpa and uncle rely heavily on their trusty rain gauge to know how to properly care for their precious crops.

All of these images were processed with the new VSCO Film 03. I love this new series of instant film emulation, and felt that it was perfectly suited to the nature of a farm - enhancing the coolness of the winter, the warmth of the sun, and the aged look of the rustic surroundings.

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