Lasting Lessons from Farmhouse Fix-Ups

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Joanie Farmhouse

From his bed one night, our son verbally mapped the new design plan for his bedroom. “We just need to take out that wall and open up this space,” he said as he motioned toward the south wall. Our son wants a bigger room, but his demolition plan would eliminate the stairwell to reach his sister’s dwelling. We then realized the influence of the Fixer Upper TV show and its infamous “demo day.”

The home improvement show buys old homes, knocks out walls, opens living spaces, and mixes old and new décor with a farm-style vibe. The show inspires my morning treadmill commitment these days and entered our lives over the winter, when we succumbed to more than antenna TV and began streaming a few channels over our new fiber optic lines (kudos to the rural communications cooperative!).

Fixer Upper makes me look at homes differently. The show makes me realize the vision that some people come by naturally and encourages the rest of us to see the potential for new life in something outdated or neglected. It reminds me of my parents, who embody a 40-year fixer-upper story.

About the time I turned a teenager, my parents bought a farm that eventually transitioned into today’s “Home Farm” when the eldest generation retired. My brother and I remember touring the farmstead’s old house before they bought it. We called it the “haunted house” and said we’d never live in it. We soon learned this decision wasn’t made by dependent children.

Our parents bought this mediocre house on a scenic and productive piece of farmland that came with a couple small grain bins and a few farm buildings. They knocked out house walls and took the upstairs bedrooms down to the studs. Dad hung drywall and plumbed sinks. My brother and I pulled nails from old woodwork, and Mom stripped layers of paint to expose the wood’s original beauty. We spent lots of evenings and weekends in that shell of a house when our family wasn’t planting corn or harvesting soybeans. It transformed into a lovely home with farmhouse charm, priceless memories and a pleasing view of the small river valley from the wrap-around front porch.

Likewise, they took their fixer-upper mindset to the old shop building, then to the barn, and always to the fields. Sunday was and remains family day, whether work or play, and I remember when we spent afternoons in the fields picking up rocks together and cleaning overgrown fencerows on that farm. Still today, our family and employees remove weed trees encroaching on fields, add waterways to protect soils, and plant grassy field borders to improve crop production, water quality and wildlife habitat.

Meanwhile, today’s modern technology and research give us better tools than before to fine tune soil health and nutrient management. Those results may provide less visual impact, but secures a solid foundation, as needed for any fixer upper of a house.

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