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Old wood houses fall apart. That is their nature.

By Maclyn Humphrey
Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - Most of us who inherited old farms and farm houses do not have the financial ability to rescue them, nor do we care to turn family land over to developers who only want to make money with their ticky-tacky ugly sameness, or to wealthy outsiders who think they know better than we do what to do with our land.

Most of us are from families who once farmed to feed themselves, but could not ever really make a living doing it, and our grandparents and parents slowly took other jobs in town, especially after WW II. They could live on the land no longer.

Most of our old farmhouses are built of southern yellow pine, have no insulation, little, if any, plumbing, and many do not even have electricity.

Many of us have, like Karen, tried to live in them - holes in the floor, covered by rugs, leaky roof with buckets, wood heat or oil burners. There are rodents and snakes and bees living in the walls, and we live with them. Eventually, it just becomes too hard, and every time we get an estimate of how much it will take to bring such a house up to a standard of modern living, we just become numb, knowing that it is impossible to find that kind of money.

It is already painful - we know that we are not good stewards of these homes, and do not need to be belittled by others.

Most of us who inherited the land are trying to hold on to it because we know that it should be conserved rather than developed, subdivided, littered with street lights (why does anyone move out to the country if they want to live under street lights and not see the stars?), and plumbed with the ridiculous county water supply. We have family cemeteries on that land, and do not want to see them dug up, desecrated, and relocated to some place that has no family meaning.

You make fun of us and criticize us. But we do not deserve your derision. We have a deep understanding of what the land means and why we need to hold on to it as long as we can, as our buildings crumble and our farmland turns to forest.

Wood houses fall apart. That is their nature. Every one of those falling down homes, smokehouses, spring houses, barns, or solitary chimneys represents a family that is trying to hold on to something far more meaningful than a building. Some of us forgo wealth offered us by the developers, and some of us go broke trying to hold on. But not one of us deserves your unkind words and insults.

We hold onto the land, as best we can, not for ourselves, or even for our progeny, but rather for a time when most of the rest of it is covered in hard surface and planted with grass lawns, and when there is no part of the North Carolina countryside that is shielded from the sounds of traffic on highways. We hold onto it for everyone, even for you, who belittle us for our "culture, or the lack thereof".

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Old wood houses fall apart. That is their nature.

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