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Fall, Captured in a Celebration

The leaves have taken on a silvery tint, yellowing at their edges, wrinkling with age in slouching amber light. The walnut tree outside our house has even started to drop its golden leaves in the wind, the first of the trees to go bald (and the last to put on leaves in the spring).

It is fall, although the hot days continued longer than “normal,” teasing us that it was still summer. The remaining tomatoes suddenly refuse to redden like a stubborn two-year old; geese squawking loudly above the house like a crowd of joking clowns with horns.

But Fall also means “family reunion” for many in Iowa, the time when distant cousins and not-often-seen uncles come out of the woodwork and make their way “back to the farm.”

For John’s family, it is interestingly the Sherman clan — relatives of John’s late mother (Dot, Dorothy or Lynn, depending on when you met her) — that make this yearly pilgrimage, even though that is not the side of the family from which the land passed down. It is a testament to Dorothy herself, although she is no longer here to see it - how welcomed the family felt as they ate her amazing pies, a love for her that translated into a love for this land.

This year was my first “hog roast” (a party that ironically does not actually include a pig roasting), a gathering that began with roasting weenies on a way-too-hot fire Friday night and slow smoking meats overnight for the main event Saturday. At the appointed time, relatives rolled down the dirt road to our blue house and women carried in crock pots full of tasty foods previously cooked in hotel rooms. There was a great cabbage salad Lori made, baked beans and creamed corn. Jane made a strawberry pretzel salad - a dish I had not known was possible before the event - and Kevin brought wine and bread.

We had a band - a group from our tiny town of Lovilia that plays Americana and some rock - people danced while others lounged around in lawn chairs chatting. The little kids took turns sitting on the old tractors and Luke's kids played soccer, went fishing and fed the goats. All in all the weekend was a blast, a great time for the family to reconnect with one another and to spend time having fun after a pandemic isolated us all.

But I also found it heartwarming to see the connections so many have to this farm, how people outside of our immediate family - and many of whom live far away - feel such an affinity for this place. It made me wonder again what will happen in the future if our kids, niece and nephew don’t want to farm. Who will care for this land? How will these connections be maintained and flourish?

I think the answer is, as it was in the past, that we build these relationships over time. Bring the people here, feed them, love them and this place will become theirs as well. Someone will find the will to keep this place whole, find it in themselves to step forward to hold the line against the fraying wear of time. We will find that person, or perhaps they will find us, but it will happen.

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