As a long time board member and part-time spokesman of the Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum, I have a small confession to get off my chest.
I did not grow up on a farm.
There it is. I was one of those useless, cookie-stamped town kids – a small, rural setting to be sure, and located in Maine, so that should be worth some points, but the fact of the matter is, until I was around forty, the closest I ever got to a farm was probably the produce section of the local supermarket. As a teenager, I had few practical skills and thought that mowing the lawn was hard work.
In 1991, with an early retirement in hand and deep love of history, I stumbled into the fledgling Curran Homestead family feeling very much like an imposter and, twenty-five years later, I’m still secretly embarrassed that the “knowledge” about Maine’s rural heritage I pass on to our guests is second-hand. A large part of that embarrassment stems from the fact that I’m only the first generation of my family who were not farmers and woods-workers.
Oh, I have learned. A modicum of woodworking skills allowed me to be productive and mingle with the “old-timers” who frequent the farm and, slowly but surely, I picked up the lingo. I can tell you the difference between a ‘tedder’ and a ‘spreader’, and speak at some length about egg incubators and cream separators. I’ve never milked a cow, and I’m still not quite sure how to act around an animal that might end up on my dinner plate tomorrow, but I can appreciate and talk about the symbiosis between the farmer, his land and his animals. I look differently at the landscape now; with an eye toward ways it can be productive rather than how far it is to the next convenience store. My home workshop carpentry skills have evolved to rough and ready farm building and repair, and I’ve even added some blacksmithing skills to my repertoire.
More importantly, my years on the farm have taught me the importance of the hard work, subsistence existence, frugality and dogged determination that exemplify yesterday’s rural community, and I am appalled at how far we have strayed.
And that’s the reason you can still find me at the Homestead. Tomorrow’s generation should not feel like outsiders on the farm. Our children, and theirs, need to be well acquainted with the values and skills that make up their heritage, and it is up to us, farm kids or townies, to pass on that information before, like in my family, it is lost.
So, come on out to the farm. We’re located on eighty-five acres on the Field’s Pond Road in Orrington and at curranhomestead.org on the internet. If you’re a townie like me, you might just learn something, and if you’re a farm kid, we need your memories. In either case, I guarantee you’ll enjoy your time on the homestead.