As I head out the door at 7:23, I hear Squirt, the Australian cattle dog, barking toward me as Mike drives to work trying not to run over, for the fifth time, the little squeaking dog. The work day is beginning on the farm.

These days, the guys roll out based on the time given by some dashes on a lit-up clock face. 200 years ago, folks would have poured forth from their cabins by the sound of a massive iron bell that still hangs, in 2011, in the same clock tower. This 14th century gift from the Marquis de Lafayette, given when the General here sent the Marquis some wild turkeys, called the slaves to work and then sent them home.

I wonder if the lingering sound of its sonorous echoes is what wakes my cats at 6:07 every morning.


On Saturday, there was a wedding here. 185 guests lined up for pork tenderloin and fresh strawberries under a white tent that shouted big occasion. At brunch yesterday, someone asked if this was the most people the farm had ever seen. (On most days, 13 of us live out here on the farm.) They debated past weddings and birthday celebrations.

I wanted to say, “Actually, every morning for over sixty years, almost that many people lived here and walked down the hills of this land and headed to work.”

Late this afternoon, Mike will send the guys home. They will climb into their beat-up vans and pick-ups and drive out by the railroad. I will hear Squirt yipping back up the driveway.

The bell doesn’t ring people home anymore. In fact, I’m not sure it ever brought them home at all.

The Barn with the Bell