We always think we’ve paid our due

It seems, somehow, that we had a very good year last year. It’s always shocking, isn’t it, to be told just how much your hard work paid off — that you look pretty darn successful on paper — and for that, an enormous chunk of money must be handed over.

Every year, we think we have already paid our due and that we’ve tucked away a bit for emergencies. Each year, it just becomes more shocking as we ante up a hard-earned chunk of money. It seems, sadly, that it is blown to the wind.

The big old barn was the center of all our sweat equity, as my hubby put every bit of it to work for us.

The barn fire in late January came at a time we were about to see the fruits of our labor, and this spring was to be one of hard work tempered with joy and anticipation for what we were building for our future.

Tax day

So amid that crushing loss, tax day stung more than ever this year.

We have neither of us ever shied away from hard work, finding joy in it, reveling in accomplishments, planning for the next.

This spring was to be filled with lambing and the joyous decisions of which to keep and which to pass on to someone else who would enjoy the prospect. Instead, work has entailed cleaning up the burned barn site, a heartbreaking and treacherous job.

Each day, looking out toward the barn remains a life-long habit for both of us, to make sure all is well. It is stark, bare, diminishing. It is shocking, still.

See the positive

As we review barn plans, we try to see the positive through this tragic loss. I find, though, something nudging me to ask hard questions, wondering why anyone wants to work this hard to be taxed to death. It is the age-old question every farmer has ever faced.

Years ago, my father had built a nice Holstein herd, the first of which was purchased by my parents the year I was born, milked by hand in those early days. It was not a fancy herd, but a steady one.

I remember my father wrestling with his desire to cut back, live a little, instead of working around the clock, seven days a week. Much of the discussion revolved around tax implications. There were certainly no easy answers while the hard work continued.

We stand on similar ground, with money invested in sturdy fence lining abundant pastures, built like spokes from a wheel, its worth diminished without a barn at its center.

We will rebuild

We will take our time deciding just what type of structure we want, with input from those who have earned wisdom on this. We know it will never stand as impressive and majestic as our dear old barn.

As John Green once wrote, “I don’t think you can ever fill the empty space with the thing you lost.”

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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