Family farmland finds new life

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There are times the land beneath our feet connects us to days long gone.

Having a toddler grandson who would much rather be outdoors than almost anywhere with a roof has taken me to one place that is both old and new.

The farm on which my great grandfather raised his family became, for a long stretch of time, the county landfill. The house has been gone for years, but the barn in which he raised hundreds of lambs still stands. My paternal grandmother lived half of her short life on this land, helping her father with his workhorses and tending the chickens.

When the landfill closed, the land sat idle for a time, then was structured by the county into a lovely rural park with walking trails and serene areas for bird watching. People often bring their dogs for a hike, and horse trails are put to good use.

The park

A great, sprawling outdoor space for our community, Byers Woods is named after the late veterinarian and State Representative Gene Byers and long-time County Commissioner Marilyn Byers, a couple who have given much to our area.

A playground with a big, round swing and a climbing structure with several slides has proven to be a drawing card for the young who aren’t quite ready for the walking trails.

On a breezy, recent sunny day, we had a picnic under the pavilion there, and while my daughter watched her little boy playing, I held her baby girl and looked down over the old pasture toward the barn and thought of my wonderful Grandpa Charlie.

The past

He loved working the land with his beloved horses, long after most farmers were using tractors. He was a sweet and happy-hearted man with sparkling blue eyes and a shock of snow-white hair who had a big heart for children and dogs.

There is no doubt he would be pleased to see his old farm as a place for so many to enjoy the great outdoors.

My sister, who brings her grandchildren here to walk and play, has great childhood memories of spending time on this farm. My great-grandmother died a short time before I was born, and with great sadness Charlie scheduled a farm sale, held when I was a newborn, so I have only the stories.

My memories are of spending many days as his sidekick on our farm, and all these years later, I miss him still. My parents often said as a happy baby, I helped pull him out of his sadness during a life-changing chapter of his life.

The present

It is a remarkable gift to feel welcome here, to return to this land with pure pleasure, making happy memories with our own grandchildren. When I kissed my baby granddaughter’s tiny hand as she touched my face, I was reminded of the amazing circle of life.

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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.

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