Change & Unexpected Treasure

A local tale of an old barn, an elegant tart & a new future.

Turn Right Where The Barn Used To Be

My family moved from a townhouse in downtown Chicago with a view of Wrigley field to a three-bedroom Colonial home on three acres of land in Etna twenty years ago. Our son had just turned four and we wanted to trade our tiny gated garden for land where he could play and roam outside our door without worry. It was a huge change for us and we learned, soon after we started to unpack our boxes, that our presence and the presence of our newly built home represented a huge change in this little corner of the world. Our property was once part of a farm that sat on four corners of a little dirt road. After the land was inherited by out-of-town heirs, it was divided up. An 1850’s barn that had once been part of the farm, was sold to the builder who put up our house. Now it was ours. While we never intended to farm or raise livestock in it, over the years we took care of the barn as best we could, cherishing a bit of history in our midst. Time and weather got the better of the barn. It became a safety hazard, so we decided to take it down a few weeks ago.

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A curious thing happened. We learned that the barn meant a great deal to folks who drive by. Neighbors we’d never met stopped and asked what was going on. Others let us know they used it as a marker, giving directions like turn right at the barn. Still, others didn’t want to believe that it couldn’t be salvaged.


At the outset of the project, my husband and I had hoped we’d find some treasure hidden in its midst. We imagined a child’s memory box or an ancient piece of farm equipment turning up. Little did we know that the treasure would be much greater―a magnificent stone wall that had served as part of its foundation emerged after the rubble was cleared away. Still intact, and held together in part by tiny, unused grave stones—it’s a glorious sight. It’s pristine and lovely. Over time, we’ll develop a little garden around it, and hopefully, it will begin to mean as much to the neighborhood as the old barn once did. I can’t wait to watch it grow and unfold.

For now, we’ll say turn right where the barn used to be. Perhaps someday that will change and whatever grows around our lovely wall will a part of the future of this little part of the world.


Dena

Note: Another unexpected treasure we found near the barn long ago was a thriving rhubarb plant. I wrote about it, and this lovely Simply Elegant Tart on Gathering Flavors. You can get the recipe for the tart and see more photos of the barn by clicking here.

The Process

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