The same trip offered slightly surreal views of Illinois' massive wind turbines, both cartwheeling in their fields and being transported, blade by blade, down the highway. I know there are those who criticize their environmental impact, especially on birds. I confess I don't know all the facts, but seeing them makes my heart glad. In those moments I feel we are actually doing something about our hideous dependence on oil. And aesthetically, well, they are just incredibly beautiful!
The next week's travels took me to Portland, ME where, sadly, I had no opportunity to explore the local coop architecture. I did manage to acquit myself respectably in a survey of local pub...ahem...culture and consumed vast quantities of wonderful local seafood, including a beautiful sushi lunch at Miyake and a delightfully atmospheric lobster dinner at the Peaks Island Lions Club after a cruise across the harbor (1 lobster, 1 potato, 1 ear of corn, a half-dozen very sandy clams served on a cardboard tray and eaten on picnic tables overlooking the water). Being the inveterate foodie that I am, I had made a reservation for two at Bresca before I ever left home, assuming I'd find someone who'd be glad to accompany me. Sure enough, my new friend Beth and I enjoyed a slightly ironic "romantic first date" (couldn't be otherwise in that space) that included a shared braised kale salad with a perfect 6-minute local egg. When Beth saw the same dish being delivered later to the next table she declared she could have eaten another all by herself, it was that good. I was inclined to agree.
But none of this has anything to do with Port Oneida, of course. So I try to remember where I left off and find it exceedingly difficult to cast myself back, both geographically and chronologically. But that's where the photos help.
Peter and Jenette (Goffar) Burfiend bought their farm in 1882 and built themselves, as so many did, a log cabin. Peter's parents were the trailblazing Carsten and Eliza, you'll remember. In the 1890's, Martin Basch, who had a reputation as an expert blacksmith but must also have been quite the carpenter, built Peter and Jenny a proper farmhouse which stands, well-preserved, to this day.
On my first visit there, I set out for a clump of pine trees behind and to the south of the house, spotting a ruin and some small structures there. After a brief and welcome pause amidst the clump (did you think there were bathrooms in Port Oneida?), I savored some of the most picturesque finds of the whole venture.
There is a heaped up ruin:
The only other boat I spotted in my Port Oneida travels was, fittingly, at Jenny's natal home, sidled up next to the mixed granite foundation of the Goffar barn on the shore of Narada Lake:
I spent some time climbing gingerly around the periphery of the ruin, trying to pick out nesting boxes or any other telltale sign. Nothing, although I'm pretty well convinced it was a coop. Finally, I turned my attention to its slightly forlorn companion.
There, on the side opposite the ruined coop, is a little door. The paper wasp standing sentry and I eyed each other at length.
I was slightly nervous about the proximity of a stinging insect, but I braved its nearness all the same because of what I spotted inside this lovely little brooder coop. At first, I couldn't believe it, but then I reached in and pulled it farther out into the light:
Those of you who've spent any time around them will know that what I saw was a galvanized feeder trough for chicks! I doubt that it has resided there continuously from the days the coop was still in service. Like so many Port Oneida structures, this one has likely been restored and the trough was simply re-placed in the building. But its presence feels right and I sang a little song in my head at the sight of it.
And then I wrestled with myself because I found myself coveting the trough. I thought through the options. If I left it, how many more visitors would it be before some cretin spied it, scooped it up, popped it in his trunk and carried it back as a trophy to some "ye olde country style" family room to be hung on a wall as one of a constellation of stupid decorations? But if I took it, I'd be removing government property and--and this is the decisive consideration--depriving someone else of the utter thrill of discovery. I have to believe that before the cretin someone else will come along with a keen eye and enough knowledge of history and agriculture to understand what she is seeing inside the brooder coop. And that she will, in that moment, feel the same thrill and sing a version of the song I've just sung to myself. So I carefully slid the feeder back into the darkness of a corner of the brooder coop, back perhaps a little farther than it was when I found it, and I left it for another explorer to discover. Perhaps even one of you reading this will be that explorer...