If you are driving by the farm headed west, this might be the only sign you see as you pass.
Unless you happen to come back around and look from the other direction, it’s entirely possible that one might think “Woodcock Centennial Farm” and a cute little sandpiper were all there is to know. Misleading as that might be to some people, we will most likely never take this sign down.
A centennial farm is one that has passed from one generation to the next, and been worked by the same family for at least 100 years, consecutively. They were a well known family in Old Dungeness whose headstones overlook the rolling valley in the old cemetery.
The main road past the farm also carries the name. George Woodcock, bought 160 acres of heavily forested land nuzzled next to the Dungeness River in 1884. He was 32 years old and a bachelor. His brother Samuel, a mason, bought 60 acres in 1886, and then the rest of it for $1,000 the next year year. He and his brother cleared it by hand, hauling the lumber out with horses. He and his wife built the house we now use, where they cooked meals, did laundry, took in the harvest, and Emma gave birth to 5 children. Those children raised cows, and grew seed crops, and their children kept it going until it was time for someone else.
It makes me feel a little more connected to this farm to know the history of the land itself, since that’s difficult to see now. Bits of the past become parts of the landscape and melt into the bigger picture as a whole. Farmland has often been at war with wild places, each pushing back against the other to regain dominance.
If you slip off the field-road into the woods, you can still see massive stumps with springboard notches in them. We dig up lots of little treasures out in the field. Usually it’s some unrecognizable lump of iron, half a horseshoe, a or giant carriage bolt. Sometimes it is more intriguing, like this splitting wedge still in good condition. The land was a forest once, but it’s thankfully remembered.
I wonder, walking around in a place where over 100 years ago, another person wondered what it might be like now, would they be happy with what became of their dream?
Just like the forests, wetlands, and prairies that precede them, it is the fate of most family farms to succumb to the years, and ravages of expansion. Sons and daughters discover interests and passions of their own, and move away. Land gets cut into pieces, whatever woodlands are left will be leveled to make room for new subdivisions. Perhaps the daughter will move there and be able to say “ I grew up on that farm! It was a lot bigger then.” Mostly when we talk about farming, we are looking toward what’s happening next. Is it going to rain next week? Are we going to have enough? Is the Farm Bill going to ruin us? Something I learned in art school, was the value of perspective. Sometimes when you are taking so many steps forward, it pays to pause, and look back over your shoulder. You might see something you didn’t expect, but you might also see something that you don’t wish to change.
Looking back, but not losing sight,
If you are curious to know where some of this information came from, here are some sites to check out: