What’s in a Name?

She wasn’t real fond of “Kale Yes Acres.” Nor did “Pleasant Pheasant Farm” get the nod.

What’s a man to do?

Frankly, I hadn’t given much thought to the naming of our farm. Didn’t see much need. Yet, my dear Belle of Vermont believed we needed a name for the farm. “What about this?” she would say. Perhaps it was the form of my smile.

My suggestions contained more Teflon than Velcro it seemed.

“Maybe we should just have a naming dinner party,” she suggested as we sipped wine one night, which sent us into an impromptu brainstorming moment on who of our many friends might be of the best help. While we couldn’t agree on a farm name, nor the best gathering of brainstormers, we did agree on who we would want as a facilitator.

This went on for weeks. Often in the kitchen after one of my walks, or when she came in from her work in the garden … after quiet muse time.

The Belle had a farm with a name down in Vermilion, SD. Flying Tomato Farm. She had no desire to move the name north. She held forth that naming our farm was important, and that cute, pun-like names, which happens to be my forte, just wouldn’t work. Naming a farm provides an image, perhaps even a brand. “Farms need names,” she insisted.

Back home in the 1950s my father went through some trepidation himself before settling on Meadowview Farm as its name. Our family farm was split almost equally between crop and grazing land, although the plan was seemingly to have just enough corn to sustain his cattle through the winter months, with the other crops grown for rotational purposes. His love was beef cattle, and his relaxation was saddling up on summer evenings to ride alone through the hilly back country to check on the herd. So the name was equally poetic and appropriate.

We have no hills here on our 14 acre spread. Of those, only eight acres are considered tillable. We made an easy and early decision between us to place those acres into native prairie with help from the local Pheasants Forever chapter and the SWCD. My guess is that about another acre will be devoted to the Belle’s vegetable farming after the spring thaw. Our eye is on a permaculture-like existence, with perhaps a farm stay or artist’s retreat with our out buildings — which might even include a yurt.

scape10
We have many dreams for such a small spot of earth. We find it exciting to see what shakes out. So naming our farm does carry a significance. One recent afternoon the Belle strode into our office with a purpose, grabbed a marker and wrote a name onto her faithful flip chart. “Listening Stones Farm,” it read.

Hmmmm.

There is a history here on the farm. When our friend, Kurt Arner, came to clear our grove of buckthorn and a half century of deadwood, he suggested a trail be cut through the upper half. Since we had discussed doing this beforehand, it was an easy decision. His  traversing trail concluded with a wooded loop at the far end.

I asked if he could cut one of those trees into a bench. He did, and we called it our “listening bench” in honor of Sigurd Olson’s “Listening Point.” Not just a title for a book, but Listening Point was an actual point on 26 acres on the shores of Burnside Lake near Ely. Here “he could look out over the wide-open spaces of the lake, listen to the birds, watch the sunset, and regain some balance in a life that had become more and more hectic at a time when most people begin to think about retirement,” reads a dedicated website.

Listening bench_1
Our bench is comprised of two portions of a log Kurt V-ed before centering a portion of the same weathered trunk into the grooves. He then sliced off the top third to create the bench, which abutted another fallen tree for a natural staunch backing. No wide open spaces, nor a view of a lake, yet it is a fine place to escape what life can throw at you at times, surrounded on all sides by trees and a protective canopy.

Also on our farm were two outbuildings long past saving. We found an excavator who brought in a large machine to dig a hole where he could deposit the spoils of the two buildings for burning. Embedded in the foundation beneath the century-old granary — yes, we found hand scrawled messages on the painted red barn wood that read, “Changed oil July 1911” — were several boulder-sized glacial stones he set to the side beneath the canopy of a tree we had saved from the saw.

These stones were, I believe, her inspiration, and a fine inspiration at that. Our farmland lies on the cusp of the moraine of the last glacier, and the rocks likely came from this land. Several similar sized boulders were unearthed in the cleared grove. Rocks, or stones, form the name of this county, and are a prominent physical feature of the river valley.

“Stones are what brought us together,” said the Belle. “People talk about Big Stone Lake, and of the soil. Stones just don’t get a fair shake.”

So, what’s in a name? For us, the eons of heritage of our small, appropriately named farm.

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About John G. White

Somewhat retired after a long award-winning career in newspapers (Wisconsin State Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Denver Post and a country weekly, the Clara City Herald). Free lance photographer and writer with credits in more than 70 magazines. Editor with various Webb Publishing magazines in St. Paul, and a five year stint as editorial director at Miller Meester Advertising.

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