Always looking for those silver linings


It's hard to get a photo of Romeo and Juliet in the same frame!

There's something unique about the Pennsylvania landscape. As we drive east on route 76, the farms spread out even more than in Ohio, and the trucks are more abundant. We saw no police in PA after seeing quite a few in Ohio, and Hans definitely took advantage of the 70mph speed limits along the interstate.


Hans is from a small rural PA town called Ono. Rumor has it that the town was named by mistake. When town organizers couldn't settle on a name, they jokingly decided to call it the next thing they heard at their meeting. When another man walked in, they told him the story and he exclaimed, "Oh, no!" —hence history was made.


Ono itself is not much of town, really just a couple of street corners off of old Route 22. For many years it was the home of a large trucking company and residents enjoyed several restaurants, a gas station and mini-market, a car wash and several small retail establishments along Main Street that catered to buyers who enjoyed "antiques" and other used bargains. There was a small one-room school house that was long out of commission, a church, fire station, tiny post office and a couple of houses included in the zip code. A few years ago the trucking company was sold, the restaurant burned down, and the pizza house bellied up, so there is little left to do in the town itself.


Ono, however, is surrounded by farms and beautiful small towns, and I always breathe deeply and enjoy the large skies when we visit. Hans' brother lives on a beautiful farm in the next town over, and we take a short rolling ride on a windy country road between the corn fields to get there from Ono. As a suburban kid, coming to the farm has always been magical to me, except for the time we cleaned the barn, a day that probably ruined any chance of my ever owning my own farm....ever.


I have learned over the years that life on the farm is not truly as magical as I would like to believe. It took a long time for me to understand that farmers don't look at their stock animals as pets. Farmers make tough decisions every day about which animals live and which don't, and if an animal dies, especially a big one, you call 1-800-DEADCOW and moooooove on. Baby goats are adorable as they jump playfully around the barn with boundless energy, but goat mothers scream in anguish when their babies are removed for slaughter in time for Greek Easter. Foxes and snapping turtles are shot when they threaten chickens and ponds, hunters shoot and eat the deer they kill, cats often only have one good eye and live in barns, and farm dogs hunt and kill ground hogs by pulling them limb from limb–for sport. Farms are no place for the meek.


(E.D. Hans tells me that goats actually scream because when you take away the young, you also take away their water so the mother's milk dries up....even worse!)


Many years ago my inlaws raised llamas, and for a short time ran a breeding program at the farm. Llamas, as cute as they seem, are not friendly animals by nature and WILL spit at you if provoked. Apparently they are not always efficient breeders, either. I learned this one morning at breakfast when my sister-in-law excused herself from the table to assist her stud llama who was having trouble making a "connection" with a female llama guest. We watched from the kitchen window as Barb headed out to the field, "readjusted" the stud's parts, then returned to the house where she washed her hands before she rejoined us at the table.


But the farm seemed magical to me as we crested the hill and turned into the lane. The lane is lined with decorative grasses and colorful perennial beds. The farmhouse is yellow with red trim, centered on a circular drive and stands above a large if slightly green pond out back. The property is framed by rolling fields, corn to the right and wildflowers to the left, and boasts a sprawling yellow barn with red doors and cupola, and a tiny red chicken house that has been converted to human space. The Bohns have made some changes over the past few years, including removing an old carriage house that used to block the view westward, so the property is nothing short of a picture book. We are spending four days here, and seeing Jeff and Barb emerge from the house, their dogs bounding towards us, brings a joy I can't describe in words.



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