My Stardew Valley Life – Ch. 2 The Grand Tour

Though clouds overcast the sky, the weather was pretty nice for the second or third day of spring, so this week I ventured out onto to the property of my parents’ old place. Just to take stock of the work needing done. Given that they had moved away over a year ago, I suspected there would be a lot.

But also, I hoped to get a feel for the place again. Re-familiarize myself with the world where I grew up. Walk the land with my own boots. Maybe the ground and the trees where I played, the fences I helped put up, the porches that doubled as makeshift forts, and the structures filled with memories would remember me, too.

The original back porch, pool deck, and swimming pool.

Starting with the backyard, I knew just in that area alone, things needing to be picked up – toys, trash, random objects – lurked beneath the grass. Because I saw them back in the winter from our breakfast nook, when the grass was short enough to spot even the bunnies who like to visit the yard. But with recent rains, the Johnson grass had grown tall enough to hide it all. Nature, taking over the world created by humanity and hiding all our sins.

My mom’s favorite kind of tree, an Austree Willow Hybrid.

Fallen below this massive tree were loads of broken branches and twigs. I determined to gather them up once we started cleaning the yard and pile them up for fire pit starters.

Cleaning out the swimming pool promises to be a lot of fun. But well worth it.

The storm cellar our entire family helped to build. I have dreams of this place sometimes.

Inside, the storm cellar looks fairly intact, if difficult to photograph in the dark. A couple of spots where the sides have washed out the dirt, but definitely still usable come tornado season. And likely full of spiders. So we plan on tossing bug bombs down there soon before we start work to shore things up.

I have Much Plans for this area, mainly as a patio for hosting company on a cool evening after a long day. But also as an outdoor area for writing. Just have to figure out a way to deal with all the wind around here.

Even bigger are my plans for the old dog kennel. I have visions of chicken coops and goat enclosures running around in my mind. Or any number of other possibilities.

A panoramic view of the inside of the kennel.
Evidence of the former residents.
The roof on the north side, where the winter wind blows through, needs serious work.
A mysterious chair. Why’s it here? Why was it left behind?

The window on each door has been broken, lending itself to a vaguely apocalyptic or abandoned vibe. Though replacing or covering up the broken glass will be a lot of work, I love the atmosphere inside.

Returning to the Stardew Valley impressions I get from this place, nothing says “farm” like a lone water pump somewhere on the property.

At points farther east lay the pasture and workshop. This area before the pasture truly begins hosts piles of building materials and bricks of various sizes, all of which promise Potential. I’m the salvaging sort, so I loved finding materials I can use in some of the work needed around here. Also, I found my old bike!

Unused stock tanks or mosquito breeders?

Many an opportunity for container gardening. I also ventured through those tall weeds to the old horse stalls. My body was not ready for that climb over the fence panels.

The large stock tank features massive goldfish, but the camera couldn’t capture them with the light reflecting on the water.

Halfway between where I stood and that line of houses in the distance, a line of fence marked the end of our pasture. 2.5 acres of heaven, in my opinion. Without any horses to graze the grass down, it grew tall. Not sure where those prickly weeds get off on invading the property though…

Mystery rocks of mystery.

I just had to point out these rocks. They live in one specific corner of the pasture and have been there since my infancy. My parents say they were there when we moved in. When I was a kid, I would regard them and wonder at their history. Who brought them here? For what purpose? They are so resilient to have remained almost 30 years. Perhaps they will still sit clustered on this patch of earth after I have died.

Lastly in the pasture, a mysterious set of steps leading nowhere. They were the original front “porch” that came with the house. I remember them in a distant way from before my dad built a new porch, but not very well. Perhaps just in a perceived memory sort of way, one I don’t really have, but imagined.

My mom’s “Summer trees.”

When I lived in the duplex in the city, I discovered two sapling elm trees while doing yard work. Both growing right at the edge of the house, one beneath the A/C drip, the other in a patch of sand, easy to grow in. They had come from the massive elm tree in the back yard next door. My mom has ever been notorious for planting trees, so I dug each one up, wrapped their roots in plastic grocery bags, and brought them over. These two pictured grew from those. My mom calls them her Summer trees. I think of them as Mom’s trees.

The white building was the first structure that went up on the property. My dad worked his cabinet making business out of it for several years before moving operations to a bigger, rented workshop. I have tons of memories of playing in there, family living in there once (where we played Go Fish and I discovered a love of French Toast Crunch), and climbing up on top of that tin shed to read my books.

A panorama of the inside of the white shed.

I don’t what I plan to do with the space in the white shed, but I do know I want it Cleaned Out. This will probably be my next project after we clean up the yard for mowing. There’s an attic in here too, but the ladder up into it triggers my fear of heights, so none of that for me, thanks.

When you step out the doors in my bedroom, you walk out into what is effectively a garage that does not hold cars. It was built for the hypoallergenic cats my parents raise for people who are allergic to cats but want a kitty. My own kitten, the three-legged Ghost, descends from the cats who lived out here.

Since my parents took all the cats with them when they moved, we plan to convert this space to let our cats get a taste of playing outside without the risk of them wandering off and getting hurt.

This may be my favorite area. It’s a small enclosed space leading out to the driveway. It’s also just outside my study window and full of lush green grass.

I want to take down the fence and create a private space with flowers and some patio furniture so I can come write outside, especially as it has a great windbreak in all directions. Even though I hadn’t planned on working yet, I got excited and cleared out some tall weeds.

The grass inside was so thick that I found myself standing on something I couldn’t see at all.

What do you know? It’s a ladder!

Lastly, my favorite view of coming home: my front porch.

In the end, my old home recognized me, but in a distant, squinting sort of way. Like, “Hey, didn’t I know you once?” Things have changed enough that I had to squint a little right back. But the love I have always felt for this place was still there and within easy reach. It’s still home.

Thanks for reading!

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My Stardew Valley Life – Ch. 1 Beginning at the Beginning

Who doesn’t daydream of the opportunity to live an idyllic life, whatever that form may take? Mine involves every post you can find on Tumblr under the hashtags #farmcore and #cottagecore. Soft farm animals and well-loved farmhouses, open fields full of open skies, clever box containers of vegetables and flowers, and ideas for building useful things out of scraps and dreams.

Players worldwide get drawn into just such a daydream played out in the simple yet lovely videogame Stardew Valley. Your character’s grandfather passes away, leaving a note for you to open ‘when you’re ready for a change.’ As the suffocating life of working as a corporate drone crushes in on you too much, you finally open the letter to find that your grandfather has left the deed to his old farm to you. A way out.

I grew up in the countryside myself and moved into the city. Rent is much more affordable there for a college kid. While city life has its conveniences — proximity to bookstores and thrift stores, for starters — I began yearning to return to my country roots. A wish to take all my fantasy books and black clothes and city behaviors like not smiling at strangers back to the open plains of my youth. To see weeds and grass and flowers grow again. To feel the wind rushing by. To watch the sun set at the horizon, not at the city skyline.

Fortunately, my parents — the planters of the seeds of love for nature in my heart — didn’t pass away. But they did move away from their farmhouse where I grew up. For awhile, my sister rented their old house, but just as my partner and I started looking to move in together, she bought her own place and moved out.

So we moved in. Throughout the process of moving and getting settled in, I kept comparing the parallels to Stardew Valley. A gift of country life from my own parentage. Moving into the home they so lovingly kept up and added onto over my life. Looking out at the 2.5 acres of land and outbuildings needing love come spring. Even without animals or crops growing, things fall apart and the high plains wind blows trash in. There’s good, honest work to be done here.

So I plan to chronicle the cleaning, the repairs, and the installation of my own visions for this place. Check back here on Sundays for updates as the work gets done.

See you soon.