Housing on the farm

A fact of buying a farm is the house on the property comes with it. That can be a blessing because it keeps your family from having to come up with extra money for a home. Or it can be a curse since you have to live in whatever is there and that can be a challenge. Agricultural people are hardy and can usually take whatever is dished out, at least for a while.

Frequently the new family on the farm moves into the house the parents vacated. The parents may have moved to town, built a new house or downsized. I have heard daughters-in-law talk about how long it took their mothers-in-law to get used to the idea that the new family wants to make some changes. Even minor actions like painting the rooms different colors or replacing carpet does two things: it makes the new family feel like it is their home and it helps the previous residents realize the new residents are now in charge of the home.

 We live on the Angostura Irrigation Project near Hot Springs, S.D. Construction for Angostura Dam began in 1946 and it was built to impound water for irrigation. Those who owned land at that time were able to retain it. The first of the project units were ready for sale in 1953. World War II veterans could buy the farms at nearly 100 percent financing. Each one had to apply for a farm, the Family Selection Committee decided who would be offered an irrigation unit. The applications asked questions such as how many family members would be included and their ages; what the plan was for operating the farm unit; the history of the applicant’s farming performance, and a financial statement. Letters of recommendation regarding an applicant’s character were written by county agents in the county from which the veterans wished to move. Comments such as hard worker, industrious, and level-headed were also used in recommendation letters.

Some of the farm units had old houses, or in one case, Marvin and June Wilkinson lived in an old chicken coop, which served as a house until one could be built. The house we live in was built in 1953 It had been taken care of and had good “bones.” It is still a good house and we have added on, growing as our needs changed. We have also knocked out walls. After the boys left our nest, we took out the wall between the room they had sometimes shared and created a larger bedroom for ourselves. We jokingly said that would keep the kids from ever moving back in; for many parents in this day and age, that possibility is no joke.

Insulation requirements for Farmers Home Administration financed homes in the early 50s were typical of the time, just the bare minimum of insulation was used. Consequently, we added insulation more than once, put in new windows and had the house stuccoed. It’s tight now, warm in winter and cool in summer.

We appreciate that we had a good house available on our farm when we purchased it. We have made it a home.

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