Religion is a good thing to avoid discussing with friends. It seems like everyone has their own ideas of faith and what happens after you die and any discussion can become quite heated, since so many have such strong beliefs. I engage in this discussion regardless. I think a fair number of faith-based people read this blog. I think that this is partially because of the homestead/preparedness/independence topics we often discuss. We found this when we homeschooled our daughters; there were lots of families who were homeschooling for religious reasons. They wanted to ensure that their faith was a large part of their children’s daily education. While we didn’t always share their beliefs, we always accepted and respected them and hoped that they respected ours.

When I was about 17 we moved to Belleville and the very old house we moved into was haunted. My uncle Ian was an evangelical, born-again Christian and I remember being a bit concerned once when I discussed the type of weird “haunting” we had experienced in the house. I was surprised at his reaction which was “… there’s a whole spirit and spiritual world out there we don’t understand,” which seemed pretty open minded to me.

From a ‘spiritual’ perspective I am comforted by the belief in an after life, my energy continuing on in one form or another. I’m not sure what form this will take, but when I watch Teresa Caputo on “Long Island Medium” I think there’s definitely, probably something after all this. Most definitely, maybe, probably.

Several years ago my daughter who works doing archeological digs found a Canadian penny from the year 1919. This was the year that Michelle’s dad was born. I thought it pretty cool. Especially that she knew what year her grandfather had been born. Katie is the genealogist of the family.

Which brings me to a recent day in the garden.

I have been enlarging our vegetable garden around the barn foundation for 15 years now. I find tons of stuff in the soil, but mostly rocks. If you look at any photos of our garden you might notice lots of black plastic pots around. I toss the stones that I find into these buckets. I have also found tools, square nails, pieces of pottery and lots of metal. Some of the metal looks like pieces from some farm equipment but some of it doesn’t resemble much of anything and I haven’t been able to figure out what it is/was. I have never really found anything completely intact or that would have any real worth, except for the “that’s kinda cool” factor.

I have never, ever, found any money. I have often fantasized about that “clunk” of my shovel as it hits a buried chest. Preferably a large metal chest filled with gold. Gold bars, gold coins, doubloons, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s gold. Or I’d like to find some secret hiding spot in the barn foundation or the basement of the house filled with priceless treasure. Is this wrong? After years of watching the Sopranos I realize that the odds would be better if the house had ever been owned by mobsters. Unfortunately I think that the family that built this house, and the ones that lived in it over the years since, were living hand to mouth and I doubt that gold or “savings” was a part of their reality.

This probably explains why I’ve never found anything of value in all of my years of working in the garden, or anywhere else on the property for that matter. The previous owners just used and reused everything. Actually I meant anything of “monetary” value. Life at Sunflower Farm is priceless!

So the other day I was raking over a spot where I planned to plant some corn. I take out the weeds and the rocks and I scan the soil for cutworms or any other pests. Michelle came out to the garden and shouted something to me, probably that it was time for breakfast. As I was walking back from one of my rock baskets I noticed something dark and round on the ground. This house was used as a hunting camp for many years and we often find the brass bases from shotgun shells. This looked different. So I picked it up, and it was a penny! But it was a big penny. And it was heavy. Today pennies are small and lightweight. Well, Canada has actually discontinued their production because they’re not worth the time and money. Old pennies actually had some heft to them.

So I called Michelle and told her that I’d just found a penny and she should come over and check it out. I washed in it a rain barrel. The year on it was 1919. No really. 1919. The year Michelle’s Dad was born. The man that I dedicated my gardening book to. A spiritual man who believed in an afterlife. And here was a penny, from the year of his birth. The only thing of value I’ve ever found in the garden.

So what are the odds? The house was built in 1888, but it has been empty part of that time, so let’s say there has been someone farming/gardening here for about 100 years. So what are the odds that someone is going to lose a penny in that part of the property and the penny will be from 1919? I’m still shaking my head. How is my late father-in-law putting pennies in our midst? What is he trying to tell us?

I’d like to think that it’s a sign that the lottery ticket in my wallet is finally going to pay off. But there have been a few draws since I found the coin and no wins yet. So maybe, this isn’t about pending riches… at least not monetary riches. (There’s a great line from “It’s Wonderful Life” where George Bailey is talking to his guardian angel and asks him if he’s got any money he can give him and the angel explains they don’t use money in heaven and George says “…well it comes in pretty handy down here!”)

I think my father-in-law is definitely trying to tell us something and it’s not money-related. I think he’s letting us know that we’re on the right track. He loved gardening and growing food. He came home from a long day at the steel mill and after a quick supper he went right out to his garden. I learned a huge amount from spending time with him. I think he’s telling us that we’re doing the right thing. It’s not nearly as exciting as if he provided us with this week’s winning lottery numbers, and yet, it’s pretty important. Growing food for 40 CSA members is daunting. The work is endless and right now not always gratifying because I can’t walk 5 steps without seeing some job that needs to be done that I can’t get to. I simply have to prioritize and plow on through with what I’m doing otherwise I can waste huge amounts of time spinning my tires.

I put the penny in a coin holder so we don’t lose it. It’s pretty important. It’s pretty amazing. I think it’s worth about $5 on eBay. But there’s simply way more to it than that.

There’s a profound message in it. A riddle. A puzzle. A sign from the other side. There are forces at work here I don’t understand. I think I will, eventually, we all will. For now I shall be comforted knowing that my late father-in-law is smiling down approvingly on our work. And I will grow the greatest garden I possibly can. (And I may still buy the odd lottery ticket).

Cam’s Note: Ken Snider, who was born in this house in the 1920’s still visits us each summer and reads this blog. So Ken, if you read this, don’t be calling me to say that you remember the day you lost that penny. The law says “Finders Keepers.” You can’t have it back.

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