I was absent from the blog for the month of August because I was traveling in the Pacific Northwest. The best part of my travels was attending the Costello family reunion in Spokane. This is my husband’s family. There was a roomful of Costellos I had never met. The family is scattered around the globe now, but the greatest concentration is in the Northwest. Since Norman and I have spent most of our married life on the East coast I had not met most of his cousins. Six East coast Coles were together with our Northwest cousins for the first time. We were welcomed both literally and figuratively with open arms. It was such a joy for us to put faces to names and to feel a part of this large and wonderful family. I will have more to say about this in future posts, but today I want to talk about the family farm.
I have written about the family farm in the past. John and Anna Costello homesteaded the farm in 1882. The farm was divided between Anna’s two sons when she died and a portion of the land is still owned by Costellos. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see the farm and the Catholic cemetery where Norman’s great-grandparents are buried. Our cousin John, who grew up on the farm gave us a guided tour.
It is amazing for me to think about all the changes that have happened to the farm and to the Costellos. By 1901 the original farm had grown to 640 acres under Annie Costello’s care. Farmed by Anna, her husband and her sons the farm provided the vast majority of the family’s need for milk, meat and produce. The cash crop was wheat and remains so today. In the early days of the farm the wheat was harvested with a cutter powered by a team of 20 or more horses. All the neighboring farms joined together to bring in the harvest. Depending on weather conditions it could take more than a month to harvest the Costello farm.
In the 1950’s and 60’s when cousin John lived on the farm the harvest took about 3 weeks.
Today the land is leased to a local farmer whose family was also one of the original homesteaders in Eastern Washington. The family farms several thousand acres of winter wheat with a modern combine. These are amazing machines with computerized systems that allow the farmer to control all the height of the cutting, speed, and all of the other things necessary for harvesting andto set a GPS system to cover the field efficiently and deliver clean wheat without the backbreaking hours of threshing required in the 19th century. The family that leases the farm harvests several thousand acres of wheat in a week or less.
Everything changes over time. Modern equipment has taken some of the most difficult labor out of farming. Large farms have replaced small ones. The Costello acres no longer provide for all the families needs. They are planted exclusively on wheat; the house is not used anymore. The house was recently purchased by someone and has new windows. Perhaps it will be renovated and provide a retreat for another family. It pleases me to think that one of the families that originally homesteaded the land farms it now. They will probably buy the farm eventually. I am hopeful that some small portion, an acre, a half acre, might remain in Costello hands.