A month ago, Tim and Sarah Codling were teetering on the brink of financial disaster.
The Plainfield, Vt., farmers and their two young sons stared at the smoldering embers - all that was left of three years of late evenings and buckets of sweat equity.
They had put everything into rebuilding their 150-year-old barn. Their home-raised herd of 60 milking cows and calves had no shelter now from the piercing Canadian winds. The winter hay and the milking equipment were reduced to ash and twisted steel.
The insurance was enough to cover materials - but not labor.
Then hope, in the form of neighbors, returned.
A friend, who is a contractor, rallied 35 carpenters to raise the walls for free on a Saturday two weeks ago. Word spread. More neighbors and even strangers - 60 of them - showed up to lend a hand.
To feed the barn raisers, the Plainfield general store donated cider, soda, and cold cuts. Someone brought a noodle casserole. Others came with fresh-baked cookies, homemade bread, and apple and pumpkin pies.
One local farmer took four of the Codling calves and nursed them like his own. Another took in some of the milking cows.
"This is a busy time of year. But people dropped everything and came to our aid," says Sarah, still awed by it all.
The old timers smiled. "When I was a boy, this happened a lot," said one. But not lately.
Perhaps that will change now.
In fact, the barn-raisers were back this past weekend, putting up the roof trusses and tar paper. The tin sheets are next. The Codlings hope to have a new home for their cows by Thanksgiving.
"This has been one of the worst experiences of my life," says Sarah, "and one of the most incredibly strengthening experiences. People have really taken care of us."
* We're home. Let us know how we're doing. Write to the Homefront Editor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail email@example.com