May 1, 2014

I Never Really Wanted A Farm

Delima & I survey Snowy River country in Victoria, Australia


I have spent the majority of my life in and around all manner of farms, from California to Arizona to Kentucky to Australia to Wisconsin to Ecuador (ahhh, I need to finish that series!) to the Southeast, from the dirt lot behind a house to managing a neighbour's private barn to closing sliding doors that cost more than my truck.  My manure fork dug out pee spots in old clay-based stalls in the '90s and I stacked frozen water buckets in the heated viewing room during turnout and I dragged full muck buckets in a sled over 8" of snow and ice to the pile...uphill. 

Sure, I could strip a stall and return it to pristine condition in less than 15 minutes and I learned how to leave a hose so it always drained itself and I found out where you should NEVER put your gate/trough/shelter/riding area/feed and I even learned how to manage your chores so you had plenty of ride time.  But I also learned that being responsible for the maintenance of your horses' living quarters was more hard work than even some of the most experienced boarders could imagine.

Invasive flathead catfish, bad!!  They be eatin' our natives!

Board It Is!

We all know that the perfect boarding facility is as tangible (and accessible to us mere mortals) as the Jabberwocky; if you don't own it, compromises are required, but with research and experience you can generally find something that's a good fit for you and your partner(s).  In fact, SprinklerBandit recently did an excellent job discussing "How to be a Happy Boarder"!

If you've read this blog for a while, you know that I work full time and then some as a freshwater wildlife biologist, which means I travel weekly from April to November, my schedule changes every hour during field season based on weather, I'm a crabby cat lady who guards her personal space like a troll (hee), and oh yeah, I work for the state.  When you combine incredibly poor career choices ('follow your dreams', they said, haha, ok, I'm partly kidding, I couldn't do anything else, it's my passion) that produce tiny paychecks for long work-weeks with the amazing insane financial priorities of a horse owner, well, it's easy to see why farm ownership was never on my "want" list.

It All Falls Apart

 But three years ago, everything changed.  2011 began a rather spectacular series of "events," a word which doesn't even approach adequacy, that culminated in my own personal nadir (thank you, Mrs. Bricking - my equally terrifying & incredible high school English teacher for two years - I never thought I'd get to use that one in conversation) when my entire future disappeared in a single sentence in early November of 2012.  That's another story for another day.

Skipping a few details, the spring of 2013 found me blundering about the metaphorical woods for a new path forward.  Or any direction really, as long as it was away from the bottom of the hole.  Enter (after exhaustive mathematical exercises) a fateful ride on a mule (the kind with wheels) at the height of a beautiful Carolina spring and the rest is in the record books.

I write Twits...the apocalypse must be nigh!

Mission:  Reboot

The most surprising part?  Once we settled in, I have loved every. single. moment.  Always skeptical of those goofy "backyard horse ladies" on COTH and the dubious claims that they would never board again, I've had to eat all my doubts now that I stand in their shoes muck boots.  I have less time to write rambling masterful blog posts, so those who follow us on Facebook and, to my everlasting shame, Twitter, have noticed that I am beginning to rely on their forced brevity and immediacy for updates (those who don't, you are clicking "follow" or our sidebar buttons now, right???).  And I am so grateful that I am an uncompromising planner and I held out, because I would NOT want to try to do this on a property I did not lay out for maximum efficiency.  That's another story too!

I still have a long way to go, both in terms of healing and of the "30-year farm plan," and I don't think I can afford diesel until 2019, but it's all a little easier when I dissolve into giggles watching the horses gallop for the sheer joy of it in their own game of "Let's Pretend We're Terrified Of The Mower So We Can Squeal And Run."  Note:  don't forget to glance in front of your mower periodically to see if you are about to drive into a ditch.  Just sayin'...


  1. Yes - yes - yes!

    Writing blog posts has gone to the end of my to-do list for the last couple of months - it being spring and me being a farmetter + landscaper. Wouldn't trade my farmette for anything though. The pony generates tractor wreck inducing sights daily, and access to him 24-7 is priceless. :D

  2. I've had some really great boarding experiences and I love where I am now but still someday I do want my own little piece of land to keep my horses with me. My sister, who has her own place, constantly gives me little reminders that I "have no idea" how hard it all is and who knows maybe I'd hate it but I kind of doubt it.

  3. Whew, at least I don't give a crap about landscaping! Then I'd REALLY never be able to come inside!!

    Amanda, I have enjoyed lots of boarding as well -- I probably would have continued to do so had not my life changed so dramatically. You really do HAVE to love the work. One thing I always was certain of was that I loved doing work as long as it was for the horses. Housework? Don't give a shit, haven't even unpacked boxes. But I'll work on perfectly dragging a pasture all day long.

    The number one critical thing I learned in all my years was that your planning and setup would make you or break you -- and oh am I so glad for that lesson now. Never never never take on an inefficient setup on your own!!

  4. Welcome to the wonderful side of home horse keeping! I swear I'll never go back to boarding if I can help it again. I love looking out my kitchen window seeing my horses grazing, driving up my drive and having my horses neigh at me, and knowing that they are getting cared for the way I want them. And the random photo shoots are wonderful, too!

  5. Glad you are enjoying it! :-) I have wanted horses at home since I first knew what they were. It's still a "someday" thing for me, but it will happen.

  6. Take your time -- it is soooo worth it to be uber picky because you are stuck with the results when it rains for three weeks straight!