Was I destined to own a farm? No. I was just too stubborn to let my dream float away.
Hubs and I have purchased a total of four homes together. The ink wasn’t even dry on the closing documents for the last one when I started compulsively Zillowing horse properties on the market.
Me: “Ooh, hon, look at this cutie on 10 acres.”
Hubs: No reply, just grouchy side eye.
After years of horse ownership, the desire for a farm was always nagging me. So I kept on pestering Hubs because if I suffer, he suffers.
Occasionally he relented, and I dragged him through properties hoping we could find our equestrian retreat. But the fates conspired against me. Every time, the barn was glorious and the house dilapidated; the barn huge and the house teeny (I admire the priorities here); or the pastures pristine but the house on a cars-may-kill-you road. There were also perfect—and perfectly unaffordable—properties. For years, none of the farms we saw compelled my husband to purchase Carhartts and Ariats and a “Horses for Life!” bumper sticker.
Still, I pushed:
“We’ll save all this board money.” Hubs glares, unimpressed with my filthy lies.
“Imagine waking up to horses in our backyard.” Husband flashes the stink eye.
“All our kids will be off screens and down at the barn.” Husband offers a skeptical sigh, envisioning iPads magically morphing into pitchforks. Finally, he speaks up to ask the real question: “How will we take care of this barn?”
Good point, and I didn’t have definitive answers. He remained unconvinced; he was still just a guy grossed out by horse poop. How could I convince my partner that we could both manage a little farm while keeping our kiddos out of juvenile detention? Although I had stuffed them down deep, I also had niggling concerns: Could we handle farm life, or would we regret every minute? Would our kids embrace this life or hate us?
I imagined the kids angrily chopping at frozen water buckets, karate style, in the winter, then stacking prickly hay together in the summer while other families posted pictures of sun-baked Disney vacations. But I sealed my lips rather than share my concerns aloud with him.
Eventually, I wore him down until he was too exhausted to utter the words “NO FARM” anymore. It wasn’t a rational decision on either of our parts. It was a heart-based, leap-of-faith decision. It came down to this: We wanted farm life for our family.
Though there would certainly be both financial and logistical challenges that accompanied farm ownership, we both believed in this for our children, a life that would teach them responsibility and passion. We would boot them off screens and get them mucking manure with ponies.
We wanted to slow down time for them by providing a haven in this overscheduled tennis-tutor-science fair world. We wanted a place where our kids could escape to curry and pick feet in silence without the constant ding of a phone.
When a friend called me to say her neighbor’s farmette would soon be for sale, Hubs agreed we should see it before it hit the market. The minute we walked onto the property, we felt it in the marrow of our bones. This was our farm. Images of achy backs from fixing fence line and sleepless nights with colicky horses dissolved like our bank account soon would. It was our horsey destiny, an 8-acre farm with a house large enough to keep the kids from seriously harming one another.
I had yanked Hubs over to the dark side, and he too became a de facto insane horse person. I hid my evil plans to fill every one of the stalls with my fleet of equines (plus add a run-in, so I could stash more), and we signed the papers before he could change his mind.
We agreed upon the name Wish List Farm. It was everything I had wished for since I began riding as a 12-year-old. The old post-and-rail fencing was sad and sagging in places, weeds encroaching like nosy neighbors, but none of that mattered. This was a pinch-myself-hard-before-I-wake moment. We owned a farm, a real farm! The kids were excited too. We promised them a pony, whom they had pre-named “Cupcake.”
A year and a half into farm ownership, though we adore our property, it hasn’t all been peachy keen. We had a cold spell that froze all the pipes last year on Christmas Eve right when we were supposed to travel. The packed car was busting at the seams, kids already loaded up and jumping out of their skin. Hubs called a plumber and paid a small fortune to have him peek at the pipes just to say, “They have to thaw.” We’ve also realized the cost of hay and straw is way more than we anticipated. We blink, and it’s time for another costly delivery. The fence rails constantly antagonize us by falling, ponies get sick with tick-borne diseases, and the weeds continue to goad us even after we hack at them for hours. But we love it.
The farm-owning negatives are completely outshined by the positives. I watch my oldest daughter putter down in the Gator every morning before school, no whining, to feed and turnout. I see my youngest two girls, ages 3 and 4, stand tippy-toed over water buckets, grasping the hose in their little fingers, spraying water all over the stall walls. But they are all smiles. My son, the one kid who isn’t horse crazy, scrubs the trough, sweeps the aisle, clips rascally weeds, and can pull a horse in out of the pasture. All five kids pitch in in their own way. And what about Hubs? He’s out there with the tractor, mowing fields and pushing up the manure pile, playing farmer when he chats with our two boarders.
These farmy things are what we do as a family on the weekends. It’s not glamourous or Instagram worthy, but it’s wonderful. Instead of video games and binging Netflix, we’re getting smelly, gross and tired together.
Yesterday, we pulled in the gravel driveway, and my daughters cranked down the windows to shout “CUPPPCAKKKKE!! Hiiii, Cuppy!!” like crazed fans at a football game. And when our little paint pony turned her muzzled face toward the sound of their voices, I got chills.
“Let’s go ride, Mommy!”
We headed down to do chores, then I lead my 4-year-old on a trail ride, just the two of us, on a leaf strewn path. My little girl halted, squeezed me tight and whispered “I love you, mom” into the warmth of my neck. This is so worth it!
Sure, some nights after doing chores in the joint-numbing cold, then rewarding myself with two Tylenol and a swig of wine, I wish I could escape on a cruise and sink my face into a buffet. But I wouldn’t trade farm life. I know this life will help shape my children, the horses will help shape my children.
My advice, if you have any doubts, is to ignore them and just follow your horse-filled dreams. Date nights out with your partner will most likely be to Tractor Supply Co., followed by a sultry walk in your pajamas to do night check. Still, take the leap! Buy the farm!
Jamie Sindell has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona and has ridden and owned hunters on and off throughout her life. She is a mom of five kids, ages 2, 3, 6, 10 and 13. She and her family reside at Wish List Farm, where her horse-crazy girls play with their small pony, Cupcake, and her son and husband play with the tractor.