So You Bought Country Living Paradise, But Now You Need A Tractor
"My name is Nancy Fitzgibbons and I am this week's guest blogger for GoHorse.com. In my early years, every summer was spent on some breed of pony in a daily adventure that usually ended once-a-month in me being dumped in a south Georgia ditch. The High school era was barrel racing and trail rides on a Quarter Horse-Thoroughbred mix mare. After college I spent 25 years selling, traveling and career chasing with pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Today it is farm life and pleasure horses. Just as much hard work, yet more fulfillment than ever."
City Girl Meets Rural Life
I was raised in an urban city with convenience all around. I was first introduced to rural life the summer I spent on my grandparent’s farm. Grandmom churned her own butter, shelled peas for lunch and granddaddy along with his field hand sweated over broken equipment, loose cows and crop field maintenance. Nothing was convenient at their house. The town was nine miles away and the nearest movie theater and shopping mall were thirty miles! But I loved the country experience and the dream of being my ‘own farmer’ someday became ingrained in my subconscious.
It was a beautiful farm; weed free crop rows, fat cows and hogs and bright red barns with shiny grain silos. In the midst of the summer fun, I didn’t care that anything was miles away. Everything that appealed to me was right there on that acreage. And of course, all I had to think about was where we were going to ride the ponies to that day. As a grandchild, I was not expected to engage in the labor involved in making the farm successful. Then in August, it was home to the hustle bustle city and to school. Back to the movie theater right around the corner. But I always dreamed of going back to the farm.
Fast Forward 43 Years
Single, pushing 60 years young, I bought a farm nine miles from a small town. Not for the purpose of farming, but to house my precious horses and ‘live’ the country life I always dreamed of. Finally, my dream came true of a country life, country neighbors and a small-town feel. If I felt the urge for a fashion mall, a major city was only 30 miles away.
At the time of the purchase, I wasn’t thinking very deeply about the logistics of maintaining the grounds, or what equipment would be required. The farm-house was 150 years-old with a small barn and an overgrown family graveyard in the back. The tin storage building contained two very old non-working tractors and a golf cart in need of repairs. When the dust settled and my furry family was moved in, I would figure out the details.
My thought was to approach the property with convenience in mind. At my age and being the lone resident, I would just hire any work done that was beyond my ability. That plan worked well for established businesses who could do house renovation, or barn repairs or yard maintenance. The challenge came when I realized that the larger pastures were waist high in grass, overgrown trees were blocking trails, hanging on the fences and broken fence boards needed repair. It was time to evaluate those old tractors and my ability to use them. A farmer neighbor volunteered to assess my situation. “Sell them.”, he said, “Those leaking rust buckets are gonna cause you trouble unless you can work on them.” He was right. There were levers and knobs and fluid leaking from unknown places that was too foreign for me! I needed a tractor that was in the 21st century. Some folks like a challenge and that is where those antiques went. On to the internet to research my options, followed by a call to my farmer cousin to help me with the transaction.
The Labor Concern
As my search for affordable labor ensued I was faced with the same reaction from many locals. No matter who I asked, all moaned about the same problem of finding workers who wanted to work. It seems that many Millennials don’t see manual labor as part of their life career call.
One episode occurred where a tree trimming company owner left his young crew to do the cutting and mulching of a dead pine tree and my very ancient front yard oak tree. I was at my desk working when I observed one kid precariously perched in the giant oak trimming branches while the other two stood talking, smoking and watching. This went on for so long until I finally called the owner. He apparently contacted one of them to reprimand the behavior. Within 30 minutes a car drove up and off all of them went, never to return. My front yard was littered with chainsaws, a dumpster, and other equipment for three days before the owner could retrieve it.
The realization came that if something had to be done, I had to do it. What transpired was a real lesson in farming. It took just a few weeks of utilizing the wheelbarrow for field clean-up jobs before my aching arms and legs screamed for relief. That’s when the idea to convert the golf cart to a land rover vehicle and add a tow-behind wagon came the rescue.
Once, while spraying fence lines with the golf-farm cart, a cable pulled lose and all power was lost. How was I going to get this thing to the garage? Of course, horsepower! I grabbed my mare from her afternoon pasture slumber and harnessed her to the cart. “Pull Charm! Pull girl!” She took one step, felt the weight and stopped. “Earn your grain and pull” I begged. She turned and looked at me as if to say “This is your problem mom and I am not a plow mule!”. So much for that pioneering moment and hired labor! Out came the truck.
The 38 hp diesel tractor finally arrived and what a blessing. It was like having a field hand available at a moment’s notice. It seemed simple enough. Forward and reverse pedals with easy to understand levers for everything else. It even came with a bucket and a bush hog. It just didn’t come with the explanation of how to mow over the rocky and uneven terrain. My farm lesson continued with stubborn 3-point connectors, broken shear bolts, scalped uneven mowed grass.
Perhaps I was attempting to create a Better Homes and Garden model farm with my desire for that beautifully manicured acreage my granddaddy had. The hard work and sweat scenes of my youth were now my reality and age were tapping me on the shoulder! Thank goodness for the modern conveniences today where an older female can buy a lightweight chainsaw, field sprayers with motors and shorter handled landscape tools.
My Desire for Convenience
As time progressed and my yearning for ease and convenience continued, I purchased a used riding mower for my small pastures (I suppose a finishing mower was what I needed but the riding mower was less expensive). This is now more than a hobby for me, it is a passion to make it this farm my dream home for life.
I may be in the minority. Any of you reading this may think I bit off more than I could chew. Honestly, it has definitely been an ongoing adventure of hard work. Harder work than my 25 years of traveling and moving all over the country for my job. I go to bed with sore muscles and an aching back at times. Yet to look back at how far this place has come in just two years makes me swell with pride.
So, what is your paradise story?
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