Winter at the farm has been a challenging and transforming one for Mike and I. The stretch of the last three months has probably been more profound for us than our entire marriage span until this point. But, in the end the Lord works wonders in all things and we are in a very good place as I write this March 16th, 2022.
As fall rolled through the colors were wonderful. After our daughters moved out from the cabins here to seek new lives in a more urban setting, Mike and I opted to take a break and just enjoy the colors and be still. It was necessary. We were both quite tired from all the farm work.
In early December we opted to enjoy a concert in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium as Covid was subsiding and all but gone around here. We had been hunkering down as it were until this point. Well, low and behold we both ended up getting Covid from that experience. It wasn’t as bad as all the fear mongering would lead one to believe though many who have underlying health issues have greater risks they say. For us it was like the flu overall but the fatigue was at a whole other level.
I went from being able to lift a 50 bale of hay in each hand simultaneously to not being able to raise my arms over my head without experiencing complete fatigue. For Mike it was the same. It took us quite a while to recover from that as farm life requires quite a bit more physicality than we ever really realized.
After long introspection, we concluded during Christmas to downsize our herd in case either one of us ever got sick again. I hadn’t been sick in ten years. It was a shocker. Mike is quite healthy as well. So, we began our quest to find amazing homes for most of our horses, sheep and goats. While we were at it we went through everything that was ‘surplus’ on the farm and made a list to sell and take other unwanted items to the dump.
We found amazing homes for three of our horses, ten of our Navajo Churro sheep and nine of our goats.
It is so interesting what we witnessed while selling and meeting new owners of the critters. They were all young families wanting to begin homesteading and a majority had just moved here to East Tennessee or the surrounding region from elsewhere. There was never a question about price (we raise very healthy organic animals that are handled all the time and in the best care), and everyone was so motivated to learn more about self sufficiency and homesteading. If ever there was evidence of a shift in mindset and motivations, it was meeting all the buyers of the animals this year.
We still have three cows, three Navajo Churro sheep, one horse and a baby mule, seven goats, five ducks, seven chickens, five dogs, three cats and three bee hives we will pick up in April. We will also breed Smuggler again and have one more baby mule next year. We will also be breeding two of our heifers for calves this fall for next year as well. And, we will be having three litters of Australian Shepherd puppies this year for sale.
The downsizing has helped minimize the chores a great deal. This pivot has allowed us to focus more on the growing food portion of our farm. Mike finished the greenhouse this last fall. We still need to wrap it in a polycarbonate clear roofing for the walls versus the plastic we had to put on because time ran out. But we will do that this spring. It worked great over the winter with many greens growing for winter food.
I have lots of seeds starting now in the greenhouse as we plan to do huge gardens this year – more than any year before. Plus, we have our root cellar now too to save a majority of food stuffs. We had a humidity issue this last winter with it so there are more tweaks we need to work on to finish that up for this fall.
With our daughters gone and our farm now downsized to a big degree, we opted to begin spending our winters along the coast in our RV with our first booking being next winter in Hilton Head South Carolina area. We are looking forward to some time each winter to relax. We’ve been going on seven years working so hard to build out this farm.
As we finally developed the ‘next phase of our life plan’, our daughter informed us she and her fiancé are having a baby! The little boy Asa is due in July and we couldn’t be more thrilled. She also said she would like to have Asa grow up near the farm so he could have the type of childhood Chloe had, being able to run free, connect with nature and animals and learn all the amazing skills you learn on a farm about how to grow and raise food and where healthy food comes from. You also really learn the power and results of hard work. Kids can contribute a great deal on a farm at a young age and it builds confidence and skills. Plus it keeps them happy, exercising and active and off the technology addictions that are so rampant with young children today.
Research is showing that video games for boys and attention seeking gratifications of social media sites for girls actually releases more dopamine in the brain and literally reconfigures it. The extra releases of chemicals becomes more addicting than heroine. This is why it is so hard to pull kids off their technology once they’ve become addicted. It’s because they literally are addicted.
So, Chloe gets that. I spent my entire career in technology at a pretty senior level and thus knew the consequences of tech on kids. We strategized this reality back in the early 2000s. Thus, when I was part of management that sold a large publicly traded tech company, I was able to retire pretty early and homeschooled Chloe and didnt have her on technology at all. She literally had no idea who Brad Pitt was and instead loved Roy Rogers and John Wayne. Old western DVDs was her only technology. You will notice if you look closely, most tech leaders don’t have their kids on technology. There’s a reason.
Chloe says in her generation she is one of the only ones who can engage and interact in a group of young people and not pull out a phone and need to be connected to it. And, she wants that way of life for her son too. The best way to do that is to raise them on a farm where the stimulation around is great but it is in the real world, surrounded by work, animals and nature.
We fortunately had some extra land we had never paid any heed to that connects up on another road. We literally had never looked at that plot of land until a few weeks ago as we assumed it was steep and LOADED With threes. When we finally walked it, we realized it wasn’t steep and what we had witnessed from the road was simply a tall berm that was removable. And, the trees inside the plot of land was smaller trees easy to clear.
Since our other daughter (my step daughter) had decided she didnt want to live in the tiny cabin my husband built for her here on our farm, it was easy to move that tiny cabin over to the other plot of land and put it on a basement to make it larger for a burgeoning little family. Chloe was thrilled by the opportunity to buy the little cabin and this plot of land and start her family there.
So, now we are in the process of excavating this land and will move the cabin onto it early this summer.
God works in such mysterious and beautiful ways. In fall we were so sad the girls left. And we thought all Mike’s hard work building a cabin was a completely wasted effort. Then we got sick, and we were wondering if farm life was over for just the two of us. Then, our daughter says she wants to raise the next generation on our farm!!! And, we sold our other cabin and a plot of land on our farm to a young couple we adore and consider our kids, and they have two little boys too!! So, we will have three little boys on our farm from the age of 0-5 starting this summer!
When Mike and I first started dating I took him to my ranch in New York and showed it to him saying, “if you want to be with me, this is how I live. I farm, and I want to farm for the rest of my life. If this is a lifestyle you are willing to live then there is a future for us. If not, it’s good to just stay friends.” I knew very clearly that this is my way of life. Fortunately for Mike, he was raised this way too in the old ways, using hands in the wild (versus a farm).” His wilderness childhood at the base of the Rockies is close enough to the concepts of farm to work. He said yes, he was willing to farm with me. And we began a relationship based on that premise….we’d run a farm. We later moved from upstate NY from my ranch to a warmer climate where we continued that dream just in a new location. Chloe and I have always, since she was a little girl, had the understanding that she and I would have a farm together. And, we’d grow old and raise grandkids on that farm. This was why I was so sad when she left. We thought we were building it for the next generation.
But, as in all things – everything turns full circle. And, we are now so motivated to have grandkids here and horse riding lessons and Easter egg hunts with our own eggs for the boys and possibly future girls!
It’s all good!! And, the adventure continues on to another generation here at HiBar Ranch, relocated to the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee.
I couldn’t be more blessed to be able to do what I love with the man that I love with my whole heart.
Until later – be well.
~ Mike and Lori Davis