Johnny and I have been living on our small farm for nearly a year now, and it’s been a learning experience for both of us. Poor old Johnny is a thoroughly urban guy; he grew up living in a city, and I know he fantasizes about living in a cool downtown apartment with zero animals. While I grew up in a rural area, caring for my horses at home, there’s quite a difference between being a kid with farm chores and an adult with real responsibilities! Here are five things I’ve learned so far on this small-farm adventure:
- Yard/pasture maintenance is unending.
I’d sort of learned this living on a quarter acre in a subdivision, but living on several acres only exacerbates the problem. The yard needs to be mowed. The pastures need to be dragged. The weeds springing up in the gravel by the barn need to be sprayed (or burned, at this point). The trees need to be pruned. Where did those dandelions come from?
- The barn is never as clean as you’d like it to be.
My inner Pony Clubber cringes every time I see wisps of wind-blown hay in the corners of the barn or manure clinging stubbornly to the concrete. The reality is that I only have so many hours in the day, and some of them have to be spent driving, working, and sleeping. I usually choose to spend my free time riding, which means that sometimes my barn looks grubby.
- A good weather app is your new best friend.
What direction is the wind going to be coming out of tonight? Better shut the appropriate barn door, or those saddle pads drying on the wash rack will get blown away. Are tornadoes in the forecast? Time to lock the horses in their stalls so they don’t get struck by flying debris. Is it going to be super cold? Turn off the water so the pipes don’t burst (again). It’s a little easier now that it’s just hot 100% of the time, but I still check my weather app every day, just in case I need to prepare for a freak storm or 60 mile-an-hour wind gusts.
- There’s no shortage of ‘projects’.
New fencing for the sacrifice paddock. Doing…anything with the barn porch. Building jumps. Replacing the sink in the barn bathroom. Adding gravel screenings to level out the stall floors. These are all on my “to do” list, which gets longer every day. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed by all the things I need to do, but most of the time it’s exciting to think about making improvements (and it feels gratifying when things are checked off the list)!
- Good neighbors are invaluable.
One of the reasons such a small property works for Johnny and me is my neighbor. We live next door to the boarding barn where Moe and Gina have lived for the last few years. I have access to the barn’s arenas, which is a huge plus- I didn’t have to build my own, which would have been expensive and taken up valuable space. But more importantly, my neighbor and I help each other out. She’s willing to feed for me when I’m out of town or hold the horses for the farrier. She lets me know if they’re acting strangely, or if there’s a problem with my fence or barn. I’ll feed her horses and boarders when she’s on vacation or needs to be somewhere early in the morning. We encourage one another in our riding goals and hack together often. It’s such a good feeling to know I have a friend I can count on right next door!