Living on a hobby farm for three years through ages 7, 8, & 9 was the most fun as a kid that I ever had. The town had one school for grades 1 through to 12, there was a church, a garage with two gas pumps, and an old corner store. Our home was down a lengthy dirt road that had several farms on it. Even our dirt driveway was long with trees lined along it which led to our old white with green trim two-story house. A huge old tree with a tire swing sat far in front of the house it was the first thing we tested out when we moved in. Inside the home old yellowed wallpaper was peeling, many of the doors got jammed they didn’t fully close, and the kitchen was from centuries ago but we thought it was great we just moved to the country-side and we now lived on a farm.
During the summer the whole family made a large vegetable garden just in front, the rhubarb was taller than our baby brother. At the far left side of the property was a small creek with a stone bridge leading to an apple orchard. It was beautiful but after going under the trees to collect some crab apples and having all the wasps buzz attack us we didn’t go there too often. It was too bad because it was scenic but we figured at least we could look from a safe distance. We wiped off the apples on our shirts inspecting them for worms then ate a few. Of course like all kids do we over did it and ate a few too many and had bad cramps for most of the night. Out back behind the house there was a small chicken coop that every morning we would collect eggs. My sister and I were worried about killing baby chicks but my mother said she had a way of telling so we would show her each one in the basket to ensure no babies were harmed.
Beside the chicken coop was a large horse shed and coral. My mother had a horse and my sister and I shared a pony. It was the one rare time in our life that we were spoiled. We knew we were really fortunate though and loved brushing and feeding the animal. At first when we fed the pony an apple or carrot for a treat we were afraid it would accidentally bite our hand thinking it was the food but our mother showed us how to flatten our palm and the animals big lips slobbered over our hand to get the apple but at least we still had all our fingers. We loved to saddle up with our mom’s help of course and ride the pony around the corral and sometimes down our long dirt country driveway. One time when we were mucking out the horse shed we found that a stray cat had a litter of kittens inside. We were sad when our parents wouldn’t let us keep one I guess they thought our two dogs, a pony, a horse, and chickens were enough animals and I would have to say they were right. My mom entered her horse into small town fair competitions which we loved because we got to go too and a few times we entered our small mixed breed mutt into a dog competition earning us a participation ribbon and uncontrollable laughter at our poor dog’s failure. Now that I look back it didn’t even occur to us that we might have been partially to blame for the defeat as well.
At night-time being out in the country-side fireflies filled the darkness and stars were so visibly bright without the competition of big-city lights. We’d catch fireflies in a glass jar with holes punched in the lid for air but we always ensured to free the insect in a few minutes after inspection. Our dad got us a telescope and together we’d find a star or planet we never knew which we were just excited to see such marvels up close especially the moon. During the day one of my favorite past-times was collecting bugs to put in my bug-catcher kit. When it rained I’d run outside with my raincoat, boots, and hat and put big fat worms in it. My sister thought it was gross she hated bugs and although that was a bonus I really did find bugs interesting.
The farmer next door to us had a huge barn full of cattle that they milked daily and they let us go with our parents to see all of the equipment and even tried to milk a cow! Tried I say because it is a lot harder than it looks and I don’t think I got a drop out of that animal. At the end of summer the farmers would go out into the field with their tractor and hay wagon to collect the bales of hay. My sister and I got to go two out of the three summers and we loved it. The smell of the hay made our nose itchy and eyes a little watery and the long wood wagon was uncomfortable on the bumpy terrain but it was an adventure and we held on tight enjoying the fresh air as the sun was low on the horizon and the first fireflies began to appear just when the farmers had finished loading the last bale of hay to feed the cows. By the time we got home we could barely keep our eyes open as our parents tucked us into bed.
Our two encounters with wildlife on the farm were not good ones but they were memorable. When our dad found an injured raccoon and put him on a leash nursing the poor thing back to health until one day while feeding it the animal bit him and he had to go to the hospital and get a zillion needles for rabies. The other event was when our two dogs had chased something into the ditch and my sister and I followed them curious of what they found when suddenly they ran away yelping and we jumped back from the pungent smell. Eyes stinging and watering so bad I couldn’t see and my nose running like a tap we went running back to the house screaming and crying and it didn’t take our parents more than one sniff to know what happen. They got us to strip our clothes off at the door poured large tins of tomato sauce into the bathtub and dunked us in our hair was the hardest to get the smell out of. It took three or four baths before the smell was manageable but it still lingered for days. And our father went outside with a tin tub and filled it with tomato sauce and scrubbed each dog. It was worst for them because of their fur and in fact our parents had to shave them down quite a bit.
At the end of the three years our dad got a job offer in a large city and it was time to move on. It made our whole family sad because we knew once we moved from a rural location the likeliness of us returning was slim and that was true. In my lifetime the closest I’ve come to the rural life again is at age fifty on a 2-acre piece of property just off of a busy two-lane county road. And although my husband and I have seen deer, wild turkeys, raccoons, skunks, wild rabbits, and plenty of species of birds due to our hummingbird, woodpecker, and finch bird feeders it just isn’t the same. The location isn’t remote like my childhood hobby farm was and I’m far past my youth where my body and mind were still so young and full of energy though I’m happy to say that I still have a great creative imagination.
Illustrated by: Rebecca Sherratt