By Suzi Orend Harbison
It all started at work.
I had a fantastic job as a Graphic Designer at an AT&T Semiconductor Plant in Orlando, Florida where I had lived and grown up since the age of two. For many years, I sang Christmas Carols with a professional group of musicians for the holidays. I sang and played the tenor saxophone in a contemporary Christian group and every two years the group would travel to England for two weeks doing concerts at churches and schools. I had a two story townhouse in a gated community. I traveled a heavily trafficked interstate to and from work. I was busy living life as a single girl living in the city.
And then, one day at work, I saw him. Really saw him.
I had, actually, known him for several years as we nodded and I shyly said Hi each time we passed in the hallways of work or in the cafeteria. He
had long hair, aviator glasses, motorcycle boots and a rebel hat. He scared me. He was not the type of guy that I was attracted to.
The day I really saw him, some friends of mine met some friends of his for lunch and, lo and behold, he was clean-shaven, dressed up and down-right handsome! I saw this very man that originally scared me in a whole new light. He was more ‘city-like’ and, all of a sudden, he caught my eye! Now, very un-like me, I got up the nerve to sit down right in front of him and one year and a few weeks later we were married! I could say ‘the rest is history’ but it was really only ‘just the beginning’.
I sold my townhouse and moved into his newly built house in a subdivision in a small town west of Orlando. Unfortunately, that small town did not stay small for long and before we knew it we were swallowed up by traffic and congestion. I had gotten used to small town living and discovered I kinda liked it. Since neither of us were working at AT&T any more we decided to move further west to a more rural town and four acres of mostly wooded land.
It didn’t take long for this city girl to adapt to rural living and the country life. I had come to embrace the peace and quiet and slower pace of life. Before I knew it, my husband wanted chickens. Wait, what? Chickens? No, we don’t need chickens! What the heck do you DO with chickens? Being a country boy from Arkansas he knew exactly what to do with chickens whereas I had no clue!
It wasn’t too long after that comment that we were given two hens from our church’s Music Minister who could no longer have them in his subdivision due to the noise. How could I say no? And, that, my friends, is what started this former city girl’s desire to have a small farm. I loved having chickens! I enjoyed gathering the eggs, feeding and watering them, handing out treats of garden scraps and scratch, watching them, photographing them, listening to their gibberish, and even cleaning out their coop. Chalk it up to another learning experience of life in the country with a country boy! With some gentle prodding from a friend, I started blogging about my country life and all the things I was learning – things so very different than my former busy city life.
There was no argument from my husband about having a small farm some day. We had been trying to grow a decent garden in Florida’s sandy soil, and it just wasn’t going well. By now, we were both working in Emergency Medical Services as EMT’s. The long shifts left us physically exhausted, and we were unable to save enough money to start setting up our small farm. Needless to say, we were disappointed and felt defeated.
One year at Thanksgiving, we drove through Kentucky on our way home from his Mom’s house in Arkansas. (Yea, it’s not really ‘on the way’ but we love to travel and sightsee and were actually headed to the lovely Biltmore Estate in North Carolina before heading back home.)We fell in love with the beautiful countryside of Kentucky! It was all we could think about once we were back in Florida. To say that we both felt drawn to Kentucky and that it just felt like home is difficult to explain, but it was a mutual feeling.
Now, back at work, we had a company-wide meeting with a retirement specialist one morning after our shift. They asked everyone to state what they would like to do when they retired. Most said they would like a condo at the beach or have a cabin in the mountains. Us? We said our dream was to retire on a small farm. Many people laughed, and the specialist said ‘you’ll work harder than you do now’ and asked us if we knew how much work was involved with farming? We said, yes, we know, and we laughed, too!
A few years later, we made the decision to leave EMS and hit the road and work so that we could save up some money to put towards our dream farm. My husband is a skilled Millwright by trade and had traveled for years going from one job to another before he ended up at AT&T where we met. For several years, he talked about getting back in that field so now that we had the dream of buying a farm somewhere in Kentucky we decided it was time. A year after we started traveling we sold our house in Florida making our decision to move even more official. We continued to live in our fifth wheel as we went from job to job and put back as much money as we could towards our farm.
For the next couple years, I perused land and farm dot com looking
for farms for sale in Kentucky. Finally, a farm in our price range came up for sale in Estill County. We drove from Texas to look at it and knew, at first sight, that this twenty acre farm that was in need of reclaiming would soon become Dream Valley Farmstead.
That was two and a half years ago and we are still so happy to have our dream farm and to be living in Estill County. Every day is an adventure. Some bigger than others! Reclaiming the farm and striving to get back to the basics of life is the topic of my blog and will be the topic of this column.
This city girl has changed and learned a lot in the past eighteen years since marrying her CountryBoy, as he is lovingly called on my blog. I am, and will forever be learning but, I wouldn’t change a thing and am so grateful, in this season of giving thanks, for the country life I live and have come to love.
Photo at right: Here’s a photo of the farm, located in the upper Red Lick area, the day the Harbisons looked at it and signed the paperwork.