Thank You, Mother: an Ode to a Farm

It’s late afternoon as I drive along the front of my farm to the gate. The field fence is shrouded with a bumper crop of tumbleweeds, some of the arena fencing has blown down, and only the wind hasn’t changed over the weeks I’ve been gone. It’s one season when I leave and another when I get back.

Twisting sideways in the driver seat, I dangle my feet and make the drop to the ground. Edgar Rice Burro, in the barn on the far side of the house, lets out a bray like a foghorn in the sandstorm. Home, sweet home. It sounds trite so I don’t kiss the dust and gravel, but this is my home. There is no other.

This little farm is nothing special. The fence panels don’t match, the trim on the house needs paint, and nothing grows here. About one month a year the weeds look pretty good. It’s the kind of farm they call a hobby farm, but it’s rare when even large farms pay for themselves. And this place is far more than an interest for my leisure time. We are an entire world inside a bigger world.

Here on the flat windy prairie, there aren’t many trees. We lost four big ones last year. None left in the backyard now, or by the driveway. There’s one elm that’s doing okay over near the barn, a testament to how often I clean water tanks. It’s an elm that holds the tree swings in the summer but also has a condition called bacterial wetwood which means it weeps. Although the bird population has dropped in recent years, this fellow remains, his mourning cries haunt the night.

This is an arid semi-desert prairie, over seven thousand feet high. When people find out I live in Colorado, they smile but it’s not where they’re thinking. I say, “No, not that part of Colorado.” I protect my pasture, meaning the weeds that grow there. When I first moved here, I wanted to be rid of every plant that didn’t look like it belonged on a golf course. Now I protect the weeds because without them, there is no ground cover at all. It’s weeds that hold us together.

We all end up feeding our horses hay year-round here. The drought, now being called “historic,” has meant more fires. I get the alerts on my phone but they don’t help much if I’m working a few states away. Hay prices are higher than ever, both where you live and where I live. I’m grateful to have a good hay dealer who sadly apologizes when the price goes up. His truck isn’t fancy; he doesn’t like it any better than I do. We rely on each other.

I’ve been blessed to travel and work with horses in some of the most beautiful places on the planet. The red dirt of Australia is unforgettable and the otherworldly beauty of New Zealand never leaves my memory. The north of Scotland possesses me someplace deep inside. The midnight sun in Alaska has kept me on watch for dawn. Clients tell me I should move to be closer to them. Some of the places even have cheap hay.

While here on my prairie civilization is encroaching. The town is building toward us from the west and north. A windmill farm east of us ran high power lines on mammoth utility poles just behind my farm, metal wires that slice through my view of Pikes Peak. There are new traffic circles constructed for the housing developments and a four-lane intersection with a stoplight I can watch cycle to red from my barn at night. Stop.

The best thing about a farm is the gray line between who is domesticated and who is wild. Deer and birds and other creatures mingle with horses and dogs. Animals don’t care about property lines. Boundaries become blurred, some change with the seasons, and eventually, ours change. We become owned by our land. We live this way because some part of us is still a pioneer. We’d rather try to make it here because we’ve never found a way to belong elsewhere. Because we can’t find a fit for our habits and although we can live with goats, we have a challenging time negotiating with our own species. We think of ourselves as independent but relatives call us bull-headed. Like it’s a fault, but we have the night sky.

There are a million reasons to go. This place is far from perfect. The house is old but not in a clever eclectic way. I have fence posts with six inches of cement showing above the soil but my commitment has not eroded at all. This farm has only one bragging point. It’s the first place I’ve lived that’s ever felt like home. Home, that word that quivers on the back of my tongue, almost too precious to say aloud for fear of angering the weather gods more than they are already.

I swear, there are days when Mother Nature seems angry. The light spoils to a sallow color and the ground looks filled with dread, the trees are black with cold. Try as I do to be a good steward of this precious land, I worry we are losing this fight for our Earth. Humankind is foolish to think we can survive without her. Farmers and ranchers know she will not be tamed by our business.

A better choice to protect her wildness, even those parts with fences. A better choice to stand with the animals. For all the farms I have visited, and for this dear farm that I call my home, my heart is full. I’m grateful to be one of a different breed. Which is it now? Stubbornly grateful or gratefully stubborn?

Anna Blake, Relaxed & Forward

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Anna Blake

36 thoughts on “Thank You, Mother: an Ode to a Farm”

  1. And its home – if you have a place that is your very own – no matter the size – thats exactly the way I feel about my place – its mine! I belong here as much as the deer, chipmunks, birds, fox(?) & the littler ones. The thought of having to leave it & not be able to BE here? Its not the “owning” Its belonging.
    Anna, your pictures tell the story – of ALL the creatures & the place they live, you included!

  2. Oh Anna, you take my breath away with every word, every sentiment. I’m there even though I’m here on my farm with all my ways to connect to what you write. And yes, “the land owns us”. It’s a theme I’ve been following for a while. From it we come, to it we return. We are always hers.

  3. Beautiful piece! I live ion 5 acres and of course I can identify with your article. Often people will comment oh you own property? I often reply no it owns me. At times it seems overwhelming and other times I can’t imagine not being able to look out the window to see the horses, occasional deer, foxes, hawks, and a rare coyote. A nice reminder of gratitude 🙏

  4. Thank you for the tour! We just left our 5 acres in the mountains of NM for a busy little city, and the farm belongs to someone else, but it’s only a few minutes away and the horse and I have already flushed a little herd of deer and paused in moments of perfect stillness with a solitary doe. I can’t imagine not being able to look across the corn fields (stubble now) out to the woods, and walk down the trail to the creek, and I’m grateful that someone else is doing all the hard work of keeping it going. I have admired your fortitude since reading Stable Relation, which helped me through my nervous breakthrough (as Mary Karr calls it), and your work with horses has helped me beyond words with my worried old gelding.

  5. I love the way you look at life Anna! All of my life my thoughts are kept busy to avoid thinking of life, and the meaning thereof.
    Now I find, in retirement, that I don’t have to be afraid of a quiet mind. With the help of you, the community you have built together with your members, and surrounding myself with like-minded communities all over the world, I am enjoying the solace of being alone in my thoughts. Seeing the day in a new lens has been life-changing, and I’m staying on this transformational journey! I will go to my barn/farm, that someone else owns, and recall your visions and create my own picture.

      • My barn people just think I’m funny, and don’t have much of a life, as I spend hours, like 4 to 5, daily, at their barn…I brought my coffee pot, fairy lights (its dark early now), camping chair, change of clothes and even created my own compost toilet!!! No bathroom yet, it’s coming!

        But, they have it wrong, THIS IS LIFE for a retired horse girl, to spend undemanding time with her horse. Keeping poo out of the pasture along with trimming overgrown trees, pulling not nice weeds, etc. There is rythm in sweeping, raking and taking walks with a horse.

  6. Oh, beautifully written. I neaded this today. Just sunk in the chair with coffee after the stable hours in the morning. Dark, cold, snow and mud. Greatings from Sweden.

    • Winter in Sweden… thank you for your comment. It’s real work this dream of ours. Take care and thanks for sharing your coffee, Irene.

  7. Well here is a gorgeous sentence, among many: “The light spoils to a sallow color and the ground looks filled with dread, the trees are black with cold.” As someone who loves the written word, your writing is a treat Anna.

  8. I love your love for your home, with its beauty and its challenges. It’s real. Like horses, our homes are individual, idiosyncratic, and need us to breathe…allowing them to be what they are. Your ability to face reality head on keeps me going on many difficult days. Facing what is real, and loving it beyond measure, truly, is a gift.

    • That’s so well put. I love reality, not that it’s great, but I need it to be real to be able to trust. And trust doesn’t come easily to me. Thanks Jane

  9. I live waaaaay down South in Africa. We have marvellous sunrises and sunsets and dreadful fires during the dry winter. In the summer we have houseflies, biting flies midges, mosquitoes and deadly African Horse Sickness, which leaves horses gasping out foam as they lie on the ground galloping their last gallop sideways… American quarter horses were first brought over here at the turn of the Century by the British, as cavalry horses in the Boer War. They mingled with the local farm horses that survived the war. About 50 years ago, a group of QH racehorses were imported by Gary Player, the golfer. We are members of AQHA and NRHA and own a QH stud…There is a leopard on the farm who takes calves, so our cows all have horns. Half the farm is a game reserve with buck and zebra and we managed to persuade him to go in there, where he now eats Impala instead. He has gone , but we now have stocktheft by human predators – fortunately they steal the neighbour’s cattle as my “longhorns” are too wild. My cattle come when called, but cannot be driven… We can work them with our QH. I have ridden in the USA with Casey Deary and own one of his horses. Also ridden in the UK. You are welcome to link to me on FB. I like your way of working with horses.

    • I have clients in South Africa and yes, it is a whole different kind of farming than we have! Thanks for commenting, I think you are headed into summer bug season at it’s worst. Thanks, Cheryl.

    • Wow Cheryl, I will try not and complain about life in Arizona’s heat, after reading all that you contend with. Thanks for sharing, an eye opener for me.


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