My interests for the homesteading way of life started young, proof in conversations with my parents; such as: "please just let me live at Uncle Dave's farm- PLEASE!!" at the mature age of six. I could also show you my collection of my future hobby farm plans, I had sketched out most Sundays after church, starting from age ten to...well I still do that...hehe. Carefully thought out barns with exact measurements and places for each type of animal, in addition to vegetable and flower gardens, orchards and a farmhouse with a wrap around porch- ya know, "the dream." My books of choice growing up were always based around veterinary care, farm life, gardening, horses... unfortunately for me, I was born into a very suburban home with no interest in the world of getting down and dirty. It is probably fair to say I was the black sheep of the family, I preferred a carton of fresh berries to candy bars and working in the hot summer sun stacking hay bales to playing video games in an air conditioned room (ick). Now because working with animals and plants is like oxygen to me, I went out and found opportunities to gain the skills needed in these areas I found so essential to my happiness.
At age fourteen my family moved from the dry mountains of Colorado, to lush rolling hills of Southern Pennsylvania. Once I got over the culture shock of leaving childhood friends and entering whole new territory, I dove head first into the agriculture opportunities that awaited me. I was now in a land where the farming culture was as rich as the vegetation that grew there. To start my journey of farm life, my parents allowed me to join 4-H club and keep a few show rabbits (which turned into many), as well as a small vegetable garden on the one acre of property we had. This is where life for me started to blossom. I loved the responsibility and waking up early to prepare for rabbit shows on the weekends, watering the plants, harvesting, weeding and caring for my little fluff balls after school. I would spend far too much time daydreaming in class about how to improve my setup for my rabbits to create the most efficient working rabbitry, or how to sell their manure to other gardeners. Fast forward twelve-ish years and I am still hear today spending all my hobby time in our now very large garden or rabbitry with some of the best rabbits of our breed in the country.
Once I had a good handle on rabbit raising, I moved onto larger livestock.... here enters the world of equestrian. I started helping a horse trainer who raised Arabian horses during the summers and weekends. Although my main purpose was to muck stalls and groom the horses spotless, I kept my eyes opened and learned so much about how to work with horses in a scheduled and professional manor. As years passed by with different trainers, show barns, and boarding stables, I was able to gain experience in all areas of management and training. Starting green horses was becoming more intuitive and ground work with each horse I met, was like personal life coaching at its finest.
By age seventeen, I felt like I had life down pretty well. I started my days earlier than most adults, rising at 4am was exciting to me, the best time to accomplish all my farm chores and horse training. I was finishing up highschool with an online evening class, which freed up my days for a job or to work on my own side businesses I had set up with horse care and rabbit sales. While looking for a little barn and land to rent to keep some goats and a horse or two, I met a well accomplished doctor who had just bought very old and very beautiful twenty acre farm with no clue how to get it up and running. He wanted all the joys of farm life for his family, without the work (which in my opinion, does not exist, since the work is half the fun!). Once we started talking, he learned of my experience with animals, and showed genuine appreciation for my ideas with his set up. Somehow he decided signing over his farm, to a seventeen year old girl's care, was a good idea. Don't ask me how that happened- I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it, but it certainly came with a whole new set of responsibilities I had never had before. I spent countless hours cleaning out those old, chippy white painted barns and sheds, determined to make this place beautiful and fully functioning again. I spent the whole summer clearing out the barns and mowing down overgrown pastures. We kept a few goats in the process, and talked about raising specialty animals and keeping a strawberry garden, but by the end of the summer I had found myself at a crossroad. I had finished highschool early and was looking at going to Pennsylvania State University for their agriculture program. I was also juggling working as a veterinarian assistant, and I was completely burnt out. I decided to say goodbye to the doctor's farm, and work on getting myself to place where I could have my own property to run the way I wanted with confidence.