Down on the Farm / Up at the Cabin

Farm Living is the Life for Me


Two weeks before teachers were scheduled to return to school, Monica became the proud owner of her "new" 20 acre farm in Wanamingo township.

Moving In:

Friends came to help -- parishioners from her new church, neighbors from her previous homes, colleagues from her school. Many hands make short work -- the Pack Rat shipping container was quickly emptied, and (priority number one) the bed was assembled. (No more sleeping on an air mattress!!! YAY!)

And Now I Need:

A bigger lawn mower. The push mower from the suburbs was not going to work on a five-acre yard.

A chainsaw. Monica had been told that the electricity bills could run as high as $700 a month in the winter. But downstairs was a fireplace with an insert and a blower. Claudia (Monica's sister) had, for decades, heated her homes exclusively with wood. After researching the many makes, models, and sizes, Monica bought an Echo with 16" blade. It wasn't too long, it wasn't too heavy -- it was just right. (Her guy-friends were gladly willing to fell the big stuff with their chainsaws that didn't get much use in suburbia.)

An ATV and trailer to haul the wood that was cut.

A hydraulic wood splitter to size the pieces for handling, stacking, and fitting into the fireplace.

A farm truck. Dean (4WD Club and motor-head friend) found a 13-year-old F250 that would surely fit her farm needs and budget ... but Monica had to buy it THAT DAY or it would be gone. Stop working on lesson plans. Stop assembling the dining room table. Drive up to Elk River to see the truck. Yup, it's a truck.

Yup, it seems to drive okay. (Monica's experience with vehicles – at this point – was limited to sedans, minivans, Jeep Wranglers, and Goldwing motorcycles). Yup, I'll take it ... but I will have to pick it up next week.

Plow blade. Silly to have someone else plow the long driveway when you own an F250. Another new skill to learn. (It can't be that difficult, can it?)

Farm clothes. Slacks, blouses, and pretty sandals are great for teaching, but are obviously impractical for farm chores. Muck boots, overalls, heavy winter jackets, and gloves that can get dirty while still keeping you warm. Monica was never shy of shopping at thrift stores; there was plenty to be found there and at a reasonable price.

Winterizing the Home

The pretty stuff was going to have to wait (replacing the rust-stained robin's egg blue tub and commode was just not important, repainting the dingy living room walls could be done later, the bare concrete floors in the basement could wait another year - or two, the harvest gold range would cook food just like any other color of stove).

But the attic insulation was thin. (When Monica accompanied the building inspector, he mentioned adding insulation would decrease that dreaded electricity bill. He also assured Monica there were no monsters lurking up there.) YouTube can teach you anything! So Monica and her grandson braved the attic heat in October and blew in cellulose.

Insulating the 1970s single-pane windows with plastic was a multi-day task: thirteen 48" windows downstairs, seven 48" windows upstairs, plus one enormous 108" picture window (a challenge!)

Adding a deck and sliding glass door off the kitchen. Most people would not consider this a winterizing project, but Monica grilled most evenings (yes, even in January and February).

Cutting, Hauling, Splitting, Stacking the Firewood

They say that heating with wood heats you more than once. Maybe five times. Six?

Cutting: Dead-fall was plentiful, so felling live trees and waiting for them to dry was not an issue.

Cutting and Hauling: The woods were overgrown and nearly impassable – ATV-sized trails needed to be made so wood could be hauled out.

More Hauling: Claudia suggested a LOT of kindling. You just needed to bend down, pick up a dry stick, and toss it into the trailer.

Stacking: An old, dilapidated shed near the house needed only a few racks to turn it into an airy, usable woodshed.

More Stacking: Throughout the winter, the firewood supply in the house needs to be replenished.

Definitely six times. Maybe seven.

Enjoying the Farm

Watching the corn and soybeans that surrounded the farm turn from lush green to crisp brown. Seeing and hearing the huge combines harvest the crops and smelling the rich, black dirt left behind.

Listening to the geese fly overhead, heading south for the winter.

Noticing the sun rise and set just a little farther south every day.

Deciding where to put the chicken coop in the spring. Considering what livestock to put in the pastures and pole barn.

Sitting on the new deck on a sunny October afternoon, adult beverage at hand, and celebrating the amazing differences between a suburban home and a rural farm.