The Man arrived at what would become known as The Farm in 1991, and I joined him 11 years later. Over the years, we have worked together to make it a special place, both for ourselves and for the many animals that we have brought into our lives. Overgrown fields that once held cattle in the 1800s were cleared, with the majestic old rock walls once again visible, marking the edges of the new horse paddocks. One horse became two, then we added a donkey, and now the Farm is a safe, quiet sanctuary for 8, some of whom had been heavily abused in their early lives. A multitude of chickens gift us with their eggs daily, and rarely does any visitor to the Farm leave without a dozen in their front seat. Old man Kody was our first dog, and he was laid to rest a few years ago next to the family fire pit, where we and other dogs that have followed visit him daily. Other critters have come and gone over the years, and our goal to one day add a few Scottish Highlanders has always been just over the horizon. Raised bed gardens were created that in late summer could easily have been featured in any home and garden magazines, with it’s towering sunflowers and the plentiful harvest of vegetables that we happily shared with neighbors and the local food pantry. One of the Man’s passions is fruit trees, and over the years he has planted a wide variety of them. Peaches, plums, cherries, quince and apples, as well as the various berries that we’ve planted, all end up canned as jams and jellies in the pantry I built the Man a few years ago. We’ve added to the barns, and shored up it’s old beams to make sure they would still be standing strong for many years to come. The main house has been restored in nearly every way possible, and it’s exposed beams and well insulated walls now offer warmth and coziness to all that enter. We have researched it’s rich past, and have always been deeply aware that any changes that we made would become a part of that history. We have left our mark on the Farm, as many before us have done, and we were content with the life that we have created here. The thought of ever leaving to make a new life somewhere else never crossed our minds…until a year ago.
One of the Man’s peers at the hospital told him awhile back that the best time to reinvent yourself is in your 50s, and about a year and a half ago, we started to feel that “itch”. Not something we could put our fingers on exactly, but it was there nonetheless. We were restless. The Man was working incredibly long hours every day, and when someone is in his 30s, he can skate by on 3 or 4 hours of sleep each night. Not so when he is in his middle 50s. Little time at home, and exhausted when he was, was finally wearing him down, and the idea of a change while we were still young enough to pull it off started to formulate. He casually started looking to see what opportunities were out there, and although there were plenty to choose from, none seemed to be at the right hospital or in the right location. Then one day, a new job listing appeared for an Anesthesiologist in Cooperstown, NY, at a large teaching hospital nestled among the hills on the edge of a pristine lake. Within a couple months, we made the drive to Cooperstown, and at the end of the trip, the Man had completed a successful interview and we had fallen in love with the area. For me, it was like taking a trip back in time to my childhood in Bingham, with it’s small town feel, rolling hills, beautiful lake and the promise of a simple life. We looked at a few farms and although most weren’t what we needed, there was one that caught our eye. It was perfect in every way. An old and beautiful farm house built in the mid-1800s, with a tall majestic barn that was ready to move the horses and donkeys into, and with plenty of fields for growing our own hay. Everything seemed to be falling into place for us to begin our “reinvention”…but, the timing wasn’t right.
When it came to the point that hard and fast choices were to be made, we realized that we weren’t quite ready to make such a drastic life change. The Man felt like he still had unfinished goals at the hospital here, and his commitment to his hospital family and what they were accomplishing remained as strong as ever. As for me, my mother’s health was steadily declining, and it was clear that her time was limited. I couldn’t move to another state during her last days and leave my family behind to handle what was to come. And so, we recommitted to our lives here in Maine, and life carried on. The Man dove even deeper into his work, working longer hours than before and taking on more responsibilities at the hospital. I spent more time with my family and took care of the Farm and all of our critters. Various projects around the Farm continued as though we would be staying here for the rest of our lives. At the beginning of the year, fate introduced me to Emmett muscle release therapy for horses, and throughout the year I traveled a great deal to learn all that I could about it. It became my passion, as well as a business opportunity, and through it all I came away with a renewed sense of confidence and purpose. The man teaching the technique, an Aussie named Gary, not only became my mentor, but a cherished friend. Life carried on, and we never gave Cooperstown another thought…until this past December.
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and I’ve collected many ornaments over the years as we’ve traveled. They serve as reminders of where we have been and the good times we’ve had. Decorating my trees this year didn’t hold the same excitement as in years past. Something was off. The joy of the season wasn’t quite there, with my mother’s rapidly changing health and with the Man’s ever expanding work load. Once again, we felt the pull to go, but this time, we resisted. We had committed to staying, and had put all thoughts of moving aside. The month of December was a tough one, for many different reasons, and it felt as though we were running into road blocks no matter which direction we turned. Finally, one day, when we had reached the end of our exasperated rope, we threw up our hands and gave in to the Universe. We had fought the good fight, but it was clear that in some grand plan, and for whatever reason, it was time for the next chapter in our lives…and the title of that chapter was Cooperstown.
Once we gave in and let go, all of the road blocks before us fell like dominos. My mother passed away a few days before Christmas, and I no longer felt as though I needed to stay for my family. The Man had a standing offer from the hospital in Cooperstown, and they were delighted to have him join their Anesthesia group, which would allow him to work better hours and spend more time at home with me and the critters. Only one thing remained that could hinder this new path we were on. A farm. Surely, the majestic farm we had looked at a year earlier would no longer be available, and no others came close to meeting our needs. We opened up the webpage of the local realtor, fully expecting it to be gone, but there it was. Still available. Waiting for us to come back and claim it. We took another trip to Cooperstown to tour it’s quaint old rooms and amazing old barn. We walked it’s fields, and stood inside the massive riding arena that had been built not too long ago. When we had done this a year earlier, we loved what it offered to both us and our animals, but it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like it could be “home”. But this time was different. This time, we stood in the yard and closed our eyes, hearing it’s sounds and breathing it’s air. It wrapped it’s arms around our souls, and we felt peace. This town, this way of life, this farm…is where we belonged.
An offer on the new farm was made, and much to our surprise, was accepted. Contracts were signed, both for the farm and the Man’s new job. A year ago, I never thought this would be where we are now. The road ahead seems daunting. The idea of moving one Farm and all of it’s contents to another farm 6 hours away makes my head spin. We have moments when we can’t believe this is where the road has taken us, and while we stress over the process of it all, we know that this is the right path for us. Though the Man has lived in various states in the past, I was born and raised here. It’s my home. But as the saying goes, home truly is where the heart is, and my heart is with the Man and the life we have created. He starts his new job in Cooperstown in August, and I will follow shortly after with all of our belongings, horses and donkeys, dogs and chickens. We will leave behind a lifetime of memories, and an amazing circle of friends that we have come to consider family. The next three months will be a whirlwind of activity, as we move into one farm and prepare the other to be sold. Old man Kody will make the trip with us, as leaving him behind is not an option. No doubt, we will have moments where we wonder if we’ve done the right thing, and that is to be expected. But in those moments, I will walk out into the yard of our new farm in Cooperstown, and I will once again close my eyes, hear it’s sounds and smell it’s smells, and feel it’s gentle embrace as it welcomes me home. Then, with the dogs, and perhaps a new puppy, the Man and I will gather as a family next to Kody’s new resting spot on a small hill overlooking our new Farm…and life will be good once again.