This is what our last weekend consisted of: drive an hour, load 130 bales into the trailer. Drive another hour and unload the 130 bales in the shed. Drive back another hour because not all 200 hay bales fit in your trailer and finish loading the 70 that were left. Your back is dead and your arms are jello. Then the next morning you wake up at 6 am finish unloading the 70 bales, hop in the truck and drive another hour in the opposite direction and load another 116 bales; drive back and unload the 116 bales. Your back is still shot and your arms are still jello.
Not only are we preparing for our move and working on home renovations, but we also have been working on preparing our miniature highlands home in their new pasture and this included finding and storing hay bales for the winter. Because our mini's are grass fed, we needed to load up on more square bales than the average joe with only three head of cattle. Right now our storage is limited, but we're making due with what we have until we can afford to build another storage shed or (in my mind) a nice big barn with a hay loft. Hay is in high demand right now because we are nearing the winter months and some people lost hay cuttings to bad weather earlier this year. Around Iowa, some small square grass bales are going anywhere between $5-8 per bale! We were fortunate enough to find some at a cheaper price without losing the quality, but we had to be willing to drive a little further. In the future we would love to invest in a mini baler (yes a mini baler) that makes small round bales and can be pulled behind a small tractor. This way we can bale parts of our pasture that isn't being occupied by our cattle and we can store up throughout the summer.
The pasture is almost ready to be occupied by their new tenants as well. My husband got the fence line up with the help of one of our friends digging in t-posts and wrapping barbed wire, along with hanging the cattle gate. The only thing that is left is moving their shelter to the new property, setting up their waterer and building their new hay feeder, which consists of a metal frame futon, wooden hay catch and u-bolts. I'm tellin ya, Pinterest is your friend when it comes to being creative and saving money for your home and farm! $20 instead of $250 is my kind of deal for a hay feeder.
At the end of the weekend we were tired and irritable, but it was so rewarding seeing our hard work coming together. I couldn't help but think of that stupid Lizzy McGuire song, What Dreams are Made of. Because in all reality, when you're working hard toward your dreams and what you see for your future, 9 times out of 10, it will consist of hard work and long days to get there, but in the end it will be worth it.
Life is all about new beginnings and journeys. I full heartedly believe that we need to pursue our dreams and goals in life, as long as they are healthy and don't harm others. I am a dream chaser and if I don't feel I am in the right atmosphere or environment to pursue those dreams, then I look at my options and see what's possible. Here enters this blog and website.
Three years ago, I met my husband Holden and we lived in a little town of about 200 people. During our time in this town we worked on the family farm and mainly headed up the Hereford cow/calf operation along with row crops and a small alfalfa field. Let me just say that cow/calf is not an easy task. Like most animals, it takes a lot of time and attention. We became BQA (Beef Quality Assurance) certified in cow/calf operations through the Beef Check-off and read books and took classes on how we could be the best cattlemen we could possibly be. There were a lot of late nights helping cows calve safely and making sure the calves were healthy once they were born. There were times of ease and excitement and times of tears and frustration but we didn't back down easy. After some time had passed, we decided we need to reevaluate our operation and what we were doing in life. Was this really what we wanted in life? Were we truly living up to our full potential? At the end of the day, did we come home feeling happy and satisfied with our work? Not exactly. That's where the conversation begun about 5 months ago.
We started to lay out what this new change would look like for us; where we wanted to live, where we saw our future and where we could raise a family and our herd. That's when we stumbled upon this 20 acre plot of land with trees, brush, pasture grass and a little creek running right through the middle of it. We made one visit and we were hooked. We made a second visit and we were still hooked! We never gave any other place a chance, because this little slice of earth we found felt perfect for us. We went through the motions of buying a house and land and started dreaming up the potential for our future. We decided that this pasture wasn't ideal for our full sized herd, so we narrowed it down and decided this is where we were going to pursue our mini highland herd. For many reasons, mini highlands just seemed to fit the nature of our plans better because of their low maintenance, calving ease and ability to withstand harsh weather. Plus we would be hitting a niche market being the only miniature highland farm in the state of Iowa.
One evening, I was talking to Holden about how I wanted a big ranch sign to go over our driveway like out west in Montana where we stayed for our honeymoon, but I wasn't totally sure what we'd name it. He looked at me and said, "What about Highland Creek Ranch?" My eyes grew half their size and goosebumps rose on my arms. "That's it! It's perfect!" I said. There's a little creek running through the pasture where our highlanders will be grazing and it's something to call our own.
As the closing day arrived, we loaded up our car with the necessities for our first night and crossed the threshold into a new home, a new town and new beginnings. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of updating that will need to happen in our 80's styled home (don't worry, I'll share progress pics as we go, shiplap and all) but, it's our very own fixer-upper farm house, and it's everything we could've dreamed up for ourselves. Or as Holden calls it, our mid-century modern, Victorian, classic rustic farmhouse. Anyway, with any change in life, we faced our fair share of roadblocks, growing pains and sleepless nights to get here. Needless to say, I don't back down easy when it comes to our happiness and what we believe in for our future and future children. There will still be changes as we grow into this new phase of life but when you allow time and patience to fill in the cracks, amazing things can happen.
To those that cheered us on, supported us and love us beyond measure: we can't thank you enough for your guidance and help you provided as we begin this new journey in chasing our dreams and hopes for the future, you're awesome. I am beyond excited to expand what fuels our passions and make those dreams finally become a reality.