My favorite childhood book was and still is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The most memorable scene in that book, for me, is when Mary’s uncle offers to give the little girl anything she wants — books, toys, dolls, anything in the world. And she replies, “Might I […] might I have a bit of earth?”
Maybe this quote stuck with me because I’ve always known that I, too, would choose a bit of earth if I could have just one thing. Or maybe I learned that I wanted this because of Mary. Either way, about 20 years later, I got my own bit of earth and some days, I still can’t fully believe it. Here’s how it started.
Just a few days after turning 28, I closed on my first house — a small cape cod with 16 acres and the (very) rough beginnings of a horse farm. Like most little girls who have the fortune of knowing a horse from a young age, this has been the dream. Although there’s still plenty of work to be done and a barn to be built before I can move my horse here, knowing that I’ve finally found a bit of earth to call my own is beyond enough.
Like most great things in life, finding this property happened when I wasn’t looking. As a self-employed freelance writer, I’d been trying to jump through hoops to get a mortgage for over a year, so my search was on hold until I had a second year of tax returns for my business. But then I scrolled past this property, which had been on the market for over a year, on a local horse group on Facebook. On a whim, my boyfriend and I hauled a little over an hour away to check it out.
We’d seen a handful of horse properties already. Usually, it was the same story — within minutes of showing up, we easily spotted the thing that put the property in our price range in the first place. Most of the time, it was that the house would need tens of thousands of dollars of work put into it, or the barn was full of bats and falling in on itself. Or it was mostly unusable land, or not quite enough for more than one horse. Sometimes, it was a highway.
So when we pulled up to this house, we were looking for it. The thing that would instantly make us lock eyes and signal to the other, “Let’s get out of here.” But I was having trouble finding much of anything. And when my boyfriend wasn’t giving me the look, either, I thought maybe we’d stumbled onto something out here.
Long story short, we were able to get a mortgage and close on our new property with relative ease. We’ve been living here for just under a month now, and I’ve already learned some valuable lessons that I thought I’d share with others who might be looking for their bit of earth — or worse, discouraged that they’ll never find it:
- Hard work and a crazy dream really do pay off, and it is usually when you least expect it. So keep plodding along.
- Learn to make the best of your current situation. While I’m not in love with the boarding stable where I had to move my horse until I can get a barn up and pastures reclaimed, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that it’s the best I can do for the moment. Don’t let these kinds of decisions eat at you.
- Plan for the long-haul. I could slap up a temporary stall to get my mare here sooner, but I’m trying to keep the end game in sight. Focus your time and energy on the things that will help you achieve your big-picture goals.
- Pick a partner with a shared dream. If you’re going to have horses and you’re going to have a partner, the two are going to have to meld together in some way. Choose someone who will feel fulfilled with the kind of life you envision for yourself.
- Trust your gut. Even if your friends and family don’t seem to think you’ll be able to pull off the impossible and find the farm of your dreams, or make a career as a writer, or [fill in the blank], politely accept their concerns, put your head down, and keep going. You know better than anyone what you are and are not capable of.
There’s my inspirational advice — I’ll share some more stories about my new farm life in my next post!