Life on a Farm: One Couple's Learning Experience

When the Hulstine's first invisioned farm life, they had no idea of the learning curve ahead of them. But the challenge was worth it.

| September/October 1976

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    Learning to work with draft horses was just one challenge the Hulstine's faced on the farm.

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Three years ago at this time, Aaron (my husband) and I said to ourselves, "When next spring rolls around, we're going to split from our jobs, take off with our life savings of $4,000, and look for a place in the country." Our hope was that somewhere in Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, or New Mexico we'd be able to [1] find a little homestead, [2] surround ourselves with goats and chickens, [3] raise a big garden, and [4] just enjoy life.

Back then, we definitely weren't enjoying life. Aaron worked as a reporter for the local (Akron, Ohio) newspaper and I taught school part time, and we were both bored. In our spare moments, we devoured books and magazines on fanning (when we weren't caring for our small garden) and tried to learn everything we could about self-sufficiency. Yet despite all our reading-and despite the fact that Aaron had grown up on a farm-we both had very little firsthand knowledge of the skills that one needs if he or she expects to live on the land.

Luckily for us, however, we didn't have to spend a penny of our savings in search of that farm we'd been dreaming about. Instead, in January 1974—six months or so before our scheduled quest for independence was to begin—serendipity struck: Aaron was hired as the farmer at the Hale Farm and Village, a restored 1810 homestead in Peninsula, Ohio.

Needless to say, we were thrilled at this unexpected opportunity to see what real-life farming was all about. When we began work at the farm, however, we received a thrill of a different sort.

We simply didn't know where—or how—to begin! Twenty-two head of cattle, four horses, two ponies, six hogs, two goats, twenty sheep, and countless geese, ducks, and chickens each seemed to demand our immediate attention. The sheep roamed where they pleased. The horses ran the cows away from the hay. The goats were into every feedbox on the place. And to make things more difficult for us, the daily temperature was an icy ten degrees Fahrenheit.

This wasn't what we had envisioned, and the unexpected pressures soon began to take their toll. We both developed insomnia and quit eating. Giant hogs loomed up in Aaron's dreams when he did sleep, and I heard the cows mooing long after we'd left the farm in the evening to go home. Day after day, we dragged our weary selves through the chores ... and, at night, attempted to soothe our aching muscles with hot baths, heat pads, and ointments.

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