I’ve been thinking a lot about visiting farms. Mostly because I have some guests coming soon, and lots of friends and family who are asking about visiting next summer, but also because my dad came home after a long back porch chat with my great uncle and said, “we need to do that more often, it reminds me of when we used to come visit”.
Every summer during my school years we would spend a few weeks out helping my uncle on the family farm. I loved it so much! It was always warmer than the coast, I would get to play in the dirt all day long, and I loved the house and staying on the farm.
For most of my growing up, my dad talked longingly about returning to the valley to be a farmer. Don’t get me wrong, he had a strong sense of duty to his community and was a proud LEO, but he always wanted to return to his family roots. My mom and dad moved here my senior year of college. I didn’t realize I would be moving in about 6 months later.
I always knew I wanted to live here as well, I love being outside, playing in the dirt, and the possibility of farm animals. I caught the horse bug on my uncle’s ranch. Little twelve-year-old Amanda fell in love with a BLM mustang that my uncle was housing for a friend of his. I spent hours upon hours out with this horse, I was the first to get pats, and of course, I cried when we had to leave, and I haven’t been away from horses for more than a six month stretch since then. And that’s honestly only happened once or twice.
I called him Sagebrush, for what it’s worth, and my little cousin (who is not so little anymore) called him toothbrush. The horse that started it all. (“Editing Amanda” butting in to say that if I ever find the photos of Sagebrush, I will share, but my archives got put “somewhere safe” and for the life of me I cannot find them)
My uncle also loved to tell ghost stories. I admittedly don’t believe in ghosts, but I definitely think it’s close-minded to assume we know all about our universe, so who am I to say conclusively? I will say, while most of his stories rang of silliness, there were a couple stories where I saw the… weirdness… myself, and I hold those warm nights on the back porch being completely sketched out as very dear memories.
One such story started when I pointed out a fire down by the river (the house sits on some bluffs above the river, so we could see the shore and stand of trees). I was concerned, as most 9- or 10-year-olds would be, about the farm burning, but my uncle was absolutely not concerned. He told me that happens sometimes, a young man was killed on the banks in the wild days, and that’s his fire. The second time I saw it I made my dad walk down in the dark with me, I don’t have an explanation. I really doubt a ghost needs a fire to stay warm, and I highly doubt… ghost… in general, but that experience lives in my mind, and pops up any time I see a weird light on our farm or out in the valley at night. Although, my uncle also teases that my great-great-grandmother lives in the attic every time the wind blows the doors shut, so maybe take his stories with some skepticism. And also, don’t swear and be sure to mind your manners in the attic… just in case.
I also had my first confrontation with coyotes on that farm. Another creepy nighttime experience to ballast all the lovely farmer’s market days and hay climbing adventures. I walked out to get some water from the garage fridge (Anyone else’s family have garage fridges? For extra water, soda, popsicles, and farm things? Just us? Hmmm) and heard lots of scurrying from the large doors (which are always open short of major storm or snow), but I didn’t think much of it because Simba the Cat and Freckles the Dog liked to sleep on the cold concrete floor at that time. Nothing to worry about, I got my water and turned to see Simba and Freckles staring at me from their respective spots under the workbench. So, what had run out into the yard? I shined my flashlight out (phone flashlight, so not the most powerful) and saw the telltale red eyes shining from the nearby stand of trees.
And then something growled a little closer.
And I made tracks for the house door.
Best part of this tale? I told my aunt what happened, and she sagely said, “The wild animals own the valley at night, stay inside unless you have a companion”, like she just had that quote ready to go. Guess what advice I live by now? I almost never go out after dark alone now. Lessons were learned. Especially now that my little plot of land is smack in the middle of open range and a pretty well-travelled game trail.
I love that house and the land it sits on, and I absolutely adore my great aunt and uncle. I need to take some time this week to stop by and see them again. Marking my calendar right now!
Until we chat again my friends!