I’m a city girl. I watch You’ve Got Mail and admire how Meg Ryan can leave her front door step and walk a few blocks to work. I love the looks of a city, especially in those more vintage looking housing areas that have a front door charm you can’t find anywhere else (again, see the movie You’ve Got Mail and you’ll understand what I mean). I like looking at skyscrapers and the architecture in some of the older buildings and wondering how in the world they got that high way back then to decorate building faces. I love the idea of being so close to so many things that you can just walk to them all- the park, your job, the grocery store, small mom and pop stores, the ice cream stand, Starbucks… that list can go on for ages. Of course there are certainly other things about a city that are not appealing, such as the crowds, the hustle and bustle, the sounds of a city, the traffic.
Okay, so I’m more of a suburb girl with a romantic view of the city. I’ve grown up in small towns in Northwest Georgia, and I’ve enjoyed living in them. But I’ve never really been a country girl. My dad grew up in Florida with a lot of land. His family owned a horse once, and his grandmother basically had a homestead with all of the different kinds of animals she kept. His dream was to always have his family grow up on a farm- or a homestead would be the better definition. But a busy life, with a wife and three growing children, and demanding jobs and bills kept us in the suburbs.
So when I dreamed of marriage, I always saw more of a city guy with similar interests as me. What did I find? A full blooded Texas cowboy. True story. He left everything he knew and moved 1000 miles away from home to marry me. But he kept all of his cowboy heart, and in truth, I wouldn’t change that about him ever. Nicolas was used to wide open spaces, seeing the whole sky at any angle, and tiny trees (he lived in west Texas). So Georgia was a big change. Back in May he was discouraged about his job and we started praying about a job change. Then, on a Sunday night, he found a horse ranch job on Craigslist and called. He got a callback Monday, an interview on Wednesday, and the job during the interview.
This horse ranch job was his dream job, and I was excited for him but nervous because of the dangers of the job. The requirement for the job was to live on site, being able to be on call for boarders, the trail horses, and anyone else who would need him at any time. So what did we do? We moved… from a 1400 sq. ft. home to about 800-900 sq.ft. duplex.
One of the best parts? The ranch is located just a few minutes from our old home and everything else. Which means I’m still only about a 7 minute drive from work, Nicolas walks from our little home to the barn, I’m actually closer to the grocery store (a 2 minute drive), and I’m an 8 minute drive through the Battlefield to the city.
The best part of this whole move is that this ranch is the most Texas looking spot in Georgia I’ve ever seen. There’s more open hills without all the trees and the tree lines are smaller so that you can see a wider view of the sky than even I’m used to. The ranch is 180 acres bordering the Chickamauga Creek and Chickamauga Battlefield. There’s more than forty horses on this ranch, so the scenery is really cool with all of the horses, old barns, the copper looking silo, and even a circle arena. It’s very quiet out here. I mean quiet in the sense that I hear less of the city and more of the country. I’ve heard sounds I’ve never heard before. And most of them are from various kinds of frogs at night.
The bugs are ridiculous. Flies and horse flies are abundant and I thoroughly hate them both. I thought all mosquitoes were made the same – small. I was wrong. I was riding a horse once and saw a mosquito the size of a nickel on the horse. Freaked me out. My husband had to get off his horse and kill it because I was too stunned to do anything. Spiders are everywhere. I’ve walked into so many spider webs that I’m about ready to keep a broom on hand anytime I walk outside. There’s one particular huge spider that lives in the trees beside our home. I’ve walked in his web multiple times because he keeps putting a thread from the web to the ground right beside my car. Thankfully this last time that I walked through that string he hasn’t bothered doing it again.
I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the boarder horses and our riding horses. Every horse has a personality. There is one horse named Duchess who is allowed to roam and eat because she won’t leave the ranch if the gate is open. I call her a diva because she acts like she’s better than all of the other horses, she’ll run you down if she thinks you have food, and she’s a Belgian horse, so she’s bigger than all of the other horses. But she is so cool. There’s a boarder horse that is staying in a paddock beside our home and he is the sweetest horse I’ve met yet. He’s my favorite. My other favorite is Bam Bam, a trail horse owned by the owners of the ranch. He’s a beautiful buckskin dunn. I think it’s because he’s sassy that I like him. He actually slung my husband off once during a run. I didn’t appreciate that, but he’s a gorgeous horse.
So what have I learned in these two months of living on this ranch?
- I love it. I love the ranch life. I love waking up and not seeing houses all around me. I love seeing the horses at any given time and hearing them neigh or run. I love how separated it feels to be here even though we are so close to the city. I want to start a huge garden next year in my backyard. I love how beautiful the scenery is. I could take pictures and paint scenes for the next year and still not see all of the possible angles.
- My husband was born for this. My calling is being a teacher, and Nicolas’s calling is to work and live on a ranch. All of the boarders love him, his boss loves him, his coworkers love him, the horses love him. He’s got incredible visions of where this ranch could be in a year, two years, and many years to come and is making strides to take it there. Already he’s made improvements and this whole place seems happier.
- Boarders are serious about their horses. They are serious about horses in general. If they think a horse is being mistreated, by golly Nicolas gets told about it. They don’t play when it comes to taking care of these animals, and they expect everyone else to be serious about it too. I really respect that. Thankfully our boarders really love their animals and take very good care of them.
- Riding a horse is a walk in the park, or a jump over a muddy ditch. True story: on my very first horse ride ever, it was just Nicolas and me. We rode on some slightly muddy conditions, thinking it’d be fine. Well, my horse didn’t like the mud, so she would about put me into trees or fences to stay out of it. There’s a small ditch about maybe half a foot deep and two feet wide on the trail that was full of mud and water. Nicolas’s horse trotted through it. My horse jumped it. Twice. I held on for dear life. I didn’t have time to be scared until after it was said and done because she did it so randomly and quickly. But after being told by several horse owners and riders that I must be a natural, I decided that I am. One day I want to take real horse riding lessons. I certainly don’t take these animals lightly, and I keep a general respectful fear of these animals when I’m around them, but when I’m on a horse I have a strange sense of ease and confidence. It’s probably just because I held on during those jumps on my first ride.
- I have the best of both worlds. I have the ease of a short commute to anywhere I need to be while living in the country with 180 acres and no neighbors. It’s amazing.
- My husband works all day every day. Truly he works just about 24/7. Just this morning he got up at 6 AM to double check the front gate. The trail horses were let out to the hay pasture to graze, and he wanted to make sure that none of the boarders or visitors had not closed the gate to where they could get out to the road. There’s been times we’ve been on a date and his boss has called and asked him to check on something at the ranch. Many times we get stopped by boarders on our way out to church, or to go shopping, because they just want to chat or have a concern. Some days he works his 8 hours, comes home for dinner, goes out and works on something else for a few hours, comes home to rest, then goes back out again for something else. Needless to say, we cherish our time together and his off days.
- I want a horse. Learning about these animals has made me want my own horse to take care of. They are amazing animals, and I would love to raise and nourish a young horse to adulthood. That way the animal was comfortable with me, used to me, and hopefully my calm, easy nature would rub off onto him or her.
- Our dog is a punk. Our great big German Shepherd, who is 10 years old, completely healthy weighing 93 lbs. is a punk. He has bitten (more like snapped) countless horses and nearly been trampled several times. He gets very jealous of Nicolas with these horses. Plus, he’s gone from being an indoor dog to an outdoor dog and it’s been a hard transition for all of us. But Beau loves all of these wide open spaces, and he loves being with the horses. I’m pretty sure he thinks he’s a horse dog, like a sheep dog, because he’s tried to round them up before.
- A poor horse means that a horse is underweight, but it doesn’t mean the horse is old and ready to go. It also doesn’t mean that a ranch or establishment doesn’t care about the horse. Sometimes horses have trouble gaining weight and keeping it on, and sometimes horses get conditions in their bodies. Horses can have very human problems as well, such as stress and anxiety. Sometimes the pasture is overgrazed, the grass has low nutrients, and sometimes horses have teeth problems. But no matter all of these things, it’s best not to judge a place before you know all of the details of the situations. Our ranch has poor horses that they are trying to help, and my husband is their #1 person. He goes out of his way to try to help these horses.
- God’s blessings sometimes come in disguises. I never thought I’d like living on a ranch. Like I said, I enjoy the idea of a city, and I enjoyed the idea of a ranch in movies, but not for me to live there. Yet here I am beyond thankful and happy to live here. My husband has found an almost spiritual fulfillment working on the land and with the animals. We are content in our situation and feel that God has placed us here for a reason. No better feeling than that.