Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How did I get here?

I’ve been thinking lately about how I got here. Sometimes people ask how I did it and mostly I just shrug and say “I dunno. It all kinda happened pretty fast.”

But here’s the long, ‘short-version’ of how it all happened. First, a bit of background. I used to have a big life.  Fat, cushy job in an industry some folks would die to work in, money – oh yeah, lots of money. I had a NICE house in town, the works. But I was in a “bad situation” and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had to get out.

My life was unsatisfying and I’d sit in my office and stare at my vacation pictures and wish I were anywhere but sitting right there. I dreaded going to work every day and I spent my big money making myself feel better because I worked so much. So I worked more so I could buy more things to make myself feel better. It was a vicious cycle. And it wasn’t doing me any good at all.

So then a lot of things happened. Some of them didn’t make sense at the time and some of them I can’t really explain. I began preparing for some big change but I didn’t know what it was going to be...but I heard the distant rumbling of thunder and I knew something was going to happen. I read books about how to change your life.  I asked myself “what would I do if I weren’t afraid.” I started researching, of all things, farming.

I was a gardener in the city. In fact, I was pretty good. People barreling thru my in-city neighborhood would screech to a halt in front of my house and call out praises for my gardens. I was proud of my postage stamp sized vegetable garden. I hated working outside in the yard as a kid and had done everything I could to avoid it. But now, as an adult, it was the only thing I could think about. The soil called to me. And I had that vision gnawing at me... of standing in the sunshine surrounded by fields of corn and hay. Yes… there had to be something to this…..

I bought a couple of books on how to start and how to run a farm. The biggest eye opener for me was sitting in a trendy breakfast place eating a $15 plate of eggs reading “Ten Acres Enough - The Classic 1864 Guide to Independent Farming.” I was shocked at how similar E. Morris’ decision making path was to mine – over 100 years later. But I loved that he had faith in Provision and boldly pursued his calling.

Soon, a series of complicated of events happened, and then all the levers and switches clicked just at the right time, and all the stars aligned. And then it happened.

Now earlier in the summer I had prayed very hard that The Big Man, who was living here in Ohio, would get laid off so he could spend more time with me in civilization. I know, I know it was all about me. Well wouldn’t you know… he got laid off. And so he started spending more time with me in city. Which he hated. So then, I started praying very hard that I would get laid off so I could do something. Anything. Whatever this big change was going to be I was ready for it – I just had to get out of this job and get some money in my pocket. My favorite teacher says that success is when preparation meets opportunity. I was ready – come on! Let me have it!

I knew a lay off was coming  – there were the tell tale signs… the scurrying about by the HR folks, the tech support guys who wouldn’t look you in the eye, building maintenance guys walking around with blueprints of the offices… yep, the writing was on the wall. Monday was the rumored Big Day that they were handing out the pink slips and… and… nothing. Dang. At the end of that day of hopeful waiting …nothing. No call into HR. No package of severance and COBRA information. Nothing. So I walked into a buddy’s office and wondered, “What do you have to do to get laid off around here?” He didn’t have any answers. So I went home sulking.

The Big Man happened to be visiting me and so the next day I took him to the airport. I dropped him off and headed to work. Slowly. I was late for a standing meeting with my boss and I didn’t care. I had a meeting with her The Day I Was Supposed To Get Laid Off and it was a disaster. She wanted me to time index my standard set of slides.  She wanted me to tell her exactly how long the presentation would take. I knew exactly how long the presentation took and I told her. But she wanted me to tell her that on slide #5 I would be 7 minutes and 32 seconds into my schpeal. Are you kidding me?

Anyway. I was late when I got there but I called her for our standing phone meeting. Dutifully.  I braced myself for The Slide Discussion again.

She began, “You know, sometimes MANAGEMENT makes decisions and they are very difficult…..”

My ears perked up and I stopped sorting my inbox and turned toward the speaker phone, suddenly interested. Could it be? Could THIS be the day? I was about to have a Price is Right moment – come on down for the Lay Off Lottery!!! Could I be so lucky!?!??!

“And even tho MANAGEMENT makes these hard decisions….” She was stalling.

Say it.. come on… say it…… I thought. My heart was beating fast! This was it! I was free! My prayers had been answered!

“So THEY’VE decided to….”

I couldn’t wait for the wind up anymore so I blurted out “What’s the money?”

“What?” she was shocked.

“What’s the money? You’re laying me off, right? Quick, what is the money? What is my severance package?”

At this point she started stammering so she needed help. I gave it to her.

“Sheila, pull yourself together. What is my severance package? Just tell me how much money it will be. Just bottom line it for me.”

Clearly she was annoyed that she didn’t get to give me her whole prepared speech and I’m fairly certain someone else was in the room with her. I was ruining her big show. After a few seconds of tripping over herself, and possibly more prompting from me, she blurted out a figure. A Very Nice figure.

“Will you hold on, Sheila?” I barely caught her surprised, and somewhat shrill, “WHAT” when I put her on hold and dialed The Big Man’s cell. He answered.

“Don’t get on the plane!”


“Seriously – don’t get on the plane! I’m coming to pick you up! I got the lay off – we’re driving home in 2 days.”

True to form, completely unflappable, The Big Man just said “Ok. I’ll be out front.”

Back to the clearly flapped Sheila who was still on hold. I picked up the call again and asked how long I had to stay. She thought it would be great if I would work thru Friday but I didn’t have to stay after I signed the papers. I thanked her for making me feel so valued but no, thanks. I’d be leaving on Thursday. Where was the pen? Where do I sign?

And that was it. Well, there was the minor point of me running down the halls skipping and yelling gleefully:  “Wheee! I’m retired I’m retired I’m going to go and be a farmer!!”  People came out of their offices to see what was going on. I smiled and said, “Back to your cubicles, corporate monkeys! I’m goin’ country! Yeeeeehaaaaawww!!!”

And that was the end of my corporate life.

Over the next two days The Big Man, who was in fact standing out in front of the airport when I went back for him, and I packed up my house and my two cats and on Thursday we left. It was December and it just so happened that we drove between two snow storms the entire way. The Big Man drove like a demon – possibly because he thought I might change my mind. But I didn’t.

So the cats and I settled into a big drafty century farm house for the winter. We stunned The Big Man by shoveling out his bachelor pad and creating a home. “No, honey. Golf posters with motivational slogans are NOT art. Neither are holiday edition beer cans.” I got a dumpster. And filled it. We all felt better when all that crap was gone.

When the spring came we worked together to shovel out the old hen house, tilled up the old barnyard for a garden, and made the property grow again. I sold my house and had a huge moving sale. All the nice things I had in civilization would be useless on the farm. So I donated all my work clothes, found homes for my good stemware, packed up a truck full of stuff – including Old Bess my double oven, old timey stove – and gave the city the finger.

Of course, nothing really ever goes exactly according to plan. We had some bumps and some setbacks but we kept on keepin’ on and we worked it out. And when it didn’t work out we just did something different. Like when we moved from the old farm to this new place. But that. We’ll that’s another story altogether….


murphysranch said...


Chai Chai said...

Living the dream!

basicliving@backtobasicliving.com said...

What a GREAT story!!!! And wonderfully told. I smiled through the whole thing and laughed out loud when you put her on hold to tell your hubby not to get on the plane! HA!

Love it. I just love it.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks! Sometimes the situation just comes together. I don't miss my corporate life AT ALL. Some times I miss the big money but mostly I feel like my like couldn't get any better.

Mr. H. said...

Without going into any detail, your story is eerily similar to our own journey out of the corporate rat race and into the life that we now enjoy. The book that got to me was "Living the Good Life" by Helen and Scott Nearing.

I am going to order that Edmund Morris book, it sounds like something I would really enjoy reading.:) I'm glad you wrote this post and that I had a chance to read it.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks Mr H.. I'd love to read your story too. I'll pop over and see if you have it on your site.

Cindy said...

Fantastic story! I retired a year ago at age 57 after working more than 30 years as a nurse in the "health care" industry. (What a joke! "Health" has nothing to do with it. It's the "make-money-treating-disease" industry!) Everyone told me I was too young to retire. My only regret is I didn't do it sooner. Yeah, I have less money, but having the time to do things that really matter is, as they say, priceless!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks Cindy - yep... gals like us know, don't we? Making a life vs making a living. Yay for you for getting out also!

David said...

Sitting in the High Tower of Commerce. Trying not to despair. Plotting, planning.

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