Growing up on an 80-acre farm in Wisconsin was a hoot! I remember the smells, the sights, the sounds, the work and the fun of it all. Even bailing hay did not seem like a chore because my parents made a party out of it every year. Family and friends would come from all around (people they knew from working in Milwaukee and I had no clue who half of them were) to come to the Helberg’s cuz its time to bale hay – wooo hooo! Sounds silly now, but back then it was a big deal.
Hundreds of people, BBQ grilling, refreshments and yes, we did actually bale hay. Back then there were no huge round bales – no huge bales at all. Every bale was handled by hand. Still amazes me that people actually came out to do this physical labor with/for us? They did, and in flocks! Whole family in tow.
Then, every fall, was our corn roast and each year the number of people that appeared was larger than the last. All I knew, as a child, was that it was a lot of prep work. Get the tractor filled with gas and hooked to a flat bed trailer loaded with hay for the rides later. Get out to the mechanically fresh picked cornfield and gathering all the ones the mechanical pickers missed. Bring the corn up to the back yard and load it into the cleaned horse tank. Cover it all with ice water because that keeps the corn firm and crisp until time to BBQ. Cleaning the house, open the barn (where all that fresh baled hay was so kids can play up there and out of parents hair for the day), saddle ALL the horses and be prepared to lead them around with greenhorns on their backs all day. Every year some idiot would think they could ride alone and fall off or lose something. But this was all in great fun and what a fantastic way to raise children! How smart my parents were!
Well, it was at least 30 years since those days, yet I could (and can do even now) still smell the fresh hay almost every day – even in winter. I couldn’t drive past a fresh mowed field or even fresh mown a lawn without wonderful memories flooding back into my head. So, at age 41, my sister Darcy and I bought a farm. Not in Wisconsin, but in Colorado. We left farm life when I was 13, moved around with the folks a bit, ended up in Denver for the 20 years prior to my 41st birthday – so going back to the farm was going to be interesting.
I was a single mom with a grade school age daughter when the Columbine tragedy happened. I took that as my sign – time to get my daughter out of Denver! She and I had talked for years before this about getting back to a farm like I grew up on. She told me that she wanted one of every animal she when we get that farm, so it kept her excited about the idea.
It’s a horrible thing when schools become as dangerous as Columbine, and all I knew is I was not going to let my daughter be a statistic. Denver was a great place as a young adult to live – lots of things to do, but not good for my child any more. So the search was on!