Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Gift

by Laura Crum

I grew up with a passion for horses and the natural world. From ever since I can remember, I’ve loved animals and plants. I loved our family ranch, but we didn’t live there. We lived in a suburban neighborhood around a golf course. I was allowed to visit the family ranch—once a week at best, sometimes once a month.

No one else in my family seemed to have the same ideas I did. I longed to live where I could have horses and chickens and old barns covered in rambling roses, orchards of fruit trees, and barn cats….and live myself in a small, humble cottage. I wanted to gather cattle with the cowboys, and ride my horse through the woods on a quiet, lonely trail. I did not like our big suburban house or the sterile, paved neighborhood complete with speed bumps. Both horses and chickens were forbidden there. The big deal in that place was a swimming pool. I wanted a dirt road and a pasture.

As an adult, I worked hard to make my dream a reality. And I do have horses and chickens and cattle and barn cats, buildings covered in rambling roses, a few fruit trees, and a very small house. All my adult life I have owned horses, and I have spent many years riding with various cow folk, and taken my good horses through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the coastal hills and beaches, both by myself and with companions. I have a pasture and my driveway is not paved. It makes me happy.

When my son was born, I thought of all this as a gift I could give him—the life I had always wanted. Unlike me, who fought to have any pets at all as a child, my little boy grew up with dogs and cats sleeping on the bed. He rode horses (with me) from when he was six months old. At five years old, I got him a pony. At seven he got his horse, Henry. Now that he is ten, he has been on hundreds and hundreds of trail rides and gathered cattle many, many times with our cowboy friends. The rambling roses bloom outside his window every spring/summer. He runs freely about our property, visiting with the horses, watching the chickens, swinging on his swing in the barnyard. And all this seems to make him happy.

Nevertheless, my son is not me. Though he enjoys these things we have, I don’t think horses will ever be his passion, as they are mine. He often talks about wanting to live in the city, on a busy street. Perhaps we all want what we haven’t got. In any case, I know he must seek his own dream. I have given him the gift that I could give. And I hope that these lovely things will always be a part of him. When I think of his smiling face as he rides his horse or runs down to his swing in the big oak tree, I know that the gift is not so much one that I have given as one I have received. I am so grateful.

Here are some bits of my “gift” that I wanted to share.

The roses have been exuberant this spring. This is Treasure Trove draping the porch.

Rose Dublin Bay on our tool shop/dog shed. Please ignore the mess in the shop.

My son visiting with Sunny.

Headed out on a trail ride with our friend/boarder Wally.

Bringing up the roping cattle with our friend Mark.

Henry grazing in front of the house.

Hope you all are enjoying the gift of horses and spring turning to summer, too, and may all your dreams come true.


Minus Pride said...

You stole my dream!! :) That's everything I want someday (I'm 22)and I'm working hard to achieve it!! What's your best tip??
I love your porch, by the way. I hope you get to sit out there and drink lemonade/tea/beer whenever you can!!

Laura Crum said...

Minus Pride--I sit there every evening and drink a margarita--if its sunny in the morning, I sit there and drink tea. I love sitting on the porch, but during the day I'm usually too busy to do much of it.

As for my best tip--I guess persistence and keeping the goal in mind. Its easy to get sidetracked and buy a suburban house because you can afford it/its a good investment, and think maybe some day you'll move. I bought this piece of land completely undeveloped and built on it as I could afford it. (I don't like to have a lot of debt.) I lived out here for seven years in an old travel trailer--and naturally I built the barn (and planted the roses) before I built the house. So I guess you could say that I kept my priorities straight. I see many people who say they want what I have making choices that don't lead them in this direction. And also being unwilling to (for instance) live in a travel trailer in order to move forward in the direction of their dream.

Mrs. Mom said...

Thanks for sharing so much of your home with us Laura. It is beautiful!! Can't believe how big your son is now-- they grow up SO darn fast. *sigh*

Enjoy every day!! And those awesome roses- I've never been able to grow them.

Linda Benson said...

Laura - I raised my daughter out in the country with horses and ponies to ride, and dogs and cats all around. When she grew up, her dream was something different than mine and she moved to the city, in fact, several cities *gasp* which she navigated beautifully and became involved in a world of activites not offered in "the country." However, she still has cats, and hikes and rides horses whenever she can. "You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl." Take heart, Laura. I believe that the firm foundation in family and country values you are giving your boy will stay with him - wherever his own dreams lead.

Shanster said...

Such lovely pictures! Thank-you for sharing...

Gayle Carline said...

Your place is inviting and homey and lovely. I confess, I am torn between the worlds (must be my Pisces nature). I was raised in a sort of suburb - no sidewalks, tiny roads, large lots, but zoned weird. One side of the street could have horses. Our side could have chickens. Didn't matter, because my mom wouldn't let me near horses. They were big and I could get hurt.

I grew up watching Dennis the Menace and wanting a sidewalk and a grocery store I could ride my bike to. I finally got to southern California, where I can walk to the store (I know, no one walks in SoCal, but I do).

These days, a place like yours sort of appeals to me, except I know the work it entails, and how hard it is to take a vacation and not worry that you hired the wrong person to feed your horses and they won't notice when one of them gets sick, etc. My hubby would love to live on a farm, if only to have a big garden.

I keep telling him, it sounds nice, but at our age, we need to live closer to the pharmacy. LOL

Anonymous said...

It's beautiful. It certainly looks like the dreams I had when I was a child. I grew up in suburbia and moved to the country as soon as I got old enough. Suburbia followed. I guess I have to move out further.

Don't worry about your son, when he's older and looks back, he'll realize the beauty of it all.

Anonymous said...

Hey Laura:

I wonder if our kids don't develop that "horse crazy" gene when they already have horses to ride through their moms or dads.

Part of my horse craziness was that I didn't have access to one even though I lived on a dairy farm. (If I had a dollar for each time my dad told me "there is NO money in horses......." at 5, 6, 7, etc years of age that doesn't make much sense :D)

My kids like to ride but are no where near as keen as I was, but then they have had access to horses for some time now and they just needed to say lets go ride and we could.

What do you think? That's if I'm making any sense at all.....

horsegenes said...

My husband grew up on a ranch and I grew up in a small town. I had 20 acres to run on, house cats, a dog and a horse. He had acres of riceland and pasture to roam. He had cows, chickens, ranch cats and hunting dogs, pigs, and a horse now and then. They had seasons...and with each season was a new set of chores and life and the landscape changed.

My mother-in-law is convinced that when kids grow up in the county they learn about "life". They learn about the "birds and bees" in a very natural setting and that their attitudes about relationships, work, their morals and values are all shaped by the country life. At first I kind of poo-pooed it. But as I raised my children I came to understand.

I think you gave him a gift that he might not understand right now, but he is light years ahead of his townie peers. And no matter what he will always come home.

Funder said...

You can't win with kids. You're exactly right - kids want what they don't have. I grew up in the country, with chickens and peacocks and dogs and cats, on 3 wooded acres. All I wanted was to live in a subdivision, in a normal house with a normal road. I knew that I couldn't have both worlds, and I loved my life... but I probably complained more than I should've about it.

Are you happy? You're giving him a wonderful childhood, and he'll appreciate it more and more as he gets older. If you love where you live, don't worry about him in the slightest!

Laura Crum said...

Mrs Mom--You could grow the roses I grow. They're brambles, not fussy like hybrid tea roses.

Linda--I am actually fine with my kid pursuing his own dream, including living in a city. I never was attached to him becoming a horseman. Though I am grateful that he has enjoyed the horses as much as he has. Some horse loving parents I know have kids who aren't interested in riding at all, and I think that's been frustrating for them. If my son's life path is like your daughter's, I will be happy for him.

Thanks, Shanster. You did say you wanted to see what my place looked like.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

What a beautiful little cottage!

I have always been horse crazy and was lucky enough to get my first "family" horse at age twelve. With a family of five, you can't have just one horse so we acquired another. Soon the family didn't want to ride anymore so my mother and I rode our horses. She was my riding partner several times a week and lived her dream of owning horses through me.

My husband indulged me and we bought acreage for horses along with our second house. My daughter grew up riding but my sons never cared much for it. Nowadays, my daughter rides occasionally but rarely with me.

I guess my best riding partner will always be my mother who, unfortunately, gave up riding years ago. Enjoy your riding time with your son, while you can.

Laura Crum said...

Gayle--You are right about the work. There is always grass to be mowed, weeds to be pulled, chores of various sorts to be done. Its a full time job just taking care of a small country property.

redhorse--I do believe my son both appreciates the beauty of our place now and will carry it with him--thanks for the nice comment.

Lynn--I, too, notice that kids who grow up with horses are often not as passionate about them as those of us who longed for them but couldn't have them when we were young. But if I had a dollar for every young girl who was passionate about horses as a child and then outgrew it, I'd be rich. It isn't a lasting passion for everyone, but I do believe that interacting with horses is good for all kids.

kel--That is what I believe, too.

Funder--Yes, I do love where I live. And I find it amusing that my son talks about living in the suburbs with a swimming pool. I tell him he's welcome to move there when he gets older--I'll come visit him and swim in his pool.

Voyager--I am very grateful for all the riding time I've shared with my son, and for all the joy he's had with horses. If he doesn't ride at all as an adult, those many happy hours will always be a part of him. Hope you're doing well and healing up.

joycemocha said...

I live in the city now, but I'd love to have a country place with Miss Mocha living in the backyard. I think she'd like it too (she's got the type of personality where she'd dearly love to supervise everything the human herd is doing).

Lovely roses. Lovely house. Enjoy! I'm envious, but DH prefers urban living. He's an ex-dairy farmer, so it's understandable. And I ruled the dairy farm option Right Out when we married. Cows are for eating. Not milking. I don't grok dairy cows very well, and the one time we milked for his sister, I realized I'd sooner chase them than milk them.

(fyi, sent you an e-mail about a recent blog post--er, rant--about how I dislike the predator/prey analogy in horse training).

Alison said...

Great photos, Laura, and fun to read all the comments! I grew up with horses and continue to love them. I truly believe it's hard-wired and has less to do with where you grew up. I watch American Idol and you see that the kids who make it to the top have loved music from an early age. Our passion, however, usually costs money instead of makes money!

Laura Crum said...

kel--I specifically think that my son is learning about the "birds and bees", mortality, compassion, beauty...etc--all the important things-in a very natural, simple, and yet profound way by living this country life. The natural green world is the best/only true teacher for this stuff--in my opinion.

joycemocha--I enjoyed reading your rant and sent you an email back. I think you had some interesting insights.

Almost everyone I know who grew up on a dairy wanted no part of it when they got older (!) Its a demanding life.

Laura Crum said...

Alison--The bit about costing money rather than making money is oh so true (!)

HorsesAndTurbos said...

So beautiful! I'm about to become an empty nester, my home too big...and will show my hubby these! Thank you for sharing!


Joy said...

Looks and sounds like heaven to me. I really enjoyed all the photos.

Those climbing roses. Do you have to cut them back each year? I would love to have those. I have no idea how to maintain them.

Jami Davenport said...

Laura, Your place is beautiful. I love the porch and the entire rustic feel. How lucky you are to have such gorgeous surroundings. Thanks so much for sharing them with us.

Jen said...

It took 34 years for me to finally get to the horse part of things, but when I finally did, it was with a vengeance (we have nine). My daughter loves the horses, though they are not her passion like they are mine (maybe it's simply because I have enough for the two of us ;o)
Lovely and totally relateable post!

Laura Crum said...

Thanks Jackie, Jami, Jen and Joy--Look at all those J's. And Joy, the roses don't require pruning to thrive, though I cut them back when they are in the way, and sometimes cut them way back to remove deadwood. They are not hard to maintain--just get out of the way and watch them grow. Old fashioned roses like these are very tough plants. Look for older climbers and ramblers--I love their vigor and abundance.

Bev Pettersen said...

This blog put a lump in my throat. What a gift to give a son. Lovely pictures and way of life. Thanks.

Francesca Prescott said...

Laura, your home looks so idyllic! Like a movie set.

My childhood was spent in two totally contrasting surroudings. I spent my early years in an apartment building in the suburbs until my parents managed to finance building our first house. We moved to the countryside when I was about eleven, which was wonderful as I could ride my bike to the village close by and ride a farmer's ponies.

I enjoyed city life for a few years in my early twenties (hey, you have to party sometime!), but when I met my husband we soon moved back out to the countryside and have never gone back to live in town. I'd hate it if we had to. As you probably know, it's not so easy in this part of the world (Switzerland) to find properties like yours; my current house doesn't have the romantic charm of yours, but I love it, and especially love my garden. My husband likes his surroundings to be a little more tidy, less bohemian than what appeals to me, so we have to compromise on that front! Like you, I love roses and have more and more every year. My children are quite grown up now (19 and 16), but they definately appreciate outdoor life, and have always been around dogs, cats and various other animals. Like me, my daughter is passionate about horses, but is at a stage in her life when she can't ride as often as she did before (she's at university in England), but has already said she wants to get another horse when she finishes in three years time.

I feel as though life has been very generous towards me. Thanks for a lovely post.

Laura Crum said...

Thanks Bev and Francesca--My garden is pretty wild--those who like "tidy" would not care for it, I'm pretty sure.

Francesca--I loved my time in Europe, and felt very drawn to live there--the one thing that put me off was the lack of small "horse properties" like mine here in California. Seemed like most people lived in cities or villages, with only great estates being "horse properties". Since I could never afford a great estate, and don't want to live with close neighbors, I decided I'd better stick to California.

Francesca Prescott said...

Laura: you are right, equestrian properties here are mostly "great estates", costing lots of millions, especially in Switzerland. You'd probably find smaller, relative affordable equestrian properties in rural areas of France and England, but you'd really have to go off the beaten track, making a "normal" professional life quite complicated. I often see gorgeous looking properties advertised in England, and fantasise about having a place like that, but what would my husband do? Anyway, I'm happy here, and just picked my dinner from my garden! What could be better than that?!

Laura Crum said...

Francesca--We love picking dinner from the garden, too! I didn't post photos of the veggie garden, which is my husband's domain, but we grow our own vegetables as much as possible. We are always aiming for a tidy vegetable plot, like the ones we saw in Belgium, but our garden is always a little rough around the edges.

HorseOfCourse said...

I just LOVE your house!
And your roses!!

We sit on our entrance stairs, my daughter and I, look out over the surroundings and are so happy both of us to be able to sit there instead of in an appartment down in the city.

Cheers to you Laura, for wanting to give your son the best.
Whatever happens.

Laura Crum said...

Thank you, Horse Of Course. I love the photos you post on your blog and can relate to the lovely view you look out on. Thank you for sharing your beautiful scenery in Norway. Hope you are having a happy summer. I'll have to post more rose photos for those of us who love them.