Living on a ranch was never something I thought would ever be a possibility for a ‘city-girl’ like me. I’m not strong, am a city girl brought up in the suburbs of a town in the Smokey Mountains. Sure, I’ve always enjoyed riding horses, shooting guns, having a dog and wearing jeans and boots but living on a ranch? You know, one with chickens and dogs and one day goats and cattle and a garden. Me - I kill every houseplant I’ve ever owned and had to give away a cactus just to ensure it stayed alive. And yet, here I am, 39 years old and living the dream. It may have taken a while and a few bumps in the road but I found my cowboy, dogs and chickens. Goats, cattle and yes, a garden, are coming soon whether I’m ready or not and I cannot wait to share this adventure with you.
In my early 20’s, I was diagnosed with an incurable illness that left me on a lot of medicine, surgery and without hope of ever having children, a big yard and ranch home for the kids to play in and of finding a husband to share life with. I struggled with loosing my good looks and freedom to the side-effects of the medications and constant trips to the doctor and hospital. Eventually, I sought treatment overseas in the hopes of alternative treatment. Things started to change with a series of acupuncture, asian medication mixed with conventional medication and I was able to have two healthy children! What a blessing and a miracle!
Moving back to the US with these two bundles of joy brought on new challenges - being a single mom with a chronic illness brought on a new set of obstacles to work through and at the end of the day, I’m sitting in front of our wood burning stove, 2 kids, 2 dogs and with the most incredible man I have ever known. God is good. This last year has been incredible and I have done farm things I never imagined doing!
Getting our chickens was an interesting process. Did you know baby chicks are sent through the mail? I didn’t know that and it was fun going to the post office and picking up a chirping box. We all gathered around this box like it was magical; took off the lid and much to our surprise (although it shouldn’t have been a surprise), we were chicken parents! 50 baby chicks all portioned off neatly ready for a new home. How hard it was not to try and name them all because most of them were going to become dinner in a few short months. Little puffs of soft fur moving in a small mob toward the heat source and food. That’s all they cared about. Food, pooping and eating - the life of a chick. Watching the wonderment through the eyes of our kids is a whole other story.
As life went on, the chicks grew and soon it was time to butcher them. Ohhhhhh I cannot adequately describe the fear, apprehension and curiousness of the whole experience. The sound of that first machete chop on the chicken’s neck, the feel of it jerking as I held it upside down to the let the blood drain out and then the smell. The smell of the warm chicken as the skin is being ripped off mixed with smell of the gut and then when I nicked the intestines and all the crap squishing out. All the while trying to act brave in front of my kids and Mackay. I could do this and I did. Yes, I cried during and afterwards and even writing about it makes me want to cry but more than that, am thankful for the nourishment those chickens are providing my family. That homemade chicken soup, the chicken potpie, broth and other foods Mackay so tenderly makes for us is worth every chicken that has to be butchered.
Gathering eggs is a daily chore we do together. Farm fresh eggs taste so much better than even the expensive cage-free eggs from the store. We did a blind taste test for everyone and it was apparent quickly which bite of egg was from our ranch and which was not. We eat eggs almost every day and there is something so satisfying about knowing the chickens we protect and care for are in turn helping and feeding us. At this point we have 14 hens that lay and it’s fun counting the egg production every day and picking off the feathers and washing off the poop before cracking them over a hot iron skillet. Mackay and I love to simply hold hands and go out and watch them all pecking around and listening to the roosters crow. Simple and intimate and a perfect quick escape together.
We started the summer off with our four year old German Shepherd named Freyja and ended the summer with an addition, Razor Blade. He is a sweet boy that’s some sort of mixture of Doberman and possibly a terrier. He was about six months old and just days away from becoming a snack for some predator. It’s hard to believe someone could dump this sweet boy who wants nothing more than to cuddle and sleep on your favorite blanket. They run and play, tease each other and are best friends now. Freyja is definitely the alpha and leader of the two and Razor has gracefully accepted his role of being at the bottom of the pecking order. Freyja has had an interesting year as well. She went from being Mackay’s one and only girl with the run of the house to having to share her best friend with a new female and two more ahead of her in the chain of command. She too has had her own growing pains and adjustments to make with her new family. Her first love will always be Mackay and wherever he is, she is. I always know when Mackay is almost home because she instinctually seems to know and sits on alert for him. At times, I think she remembers her quiet previous life and flashes of her simple past shine in her eyes as she adoringly looks upon Mackay. She is very talkative and communicative for a dog who doesn’t bark much. She has this beautiful whine when she sees Mackay and one can almost hear her love for him in those tender moments of joy for her. She is moody like me and grunts when I ask her to move over so I can sit next to Mackay which she grudgingly does when told. Last night she buried herself in his legs while he was outstretched on the couch. She needed her love bucket filled and reassurance that she was still Mackay’s girl. Both Freyja and Razor are great with the kids and are fine-turning the art of playing all together. Freyja is their protector and Razor is the instigator. It’s a joy listening to shrieks of joy from the kids and dogs barking and yipping outside. They all bring such joy to our family.
Mackay is the absolute love of my life and best friend. It’s hard not to gush on and on about him. This handsome man that took my breath away the first time I saw him speak at a networking event who still takes my breath away and makes my heart race. He may be a tough army veteran with tattoos and pierced ears with vocabulary that makes me blush but he is thoughtful, kind, super smart with a mind that never shuts off. He is patient with me as he teaches me the basics of how to do everything here at Ironside Ranch. He steals kisses from me at every opportunity and is quick to grab my hand as we work or walk the property. He prays for me and the kids, talks to his mom every day and gives himself sacrificially for us every single day. He cooks gourmet meals just about every day and has ruined me for life from restaurant food. Every meal out gets compared to his cooking and generally falls short big time. Life suddenly changes when you can share it with someone you can completely trust, laugh with, love and cry with. He doesn’t seem to mind my hidden talent of belching either! Can’t tell you how much time I’ve lost just catching myself daydreaming about him when we aren’t together; it would probably be embarrassing. I love how he focuses his attention and time on our family and seems to be as content as can be here at the ranch all together. I pray we can add to our family of 4 with another little one sometime soon. He is such a good father and treats Joshua and Hannah as his own. One day, I will share more about Joshua and Hannah but at this moment let's leave it at them being safe, happy and well-adjusted, super smart kids with a mom and dad that adore them and are proud of them.
Mackay and I both have full time jobs on top of caring for our ranch. Mackay is a co-owner of Timberline Inspections, LLC and I am a realtor with Keller Williams Metro South and owner of Rosewood Realty, LLC in Birmingham, Al. We both enjoy our jobs and find them very fulfilling. And yet, at the end of the day, we enjoy nothing more than coming home to our family here at Ironside Ranch. As I turn down our gravel driveway, it’s like the weight and worries of the day evaporate. I’m greeted first by two rambunctious dogs, kisses and hugs from the kids and then a smile and kiss from a man that stops my heart. Doing laundry and cleaning, homework and taking care of the animals no longer seem like a chore but a blessing. What a gift to be able to come home to a safe place and enter a whole new world of animals, livestock, trees, dirt, guns, tractors, plants and life! I’m filled with wonder every day at God’s beautiful workmanship! It’s quiet here and easy to hear to the wind whispering through the trees, chickens cackling and causing a raucous, squirrels jumping from tree to tree and noticing unidentifiable bird calls. We have a spider on our water pump that won’t go away and spin her web elsewhere. It seems like she’d tire of constantly rebuilding it! We walk the property dreaming of what is to come, the new life stirring within - which hill will be transformed into wildflowers for the bees that will arrive in March, which spot will be the launching pad for our barn, the area for our orchard and which trees we want to plant where. And the list goes on. Will be sharing all the updates on our ranch with everyone bit by bit and I cannot wait to share this wonderful life with you.
I'm a wife, mom of 3 wonderful children, homeschool teacher and loving ranching. After Mackay and I married, we've been steadily pursing our goals of having a self sufficient life and teaching others along the way.