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Leaving home to return home

Erica Louder for Progressive Forage Published on 03 February 2022
Erica Louder and baby

The smell of sagebrush on a rare rainy afternoon as I ride horseback through the dry pasture. The strain of my shoulders as I pick lava rock from the 40-acre field. The clank of the tractor bucket as I toss that rock in.

The sound of the irrigation lines when they pressurize. The feel of loamy-clay soil in my fist as I crush it between my fingers. My arms scraped and a little bleeding as I run through 8-foot corn to shut the center pivot off. Shoving the pickup into four-wheel drive as I ease the too-heavy hay load over the largest hill. Galloping Reba through the field we finally decided wasn’t worth growing corn in. Sprinting down the lane three weeks postpartum to keep the cows from reaching the highway. My 3-year-old clinging to my back as we look for a calving heifer, my thumb cramping from the four-wheeler ignition.

These memories are what I think of when I think about our farm. They are also the memories I will miss when we leave this farm. We thought this would be our forever home; what a quaint turn of phrase. In the early years especially, it was hard. We were unsuccessfully balancing full-time careers, children and this farm. We used to dream about being full-time farmers. This farm taught us that it was OK to let that stay a dream. Last fall, my husband took a new job. He was no longer tied to the dairies that kept his veterinary practice afloat. With that change, we made the agonizing decision to leave this farm and return home.

It’s a weird word, home. When I think of home, I think of here, where I am now, this farm, this place, these landscapes. I’ve lived 10 years in this part of southern Idaho. When I think of home, this place is what my mind pictures. Yet, the place where I grew up, the place where my parents live, the place I first called "the farm," that too, is home.

When I was in my late teens, irrigating morning and evening, trapping gophers and learning to drive the tractor, I dreamed about running my dad’s farm after college and buying the little house next to my parents and turning my dad’s 150 acres into something that could really be called agriculture. Instead, I settled 200 miles away, where my husband and I set out on being second-generation part-time farmers. Sometimes when I would travel to my childhood home and visit that farm, I’d remember that small dream of a tanned and mosquito-bitten 17-year-old.

Today, as a 30-something, I find myself dreaming that dream again. We purchased 35 acres next to my parents, planning this new place as our forever home, for real this time. My feelings are conflicted about the move; it feels like leaving home to return home.

What does home feel like to you?  end mark

PHOTO: Photo provided by Erica Louder. 

Erica Ramsey Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.