Making sure I didn’t wait too long

People die every day. It’s that simple.

People die too young. They die too healthy. They die too inconveniently.

Lots of people spend their lives waiting to do the things they really want to do. They wait until they have enough money, until their kids get out of school, until they retire and have free time.

And, many of those people die before they get to whatever goal line they had set.

My parents had things they were going to do after Dad retired. Unfortunately, Mom died at the age of 53 – well before their planned adventures.

I have, for a number of years, wanted to grow my own food, knowing what was and was not in it; raise free-range chickens and have farm-fresh eggs; and live where I could still see – but not necessarily hear – my closest neighbors.

So, I bought an acreage almost five years ago. The two major pluses for me were its big, old red barn and its location on a hard-surface road so I could make my way to civilization when I felt like it. There was a house on the premises, but it was either a real fixer-upper or a real-tearer-downer. In retrospect, trying to renovate it may have been the wrong choice.

Still, there was space for my miniature goats; I often tell people I bought the acreage for them. It is mostly true. I first checked with the Fort Dodge city attorney to see if miniature goats were considered livestock, and therefore banned from living in town. They were not, he said. After living in my yard in town for four years, a Realtor who wanted to sell a house in my neighborhood was aware, as I was not, that I didn’t have enough acreage to keep miniature goats and that their pen was too close to an existing building. After a call to the city’s inspection office, I had just a few days to find new homes for the herd.

When I bought the acreage, I negotiated the return of my goats from the friend who had taken them in. She was really rather happy to see them go. Her prior experience with full-sized goats didn’t prepare her for the numerous ways smaller goats can manage to elude fencing. She frequently returned home to find them standing in the middle of the gravel road, awaiting their nightly feed.

I set about trying to make right the numerous wrongs of the house, caused by neglect, poor planning, a major hail storm and hideous color choices. In the meantime, I continued to live in my tiny, paid-off, in-town house.

Time marched on.

I managed to plant perennial flowers, trees and shrubs out at the acreage. I put in two veggie gardens and a mixed bed that produced strawberries, heirloom blackberries and Amish onions.

I upgraded the fencing and added to my critter collection with triplet Katadhin sheep, whose home is a converted chicken coop in a pen adjacent to the goats’ lodging. My childhood memories of raising sheep were right on target; they are both adorable and stupid to a fault.

With the sheep living in the old coop, future chickens still don’t have a place to roost, so they can’t move in yet.

But, fortunately, the Katadhins were somewhat agreeable to sharing their space and domicile with a pair of spotted donkeys, whose job it is to run off coyotes or stray dogs. Tom and Jerry joined the menagerie in March.

One of my original major sticking points was the lack of a garage. I think it’s insane to live in blustery, windswept, nothing-exists-to-stop-endless-wind northern Iowa without a garage. Friends participated in a good, old-fashioned “garage raising” to get the structure built. It still doesn’t have siding, and its automatic garage door opener sometimes decides to raise and lower the door with neither rhyme nor reason on especially frigid days. But the building does have a floor, walls and a roof, so it fulfills most of what a garage should have and be.

Now, there’s still that gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling, the one that resulted from someone else converting the back porch into a kitchen addition and perhaps taking a few too many short cuts. I wanted that fixed before I moved in cats, dogs and people, and began regularly preparing meals on a stove that sets pretty near directly below the offending opening. The lone bathroom is an abomination, and the hardwood flooring in the living room should NEVER have been painted mustard yellow.

But, I have conceded. I want to move into my country home while I still have the ability to do so. Countless projects have been completed; countless more may never get done.

Regardless, I am going to follow my dream to its fruition while I still can. So, in the famous words of Eva Gabor in her role as Lisa Douglas, “Goodbye, city life.”

I am, once again, a country girl.

Barabara Wallace Hughes is managing editor of The Messenger.