Grit Blogs > Unpaved Roads

Finding the Right Path

Wendy Slatt head shotMy name is Wendy Slatt and the first thing you should know about me is this: Being a farmer's wife is not how I expected to live my life.  Of the long list of dreams and aspirations I had in my younger days, "farmer's wife" didn't even make the cut. And that's pretty telling, considering the list had a rather wide range of professions to choose from, like lawyer, symphony conductor, voice actor, optometrist and aerobics instructor just to name a few. How on earth did I end up being a farmer's wife and loving it?

Well, to start with, I was born the youngest child of a highly improbable pairing between an Italian from Brooklyn and a Tennessee hillbilly. (My mother was loud and proud to proclaim herself a hillbilly, and I sure was never one to argue the point. If you'd known her, you wouldn't either.) They met in Virginia, moved to Kansas City, and raised a family in working-class suburbia. Every summer, my father took two weeks' vacation to drive us to visit either his family in New York or my mother's family in Tennessee.  The result was my exposure to the widest contrast of lifestyles I could imagine in my formative years, between the unceasing sights and sounds of a concrete environment that never stopped moving and the near-total silence of a country home that didn't even have running water. (We took a "real" vacation one year and went to Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park. Between Dad complaining about the high cost of everything and me coming down with a stomach virus in the middle of a two-hour mountain stretch with no rest stops, no one was keen on trying that again.)

In New York, we went to the Museum of Natural History. In Tennessee, we listened to Grandpa tell family history. In New York, we climbed to the crown of Lady Liberty. In Tennessee, we hiked the side of the mountain to pick blackberries. In New York, we rode the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone at Coney Island. In Tennessee, we jumped off Potter's Falls into the pond below. In New York, we ate knishes and hot dogs and pizza from Nathan's. In Tennessee, we ate chicken, corn and cucumbers straight from Grandpa's land. In New York, riding the subway at night was scary. In Tennessee, walking to the outhouse at night was scary. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The contrasts were as endless as they were astounding to my young eyes. Given a choice between the two, I saw the logic of my parents' decision to eschew both worlds and raise their family in the middle-ground normalcy of the suburbs, but in my naiveté I really thought the city was where I wanted to be.

Adulthood found me doing the slow but steady crawl up the corporate ladder in the paper world of banking (another profession definitely not on my list of childhood dream-jobs). The only things I loved about my job were the pride in my accuracy, the sporty little stick-shift I drove, and the wardrobe I could afford to charge on my credit cards. I thought myself a typical American woman living a typical American life. I spent my days working, my evenings caring for home and children, and saw my husband in passing.

That could have been the end of the story right there, but obviously it wasn't. Ultimately, my marriage ended, I left behind my native Kansas home, and found a new life and new love in South Carolina.  When Eric and I married, it was our shared dream to someday move to the country and become farmers. (I know the popular vernacular these days is "homesteading" but in my mind I still think of it as a farm, just like my Grandpa's in Tennessee.) Eric had grown up in the beautiful Pennsylvania Dutch country, surrounded by Amish farmers. The sights, the sounds, the smells...all of it had gotten into his blood and made it his heart's dream to someday be a man of the land. And me? life had long since lost its luster. I had no more tolerance for corporate politics, pencil skirts and three-inch heels were no longer a look I cared to style, and I found myself wondering what kind of future my children would have to look forward to in a culture that seemed bent on giving up growing or making its own necessities. I wanted my children to grow up understanding that there are some joys in life you can't get through an electronic the joy I'd found picking blackberries on the side of a Tennessee mountain in summer. On April 15, 2009, we bought our home in the country and saw the beginning of our dreams come true. It tickles my irony-loving funnybone that I ended up living on a Southern plantation married to a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee. Considering my parentage and upbringing, I think it's very fitting.

new home 

I'm still getting used to being a farmer's wife and I often joke about the reaction my "inner city-girl" has to it all. It's dirty and gritty and sweaty and hard. We have our frustrations and disappointments, our lessons learned and mistakes made. But mostly, we have and thankfulness that, as crazy as this life may seem to some, it's a life we love. I wouldn't trade it for anything.