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? Well...city 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 gadget...like 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 joy...joy 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.

wendy slatt
2/10/2012 2:32:55 PM

I'm definitely going to have to carve out some time to get caught up with all the great bloggers here. Sleep? Who needs that! ;-) Thanks for the warm welcome, Cindy!


cindy murphy
2/10/2012 12:52:39 PM

Welcome to the GRIT community, Wendy, from one of those 100 bloggers, (100 bloggers?! No wonder I'm always behind in leaving comments!). Fun reading the juxtaposition of your city/country upbringing. Looking forward to hearing more.


wendy slatt
2/9/2012 11:40:11 PM

Thanks Lori! It's definitely a different life out here in the country, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I can stand the city if I have to, but thankfully that's pretty infrequent and I'm always glad to get back home again!


lori dunn
2/9/2012 8:24:50 PM

Hello Wendy! Welcome to the GRIT blogging community! I think it's cool that you've been able to see and live both lifestyles. Me, I'm a country girl through and through. I was born and raised in very rural South-Central Pennsylvania,(Juniata County) and still live in the same area, just at the top of the ridge from the home I was raised in. Any time I've been to the city for whatever reason, I feel the buildings close in on me. I need open spaces! You are very diverse in that you've been in both worlds, and it's nice to have the knowledge you've gained from both places. I would be totally out of my element living in the city, and will happily claim ignorance of it. I'm so happy for you that you are able to live your dream.


wendy slatt
2/9/2012 6:43:57 PM

Hi Cheryl, glad to meet you! I can understand how that is. We thought we'd still be in the workforce for a few more years while we got our farm started, but God had a different plan in mind. It's a lot of work, and some tense moments, but it's worth it for us. Hope you find your way there permanently, it's a beautiful life in the country. :)


cheryl aker
2/9/2012 5:33:59 PM

Welcome to GRIT blogs! I'm a new blogger myself (A Wanna Be Pioneer). I too had grandparents that either ranched or lived out in the country while I was raised in the city. While we now work in the city because that's where the jobs are for us, we love the fact that we can escape and leave that all behind on our little homestead (which is completely surrounded by large farms)! If we could find a way to keep the bills paid, believe me, we'd never (or at least rarely) leave it. :)


wendy slatt
2/9/2012 3:28:29 PM

Thanks Carol!


carol j. alexander
2/9/2012 3:15:43 PM

I love your story, Wendy. Thanks for sharing. I now have two friends blogging for Grit. So cool.


wendy slatt
2/9/2012 2:29:08 PM

Thank you, Charles, that's kind of you to say. It's a very different life for me out here but I'm loving learning it all. Looking forward to sharing more of it with you; hope you'll enjoy it.


wendy slatt
2/9/2012 2:20:15 PM

Christine, I feel the same. I can tolerate a visit to the city if I have to, but my home and my heart is always going to be here in the country. Thanks for the welcome!


wendy slatt
2/9/2012 2:06:01 PM

Dave, thank you for the warm welcome. I couldn't agree more; a hard-worked body gives a good night's rest. I'm looking forward to getting caught up with the happenings on your urban ranch, and all the other great blogs here. (100? Goodness, I've got a lot of reading to do!) Every day on the farm is a great day...hope yours is too.


charles mallory
2/9/2012 3:09:38 AM

Wendy, how interesting! We MUST hear more from you. What a "schizophrenic" upbringing, but I'm glad the country side of you won out! It sounds like your entire life story would make a good book. Maybe we can start by hearing about your current new-farmwife experiences along with your Tennessee memories. Look forward to reading much more from you.


christine byrne
2/9/2012 12:48:36 AM

I'd fight tooth and nail if someone tried dragging me back to the city. I'm glad you finally found your way "out here." Welcome.


nebraska dave
2/8/2012 11:27:33 PM

Wendy, welcome to the world of GRIT blogging. There are practically 100 bloggers here that all have a united mind set of simplify, grow plants, and go to sleep tired. I think it was always intended for people to work hard physically and go to bed tired. It just feels right. Don't you think? I always like to hear about how folks get to where they are in life. Everyone has a unique and interesting story. My parents had the typical eloped type of story with Mom's dad out hunting them down with the shot gun. My great aunt was instrumental in hiding them until the wedding. I always like to hear folks that find the right life to live. I spent 41 years in the corporate world of telecommunications but my heart was always yearned for country living. Suburban city living will be the closest thing to that life but that's ok. My urban ranch suits me just fine. Have a great day on the farm.