Grit Blogs > Cultivating a Dream

The Beginning of the Dream of Going Green

Sam, my cowardly standard-poodle puppy
Sam, my cowardly standard-poodle puppy

Pauline HyltonSam sat his furry bottom down by my unsmiling face as I lay sprawled on the blanket.

“You’re blocking my view of the poplars, Sam.”

Sam is my cowardly, black, standard-poodle puppy who weighs about 60 pounds. The reason for his cuddling—he was terrified. Terrified of falling leaves. Terrified of bleating donkeys. Terrified of working tractors.

But this will be his life and I think he likes it.

I am like Sam.


Terrified of making new friends. Terrified of failing as a farmer’s wife. Terrified of having to drive 45 minutes to reach the nearest Starbucks.

But I think I'm gonna like it.

I like seeing my husband drive the orange tractor across red clay. I like tilting my head all the way back and marveling at towering poplars with bright yellow leaves against a clear blue backdrop.

Aniversary present tractor
Me on my anniversary present tractor.

Tom and I have a dream. We’re over 50 years old, live in a tropical paradise of several million people, and run a charter fishing boat.

But we want to be farmers.

I didn’t always want to be a farmer. In fact, when I first traveled to Mt. Airy, North Carolina (aka Mayberry) to visit Tom’s mother on her family homestead, I couldn’t think of any reason why anyone would want to live there.

Quiet wouldn’t describe it. It took fifteen minutes of a nail-biting drive down twisty roads to reach the small town. The Main Street was adorned with old-fashioned storefronts, advertising The Andy Griffith Show. No chic stores with expensive brand names I couldn’t afford. Pity.

When Tom’s mother died quite suddenly five years ago, we stopped our yearly trek to the farm and I missed it. So when we visited a few years ago, I fell in love. With the people, with the town (which now boasts a Ruby Tuesday’s, a Chili’s, and a great Thai restaurant) and especially with the land. A collage of my Creator.

I love the smell of it. The feel of it.

We’re cultivating a dream. In fact, we’re learning to cultivate.

I’d like to take you along with me and tell you about it. Maybe you’re living the dream, or maybe it’s become a nightmare.

There have been a lot of funny things, and even some hard things. I’d like to tell you about them.

Probably you have a lot to teach me. We need all the help we can get.

It’s making me smile just thinking about it.

Question of the week:
What is one piece of advice you could give us besides DON’T DO IT?

(We’ve already been told that.)

A view from the yet non-existent porch
A view from the yet non-existent porch.

pauline hylton
11/30/2012 3:43:45 PM

Yes to both questions. We will start out trying not to starve and then hopefully have something to sell. Thanks for your advice!

pauline hylton
11/30/2012 3:42:49 PM

Where are you, Lyn? We want to do hoop houses, too. And raising ginger sounds amazing! Also, I'll look into the MG class when we get to NC.

lyn benson
11/25/2012 1:23:29 AM

I am later coming to the farming community than you both are! Having worked in social services and later having a bed and breakfast for 23 years I am hard at work to achieve similar dreams. Having polio at age 3 and diagnosed with MS in 1999, I was put on disability almost two years ago. We left the bed and breakfast in the city and moved to the country! My very best advice to you? Take the plunge and sign up with your local Extension Office to become a master gardener! The 50 hours of training and subsequent twenty hours of volunteer service each year after is priceless! More valuable are the wonderful contacts and friends you make! A winter training course of a few hours a week is a great way to spend learning and planning for the next season. I became a MG in Virginia in 2005. I'm now raising cut flowers and recently gotten a grant from the USDA to build a season-extending 30 x 72 hoophouse, which I hope to have constructed in December. I have a smaller structure to put up as well and plan to raise ginger, berries, lettuce, bok choy, tomatoes and other things. I have found bliss in a pile of dirt and so will you! Lyn

pam baker
11/21/2012 10:35:09 PM

You have fabulous advice here. Nothing I would add. I am glad to hear someone else over 50 is starting farming. Phew...I was beginning to feel like an odd duck. No one lives your life but you so have at it and have fun. Best of luck to you. Pam Baker

steven gregersen
11/20/2012 10:35:13 PM

Congratulations on pursuing your dreams! Are you looking to farm commercially or live a homestead life? (I define them differently than some: farming is a business and homesteading is a way of life.) The answer will help you determine what to plant. MY advice has already been given by others but I'll repeat it again: Don't try to do too much at once and stay out of debt. Other than that I'm excited for you both and hope the very best for you in this new endeavor!

pauline hylton
11/18/2012 12:21:41 AM

Thanks for the welcome, Dave. Maybe I should start by keeping my basil plant alive. It's in my kitchen now. I suspect that is part of the problem. My friend Roger says you should say hi to Mr. Haney since he was from Nebraska.

pauline hylton
11/18/2012 12:19:32 AM

Mary, for a minute, I thought you were part of the big bad government, and you can see through some spy satellite onto our land. Then I realized that there's a pic of the land. Thanks for the welcome. Will take a look at yours. (Not your land---your blog.)

pauline hylton
11/18/2012 12:16:37 AM

Learning about that, Mary.

pauline hylton
11/18/2012 12:15:50 AM

Either brave or stupid, Christine. Whatever, we're gonna give it the old college try.

pauline hylton
11/18/2012 12:15:04 AM

Allan, no debt is the plan. Thanks for the advice.

pauline hylton
11/18/2012 12:14:02 AM

THANK YOU DAVID! I've been trying to tell my husband we need to plant fruit tress. I'll be blogging more about trees soon! He says we can't plant the trees until we actually move there.

pauline hylton
11/18/2012 12:11:37 AM

I concur!

heather jackson
11/17/2012 2:18:20 AM

I hear you! This farm would be perfect if we had a Starbucks on the corner!

david cobb
11/16/2012 7:15:01 PM

My advice, slow and steady, nothing grows overnight. Plan on doing X every year until you have everything the way YOU want it. My biggest mistake was probably not planting my fruit and nut trees the first year I moved back "home" nine years ago. I have a dozen seedling pecan trees and four starting bearing this year, also an old pear tree and a plum tree that was here when I bought the property. I am now harvesting fruit from a persimmon tree, blueberry plants, kum quat,bush, scuppernongs (Muscadines for you Yankees), the aforementioned pecan trees, pear tree and the plum tree. We have planted five pecan trees and the Cape Fear produced about two dozen pecans this year (they have only been in the ground for three years), two pear trees, two apple trees, two chinquapins, three figs (planted last year and produced a few figs this year), one sweet cherry, five blackberries and an additional three scuppernongs. I plan to add a walnut and hickory tree next year. In addition to a large garden, I also have seven White Silkie Chickens that free range and provide all the eggs that I can use. It's an ever evolving way of life, enjoy what you have and make it personal so you can enjoy.

allan douglas
11/16/2012 5:43:32 PM

Good for you Pauline! My advice to you - I'm sure it will be common advice - is "don't listen to the nay-sayers; they just want to keep you miserable too." and don't get too deep into debt pursuing the dream. The biggest dream killer I know are collections agencies. I'm not a farmer, but I followed my dream and being able to weather economic down-turns because I'm not neck deep in debt payments makes it all possible. Follow the dream, live while you can enjoy it,

christine hryb pearlman
11/16/2012 4:03:34 PM

I say don't listen to anyone but yourself. Go for whatever is next on the list that you want to do. You will make mistakes. It is not the end of the world. You will learn from these mistakes and be better at it tomorrow. You are brave. I wish I were just as brave and I wish you great good luck.

11/16/2012 2:44:07 PM

Envious of you making your dreams come true. We too are dreaming of the day we can move to a larger piece of land that is less crowded. Don't give up, and keep striving to live out those dreams.

mary hitzeman
11/16/2012 2:34:01 PM

It will be the most satisfying/frustrating/learning experience you will ever have. Dive in that big pile of leaves and enjoy. Don't forget to mow the leaves so they decay faster...

mary carton
11/14/2012 5:27:03 AM

Collect a lot of leaves, from the looks of that soil, it really needs it. I drive around with a fork in the back of my truck so I can haul a good pile home. Welcome to GRIT bloggers. I blog as Rosedale Garden along with the 3 hooligans. They are always good for a story.

nebraska dave
11/14/2012 2:26:08 AM

Pauline, welcome to the GRIT blogging community. My advice to you and answer to the question is, "Don't listen to those that tell you not to do and follow your dream." Times will be good and times will be bad. Don't let the dream be killed by those well meaning friends and family. My life long dream began a year ago with a large sized garden. Have a great day in small town USA.