Caleb rolls out of bed and presses his feet against the cool hardwood floor of the farmhouse that once belonged to his great grandparents. A farmhouse surrounded by hundreds of acres of land owned by generations of his family. As he walks outside to start up his truck the horses ears perk at the crunch of his boots on the frosted ground. It’s time to feed.
On the long dirt drive to the barn at his grandfathers house he meets headlights of a side-by-side. It’s a cousin of his going to the hunting camp below the house. “This is how its been since I can remember,” he reminisces. For Caleb, neighbors have always been family. His two brothers and sister have helped out his grandfather on his part of the farm for two decades. His grandfather owns about 30 head of cattle on his 180 acres of the 600+ acre farm nestled in the Alleghany mountains of Virginia. He pulls the Ford out of the hay barn, picks up a round bale with the spear and stops to wrestle with the chain that keeps the gate closed to the cow field. “That’s Lulu,” he nodded toward a healthy heifer awaiting the feed, “she was a bottle baby when we were kids so she’s tame.” He rolled the round bale down the hill by hand grabbing the twine as it unravels. The cows surround him impatiently. He raises his hat to clear them out of his path back to the tractor. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Caleb’s brothers Alex and Owen help with whatever needs to be done as well especially during hay season.
At any given time there are about 10 horses on the farm. “My sister has always collected animals. She certainly influenced my relationship with horses. This farm has become just as much theirs as it is ours. They live good and full lives and then they are laid the rest here,” he nods to a place on the hill where the family animals are buried, a cross with their names marks their final resting place.
Alex and Jordan, Caleb’s siblings were both married on the farm. In a poetic manner, large crosses too stand in the places where they were married, marking the beginning of their lives together. From wedding ceremonies, to gathering at the hunting camp, to sweaty arms lifting hay bales in the summer heat, the farm is truly a place for family. It nurtures relationships and friends and it even gives to the stranger driving by who stops to take a picture of the rolling hills, livestock grazing and the rustic barns and silo that make up the land.
“Every morning I wake, I walk to the window and praise God for the Cattle on the hill and the life in my body,” said Caleb’s grandmother.
Caleb’s immediate family all live near by and its not uncommon for them to end the day all together over a hot meal. The farm brings them together daily in ways they will always be grateful for. It’s truly a land for generations.
The land is just as much a family member than every person. It needs to be loved and nurtured just like any of us. It holds firm its place among us. It provides the foundation for generations of hard work. And just like any person, the effort you put in to your relationship with the land you will see in return. It will change and evolve, just as we do. The trees will grow old and it will produce new life. It will have times that its waters will dry up and replenish. Just as God chose the people who are our family, he also chose the land. This is why we love it. This is why it must always be kept.” – Anonymous