We may have thought we became farmers the day we drove home our first two merino sheep in the back of our SUV, but the inspiration had been planted long before. To be sure, the transporter who delivered our sheep to us from California all the way to a McDonald’s in Missouri laughed when we showed him the moving boxes we planned on putting the sheep in. As they say, all’s well that ends well, and both the sheep and the car recovered from the three hour drive back home to Illinois.
However, the earliest we can trace the inspiration to live on a farm was a couple of states prior to our current home, in Oklahoma. While in a suburban starter home there, we got backyard chickens and fell in love after that first golden-yolked egg. When our weekly menus and grocery budget became accordingly simpler, we realized we had found a special treasure. Not long after, we visited Washington D.C. as a family and took a trip to George Washington’s familial home, Mount Vernon. A wave of inspiration crashed over us as we took in the sights and sounds of a complete level of self-sufficiency. Washington’s words on farming, claiming it to be the noblest profession, lodged deep and secure and the course was set. It’s true, however, that Mount Vernon boasts heritage pigs on the farm while a certain party still refuses to allow pigs here at Hadleigh Grange.
There was another particular day that further nudged the dream while we were living in Oklahoma. It was a hot, humid summer day, the kind where your mind can never quite stop thinking about how hot and sticky you feel. I took the children peach picking at an orchard and, for the first time, I did not worry about how far away from me they ran. There were still acres surrounding us and my children’s little legs cycled through the energy of that freedom as they chased and ran. I felt peace and I knew I wanted to have that feeling again.
We chose the name Hadleigh Grange to reflect the heritage of the history of farming. A grange is an old name for a farm or gathering place and we wanted our home to be both of those things. Hadleigh specifically speaks to a high, flat place featuring heather, and while we don’t boast heather, we do have many other wildflowers important to the proper health of livestock and bees.
Not only has Hadleigh Grange grown, so has our family and we feel immeasurably blessed. Three young children, ages 12, 10, and 2, call Hadleigh Grange home and fill it from corner to corner with life and laughter. Mike works as a radiologist by day and as a farmer by evenings and weekends while Ingrid stays at home with the children and takes care of the daytime chores.