April/May 2012 Cover Girl

Meet cover girl April Silbaugh, whose family left city life behind to put down roots in the Wyoming countryside.

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Rural transplant. Cover Girl April Silbaugh left city life behind to put down roots in the Wyoming countryside. Photography by Jim Wieland

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Down to earth. April's love of the country inspires her creativity with jewelry, made with clay fired in her home kiln. Photography by Jim Wieland

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Bright ideas take shape in April's unique clay bead and silver pieces. Photography by Jim Wieland

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Winging it. Chickens and guinea fowl are free to graze the pastoral spread.Photography by Jim Wieland

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Greener pastures. April traded city lights for new adventures on the western homestead she shares with her family—and mini donkey Pedro. Photography by Jim Wieland

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Frontier spirit. April shared an adventure of a lifetime with her husband, Derek, and their children, Weston and Savannah. Photography by Jim Wieland

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Snack time. Savannah tempts one of their pampered Haflinger horses with a treat. Photographpy by Jim Wieland

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A brush with country. April enjoys quiet time spent in nature, caring for a menagerie of animals. Photography by Jim Wieland.

 

By April Silbaugh, Upton, Wyoming

Moving to our 50 isolated acres in the rugged hills of Wyoming has been both challenging and magical. Neither my husband, Derek, nor I grew up in the country—but little miracles happen every day that reassure us this is where we’re meant to be.

After selling our house in town in 2007, our family of four lived in a camper on our land while we had a 36-by-70-foot storage building erected. The plan was to live there for six months, until we could build our new house. But many unexpected costs—including drilling a 1,000-foot well and putting in a road—delayed us. That storage building became home sweet home for nearly five years.

We went from a spacious house with four bedrooms and three baths to a one-room structure with a single bathroom and a resident family of mice. Our teenage son, Weston, and daughter, Savannah, shared a partitioned loft. A woodstove was our only heat source when it got down to 40 below. Of course, that winter went on record as the coldest and snowiest Wyoming had seen in eight years.

The kids, used to walking two blocks to school, now had an hour-long bus ride. If it was too snowy for me to drive them to the bus stop, they’d snowmobile or snowshoe with their dad three and a half miles to the highway. Derek would pile everyone into the vehicle we left parked there when heavy snow was predicted, take the kids to school and then drive another hour to his engineering job. Talk about a commute!

Love Conquers All

There was a lot of complaining at first, but the siren song of country life was louder. We instantly fell in love with our land—sledding, hiking in the canyon and sleeping under the stars. Weston found a great snowboarding hill and squeezes in a few runs down the slope after school. Savannah likes picking wildflowers and spent a birthday camping with her girlfriends in the field. Our playground is as big as all outdoors.

Nature’s embrace is my favorite thing about rural life, like the feel of chickadee feet on my shoulder as I tote seed to the feeder, or the sound of northern mockingbirds singing. The country is a year-round classroom. So far I’ve learned to do everything from raising chicks and growing tomatoes to maneuvering the ATV to round up our horses and donkey from the pasture.

Our land is also my creative sanctuary. I’ve started a home-based jewelry-making business, Sunny Fields Pottery. Shaping, glazing and firing clay beads is a great outlet on long, cold winter evenings. Recently I joined a writer’s group that’s encouraging me to work on a memoir about our first year here. I’m hoping other families considering a move to the country will read it, laugh and cry with us, and catch the modern pioneer spirit. It’s all about going after your dreams.

Here to Stay

People often ask me if I knew then what I know now, would I move to the country again. Today, looking out the window of the house we just finished building, I see Derek barbecuing on the front porch and our kids playing volleyball. The siblings who constantly argued and teased have actually mowed the tall grass to make their own court in the field.

Last year, I’m proud to say, I canned 50 jars of homegrown tomatoes. We get fresh eggs from our henhouse, and our guinea fowl patrol the grounds regularly for grasshoppers and ticks. Sometimes we miss our homey old storage building, but it’s being put to good use as a guesthouse where visitors can experience our new way of life for themselves.

Rocky as it was, that first year out here produced some of my best memories: sitting around the small table by the woodstove playing cards; snowdrifts swaddling us in pure silence; Savannah smiling, with a fistful of dewy flowers in her hand. I will always treasure those things. Facing challenges together has cemented us as a family. And somehow, the rough times have made everything about living in the country look better and brighter to us now.

Yes. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

 

Marsha Barritt 1 March 3, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Great girl, great story, great friend!

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Susan 2 March 19, 2012 at 11:42 am

We too chucked it all and moved to the mountains. Most of our friends think we are absolutely crazy – maybe we are, but we love it. I can totally relate to the snow, the woodstove and hiking to the highway. When we were building our house, the mud on the road was so bad we had to hike into our house to work on it! Things with the road are better now, but mud season now brings smiles to our faces as we recall carrying 40 pound bags of dog food over one shoulder and 5 or 6 groceries bags with the other. I actually kind of miss that (just a little). April, sounds like you have a great life – congrats!

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cindy mertins 3 December 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I tried to go to April web site but it didn’t work. I really wanted to see her jewelry. Is there another site or somewhere I can order from?

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sharon 4 December 3, 2012 at 2:05 pm

April Silbaugh has recently decided to suspend her sales to the public and concentrate on doing local craft shows and on her writing career. That’s why her email link no longer works. Thanks for your inquiry.

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LaJuan 5 January 18, 2013 at 9:30 am

I can relate to April as well. We moved to my husband’s old homeplace when our children were small. Never a regret. We built our log house ourselves in a year while living on site in a 35ft. 1954 trailer house that we dubbed “Bertha”. I told friends once about animals just showing up from time to time. For instance a duck (which we named Duddley but when we found egg in nest we renamed her Daisy), a dog we kept (and had spayed only to find out she belonged to a neighbor about a mile away but they said we could keep her), and even a sheep that came up on porch and peered in windows. I had chickens at the time I was telling them this and one friend asked, “Did your chickens just show up?” I said, “Heavens no. I bought them at a garage sale.”

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