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.

 

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