Sitting at the dining room table, looking out at her horses, Martha said probably her biggest accomplishment since her divorce was being able to stay on the small farm that she and her ex had created over the last 13 years.
“He asked me pretty early on, ‘do you want to stay here since we’re going to be splitting up?’ and I said, ‘of course I do.’ I couldn’t imagine breaking up my family of animals.”
Her family of animals is currently five horses – two that she owns and three boarders – six cats and two dogs. Her home sits on nine acres in rural Boulder County in Colorado bordered by open space, holding developers at bay. It’s not difficult to understand why Martha jumped at the chance to stay but she didn’t know how she was going to do it.
“Being able to stay here really meant being able to buy him out and refinance and get a whole new mortgage and I’ve never done that before. So that was absolutely terrifying for me to think about.”
Martha explains that although the big picture was scary for her, when she broke it down into steps, like getting the property appraised and finding a mortgage, it wasn’t so difficult.
“Things quickly lined up. I understood each piece as it came and it was a whole lot easier than I expected it to be. So, this giant fear just really started to shrink as each step took place and it was great because by the end of the whole thing, I couldn’t believe I did it. I own this house! I own this place! That was really a big step.”
Since then Martha has undertaken substantial renovations to the house – part of her process of letting go – and she’s learned much about the maintenance aspects of the farm which her ex used to take care of. By far and away, the most challenging of those has been learning to irrigate the property:
“I thought he was going to spend the weekend and he was going to show me because you have to do it for 24 to 48 hours every four hours. So, you’re up every four hours moving water so it will flow down the land properly. It’s a big deal.
“It’s an art and he would use these tarps in the lateral ditches that run east/west to then direct the water flow. I said there was no way I’m going to do that. Yet it’s not anything you can hire out either. So my ex said let’s get you some irrigation pipes. They’re these big tubes. You string them along and they have these little window gates and you open them and the water comes out. Much easier to control but there’s an art to that too because the lay of the land isn’t just nice flat.
“My ex thought everything was fine but once you start filling the pipes with the water they move. They start to tilt downwards more so the little windows start to get harder to access.”
Martha’s ex ended up giving her half an hour’s instruction so it was a sink or swim learning experience for her. Fortunately, she says the ditch rider, who controls the water for the ditch company, took pity on her and gave her another couple of days of water so she was able to get a good watering.
Her least favorite part of irrigating? Crayfish. “I didn’t like dealing with all the little crayfish. We have a lot of crayfish here and they like water. They’re only out at night and they are just so gross. We’re not on the Bayeux!”
Even without the guidance she was expecting, Martha says, “I got it and did it. I had fun doing it. And, I really liked being closer to the land like that and going out at one in the morning or four in the morning to move the water. That was really fun.”
In her professional life, Martha sells software to TV stations and her farm creates a good balance to that. “It’s just been wonderful because I have a good division of time between labor and real farmwork versus my professional life.”
Martha makes a good point about balancing professional and home life – something I have struggled with forever. The farm demands her to switch off from work. She also makes the point that she works from home and that means she can weave the farm tasks around her sales calls. What do you think? Is it harder to balance work and home since getting divorced or does shared parenting make it easier? Does working from home make it harder or easier to balance home and work? Did you stay in the marital home when you divorced? Was it your dream home? Post a comment – we’d love to hear from you!