@story and images MARCUS COKER
Kristy Floyd, thirty-three, lives on a farm in Mulberry and can’t stop smiling when she talks about her cow Peaches. She loves her chickens so much that she once sat under a full moon with a shotgun after a mountain lion killed several of them. Her favorite things include wearing aprons, growing vegetables, and teaching her daughters Summer, who’s twelve, and Autumn, who’s eleven, to crochet. Kristy looks like Audrey Hepburn, if Audrey Hepburn wore flannel. And to top it off, she’s both a dreamer and a hard worker.
“If you want something you’ve never had before, you have to do something you’ve never done before,” says Kristy, who recently left a $350,000 home in Greenwood for a mobile home and her eighty acre farm in Mulberry. She and her husband Ty bought the land three and a half years ago after seeing an advertisement on a corkboard at a Mexican restaurant. “I grew up in California and have always been a city girl. But it’s so easy to be distracted; there’s so much stuff. I think people that lived on farms a hundred years ago had a stronger sense of family. And that’s what I’ve always wanted for my girls.”
Originally, the land was ninety-five percent woods. “You couldn’t walk out here. It was just briars. We had a logging company come and log all the hardwood. So they created paths. We received a check for a little bit of money and were able to buy the lumber we needed to frame our own home.”
For three years, that lumber lay out in the open, covered only by sheet metal. While the wood was aging, Kristy and Ty spent their weekdays working their regular jobs. With the money they saved, they bought several rental houses.
On weekends, they’d camp in Mulberry. “We gutted the Airstream and put a bed in it. We piped a wood burning stove because it got pretty cold in the winter.” Kristy leans against their trailer, its sides hand-painted with a blue sky and green trees. “We’d burn little brush piles and just daydream.”
Last February, Kristy and Ty’s dream began to take shape. Ty had already quit his job, and they sold some of their rental property in order to make ends meet. They moved to their farm permanently, living in a trailer. “We got the mobile home because our daughters said something awful about one of our neighbors with a mobile home, and we said, ‘We’re not raising snobs,’” says Kristy. “If you spend your life looking down your nose at people, you can’t see up.”
While living there, Kristy and Ty began working the land. Ty cut down trees and milled the lumber to build their home, as well as a barn. Kristy planted an orchard and two gardens, which she named Broken Gate and Second Chance. “I read in the Farmers’ Almanac that your first garden in a new area is going to fail—period. But I won’t fail again. It’s one of my goals.”
Each year for the last decade, Kristy has made a list of one hundred things she wants to accomplish. This year, she wants to learn to play the guitar, grow her own food, and raise bees. “I grew a lot of flowers last year to attract them.” Kristy walks to an open piece of land where the bee hives will go. She calls it a bee garden. There will be a fence to keep their animals—cows, chickens, guineas, sheep, and a pig—away from the honey makers.
Not far away is a three-acre lake, complete with a small island and several ducks. Ty made the lake himself. It’s called Broken Bone, named after the three bones Ty broke during the process of digging it. Ty designed the lake with a dam so excess water can be used to feed their creeks and irrigate their gardens. Between Broken Bone and the bee garden stands an unfinished barn that Kristy says will be finished before 2013.
No doubt, she’ll meet her goal. “Ty and I are hands-on people. We work hard. The yearly list makes me grow. When I make it, I get reflective. I see areas where I need to forgive and stretch myself a little bit more. There are books I want to read. But the guitar is number one. I learn by seeing, so I’ve been watching guitar teachers on YouTube to prepare.”
YouTube and how-to books have taught Kristy and Ty a lot. Last summer, they started building their dream home and have done the majority of the work themselves. They hired a stone mason to help with the outside, and all the rocks came from the land. The house is mostly complete, but still needs a staircase to the second story and a sleeping porch added to the master bedroom. Also, it’s still missing a ceiling, which means the family bundles up at night. “This is just a season,” Kristy says. “In the grand scheme of things, we won’t even remember it.”
Despite the chill, she continues to decorate. Many of the overhead beams are painted aqua—a mixture of paint she had left over from years of rent houses. A homemade chandelier, fashioned from mason jars, hangs above the kitchen table. “I made it after I saw one in a catalog for $500. I think I have seven dollars in that one.”
As she looks around her kitchen, Kristy says, “I’m a hoarder. That sink came from a rent house, and so did all those bricks. Some of them were moved four times.” It’s one of Kristy’s gifts—the ability to see treasures where others don’t.
Kristy talks about what’s left to be done, about the future. There will be another lake, twelve acres in size, behind the house. She plans to buy a spindle so she can make her own yarn for crocheting. “I want to have the cutest booth at farmers’ market with heirloom vegetables, all grown from our farm. I can’t wait to milk my cows and make cheese. I read about it all the time and think, That’s me, I want to do that.”
She thinks she might build cabins one day so people can come and stay. The barn would be a great place to have weddings. “It’s pretty humbling to build a farm from scratch, to be walking in the days I spent so much time imagining. Our whole mission is about legacy, having an inheritance for the generations after us. We want our kids and grandkids to always have a place that feels like home.”
To find out more about Kristy, visit her blog at sewminipennies.blogspot.com.