Story by Heidi Henriksen Rapid City, South Dakota
Photos by Johnny Sundby Photography
Editor’s Note: Our sister publication Farm & Ranch Living is delighted to share excerpts this week from its most recent round of diaries!
My husband, Eric, and I welcome you to our three home bases: the Double H Ranch between the Black Hills to the west and the rugged South Dakota Badlands to the east, and our two Iowa properties, 10 hours away in the state’s beautiful northeast.
Our family began a new chapter 13 years ago when we closed our welding and repair business and left Iowa, where I’d lived for 40 years, and headed west to the area where Eric was born. On the 268-acre Double H Ranch we have a small herd of 20 Black Angus cow-calf pairs. We also raise hay and chickens, and we board about 25 horses. Rapid City is our urban link, within easy reach of the Western life we enjoy here in the hills.
Our roots are deep in the valleys of Iowa, too, so five years ago Eric built a log house near Clermont, high on a hill surrounded by pine trees. The land is on the state’s River Bluffs Scenic Byway, on the property where generations of my family have lived. It also borders a bike trail and a state historical site: Montauk, home of a 19th-century Iowa governor, William Larrabee.
Recently we bought Bear Creek Farm near Edgewood. Five creeks run though this 33-acre property, which includes an earth-bermed house that had fallen into disrepair. We’re rebuilding the top floor. Our youngest son, Landon, manages and lives on the farm, where we’re raising calves.
On top of busy days at our ranch and farm, Eric and I both hold down full-time jobs. He’s a mechanic and parts technician for a John Deere dealership, while I work from my home office as a health-insurance writer and editor. We find the extra income and health benefits necessary to stay ahead, and we’re thankful we have the energy to work on the ranch at our own pace.
Eric and I also welcome international helpers through Workaway, a program that promotes cultural exchange through working vacations. In return for ranch work, our guests stay in our bunkhouse and eat meals with us. It’s a great arrangement that gets us part-time help and lets our guests enjoy this scenic area while learning about the ranching way of life.
The family is where I find my greatest joys in life. I work very hard at staying connected with my children, even though we’re separated by 600 miles. In addition to Landon, who’s engaged to Kelly, our children are Lucas, Mary, Lynzee and Drew. Our granddaughters are Thelma and Ellie.
We believe living in the country and being self-sufficient is the best life there is.