Shel-Clair Farms

Where horse riding is peaceful and serene, full of natural beauty.

Thoughts from the Tractor Seat

When a Horse is your Obsession
September 2017
I had to have her. She became an obsession with me. She was all I thought about. Her long red hair. Her gentle ways. From the moment I awakened until I laid down at night, she was in my thoughts. An unexpected smell on the wind, a picture in a book, a casual conversation with someone–a thousand things made me think of her.

But I could not have her. Who was I? I . . . read more


This Farmer’s Midlife Crisis Solution: Trout and a Boy
March 2017
farmers-midlifeIt was my “red sports car,” my “affair with my secretary,” my “Harley-Davidson motorcycle.” I call it a “trout pond,” and it was how I got through my mid-life crises.

Turning 50 was not easy. I was divorcing, had watched as the last of our four children grew up and moved away, and meanwhile was selling the generational family business–all at about the same time. I put a good face on it and  . . read more


House Changes Size in Time
December 2016
tftts-farm-house-changes-sizeI moved out of my childhood home and into a 2-bedroom, 1-bath, rat and cockroach-infested trailer, but for a boy working his way into manhood, the 2-bedroom, 1-bath, rat and cockroach-infested trailer seemed better than a 3,000-square-foot ranch with parents. The space was tight, but I settled in and prepared for life.

I soon met a 19-year-old with a beautiful smile and form-fitting Daisy Dukes and fell in love. I needed more  . . . read more


My 4-H Lesson in How to Win
December 2016
It seemed as if my entire life had come down to this one moment. I was 16 and had been showing dairy cows in competition since I was old enough to walk and hold a lead rope at the same time.

It was the state showmanship, and the competition would be fierce. There were seven districts in Alabama and the month before. I had won my district. Seven kids, seven cows, one judge—on a crisp October afternoon  . . . read more


How my Farm Became my Mistress
October 2016
I moved to this farm at age eighteen, and except for two years in the south Georgia, professing to be a “college man,” I’ve spent most of my days here. We have cleared her land and drained her swamps. We have protected her from erosion and fenced her perimeter, cross-fenced her and then decades later, torn out old fenced and replaced them with new ones. We have grown corn in her soil and grazed cattle on her fields. We have toiled and dropped sweat on every inch of her. I have stood in her center and  . . . read more


When a Balloon Chased a Cow
July 2016
Balloon Chasing CowI watched with amusement as a party balloon settled among the cows. It was one of those helium-filled balloons that probably escaped some far distant birthday party, leaving a 5-year-old girl in tears and arriving here some days later for my entertainment.

The cows treated it like some kids in a pool with a beach ball would do. But they soon lost interest and went on about the business of being cowsexcept, . . . read more


A Coat Hanger in the Night
May 2016
clothes-hangers-147765_640I am amazed at how alive a metal coat hanger, hidden among the sheets, can feel against your leg in the predawn hours of the night.

I am equally amazed at how quickly a man of my age can get out of bed when he thinks he’s about to be murdered in his sleep by an inanimate object—standing there, mostly naked and vulnerable—I ease back the covers to reveal . . . read more


Past Owner Visits the Farm
March 2016
Former farm owner's houseA former owner’s house on the farm.

It happened again this week. Two strangers on the farm, just driving through as if they owned the place. I did the “southern gentleman” thing and asked if I could help them. The driver introduced herself and then introduced her passenger: her 90-year-old mother who used to own this land.

It’s happened a dozen times in the last 30  . . . . read more


Putting a House amid the Mystery Pines
January 2016
House in the pinesWe searched for the perfect acre among a thousand. It was time to build our house, and–this being a large farm–we had many options. There were three requirements: It needed to be in the woods; it needed to be on a hill; and it needed to come with a view. We walked and talked and searched for weeks. And then it happened–there it was.

It was a pine . . . . read more


My Lesson in Giving
December 2015
Lesson in Giving-3This holiday season, we all think of giving. When I was six years old, I learned a valuable lesson in giving when I was faced with the decision of how much to give in the collection plate.

I hope you enjoy reading what I decided and what happened next. It taught this little boy a lesson that stayed with me for life. I bet you can learn from it, too. Read it, comment, share it. See if you learn anything from this tale. . . . read more


Thankful this Week has Come
November 2015
Photo from thanksgivingAnd so begins my favorite week. Hay is in the barn, calving season is over, humidity is gone, and the family is coming home. There are no gifts to swap; no parade to attend. No one is dressing up like some ghoul and begging me for candy. No one is having a birthday and whining about being a year older. Just the people that mean the most to me, hanging out and overeating, enjoying each other’s company–and banana pudding.

The Beardens will gather in the farm house basement again–all one hundred of us. A feast will be spread, and Uncle Don will “give Thanks.” Someone is sure to mention Uncle Joel and talk of how much he is missed. I’ll think for a moment of those who have gone on before us: my mom and Olivia, cousins and . . . . read more


Calving Season on the Farm with Friends
October 2015
2012-04-11_15-04-14_15It’s calving season down on the farm: a time to keep a little closer eye on the herd; a time to saddle up and ride.

He takes a sip of his first cup of coffee, steps outside and says “hello” to Belue, his ranch dog and constant companion. They make their way to the barn, where his horse Catalina awaits breakfast and the beginning of a new day. There’s work to be done. They ride off together, this rancher and his two best . . . read more

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