Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Over North" Farm

Stearns' farm
(upper buildings)
 north of Pavillion, WY
circa 1980s
The farm was dubbed "Over North" because it was 10 miles north of the home place. It consisted of approximately 500 acres, some of which was non-irrigable. My brother leased this property, located in an area called Third Division, from the Bureau of Reclamation for several years, beginning in the mid-1960s.

The area was part of the plan to bring irrigation to the Wind River Valley; however, in 1957, the farmers in this area formed their own irrigation district. Unfortunately for the homesteaders, the economy failed, and they were unable to complete the project. Hoping to get their original irrigation project on track, the Bureau of Reclamation purchased back the land from 78 original farmers (approximately 22,000 acres), and a six-year lease was offered to the general public for 8,900 acres in Third Division. My brother, Rich obtained the lease on the farm. The full history of this project can be found on the Midvale Irrigation website.

In 1971, the leased farms were put on the auction block with no preferential treatment for  the lessor. Rich purchased the farm at the auction, but not without paying more than he had intended.
Stearns' farm
(lower buildings)
north of Pavillion, WY
circa 1980s
The farm produced oats, alfalfa hay, and silage for the dairy on the home place. The roughage also provided winter pasture for a beef herd, and the non-irrigable land on the farm was used for stack yards as well as pasture.

The house in the photo above was moved to the farm in the mid-70s. My brother purchased the house from my cousin after its basement was destroyed by fire. Even though the house was habitable, the smoke smell was still evident in the 90s. I rented the house in the mid-80s to the mid-90s.

The trees west of this house were old Chinese elm that cracked under the weight of snow, but they provided some shade and shelter from the wind. After the photo was taken, I planted some trees on the property: spruce, pine, apple, poplar and lilac, and convinced my brother that a windbreak in the field to the west would be beneficial. We planted three rows of trees and shrubs, but they did not receive enough water to thrive.

My brother lived with my mother on the home place, and drove "Over North" every day to farm, to irrigate, and to feed cattle. He would often work in the fields late at night in the Spring and Fall, and since he had no way on contacting my mother if he had trouble, she would sometimes drive "Over North" to check on him. Eventually, he purchased a CB radio for his pickup, but communication was still poor. One night, his pickup died, and he had to walk the 10 miles home in his irrigation boots.

In the Winter, Rich would come Over North late at night and break snow drifts with his four-wheel drive pickup so I would have an easier time getting to work in the morning. At the time, I had a little Toyota Tercel with front-wheel drive. Some mornings, the road was slightly drifted, but I was able to make it up the hill; other times, my little car would be pushing snow.

While I lived on this farm, my life was dictated by the weather: I fought snow drifts and wind in the Winter and mud bogs and deep ruts in the Spring and Fall and sometimes the Summer.

"Over North" was a great place to see wildlife and nature at its best and worst. I miss that part of living there, but I do not miss the nasty roads.


  1. I enjoyed reading the history of Over North.

  2. Oh Nancy I love your blog!! It brings back such wonderful memories of life on the farm, especially country roads. Our two girls got my car stuck in mud up to the door handles one night. We had to dig them out at 2:00 in the morning because I had to drive the car to the hospital the next morning (my Mother was having surgery). As I drove along the next morning the car was still slinging dried mud out from the tires. Farm living--what wonderful memories!! Thanks Nancy!

  3. It certainly wasn't a easy life, cold, hot, dry, wet, and hard.

    Amazing that anyone kept doing what they were doing for so long. But thankfully they did or none of the rest of us would eat.

    My Mom has pictures of all the family going to Church on a Sunday morning, on a flat bed sleigh...mud everywhere...

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  4. Fascinating! I knew nothing of the irrigation project... neat. I think the smell of smoke would bother me far more than snow drifts, but then I don't get snow drifts often enough to tire of them!

  5. So romantic sounding. In love with the land and nature. How wonderful to live there. but the smoke smell would be hard on me.
    I want to hear about the wildlife nancy.
    It is funny how we "dub" a spot with a certain name eh?

  6. I really enjoyed reading this bit of history about the "Over North" farm.
    I know that dealing with the nasty roads in winter and spring was quite a challenge when you lived there. I will not forget that image of your Tercel parked in the school parking lot, pretty much splattered with enough mud to make one question the color of your car! Both you and Chuck had some good mud-bogging on the way to work.

  7. Oh wow, you totally spoke to me with the weather dictating your life on the farm, that was very much a part of my childhood. Don't you just love it when the snow melts just enough to make the dirt roads all mushy and then someone in a huge truck makes huge mud pits at intersections? I can definitely picture your poor little truck struggling to make it. You've also reminded me of how land used to be bought and owned, that is definitely a way of the past, now a companies are buying up huge plots of land.


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