We Bought a Zoo RANCH!

Our family has always loved the movie, We Bought a Zoo probably because it seems like something we would do!  We love adventures, new challenges and experiences, learning and working hard … making the most of life and doing it together.  Well, in 2021 we did something kind of big.  We bought a zoo RANCH!  In WYOMING!!

Since we got married in 2004 we’ve lived in southern Indiana.  (I’ve never really claimed Indiana however as I am a Kentucky girl; and I’m sorry Indiana, Kentucky is better! But I digress.) For the past seven years we’ve lived in what we called our “forever home.”  We had gone from a subdivision to a house that we absolutely loved on 5 acres.  It was perfect!  It brought our family so close to one another.  It was where we learned to garden and can our homegrown food, to keep bees and chickens, to store firewood and keep the woodburning stove going, to play together in the pool and sit and fish by the lake.  What more could you ask for? We thought we would be there forever.

This move for us was not made in result of discontent or unhappiness for where we were.  In fact, loving where we were made this new adventure pretty hard in a lot of ways.  So how did we end up in Wyoming? Good question with kind of a crazy answer.

I remember very plainly the morning of Martin Luther King Day in January 2021.  It was early, and I was reading my Bible and praying while everyone was sleeping.  I was just sitting in the quiet, thinking and praying, and I had this thought of … what if we lived somewhere else?  What if we just did something completely different and new?  Again, we loved where we were, so this was a bit strange for me.  Not to mention I’m not exactly known for loving change, so I don’t really know how to explain these thoughts.  I just remember feeling this – we need something new – feeling.  So I got my computer out and started researching different places in the country to live.  SO weird!

Literally as I’m doing this, my husband Josh calls to me from the bedroom, “Hey, come here … I’ve got kind of a crazy idea.”  I go into the bedroom, and no kidding, he says, “What if we bought a place out west?”  WHAT??

Okay, this is crazy.

My answer without hesitation: “Let’s do it!”

We started researching different states out west and looking for places for sale.  Our first experience with this region was only a few years ago.  Montana was the first place we had ever traveled to that I said, “I could live here.”  (Check out our post about that special trip.) But as we were looking, everything kept pointing to Wyoming – it fit everything we love.  We narrowed down to 2 houses on our favorites list, and then one place that was a bit crazier of an idea … this ranch in a tiny town of 83 people basically in the middle of nowhere.  Ten days after the morning of our simultaneous crazy idea of moving out west, we flew to Wyoming and made an offer on the ranch!  My teenage nephew’s response was, “You mean, like Kanye??”

When we got our family out to Wyoming, it did not take long for us to completely fall in love with it.  It just seems to fit us.  Or we fit here.  It is slow and peaceful.  We are surrounded with the beauty of God’s creation, right at the base of the Big Horn Mountains.  We get to experience the snowcapped peaks, such beautiful colors, the incredibly vast open sky, tons of wildlife right outside the door, insane stars at night.  In our town there is one store/café where we’ve met most of our neighbors, and in the nearest town there is exactly one stoplight.  It might not be for everyone – things like not knowing for sure if you’re going to have cell service, or maybe not the greatest internet speeds, or being far out without a lot of big stores and restaurants nearby – but man, we love it!  I also never realized how much stress traffic causes me until we got out here and I can just D R I V E !  And with amazing views everywhere you look!

These are the types of "traffic" jams we see now ...
... and I don't mind them at all!

There is a great culture here too with a perfect balance of everyone ready to help each other at a moment’s notice, but also space to be alone too if you want to be.  I love seeing the same faces and getting to know these kind people, such as the UPS guy who always seems to genuinely care to know how we’re doing, the ladies at the library who know what series of books my kids are reading and have recommendations for what they may like next, the friend at the café who texts me when they have my favorite treats.  We’ve had neighbors, who we had only met once, bring two vehicles more than an hour drive up the mountain to rescue us when we had two flat tires.  Homemade bread and jams from the community church. Invitations and helpful advice. Offers to come watch our boys play hockey; offers to let our girls ride horses and show the kids how to rope.  I could go on and on.

Being in Wyoming has inspired me in so many ways.  I feel close to God as I take in the awe of everything around me.  We have also come closer as a family.  We’re learning about irrigation and cattle and the climate here and the wildlife here, the value and importance of water here … so much to learn.  And so much to explore!  We try to find a place to hike and explore most weekends and to just be outdoors as much as possible.  I realized recently that it had been two weeks since the TV had been on! I’ve also been inspired to be like the kind-hearted neighbors we have met.

Now, it is easy to write and share about all the awesome parts of this experience, and ultimately that is what we choose to focus on each day.  We feel so thankful and joyful to be in this new place that we now call home.  But to say it has been easy or all good … well, that’s just not real.  First of all the career choices, hours, risks, stress, and sacrifices made that even opened the door to this opportunity go unseen for the most part.  There have also been plenty of days where we’ve said, “Could anything else go wrong?!”  or “Could something please just go right?!” There have been plenty moments where we’ve questioned this whole thing!  “Are we doing the right thing?  Is this absolutely crazy?  Are we going to regret this?”  There have been sad moments thinking about not being as close to our extended family and leaving behind friends and the home we put so much love, work, and memories into.

There have been so many questions, so many uncertainties, so many things we have had to figure out.  During one family discussion about all this, I just said (it felt like the Holy Spirit and not me), “None of that really matters though … the only question is: Do we feel like this is where God wants us?” It was quiet for a moment, but then the kids started nodding. 

We could have held on … to what was comfortable, to what was easier.  But we felt God calling us to let go.  On our very first drive out to Wyoming I felt God’s presence with me in the car.  On one hand I had been excited about this new adventure, but I had also been very scared and worried at the same time.  There was a moment I felt this release … like a weight dropping … like a deeper breath … a peace.  I felt God telling me that He had gone before us, and that He would be with us here.  He planned all this.  He provided all this. 

Is it kind of crazy? Absolutely! But it is an adventure I wouldn’t trade.  And once again, the Christine Caine quote that has kind of become our motto: “Life is too short, the world is too big, and God’s love is too great to live ordinary.”


Wheels UP!   Eyes UP!   Let’s do it!

Why Wyoming? This is WY!

Leave a Reply