My Mom named our place “Bondegaard,” which is the closest word in Danish to “Homestead” to honor my great-grandparents who emigrated from Denmark to northern Colorado and homesteaded this land in 1897. Christiansens have lived on this place ever since. It’s one of the last homesteads in Larimer County that remains in the hands of original family.
Our land spans the course of Dry Creek and is watered by the Larimer County Canal, which carries snowmelt from the high Rockies to the semi-arid plains below. The “Ditch,” as we have always called it, is a curvilinear forest of cottonwoods and other trees that forms the north and east boundaries of our place.
I remember my Dad used to refer to the Farm in the first person. In his mind, there was no disconnect between the body of the land and his body, they owned each other.
Now the Farm is my haunt and sacred place. I feel the spirits of my family and our animals all around me. I am both comforted and haunted by their presence. The comfort comes from the memories and stories grounded here. When Blue and I go out in the morning, the ghosts of other horses (Paint, Copper, et al), who spent their lives here, gallop with us. Our free range black angus cows, having grazed out at dawn, now rest and re-savor their breakfast in their favorite spots along the fence and I remember my Dad’s reply when asked why he always kept black angus cattle—“I guess it’s just because I like to see black cows on green grass.” I see the physical presence of things my parents and their parents before them built with their own hands and the landscape that has been shaped by their love and care. The haunting comes because I am the keeper of that legacy and I am haunted by my mistakes and omissions in its care.
I don’t expect to ever be free of its hold on me and I don’t want to be. I just hope that I can live up to the expectations of the land that now owns me.