Down a rutted driveway, past a forgotten cottage and under a canopy of overgrown apple trees, Amy Rucker found her dream home.
Built in 1972, the house — complete with original shag carpet — wasn’t what sold Rucker on the property. It was the 20 acres, steer barn and sustainable living opportunities that made her persuade her husband, Brian, they needed to purchase the farm.
“This place was just completely let go,” Rucker said from her front porch.
But the Mount Airy farm was also perfect for their young family. It was still in the feeder pattern for their daughters’ school, and the girls’ grandparents lived just around the corner. It would also allow Rucker to dive into her passion for providing healthy and natural food by growing some of it on the property.
In the year and a half since they bought the property, Rucker has accumulated five goats, three cats, two dogs, one miniature pony and a pond of goldfish salvaged from Baker Park after the downtown flood.
A neighbor also helps the family harvest hay from one of the fields to fulfill the “agricultural promise” attached to the land deed, which requires the farm to stay active. This has bought Rucker some time as she tries to figure out what the farm will become — whether that be growing a niche crop such as hops or boarding horses.
“I wish I had this upbringing,” Rucker said. “I got away from horses, because I figured it wasn’t going to happen.”
Growing up in Silver Spring, Rucker rode horses but gave up hope of owning one, knowing that horses and an urban lifestyle didn’t go together. But when her eldest daughter, Sydney, 9, started taking lessons, she, too, got back on a horse and fell in love with the idea of having some of her own.
Izzy, the family’s 38-inch miniature pony, is the sole horse on the property, but Brian is working to restore the barn to house more.
With help from his father-in-law, Peter Muson, the men dug out tree stumps crushing the walls of the barn, and for Christmas, Brian bought Rucker new beams. Eventually the barn will have three finished horse stalls and room to store hay above.
Brian has been a full time Snap-on tools franchiser for 12 years and was reluctant to move to a farm that would require endless maintenance. But he could already see his youngest, Samantha, 5, gravitating toward the animals.
Dressed in a pink tutu and cowgirl boots, she recently rode Izzy in circles around the small goat paddock, nudging her to go faster.
As for Sydney, “I think my older daughter got here and immediately climbed in a tree and hasn’t got down since,” Rucker said.
There have been some life lessons on the farm, including a fox that made off with several of the family’s chickens. Rucker ran around with a broom, but it was one of their adopted barn cats that managed to chase the foxes off, she said.
In February, the family’s pit bull Schmoo also died, which directed Rucker into another one of her passions: training dogs.
Currently, the family is fostering one of Frederick County Animal Control’s dogs named Gramma Tala, after the grandmother in the Disney film “Moana.” Gramma Tala is an 8-year-old female terrier and American pit bull mix and is up for adoption.
Ideally, Rucker would like to see dog training also become a part of the farm in the future.
“You get a return on your investment other than money,” Rucker said.