(The current (Fall 2011) issue of Woodlands and Prairies Magazine focuses on oak savanna restoration with several articles about ongoing efforts in Decatur County. It includes an article about the Timberhill restoration.)
This year Bill and I will celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary. Not only is it hard to believe that our marriage has lasted this long, but that it gets better each year. Before we moved to Timberhill our relationship had followed the course of many marriages. We led separate lives. Bill focused on his dental practice with leisure time spent on the golf course. My job was taking care of our children and the household. I pursued individual interests in my spare time. Once the children were grown we spent less and less time together as a family. Although we had an active social life and plenty of interests our existence lacked substance. We needed a change of scene.
We traveled extensively looking for the perfect place. We immersed ourselves in Italian country life, food, and wine at a Tuscan estate. For several weeks we basked in the sunshine of the Provence countryside. We fell in love with the Florida Keys but couldn’t imagine living there full time. The stark beauty of the southwestern U.S. was appealing but no matter where we travelled we realized that the terroir of Iowa suited us best.
Our decision to move to Decatur County, Iowa was a complete departure from life in town. Our friends couldn’t believe that we would exchange a comfortable life in Des Moines for one of the poorest, least populated counties in Iowa. “You’re moving where?” they asked in disbelief.
Despite some misgivings we made the move in 1993. We were compelled by the beauty of the land – the stately oak trees and wildflowers, remnants of a once flourishing oak savanna. We traded our house in the city for 200 acres of overstocked woodland and prairie openings. We traded Saturday night dinner parties for quiet evenings at home. Bill traded weekend golf for clearing trails and chopping wood. I traded community work for learning the plants and fungi. Together we shared a common goal: to restore our overstocked woodlands and overgrown prairie openings. The work has transformed our relationship into a true partnership. It was work that neither could do without the other.
Each year that Bill and I spend at Timberhill the land becomes more a part of us. Just as the plants and trees are endemic to this place so are we. Timberhill has become so much a part of our being that we do very little travelling. We leave too much of ourselves behind.