Who hasn't dreamed of ditching their 9-to-5, moving to the country, and living on a farm? Mary Heffernan has turned what many can only dream of into her every day with Five Marys Farms, where she, along with her husband and five daughters (yes, they're all named Mary!) rises with the roosters and lives by the seasons. Her day-to-day consists of raising livestock, offering on-the-farm experiences, and living the simple, but oh-so-good life. We caught up with Mary about farm living, her love of pattern, and how she gets cozy.
Hygge & West: Tell us how Five Marys Farm—and its name—came to be?
Mary Heffernan: My husband, Brian, and I always dreamed of moving to the country to ranch and raise “free-range kids” in the dirt and sunshine. We both have deep agricultural roots and a passion for small town, small business, and family-centered food. So when the opportunity to purchase the historic Sharps Gulch Ranch came along in 2013, we just knew this was our spot. Prior to moving to the ranch, we had small businesses and restaurants and we spent a lot of our time sourcing really good quality ingredients for our menu. In the quest for super high quality meats, raised ethically but with great flavor, we did a ton of research with our chefs to know exactly what we wanted for our customers. We wanted superior quality beef with a great story behind it. We wanted a grass-fed lifestyle with a barley finish and a 28-day dry-age. We wanted to know the animals were raised right and harvested humanely. We searched high and low in small farms and couldn’t find anyone who could do this on a large enough scale to supply what we needed. So, we decided to do it ourselves. Five Marys Farms is named after me and our four daughters, who are all named Mary as well, after strong grandmothers and aunts on both sides of the family. MaryFrances or "Francie" is 12, MaryMarjorie or "Maisie" is 10, MaryJane or "JJ" is 8, and MaryTeresa or "Tessa" is 7.
H&W: We're fascinated by your life on the farm. Can you tell us a little about what a typical day looks like?
MH: I wake up to the roosters crowing at 6 AM ready to start the day and check on the animals before I rouse the girls for school. Brian is at least two hours ahead of me getting out the door before sunrise to feed and check the cows. I usually find him after he has fed the large animals and is loading up the tractor to fix something or other, so I head back to the house by 7 to start waking up the girls. Then, we all head to our corrals to bring in the rams, our male sheep who are in their own pasture right now until breeding season starts in November. Ranch life can be intense, and we are learning as we go. Every day there are new animal medical issues—some normal and some emergencies—but we do not have a traveling large animal vet in this county so we have to figure out these things on our own or call on neighbors for help. In between all of this I am on the go, everywhere from working in our shop to helping out at our restaurant. The girls have a few chores to do when they get home to help out and then we all load up to get to the real work.
The afternoon quickly turns into evening and we still have plenty to do, especially in the winter months. We all jump on the feed truck for the second feeding of the day and help dad hand-load 100 bales a day, 120 pounds each, to feed our breeding herd that are up on the hillside. The cows hear us coming when the diesel engine starts up towards the hill, and they coming running down to wait at the fence line. The girls get to ride on the flatbed and cut the bales open, throwing the flakes to the cows. I go to bed every night pretty exhausted, but the kind of tired that feels good in your bones. We’ve always worked hard, but have never worked harder than this. We are together seven days a week from sun up to sun down, but working hard and working as a family has never felt so good.
H&W: How would you describe your design aesthetic? What inspires you in your home decor? What role does pattern play in your life on the ranch?
MH: I would say that our brand and my personal style is rustic Americana. I love the small, warm touches that convey homeyness with a classic comfort feel. Everyday life inspires my home decor: efficient, simple, clean, and rustic (just like us)!
H&W: You have a "glamping" site on your ranch with a renovated Airstream. Tell us a little bit about that project.
MH: I found this 1972 Airstream Trailwind on Craigslist the day before my birthday three years ago. Usually when Brian asks if I want anything for my birthday, I say, “Nope, I have all the things I need,” but that year I said, “Yup!”
It was in pretty mint condition for a great deal, and it turned out even though it was and hour and half away, the original owner lived five miles away from our ranch and it had been in our valley in a garage most of those years. I started the big project to gut it and open up the interior to build out a cozy cabin to be my home base up at camp to stay while we are hosting guests. We had a few trials and tribulations putting up that beautiful Daydream (Indigo) wallpaper on curved walls, but after the third revision we got there and I love the way it turned out. We’ve got a queen bed platform on one side and a twin on the other side and lots of floor sleeping room if the girls want to stay up at camp with me while we have camps. Brian likes to be at the house so he can hear the cows and sheep in the pasture at night. The beautiful wallpaper is the first thing people comment on when they come inside to take a look! We host guests and customers on the ranch in the summers to experience ranch life firsthand, and the airstream sits at camp among our beautiful wall tents and well-appointed outdoor kitchen.
H&W: You recently added our Mermaids (Red Coral) shower curtains to your trailer in a unique way. Why did you use that pattern and what does it bring to the space?
MH: The Mermaids pattern was a perfect choice because of our mermaid-loving, whimsical five Marys! Our girls love mermaid everything and this gorgeous print reminded me of them. It brings such a fun, playful, and bright aspect to our little traveling trailer. We use it when we travel for rodeos and 4H fairs and I changed out all of the curtains with the Mermaids shower curtain and it's just perfect. All the other rodeo girls love coming to hang out in our trailer.
H&W: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to ditch urban/suburban life for life on a farm?
MH: The best advice I can give to someone who is looking to move from an urban/ suburban lifestyle and transition to a farm lifestyle is be ready to wake with the roosters and work hard every day. Your priorities change and the animals come first. We say we don't eat until our animals do, even if that means dinner doesn't make it on the table until 10 PM. But it is a life of hard work totally worth living. There is so much that is involved in raising and running a herd, both children and animals alike. With anything difficult comes the reward. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. The farm life is something that we dreamed about, but our reality is now bigger and better than those dreams ever were.
H&W: Hygge is a feeling of coziness that comes from life's small joys and simple pleasures. What brings hygge to your world?
MH: I like to think that I have based our lives and our name on exactly that… living everyday enjoying the small joys and simple pleasures. Every day is spent with the people I love, while making a positive impact on our community and raising a quality product for our loyal customers. Embracing all that comes with day to day on the farm. Our hands are dirty and our faces are smiling; life doesn’t get much better than that.