Once Upon a Farm: Lessons on Growing Love, Life, and Hope on a New Frontier

Once Upon a Farm: Lessons on Growing Love, Life, and Hope on a New Frontier

by Rory Feek


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785216728
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 06/19/2018
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 17,888
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

A true renaissance man, Rory Feek is known as one of Nashville’s premiere songwriters, entrepreneurs and out-of-the-box thinkers. He is a world class storyteller that crosses all creative mediums from music and film to books and the internet.

As a blogger, Rory shares his heart and story with the world through his thislifeilive.com blog that has over 2 million Facebook followers. The love story of he and his wife, her recent battle and loss to cancer, and his vignettes of unwavering faith and hope in the face of tragedy inspires millions of readers who follow along with each post.

As a songwriter, Rory’s written multiple number-one songs, including Blake Shelton’s “Some Beach”, Easton Corbin’s “A Little More Country Than That”, and Clay Walker’s “Chain of Love”, and had dozens of other songs he’s written recorded by Kenny Chesney, Randy Travis, Reba, Trisha Yearwood, Waylon Jennings, and many others.

As an artist, Rory is one-half of the Grammy nominated county-music duo Joey+Rory. He and his wife Joey Martin toured the world, sold hundreds of thousands of records, and have their own weekly hit television show that airs all across the country on RFD-TV. Their latest album “Hymns That Are Important To Us” sold 70,000 copies the first week and debuted at number on Billboard album charts.

As a filmmaker, Rory just finished directing his first feature-length film, “Josephine”, an epic love story set during the declining months of the Civil War, with a screenplay that he co-wrote with Aaron Carnahan. Rory has three other screenplays in process. He also writes, shoots and edits their music videos, and is the creator of the television shows and specials in which he and his wife appeared.

He and his 2 year-old daughter Indiana live an hour south of Nashville in an 1870’s farmhouse near their family-owned diner, Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse.

Read an Excerpt


Coming Home

Home is where the heart wants to be.

From my wife's hometown of Alexandria to our farmhouse in Tennessee is 388 miles. About a six- hour drive if you don't find yourself stopped for construction or the half dozen or so Starbucks signs that call out your name along the way. All interstate except the first couple of miles, it's not a bad drive really. I've always kinda enjoyed it. The endless Indiana corn and soybean fields on both sides of the blacktop and the big iron bridge that crosses the river into Louisville and ultimately dropping into the Cumberland Plateau and seeing the lit- up cityscape of Nashville. Home.

Or at least we knew home was not far away.

My first time to make the drive was in the spring of 2002, when my two teenage daughters climbed into my Ford Expedition with me and a girl I was dating named Joey, headed north to meet her parents and sisters and see the home and community she grew up in. And now ... here it was early March 2016, a lifetime later ... and we were driving back. This time without Joey.

The morning had started like most of the mornings had over the past few months. I felt the soft vibration of the iPhone alarm I'd set that was lying on the bed beside me and saw the amber numbers 4:45 a.m. blinking at me. I slipped out of bed and quietly opened the door so as not to wake the baby that was sleeping in a pack- n- play a few feet away. Rubbing my eyes, I headed for the kitchen and started some water boiling to make a French press. While the water heated up, I made my way across the living room and into the big room on the other side of the house. As I rounded the corner, I could hear the beeping sound of the IV that had been attached to my wife for nearly four months now. And I could see her in the moonlight.

Her hospital bed was positioned next to a large picture window with a view of the Gaither's pond and the reflection of a half- moon silhouetted my beautiful bride as she slept. Her oldest sister, Jody, a registered nurse on a leave- of- absence in the large bed across the room sleeping too, if you can call it that. Always rising and jumping up to take of her little sister at the slightest unusual sound. I stood in the doorway and just listened for a long time, thinking to myself, How much more, Lord, does Joey have to go through?

By 1 p.m. God had answered that question. Her breathing became irregular and a rattling sound in her chest filled the room. "It's happening," Jody said. And I found myself kneeling by my wife's bedside talking to her as her breathing became slower and slower. Some of Joey's family were there. Jody, her father Jack and younger sister Jessie — the ones who could drop what they were doing and get there fast enough — along with our bus driver Russell and oldest daughter Heidi who had arrived the night before and was thankful, though a bit nervous, to be here when her mother was passing from this world into the next.

"It's okay, honey, just let go ...," I whispered as my fingers softly stroked the place where her once beautiful hair had been. "We'll be okay, everything's gonna be okay." And moments later, the rattle stopped and along with it the life of the greatest person I've ever known.

What happened next was a bit of a blur. Nothing. Everything. We all held hands and said a prayer for the gift that she had been. For the gift that she would always be. Someone called the family pastor, Jerry Young, and Mike Owens from the funeral home across town. One arrived wearing an Indiana basketball jersey with hugs and prayers and the other in a dark suit with a kind smile and a stretcher that waited outside. Mike gently reminding us, "There's no rush ... take as much time as you need." And we did.

The snow was falling a few hours later as our Chevy Suburban merged onto I-65 headed south out of Indianapolis. Heidi was riding shotgun and Indiana was in the car seat directly behind her. The baby silently watching Finding Nemo on the video screen that folds down from above. Her eyes barely open — not because she was sleepy — but because a crust had slowly been taking over her eyelids since we climbed in the truck a few hours before. Pinkeye.

The sign said twenty- seven miles to Bowling Green. I'd called Theron Hutton, our family doctor back in Tennessee, to ask him what to do. "Wipe them clean, and I'll call in a prescription you can pick up at the next big town," he'd said. And so I kept an eye on the road in front of me and one on the little face in the rearview mirror.

She looked pitiful. Beautiful and precious, but pitiful. One eye already swollen shut and the other nearly there. There was no sign of any unusual pinkness in her little almond eyes when we hugged Joey's mama and sister Jody goodbye a few hours earlier and pulled out the driveway of the brick house that our family had been living, and dying, in for months. The gunk in and around her eyes had slowly grown thicker over the miles, just like the heaviness of what had just happened and where we were going had been growing in our hearts and minds as we drove.

"You doin' alright, Dad?" Heidi asked as she smiled softly and put her hand in mine.

Strength wasn't one of our oldest daughter's strong points, but today she had been incredibly brave and strong. She had surprised even herself, I think.

"I'm okay," I answered. And I was. And I wasn't.

Just three weeks ago, we had been blowing the candles out on Indy's second birthday cake ... and my beautiful wife Joey had been there to see it happen. She was just a shell of herself by then, but she was there. We could all see the joy in her eyes as two dozen family members gathered around and sang "Happy Birthday" to a pair of little almond eyes that only knew sign language.

It had been a long goodbye and I was thankful for it. It could have been fast. Painless for her. But the pain for us would've been greater for all of us I think.

And so we drove on in silence. With peace in our hearts.


Day One

A walk to remember ...

MARCH 5, 2016.

We pulled into our driveway at about two in the morning. The moon was shining brightly in the sky, illuminating our big white farmhouse and the red barns that surround it. It looked like a scene out of a movie. A movie that I knew well. The setting of an incredible love story that I would've never dreamed that I'd get to be part of when we first bought the place in 1999.

I arose at sunrise and loaded the K- Cup coffee machine and hit start. As I waited for my Marcy Jo's mug to fill, I glanced out the kitchen window onto the back deck. Everything was the same. Almost just like we had left it five months earlier. The round metal table and chair set where Joey spent many spring mornings filling egg shells with soil and tiny vegetable seeds, preparing for the garden that she loved so. And the red Crosley glider beside the west wall of the farmhouse, covered in peeling paint, where we had held the baby in our arms countless mornings and thanked God for her and the beautiful life He had given us.

With my coffee in hand, I slipped on a pair of rubber boots that were sitting by the door and took a stroll down the steps and into the yard. The woodshed beside our Hardy Heater was still filled with the cords of hardwood we had cut the summer before but never used, and the henhouse that was once filled with as many as a hundred small brooder chicks lay empty. The few hens that had remained last fall, we'd given away to neighbors, knowing that we wouldn't be home to take care of them.

I cracked opened the door of Joey's garden shed: her domain for a dozen springs and summers. The place where a good portion of the food in our bellies and freezer had originated. Her hand tools and baskets and canning supplies were all there, but covered in dust. Many of them untouched for the past two years or so.

Nearby was the fire pit where we'd grilled expensive rib eyes and sipped cheap wine and the clothesline where men's overalls, women's jeans, and cloth diapers had once flapped in the soft breeze. On the side of a cedar tree was a bird feeder made from a Wyoming license plate that Joey and I had bought at a fair we played out west and below that a large pig made entirely of horseshoes — a thousand- pound piece of art from a fan who was an artist from Florida. He had brought it to us as a gift and backed his trailer into the yard and set it there, never to be moved again.

I walked through the gate into the garden. Recently mowed by Thomas, our trusty farmhand who'd been with us for more than five years, it looked more like a grassy field than the huge rectangle of measured rows, filled with corn and cuc's and beets and beans, that it usually was. Four rusting T- posts marked where the corners had been as did a row of tall grass with a handprinted sign that read "ASPARAGUS" that Joey had put up years before to keep me or anyone else from mowing down the precious plants that grew back year after year.

Behind the garden were the fruit trees and blackberry bushes we had planted. And the wooden raised bed boxes that I built for Joey to grow strawberries in. And from where I stood, I could see three of my wife's favorite birthday gifts from years past. Memories of her sweet smile lighting up the farm.

The first one, a ten- by- twelve- foot greenhouse that I had found a picture of online and built for her three years ago. I had no idea what I was doing, but I made countless trips to Home Depot and spent days cutting and re- cutting joists because it was something she had always wanted. Needed actually. I gave it to her for her birthday in early September 2013. By the time we turned the page of the calendar that hangs on our back door to October, there was spinach and kale growing inside. She really only got to use it one full summer, but she loved it and knew that it could take her favorite season of the year — garden season — and extended it a bit on both ends and that excited her.

The second birthday gift — a hundred- year- old outhouse with a hand- painted sign that said "Potting House"— still sat at the top of the rise by the windmill. I'd found it in a wooded lot in Nolensville in late August 2005. Covered in vines, you wouldn't have even known it was there unless someone told you. The man who owned the property said he'd give it to me if I could find a way to haul it away. I had a truck and a trailer and knew it wasn't just trash; it was a part of someone's family. Someone's story. And rather than letting it get set on fire or carried to the dump, I knew it needed to be part of someone else's story. Someone who would appreciate. And I knew just the person.

There's a series of pictures in a photo album somewhere and an even clearer one in my mind of me with my hands over Joey's eyes on her thirtieth birthday. Me saying, "Are you ready?" then pulling my hands down and saying, "Happy birthday, honey!" and her throwing her arms around my neck. Still on the trailer from pulling it out of the woods with my neighbor Spencer's help, Joey loved it and knew exactly where to put it and what to put inside. And now all the years later, I didn't have to walk across the yard to know that it too was still filled with canning jars and tobacco sticks and twine along with other things she had a thousand uses for around the farm.

The last of the three isn't just one birthday gift, it's two. Just north of the garden stands a large barn made mostly of recycled wood from a dismantled hundred- year- old tobacco barn that had stood on the property. Once filled with lawn mowers, garden tillers, and a wood splitter, the new, old barn now houses two quarter horses named Moon and Ria. Originally from Texas, the mares were owned by close friends of ours who gifted them to me last fall so I could gift them to Joey. We were in Newnan, Georgia, at the time. Joey was deep in the middle of six weeks of chemo and radiation following a ten- hour surgery that she had undergone in Chicago two months earlier, and her fortieth birthday was only a few weeks away. She loved horses and had one named Velvet when she was a teenage girl and had always wanted another, but it had just never come to be. We were always too busy and she was much too practical to worry about making that dream come true up until then. But time was precious now and I knew that there was a good chance it was going to be "now or never." And so I drew up some plans to open a wall of that barn and put in two horse stalls and a small paddock surrounding them. At a Cracker Barrel one morning, I scribbled out where the stalls could go and texted a picture of it to Thomas. And then I made a call to our friends Ray and Linda in Texas. By the time we came home on Joey's birthday weekend two weeks later, it was a horse barn and soon after, a red and a blue roan were eating hay inside two beautiful stalls that Thomas had built.

Joey had got to ride them only one time. She and I both saddled up and rode into the field that day beside each other, her on the red and me on the blue, holding hands, riding off into the sun that was setting just behind the cemetery that we rode out to, circled and rode back. A trip that now seems to have foreshadowed the ride our lives were about to take.

From the garden I could see the horses were still there. A bit chunkier than they were last fall, since the fields were lush with grass and there'd been no one to ride them, but looking healthy and happy as can be in their new home. I walked over and they came to me. Moon put her nuzzle into my armpit and I rubbed behind her ear. "Good to you see you, girl," I said, as she whinnied softly — my eyes focused on the round wooden fence with the headstones inside of it just across the gate and through the field.

I walked through the paddock and opened the large gate to let the horses out. Sizing me up at first as they passed through the gate, then moving a bit faster until they both took off running and I watched them. Not just running, but flying. Just thankful to be free. To be alive.

They stopped and settled in a spot in the center of the back field and I set my coffee cup on a wooden post and started for the cemetery. I had originally put a small fence around the nine headstones that were there in the fall of 1999 when we bought the farmhouse. Built originally to keep cows from getting in and pushing the stones down, I had recently had that fence torn down and a new, larger one put up. It was a call I made to John Osborne, our local fence builder, from the hallway of Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie about four months before. The news we had just received was more of the bad kind, and after another surgery we'd be bringing Joey back home, along with hospice, to her mama's house. At the time, the doctors thought Joey would only be here for a few more weeks max. So I told John, "I know you're busy, but hurry, if you can."

He was at our house the next day and within a few after that, the large three- rail fence that I was looking at now for the first time had been installed. "Make it a good bit bigger, John," I had told him. "Room for her ... and for me one day ... and maybe our children and theirs."

Not a phone call I wanted to make, but one that I was thankful I did. The fence was beautiful and there was a wonderful shady area in the front where we would soon add one more name to the others who were buried there.

The sun was still barely rising as I opened the gate and walked in and looked around. There in the center of a small grove of sassafras trees were the headstones of Calvin and Sarah Hardison, who originally built and lived in our farmhouse, and their daughter, Ida, and her husband, William, and a few others. Names associated with this farm for much of the 1800s and barely into the next century. The earliest date on the Hardisons' stones was for their four- year- old son, Orlando Boon, buried in 1862, and the last one was Sarah's, dated 1906. And in front of those was one made of much newer marble with my mother Rita's name on it from where we had buried some of her ashes in 2014.

I found a spot on a makeshift bench we had put out there years earlier and sat down. Not really believing that this was happening.

But it was.

Joey had passed away the day before, on a Friday ... and that coming Tuesday morning we would lay her to rest here. It was surreal. All of it was. I kept thinking of the dozens of times through the years that Joey and I had walked out to the cemetery and talked about being buried beside each other in the spot someday. Dreaming about someday. A day that seemed hard to even imagine. But now here we were.

And I couldn't help but think about another time that I had sat in almost this exact spot as part of a music video for "When I'm Gone," a song we had recorded that imagined a day when the singer had passed away and the man in the story was left alone. We had filmed the music video at our farmhouse. In our bedroom on the porch overlooking the back field. And I had made pretty much the same walk that I had made this morning, and ended up at the same cemetery, sitting in almost exactly the same spot. Acting. Imagining for the camera, and the sake of the song — a life without my beautiful wife. A pretty day very much like today. Except now I wasn't imagining it. The whole song had come to be, almost word for word.


Excerpted from "Once Upon a Farm"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Rory Feek.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Coming Home 1

Day One 5

A Bigger Love 11

One Plus One 17

My College Years 21

Semper Fi 25

Barber Shopping 31

Choo-Choo Training 37

Dollars and Sense 41

Unwritten 45

Dearly Beloved 51

Fixer-Upper 53

Location, Location, Location 59

Three Chords and the Truth 61

I Hold the Pen 65

Video Rewind 69

Daddy, What If? 73

Monday, Monday 77

Brilliant Limitations 81

The Bus Stops Here 85

Mayberry 89

Some Barn 95

Heart Break 99

Farmhouse Christmas 103

Bib & Buckle 107

Presidential Treatment 113

I Love You, I Love You, I Love You 115

Modern Family 119

Our Very Own 123

Heartlight 127

Bare-Metal Truth 131

Brand-New Bus 135

Speak Love 143

Miss Congeniality 147

Hymn and Her 149

Uncle Dale 153

Boy in the Mirror 157

Climbing Trees 161

My Worst Nightmare 165

Happy Mother's Day, Dad 169

Boots and Bibles 173

Fire Kids 177

Teaching Me How to Love You 183

Love Does 187

Gentleman Farmer 191

Field of Dreams 195

Special Eyes 199

Home School 203

Unfamous 207

WWJD? 211

Once Upon a Farm 215

Lifesteading 217

Sign of the Cross 221

From the Cradle to the Grave 225

Always and Forever 227

Last Letters 231

About the Author 235

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Once Upon a Farm: Lessons on Growing Love, Life, and Hope on a New Frontier 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous 8 days ago
Anonymous 3 months ago
I enjoyed listening to Rory tell the story of his life. He has a unique perspective on life and living it.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Loved loved loved it! Love reading about them there love for each other, love for God and the love for his daughters!! <3
Anonymous 6 months ago
Once upon a Farm by Rory Feek is a wonderful inspiring book, if and when another book he writes comes out I will definitely purchase it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book as much as his first one!!! I hated to finish reading it. I pray he writes more books!! His life is such an example and testimony to others! Truly an inspiration!! We need more good men like Rory Feek!
LynchburgMama More than 1 year ago
Honestly, I couldn't have told you who Rory and Joey Feek were prior to the media coverage of their story. It didn't take long for me to become wrapped up in their love story and journey through Joey's cancer. I settled into this book, anxious to learn more behind the man who "became famous for loving his wife". The tears flowed numerous times as I felt Rory's love for not only Joey, but also their daughters, extended family, and community. Through his writing, Rory Feek comes across as a man who truly appreciates the life he's been given. I feel like I could join him on his porch, talking about life and finding our purpose within in.  My heart filled with joy but it also broke throughout the entire book. Rory's writing is so open, honest, and clearly written from his heart. His words are inspiring on multiple levels including as a parent, a spouse, friend, and even as a child of God. His message, while sometimes somber, is full of hope and a positive outlook on the future.  Highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it, very interesting and enjoyable. I'm about half way through it. Very well written.
sgreene01 More than 1 year ago
Doing what he does so eloquently, Rory Feek brings us another look into his life as it has progressed, now nearly two years after his wife, Joey’s death. He continues to relate stories of his wife, Joey, his adult daughters, Hope and Heidi from his first marriage, and his and Joey’s sweet daughter, Indiana, now 4 years old. He sees life as a special gift from God that he is trying to live better everyday. Joey’s influence has given him a whole new outlook to the type of father and man he now is striving to be. He relates in such a way that you feel he is a personal friend sharing his heart with you. I enjoyed this book and thank Netgalley and Thomas Nelson publishers for the opportunity to read this advanced copy for my honest opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Inspirational, touching, meaningful and loving do not begin to describe this memoir by Rory Feek. It is the story of how he and his wife, the late Rory Feek, created their lives with their family. He beautifully and seamlessly goes back and forth between present day and his past with Joey while telling his story. It's a must read for sure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Inspirational, touching, meaningful and loving do not begin to describe this memoir by Rory Feek. It is the story of how he and his wife, the late Rory Feek, created their lives with their family. He beautifully and seamlessly goes back and forth between present day and his past with Joey while telling his story. It's a must read for sure.