My new favorite town of Fennville, home to these two amazing women, is a DIY type of town, in almost every way. A gorgeous town of rolling hills, pastures, wineries, clean and active farms, studios, orchards, and a few top-notch restaurants. The term farm to table is becoming increasingly overused, but for a good reason, and Fennville is certainly leading the way. Had I known this town and area existed before we bought our home, things might have been different.
My first visit was a simple drive with my two girls after picking them up from school. It was a beautiful day… similar to the first verse in Tom Petty’s Running Down a Dream. However we weren’t flying, we were Sunday driving on a Friday. Farm after farm, we noticed that they weren’t just farms. They were mostly environmentally friendly farms, but what I noticed is that most gave you a reason to stop. Some had a gallery out front, some an orchard, and a few offered a super-cool general store. You could spend all day stopping at random farms, poking around, and talking with the folks who make their living doing their own thing. We were on our way back home when I noticed a beautiful farmhouse. Chickens roaming out front, a cat and a dog sharing some shade, and a sign that read Happy Horse Hour 4-6. It was 3:55 and my 5 year old daughter laughs, “what is happy horse hour?”. Good question. I stopped.
A very friendly lady, Ulla, walked up and explained. She runs the Sundance Center, a holistic therapy center that offers a hands-on approach to psychotherapy, centering around her horses and her farm. She specializes in the treatment of depression, anxiety, trauma recovery and bipolar disorder, among others. Happy Horse Hour is a time for people to stop and meet the horses. Not just meet them though. Visitors can brush them, pet them, and even paint them. Guess what my 5 year old did? What kid wouldn’t want to paint a horse? Within 20 minutes this giant, friendly horse had a sun and flowers painted on it’s side. Evelyn was able to feed him some apples, and generally feel comfortable around such a large animal. An animal that she sees everyday from our car as we fly down the road to wherever we are headed. Ulla offered treats and fresh lemonade to anyone that wanted to stop. Penny, who works with Ulla as the horse specialist, was there to help with the horses. She has other talents and a nice story as well. After doing a little research and checking out her work, I asked if I could return for a photo shoot with her and Ulla.
These days Penny is working in oils. And her work…? Well it’s awesome. She is just starting out, but you can tell what direction she’s headed. I’m very impressed. Apparently she’s held many titles – horse master, welder, and now painter. In fact, I was enjoying a coffee at The Farmhouse Deli in Douglas and noticed her work hanging. So, if you want to check it out, head to The Farmhouse and get yourself some local meat and cheese, a coffee, and spend some time looking. It’s a great reflection on the town of Fennville.