Seventeen years ago, Dave and Virginia Burkart made a big switch. After having spent their entire married lives in downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin, the couple began to contemplate moving to the country. Neither had grown up with a rural background, so it was only after a great deal of consideration that they chose to move the 20 miles out of the big city and settle into their 80-acre farm near Little Suamico.
At first, the Burkarts weren't certain if they wanted to build a new home or to remodel an existing one. Virginia was attracted to the idea of an older home with some character. So when they found their current property with its rustic farmhouse and barn, the decision became an easy one.
"We found this old farmhouse that had gone through bankruptcy and was in terrible condition. The sewer ran into the backyard and the electric was in shambles," Virginia says. "But my husband was a builder, so we spent six months redoing the house with help of friends." After refinishing the house, they turned their attention to the outdoors.
The Burkarts began by building a stoned-in garden using handpicked rock from a local quarry and shale rock from the pond they dug on their land. The barn was also in need of some constructive attention, so they added new mullions to the windows and had the structure repainted. "It turned out so nice, I thought we better have some animals in the barn," Virginia says.
While Virginia admits she knew nothing about animals at the time of the barn's completion, the Burkarts fast became the keepers of an assortment of diminutive creatures, including donkeys, fainting goats, a pig, a miniature horse, ducks, and chickens.
"It's like a petting zoo. I've got a lot of grandchildren, and we like to have nursing homes and church functions come over. They all enjoy the animals," Virginia says.
To get started in raising some farm animals, the Burkarts paid a visit to a biannual swap meet at their local feed mill. "Every year we would add a couple more animals," Virginia says. Since the Burkarts weren't comfortable with animals that demanded a great deal of special attention or feed, sticking with donkeys and a miniature horse in place of larger farm animals worked out perfectly for them. "Miniature horses are a lot less care than ordinary ones," Virginia says.
Why the country?
Between their 10-acre garden and a barnyard full of animals, the Burkarts stay plenty busy. "I'm a workaholic, and it keeps me busy all the time," Virginia says. "love being outdoors."
While the decision to move into the country was initially a difficult one, the Burkarts have grown very fond of their home and the beauty that comes from living in the wide open. "We have our home here, and we sit out every night watching the animals across the pond," Virginia says. "We have everything we need right here."
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