Townhouse to farmhouse | Living the Country Life

Townhouse to farmhouse

This Iowa couple took the plunge and moved from town to their country home where they breed racehorses, birdwatch, and garden.
  • Hitting the gravel road

    In 1992, Scott and Alison Pope moved from their townhouse in a Des Moines, Iowa suburb to nearly 11 acres in the countryside. After driving around in the country for long enough, Scott had stumbled upon the former popcorn farm and the couple didn’t hesitate to make an offer.

    The two former TV reporters named their new home Crimson King Farm and that year the couple built their home.  By 1996, the farm included a barn and extensive fencing.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • The pond

    One of the farm’s selling points, for the Popes, was the small pond that sits at the front of the property.  After expanding the pond, they decided that they liked the idea of keeping it as natural as possible. 

    “We have just maintained the pond and pretty much kept it in its natural environment,” Alison says. “It’s pretty rustic, so a lot of animals nest around there.”

    Three acres are mowed around the pond, but there are surrounding natural grasses left to provide opportunities for wildlife habitation. A filter strip prevents anything from polluting the water, although no fertilizers are used on the farm. 

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Racing horses

    Since both Alison and Scott share a love of horses, they started to consider breeding racehorses after they became friends with some experienced breeders. Through those friends, the couple learned how to scale back the breeding operation to be sustainable on their small farm.

    “Scott said, ‘Let’s build a barn, buy some mares, and see what we can do!’” says Alison. “He has always loved it and had an interest in it from the horses and racing side.”

    The Popes take great care in finding the right mares to breed with appropriate stallions and advocate for foaling horses within Iowa to build the state’s horseracing industry. They are involved with the Prairie Meadows Racetrack in Altoona, Iowa and are members of the Iowa Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Cathy Erickson

    Sunny the champion

    The farm’s most successful racehorse is by far Crimson King Cat, who is now 10 years old. The couple jokes that his winnings – around $350,000 – compensated for other horses who weren’t as successful in the racing realm. Crimson King Cat, the horse’s registered name, is not what Scott and Alison call the decorated racehorse, though.

    “His nickname is Sunny, because he was born in the middle of the day Mother’s Day,” Alison says. “That is very unusual.”

    After he retired from racing at age six, the Popes thought Sunny would be happiest if he moved on to another career. With heavy hearts, they arranged for Sunny to train around the Midwest, first as a hunter jumper and later as a hunt master’s horse. The couple always encouraged other owners and trainers to bring Sunny back, no questions asked, if things didn’t work out. Recently, Sunny returned to Crimson King Farm after his Kansas City owner moved away.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Crimson King horses

    “Our main passion is our horses,” Alison says. “At times, there have been a lot more horses on the farm and some years it’s been scaled back.”

    There are currently three horses living on the farm and one foal that will be returning soon. In the past, the Popes would help mares to give birth on the farm, but today mares are sent to their vet for foaling.

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Bluebirding

    Alison has been an avid birdwatcher for about 10 years now and particularly adores bluebirds. She provides specific birdhouses for them and works hard to protect the native species from aggressive sparrows.

    “I try to mark the point when the eggs are laid and when they hatch,” Alison says. “I watch them all through the process.”

    Last year, Alison saw 10 baby bluebirds fledge successfully on the farm. She is able to capture pictures of the babies on her phone without disrupting parenting bluebirds. Over the years, Alison has learned a lot about the species and has created inviting environments for bluebird pairs. This year she has two pairs on her property.


    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Annual garden

    A large garden has been producing flowers, vegetables, and fruit since about 1995 on Crimson King Farm. The 30 by 30 foot space includes specific beds for both asparagus and perennials. This past year, the garden was full of tomatoes, peppers, beans, broccoli, onions, lettuce, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, and eggplant, as well.

    “We go with what we decide we want to use and by what’s available,” Alison says. “We eat lots of fresh asparagus every year, which we love!”

    If the garden produces a healthy and hefty tomato crop, the couple will start canning. They enjoy stewed tomatoes and homemade salsa for months after the garden fades away. 

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Country living

    The Popes are proud to be small horse breeders and enjoy keeping up with the action on their Adel, Iowa farm. Alison even keeps binoculars around the house and monitors birds and animals that surround the pond. Their dog, Abbey Lee Pea, also patrols the property. 

    Crimson King Farm | Adel, Iowa
    Alison Pope |
    Scott Pope |

    Date Published: May 29, 2014
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014

Latest Blogs

Betsy's Backyard |
5/25/18 | 11:05 AM
My daughter, Caroline, said she missed my blog, so I'm going to download a few more
Betsy's Backyard |
3/12/18 | 1:18 PM
The Living the Country Life Spring/Summer 2018 issue comes out this month. I loved more

Add Your Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login