Farm to city: The Renwick family

The Renwick family left their farm in Hillsboro and moved to a Columbia suburb.
Sunday, March 23, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 11:41 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Austin Renwick punts a soccer ball in his front yard while playing outside with his family. The family moved from a 16 acre farm in Hillsboro, which is about 45 miles south of St. Louis.

The black sky met the 16 acres of land the Renwicks owned in Hillsboro, 45 miles south of St. Louis.


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From her bathroom window, Annette Renwick could no longer see the two horses, five sheep and 11 chickens the family had acquired during the past 16 years.

The next day, the family was leaving for good. They were moving to Columbia.

The Renwick family sold their animals, left the in-ground swimming pool and the home they had built upon 16 acres of land to move from the farm to the city — a place where people live closer together, sit in traffic and wait in long lines at grocery stores at 6 p.m. on weeknights.

The adventure started when Tim’s work contract was coming to an end in St. Louis. Tim began looking for jobs and posting his resume.

Literally, “within five seconds, I had a phone call,” Tim said .

Later that night, Tim, 43, asked his wife what she thought of moving to Columbia. She laughed.

“You’re funny,” Annette, 42, had exclaimed. “We don’t know anyone in Columbia.”

Not only did they not know anyone, they didn’t know where they were going to live.

“It was very hard to move,” Annette said. “We had friends and family there.”

The family made memories there as well. They had a Polish hen that laid green eggs and sheep that cleaned up after themselves.

“The sheep were a very good example for the kids,” Annette said. “They would shed their own fur by rubbing up against the fence in their quarters. Then they went back and picked their fur off the fence. I would tell the kids they needed to keep their rooms clean like the sheep.”

The house provided a place for the children to go to school and front yard football games, sleepovers and Boy Scout meetings.

Since they were so far out in the country, Annette home-schooled Austin and Kylie, 12 and 9.

The kids were able to catch bullfrogs down in the creek, play hide and seek with their sheep, and at night “we could see the stars for miles,” she said.

Other perks of the farm life included the lake in the yard for fishing and a garden where they grew fruits and vegetables, including strawberries.

“We thought it was a place we were going to leave a legacy,” Annette said. “When we moved, it was just amazing how God worked. The house sold ... within two weeks.”

The journey to Columbia started with a goodbye to their old house. Then the family made a stop at Taco Bell before the drive to Columbia.

“We stopped to get food at Taco Bell, and for some reason we had grabbed those sauce packets, you know the ones with the sayings on them?” Annette said. “We picked one up and read it, and it said ‘willing to relocate.’”

Tim said, “That was the first one we had ever read. It was just so funny that out of all those sauce packets, that’s the one we would read.”

The family moved into a two-story Victorian on two acres in the Woodlands, complete with a large front porch, covered deck and a small garden.

“I don’t feel like we’ve moved from the country to the city,” Tim said.

The Renwicks have found traffic manageable and Columbia a comfortable fit.

In their subdivision, the children have friends to play with, and the drive for a gallon of milk is only 10 minutes. When the family lived in the country, it would take 45 to 50 minutes just to drive to the nearest gas station and back for a gallon of milk.

Aspects of country living still resonate with the family in their new home. Downstairs, a storage room holds jars of pickles, salsa, tomatoes and jam.

“You have a trade-off,” Annette said. “We would go back in a heartbeat.”

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