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Accidental Glamping

Glamping was never in our business model. Houston and I didn’t even know what the word meant until five years ago. 

We had envisioned - even had our architect design - a wedding venue, as well as tiny homes for retreats. That was going to be the financial engine of the farm, allowing us to provide artists with a free place to stay to work on their craft, in exchange for working on the farm. 

What we hadn’t factored into the equation was how much basic infrastructure, like water, power and a road, would cost. Add in the expense of reengineering the slope of the land to handle seasonal flooding and, well, you get the picture.

Quite a few dollars later we came to realize that the wedding venue would be on hold. Our daughter Emilie, who was working with us the first few years, said something like, “Why don’t you try glamping”? Initially, I think we responded with “What’s glamping”? (In case you’re also wondering, it’s glamorous camping - a comfortable bed and many of the other comforts of home, in a sturdy, canvas tent.) 

A few months after that initial conversation, we bought our first tent. I scoured discount home decorating stores, finding the indoor/outdoor rugs, bedding and decor we needed to make an inviting and cozy space. As soon as it was ready, we invited a few friends to spend the night and give us feedback so we’d know what guests wanted and expected. Also, by that time, we were able to get advice from friends in North Georgia who had begun a glamping company. 

We started getting some bookings, but things really took off when Covid 19 hit. EVERYONE wanted to be outdoors. We were slammed with bookings for our one tent, so the next year added two more. 

What started as something of an accident has allowed us to do projects on the farm, but even more importantly, given us a chance to meet some amazing people. And for many of those people, glamping came to them accidentally as well. 

Some of our guests have never camped. Or maybe they grew up camping, but vivid memories of spending the night in a damp sleeping bag, inside a leaking, humid tent keeps them from ever wanting to repeat the experience. But now their child, spouse or friend wants to camp. Glamping seems like a safe bet - at least something they’re willing to try. So they come. 

They’re greeted by Samson, our Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dog, and free range donkeys. At night they roast marshmallows, gazing at the expanse of stars overhead. Maybe they play cards, sitting cross legged on the floor of their tent. When they’re ready to sleep, they crawl into their comfortable beds.

And suddenly I realize that what began for our guests and for us as an experiment has become, in effect, a happy accident. 

This piece first appeared in Sherry’s column, Finding Myself in a Small Town, in the September 16, 2023 edition of the Corsicana Daily Sun.

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