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Horse whispers, wheelbarrows and hot cocoa
WATERFORD – Colleen Winslow, 29 years old, grew up in Naples and North Bridgton and moved to Waterford when she got married. Her life revolves around her family, animals and living the simple life.
Q: When were you born and where were you brought up?
A: I was born on October 5, 1981 and I was born in Portland at Maine Med. My parents were living in Naples at the time.
For the most part I grew up in Naples. We moved to North Bridgton when I was maybe in the seventh grade. My parents still own the farm in North Bridgton.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: I have four sisters and four brothers. Sherry Ann lives in New Gloucester, Jenn lives in Bridgton, Dylan lives in Boston, Jesse lives in Portland, Meg lives in North Bridgton, Erin lives in North Bridgton, John lives in North Bridgton and Peter lives in Northboro, Massachusetts. I was between Jenn and Dylan.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My mom and step-dad are sign makers and they own their own company, Swett Signs in North Bridgton.
My biological dad is a mechanical engineer.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: I was home-schooled, so I did a lot around the farm. I played with my siblings for the most part.
Living on a farm was quite a playground in itself. We had mostly horses, but we had chickens and pigs that we raised too and I had my own angora rabbits.
I volunteered at Narramissic which is owned by the Bridgton Historical Society and it's like the Norland’s. By volunteering there I was able to use that for all of my history credits, but I loved it and didn’t do it just to go to school.
That is where I got into spinning, weaving, gardening and I gave tours in period costume and I even made my own costumes.
We learned how to do a lot of things ... like cooking in the beehive oven and making candles. The beehive oven was really neat, it was a large fireplace and there would be soups hanging on brackets in pots and there were doors on the side, that looked like trap doors and that is where they would cook the breads and pies.
We learned how and played games like kids would back then, like marbles and things and I helped to rebuild the fencing to look original.
I loved horses and would ride those around the farm instead of bikes and I learned natural horsemanship when I was around 14. That is training horses the natural way ... it's more like reading the horse ... like the horse whisperer.
If I wasn’t on a horse I was at Shawnee Peak. I started skiing at three and as I got older I ski raced and was really into that ... I was in the USSA, which is the US Ski Association. I did the slalom and giant slalom and qualified for the Junior Olympics when I was 15. I was number one in New England at the time, but at 17, I hurt my knee and by 18 I had to give it up.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: An Olympic ski racer and a horse trainer. I always wanted to work with kids too.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I was home-schooled, but went to a few classes at Lake Region and was also on the ski team, so I had the best of both worlds.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: No, I think I was just too busy. I did have one sister Meg who was very girly ... so when she would come in the barn and I would be all dirty, I would try to push her into the horse poop. She was all dresses with fancy shoes and I was jeans with cowboy boots.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: In high school I worked at the Antique Revival Ice cream shop on the causeway and was a photographer's assistant. I would just help; doing things like stamping the photos when they came in and putting the wedding photos together. I worked myself up to manager.
At 19 I started coaching skiing for Lake Region and the USSA at Shawnee Peak.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: I was 22 and working at UNUM. Jeffrey was 32 and we met through horses.
I was at my parents and he came to teach us how to drive horses.
I had grown up riding horses and we really wanted to learn to drive them. He had grown up in a farm in Harrison and came to teach us.
We hit it off right away and shortly after I met Jeff, I stopped working at Unum and started training horses and started to help him run his farm and sell grain. He also owned McWin Inc. and it’s an excavation firm that we still own.
It really worked out well. He likes the excavating, but really loved the farming.
In the winters I was still coaching ski racing.
We dated for around five years and got married on 7/7/07. We hadn’t gotten married because of the date, but we were trying to find a date when family would all be around and that was always July Fourth, so we checked for the next Saturday and that happened to be on that date. Sevens must be our lucky number. Jeff’s birthday is 11/7/71 and he even has quite a few sevens in his social security number.
Q: Where did you live?
A: We bought this farm in Waterford in February of 2005. It was an old farmhouse and we are still in the process of doing it over. When we bought the house Jeff said it would be probably five years ... I thought, 'five years; no way!' It’s still not done, but we had no idea how long it would take to redo.
A: Yes! We even planned the wedding around them; sort of. We were engaged and wanted a big wedding and Jeff had two children, so we decided to have a child first so that our children would be close. We had Saige Elise and she was our flower girl at the wedding. Anna is 14, Tasker is 11 and Ellie River is 2. Both girls were born here at the farm with a midwife.
Q: What do you do now?
A: We still have the excavation business and Jeff and I together train horses and give lessons, mostly in the summer.
We have eight horses and 20 angora rabbits. We also have three sheep and an angora goat along with chickens and of course our dog, cats and fish!
We just live the simple life.
I do spinning from my rabbit and sheep and I sell scarves and hats.
In the summer we volunteer at the Waterford Fair and this year I ran a fiber tent. And it went very well. A lot of local women got together and we had so much fun sitting and spinning fiber all weekend.
Jeff ran the He-Man Competition and the Wee-Man Competition. Those are like farmer-boy strength obstacle courses for men and young boys. They go to different stations doing things like stacking firewood, pushing full wheelbarrows, carrying buckets of water and flipping over tires. For the men, the tires are skidder tires and for the children they are regular tires; the wood is lighter or there is less water in the buckets and so forth.
In the winter, we plow and do sleigh rides through our 80 acres.
Q: That must be fun?
A: It really is. We have big families come and the sleigh holds up to 18 people. We also do private, romantic rides. We have a place we call Proposal Pines and we stop and have a fire with hot cocoa and samoas. We haven’t had a ‘no’ yet!
Q: Anyone said you look like someone famous?
A: When I was a kid, people said I looked like Winnie on the Wonder Years.
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: A little around the US. My dad races hydroplane speed boats and I raced a few times when I was little, so we traveled around the US for that. So I’ve been to places like Florida, Illinois and Arkansas.
I am going next week to Colorado to a horse-training clinic and I’m very excited about that.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: Nothing is more fascinating than living right here in Maine and on my farm. I like to travel, but I really appreciate and enjoy coming home the most.
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: Probably my grandparents. They taught us to live a more simple life; no TV and we don’t demand a lot of things that younger people our age do. Modern things aren’t necessarily good things.
My grandmother is the coolest woman. She is 96 years-old and I learned so much from her. She was an artist and her parents and her grandparents owned the first store in Harrison. She would play the piano and I would dance and she was great at gardening.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: I think I've pretty much covered my hobbies. My life is my hobby.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks.
Q: What subject do you wish you knew more about?
A: Training horses is never-ending; you can never learn enough.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: Besides my family, it would have to be my horses.
Q: What is the one thing you would happily do over again?
A: My wedding day was pretty awesome. Both of us had grown up at Shawnee Peak, so we had it there. We took our immediate family on the chairlift to the top for the traditional vows and then came down to the bottom and all of our guests came and we did our own vows in front of them. Our midwife’s husband did the ceremony.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: That I love living in my extraordinary bubble. Keeping life simple and living the good life.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: I see myself still right here, doing even more with the horses ... and I hope to see the house done by then. And I hope in 10 years that Jeff gets more time to be here at the farm.
Q: Last day on earth; what would you do and who with?
A: The whole family going for a sleigh ride ... hot cocoa and the fire.
Q: What scares you the most?
A: I don't like grieving and things dying; like losing someone close to me or a beloved dog.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: My husband ... and I'd ask him if we could go for a horseback ride ... just the two of us.