The McDaniels may only be in their 20s, but they were more than ready to set up a homestead in the country.
ANDALUSIA, Alabama—Alana McDaniel hurries home from work, driving the 6 minutes from the office to her 20-acre homestead thinking about her big plans for the night.
The 27-year-old whips off her work clothes and gets changed in a matter of seconds, then rushes back out the door.
Does she have a big date? Well, you could say that. Dressed in camouflage from head to toe, she has a date with the deer that frequent her property in the evenings. She wants to be in her tree stand before they arrive.
|Alana and her husband Jeb|
Alana sets out on a trail her husband cleared in the woods on their land. She shoos her yellow lab, Piper Jane, back toward the house and gets into position. Then she soaks up the scene, hearing nothing but the soft sounds of nature, watching the trees sway in an almost undetectable breeze, and waiting.
Finally, a young deer arrives, snapping twigs under her hooves and rustling leaves as she browses through the food plot Alana planted. She’s a beautiful young doe, but Alana doesn’t bother aiming for her. The doe is too young to shoot, so she’ll just enjoy watching her instead.
Alana chuckles to herself, thinking how crazy it was that she once tried to live in the city. Born a country girl, it didn’t take her long to go back to her roots.
“As country as you can get”
“I bought myself a house in town -- and I lasted one year,” Alana told Rethink:Rural. “It wasn’t my thing. I wasn’t used to neighbors stuck right next to me, no privacy, so much traffic and noise. And the city smells funny.”
It just wasn’t the life for a woman who grew up “as country as you can get.”
“I started riding horses in diapers. We had our own horses, a ropin’ pen and cows on our land,” she said. “And I’ve been hunting since I was a teenager. My dad’s a big hunter and I’m an only child, so that was our way of spending time together.”
Her father still hunts with Alana regularly on a 680-acre hunting tract he licenses from Rayonier Inc., the timber real estate investment trust that owns Rethink:Rural. The company licenses more than two million acres of hunting land every year.
After Alana sold her city house, she moved back home. Then she met a country boy named Jeb, married him, and together they bought their country homestead just outside of Andalusia.
|The McDaniels' view from their back porch.|
The fruits of hard work
“We’re very, very fortunate to have what we have at such a young age. We both worked very hard to have what we have,” said Alana, who works as an administrative assistant at Rayonier’s Alabama Resource Unit. Her husband is one of many locals who commutes to work on oil drilling rigs.
With her husband often traveling, Alana takes on many of the responsibilities of maintaining their property - and that’s fine with her.
“My mama used to hold me as a baby and say, ‘When you get older, you don’t want to have to rely on a man,’” Alana recalls. “I tease my husband because he can’t cut the grass as good as me.”
Alana also runs the weed eater, does the landscaping and plans to do the gardening next.
When she planted flower beds, she purchased pine straw from Rayonier and got to work to build them just the way she wanted.
“I took trip after trip to bring my 24 bales of pine straw home, and then I put it out all by myself,” Alana said. “I do a lot of things many women don’t do because I was raised in the country. It has a lot to do with who I am today - it’s empowering.”
In the evenings, when she’s finished hunting, Alana likes to sit out on her wraparound porch and appreciate her country life. Sometimes deer will walk into her pasture, as if to say, “Hello.” One day, Alana plans to buy her own horses and put up a barn there.
With 20 acres of land and the rest of her life ahead of her, the possibilities are endless.
|Alana hunts in these woods behind her house.|
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