The BIG Fall Push is Done!

Farming is fun, remember that romantic ideal, then start a farm and let reality sink in for a few months. Okay, it’s not all that bad. The summer was terrific on the farm and we settled in pretty well with all our new chores and responsibilities.ย Just when we were getting accustomed to routine, the goats and sheep started looking like they may just be pregnant. We slowly started making preparations, but the weather began to change. I realized we were way behind the curve from where we needed to be if the animals are indeed pregnant.

The girls needed their own pens instead of the communal arrangement and the boys needed to have their own separate living accommodations. Building the pens wasn’t all that difficult, but the idea of building a whole other barn for the boys with the time we had available seemed all but impossible.

Then we realized we already had the start of a small barn in a small pasture. It was a simple 4 post structure we put up in the summer to provide shade. It was only 8 feet by 8 feet so we were pretty certain it needed to be bigger. Simple math (my favorite) said to just double its length and that is what we did. It isn’t the prettiest barn in the world as we rummaged through the last of our left-over construction material to piece it together. We did end up having to buy a few things, but overall it was very affordable.

We moved the boys (and Ruth the donkey) into their new home. I wasn’t sure how well or quickly they would adapt, but apparently as long as they know food is in there, they don’t seem to mind leaving the ladies behind. The ladies on the other hand appeared rather upset the first couple of days. They’d sit by the fence that separated them and made quite a bit of noise. I guess they’ve already gotten used to it though as they don’t seem so concerned anymore.

Next project…the garden!

A Weekend of Preparation – Hay for the Winter

In the recent past our friendly neighborhood farmer would cut our hay fields for us and he would reap the whole harvest as we had no need of it. Now that we have the animals it is going to be important to store up some hay for the winter. The problem was that we have no means of moving the large round bales. I mentioned this to him when he came to cut the grass this time and he said, “Not a problem. I have an old square baler that I haven’t used in years. I’ll just bale you up some of those.” And so he did! When he was done baling there were 20 large round bales and 56 small square bales on the ground.

WhirldWorks Hay Field

WhirldWorks Hay Field

First thing Saturday morning we borrowed our neighbor’s flatbed trailer and I began loading the bales. Our youngest son saw what I was doing and he was not about to be left out of the action. He climbed aboard the trailer and as I threw each bale on he would pull it into place. That was until it got to the second level and he couldn’t pull it anymore. From that point on he gave me direction in the proper placement of each bale in order to create a huge nest. Indeed we did! The bales ended up stacked three high, but at the center was an opening for the nest.

Once fully loaded, we backed the trailer to the barn, but unfortunately there isn’t a gate in the fence wide enough for a truck and/or trailer so I had to park it about 15 feet away from where it was going to be stacked. Little man tried hard as he may to carry, drag or push the bales along the ground, but despite his best determination he couldn’t help with this part. One by one I offloaded the trailer and stacked the bales under the barn overhang. They didn’t seem quite so heavy at the beginning but by about the 20th bale they began to get heavier and heavier. By the last bale I hardly had the strength to throw them to the top of the pile, but made it through and ended up with a winter’s worth of stored hay!

WhirldWorks 2016 Hay Storage

 

Playing Catch-Up

Our little farm family has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past few weeks since we moved in. First a donkey, then a couple goats, some more goats, a couple of dogs and now 4 chickens and a rooster. The arrival of each additional animal on the farm has required some mighty fancy footwork to keep them housed properly with a care and maintenance plan in place for each one. Throw in an almost solid week of rain into the mix and we have certainly been playing catch-up! I do believe we are finally settling in with the proper arrangements, but we know there are a few more arrivals not too far around the bend. We should be able to take a short few breaths before we bring in the sheep, but it has definitely been interesting getting to this point.

The chicken tractor itself was much more of a challenge that I had imagined. We were up late Friday night trying to finish it up because we knew our chickens would arrive sometime Saturday. The sun came up and we had already been in the garage putting the final touches on it when the pastor of our prospective new church arrived at our gate with his feathery donation to our cause. To be honest, although he did tell me the breeds I cannot currently remember, but I do know there are 1 hens and one rooster. They went into the chicken tractor as soon as I got it into place and for the next day had to check to see if they were actually still there. Each time I checked, two to four of the hens were all congregated together in one or two nest boxes and the rooster was either in one by himself or hanging out on one of the roosts. They eventually did come down though and are now enjoying the green grass of home as well as all the insects they could want.

As for the goats, they’ve been somewhat of a challenge. We confiscated their living quarters to house the two new Anatolian Shepherd puppies we picked up on Friday and made a temporary pen for the goats. We knew that wouldn’t work long so we got straight to work on a proper pen that we were able to finish this weekend as well. They really seem to like their new abode and I’ve even had to shew the donkey out of it a few times since she seems to now think she is a goat too. Which brings me to the only dilemma of late. It seems that Amelia the goat and Ruth the donkey have become quite the pair and are nearly inseparable. I bring a tray of feed in the evening to get the goats to all come in the barn together, but Amelia has gotten wise to my scheme. She will not go into that barn and will hide right underneath her donkey protector. It has taken quite some coaxing the past few nights to be able to safely separate them and get Amelia into the pen with the rest of her family.

The Goat's New Pen

The Goat’s New Pen

That’s about all for now, and I think it’s quite enough for one weekend! ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry I don’t yet have any pictures of the puppies, but it won’t be long.

Two Weeks on the Farm

Let me ask you, have you ever lived in such a way that more than half of your belongings sat stored away in boxes and then finally had the opportunity to open those boxes again? If you have you can imagine the wonderful joy we’ve been having now that we are finally able to unpack our lives and settle in to our own home once again. We’ve found things we forgot we had, experienced the relief of finding favorite dishes, pictures and other items to still be in once piece instead of broken or shattered from being shifted around for years. It has been a sweet time of memories too as we have retrieved items that remind us of the great times we had with all of our older kids when they were still at home with us.

We’re still getting things situated, but I was finally able to make enough space in our garage to park our car inside. That has been something we have missed for a very long time, even since before selling our city house. Challenges still remain though as we are now at a point where we have to jostle boxes and loose items around to make space for things that actually belong there. The garage probably poses the biggest challenge as everything that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else has piled up in there. Much of it will likely make it into the attic, but there will likely be yet another purge of things to give to Goodwill.

Aside from the challenges of packing and setting up house, here are a few of the highlights from the past two weeks:

No Television

tvYes, I know. In this modern age there are probably few people who would actually count not having television as a great thing, but we’re not missing it AT ALL. Of course we have never really been big on watching TV, but it wasn’t unusual to find us winding down the day with streaming a 30-40 minute re-run of one of our favorite shows. Now though, without the internet or even being able to receive over-the-air broadcasts, it has been great rediscovering the art of conversation as well as being able to dig back into our collection of books that were stored away for far too long. Speaking of which, I’ve been spending a few minutes each night reading through Robert Louis Stevenson’s, Kidnapped, first published in 1886. What a wonderful story and hard to put down each night.

Let’s not forget the entertainment value of our animals. Right now we only have our dog, two little goats and a donkey, but they already provide us with ample entertainment. In fact, one evening we just took our dinner outside and ate it while watching the goats play together on top of their hutch.

This quiet darkness

milkyway

Have you ever lived in a home that is so quiet at night that you can hear a wristwatch ticking in the next room? That is how quiet our house is. No sirens, no traffic, no buzz of a dozen neighboring AC compressors. Just crickets and the ticking of a wristwatch. In addition, the darkness in the country is almost spooky at times. There have already been a couple of times at night when our dog has run off into the truly black darkness and I couldn’t see him even with the aid of a flashlight when he was more than 20 feet away. The blessing of such darkness is the amazing field of stars we can see in the night sky. In fact, for the past several mornings I have stood in awe of being able to see the Milky Way in the sky. I haven’t seen that many stars in years and years!

Friends and neighbors

While living in suburbia we were surrounded by hundreds of homes, but I knew very few of our neighbors and saw even fewer. I would see their cars drive down the street and then disappear behind the closing garage doors, but the neighborhood might have well as been a ghost town other than that.

On our farm we already know most of the people on our street. The other day I called a farmer friend and asked him if he had any hay I could use for the doeling’s hutch. When I got home from work there were two bales of hay inside my shed! We’ve had help from the pastor of a local church when we moved in and one day while the electrician was pulling the wire from the road to the house, another neighbor hopped the fence and just helped him out. People wave (mostly) when driving by and it’s simply a safer, friendlier feeling I get, even out in the middle of almost nowhere.

That pretty much wraps it up for this week. We’ll be getting another two goats next week so stay tuned!

The farm is finally our home

We have dreamed, stressed, planned, prayed and hoped for this for so long now that it almost seemed as if it may never arrive. During the week prior to Easter we took several trips with our belongings to the new house and on Holy Saturday we enlisted the help of several great friends and moved the remainder of our belongings. There was so much activity that when we woke up Sunday morning in preparation for Easter we realized we had indeed arrived. The farm is now our home!

The following week was spent moving boxes to and from each and every room. Because much of our belongings had been in storage for more than 2 years it was almost like Christmas morning with the opening of each box. We each found things we had either forgotten about or thought were lost. The week flew by with little sleep, but there still remains quite a bit to do. Thankfully the furniture is in place and most of our clothes are where they belong.

We didn’t stop there though as on Friday we welcomed our first two animals to the farm. They’re two young Nigerian Dwarf doelings named Amelia and Harriett. The week had been quote a bit busier than we had anticipated and the goat shed wasn’t even half completed when the goats arrived. We worked fast and furious on the shed in order to provide the goats some security at night and by midnight they were tucked in safely way.

Saturday was spent with more unpacking and a few finishing touches on the goat shed. We took some time to slow down and have a nice dinner of grilled pork chops and a warm campfire under the stars. It was fun to look at our fire pit and realize that it had been the first thing we had “built” when we first bought the land. We spent many a night around its warmth and now it is behind our house!

On Sunday we took a “Sunday Drive” to find some bluebonnets and took some great pictures of our youngest son among the beautiful backdrop of Spring flowers. Soon after church I drove to a new friends farm and picked up a donkey. Ruth, as we later named her, seemed happy in her new home. She was pretty wild and had little contact with people before coming to our farm, but I was able to get within 5 feet of her by the end of the day. I hope it won’t take too long for her to warm up to us enough to be able to brush her down and check her out better.

That is all for now, as if it isn’t enough for one week! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Farm and Homestead Update April 2015

Farm and Homestead Update April 2015

I have discovered that it can be very difficult to document the many activities that go on around the farm, even when there isn’t really a farm yet. I have found, through the sweat of my own brow, that our President was certainly not speaking about farms when he declared, “You didn’t build that!”

Barn

The Barn is at a stage that we shall call complete! It still needs some finishing touches, but in my experience it is unwise to call a construction project finished. We still need to close in the bottom and place rodent protection around the perimeter. We did complete the latter task on one side by placing an additional piece of treated lumber below ground level and then attaching 1/4″ wire mesh that extends under ground for about a foot from the barn. Helpful Hint: If you are planning to purchase 1/4″ galvanized metal fabric, the best price we found was at McCoys. It was probably less than half of what I found anywhere else).

 

Utilities

It is no wonder that so many homestead mentors recommend trying to find land that already has water and electric/gas service on site. It may not be this way everywhere, but the cost of connecting to a water line just across the street surprised us greatly. We’ll be spending nearly $6000 just to get connected to our water supply. We considered having a well drilled instead, but the $20,000 price tag for that knocked that option off the list.The paperwork, too, has been filled with so much legalese that it took some time to decipher.

Electricity is a little better, but for a little more than $2000 I would think they could dig their own hole for a junction box. We finished digging the hole and trench for them to put it in and I am very thankful to live in a place with little to no rocks for this kind of work.

We hope to have both water and electricity installed by the end of this month!

Garden

We have set aside an acre for our future gardening area and have great plans for the future. For the moment though our garden is simply a little 20′ x 4′ plot as a simple token to gardening.

Hay Field

We have a little over 7 acres that will be used for hay production and livestock pasture, but currently my only means of tending the field is a hand-held scythe and a home-made hay baler. While it is fun and good exercise to produce hay in this manner, there is no way for me to realistically work the entire area. Thankfully a local farmer stopped by and we worked out an agreement for him to grow and harvest the hay field.

Forest

So far the forest area is on the to-do list and I’m sure we will eventually be able to tackle it. The creek runs through the forest for the entire length of our property and we have already seen areas where trees have fallen creating dams that back up the water during heavy rains. There are also plenty of dead and unhealthy trees that need to come down. With poison ivy in full bloom now and plenty of other tasks at hand, the only trees being cut are those that have either already fallen on the fences or look like they could do so any minute.

Whirld Wide Wednesday – Farms Are Disappearing

Anyone who has spent time driving through rural areas will notice the growth in number of farming homes and buildings falling into disrepair. It isn’t because the farmers aren’t taking care of their assets, it is because the farmers have been leaving farms in record numbers. Corporate farming has not simply filled the void, they have been creating the vacuum that is sucking the life out of small farms across the globe.

Thankfully there is a growing number of people who are becoming aware of the catastrophic results of this trend and small farms are once again sprouting up across the country. Unfortunately the number of new farms is far outpaced by those that are shutting down, forever.

We may not realize the negative aspects of this as the grocery store shelves are still fully stocked with food. What many don’t realize though is that the quality of the food supply is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Food just isn’t as full of flavor and healthy benefit as it once was. If you’ve ever purchased food from a local farmer’s market and compared it to the food at your local store, there’s no doubt you’ve experienced the difference.

Fortunes are certainly not to be made by establishing a new family farm, but money is but a small price to pay for the health and welfare of our families and friends. There are huge considerations to be made when deciding whether or not to go against the tide of modern humanity in order to save our food supply, but consider it we must.