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Celebrating A Year “out here”

It took a dream, and a goal, a good partner, encouragement and prayers, teamwork, hard decisions and a lot of hard work to make it happen. But we did it.  We bought our slice of paradise.  Our dream lasted a good 10 years.  From the day we left our rural apartment we dreamed of coming back to the country, but this time in our own house with enough land to provide most of our food needs.  We had a good 10 years of “practice” where we learned how to do as much as we could with the backyard we had.  We learned gardening, food preservation, chicken and rabbit management, scratch cooking, sewing, soapmaking.  I was content living a country life in the city (the best I could, anyway) because I knew even though at some points moving seemed hopeless, I still felt like I was doing something to reach our goal.  Instead of moving to our farm and learning everything all at once, I moved to our farm with a good basic understanding of how to start seeds, grow things, save seeds, cook with fresh food, preserve the excess, take care of chickens and rabbits so we could expand our flock and rabbitry, etc.  If you find yourself dreaming of owning land, start learning skills now!  Then, practice, practice, practice. We moved to the country with a raspberry bush and grape vine in 5 gallon buckets,  11 hens and about 15 rabbits.  We grew from there.  We have more rabbits and lots more chickens plus ducks, guineas, turkeys and goats! I am not the same person I was when I moved out here.  Now, I build and fix things, put up electric fences an assist my husband with everything going on here.  I butcher and process animals.  I hunt.   I use equipment that once intimidated me – including chainsaws, log splitters, augers and rototillers – all the time.  I have saved the lives of newborn animals and adult animals.  I have pushed myself to my limits – and pushed a little further in many ways but mainly mentally and physically.  I’ve grown food on a scale I could never achieve before.  I have been able to network with my local community, make connections, help others and provide food or animals to locals.  I have morphed from a stay at home, homeschooling mom to all that plus the job title of farmer – it is a title I hold dear. It’s only been a year building our new farm, but so much has happened.  I can’t wait to see what is in store for the future! My kids are growing by leaps and bounds in creativity, problem solving, team work, cooperation, making things and more.  They are outside nearly every single day climbing trees, making forts, exploring the woods, playing war, playing in mud, grooming goats, loving on chickens, growing things and helping on the homestead.   They are learning gardening, cooking and animal husbandry skills as life happens and are more than happy to show their friends new things they have learned. They are blossoming in so many ways – active in church, lovely examples to others, growing in love and faith each day.  These kids still have the same sweet personality, faith and values as always but boy have they just grown in everything! In this past year we have gradually gotten used to the country lifestyle out here.  I can’t say it was a hard adjustment at all.  It’s been everything I had hoped it would be.

The first month:

  • The first week we moved in, in July, we brought home a free rooster for our hens.
  • The next week we placed an order for more fowl.  5 turkeys, 15 chickens and 5 guineas.
  • My city chickens became free range chickens.
  • I set up the brooders for our order of future layers and meat birds and were greeted a few days later with a chirping box and a mail lady who giggled and said “Merry Christmas?” as she handed the box to me.
  • One little guinea took a turn for the worst and I feared he was a goner, but being separated from the rest and some TLC seemed to be all he needed to get back on his feet and he pulled through.

 

The first fall:

  • The first fall, we purchased and installed (ourselves!)  two wood stoves.  We heat 100% with wood.  It is also a cooking source through the winter.
  • One of our housewarming presents was a wood splitter to help us prepare for our first winter as quickly as we could.
  • I broke ground with a shovel and began transforming my overgrown field.  With nothing but hard work I cleared a small portion of my field, then planted garlic and onions in part of it.
  • I transplanted 75 raspberry bushes from the woods up near the house so I could harvest them a little easier.  In a plot I hand tilled myself.
  • We began cutting down dead branches in our old apple trees and began contemplating how in the world we should prune them.
  • By November, we finally got around to installing the dryer.  Up to now I have been drying our clothes exclusively with a clothesline.  Which I had no problem with!  But now having to dry clothing indoors for a family of 8 proved challenging.  Never fear, spring is coming and I will continue using my clothesline once the weather gets above freezing!
  • My husband had his first successful opening day on our own property.  Boy he has waited years for this!
  • My Christmas present was a 12 ga. we had lots of fun shooting clay the day I got it!

In 2015…

February:

  • In February we brought home 10 ducklings.  A week later we brought home 13 white leg horns.  I had planned to wait for chicks until the weather was warmer so they wouldn’t have to stay in a brooder for too long – but our local farm store had another shipment of chickens coming in that afternoon and gave us a deal we couldn’t turn down.  Considering we wanted a bird that would lay a white egg (boy I’m getting tired of purchasing eggs around Easter for dying! haha), this was a great deal.  All of our layers lay brown eggs, so even if we began hatching our own eggs for layers, we still need to invest in breeds that will lay white eggs.
  • Mid-february we began building a stall in our barn and completed it.  We then brought home two goats to mark the beginning of our dairy program.  More will come.  We also put up fencing for their pasture.  In freezing weather and frozen ground.  It was a freezing, fun family adventure as my brother and sister in law and nephew helped pound in posts and secure fencing when we were supposed to be celebrating my husbands 40th birthday!
  • My incubator arrived in February.  We use it to hatch our meat birds and additional layers.
  • We bred our rabbits for the first time since last year in February.  We should have new litters each month until late fall/early winter.
  • Fencing was purchased to fence in my garden.  Deer are ever present in the area and I have been told all of my efforts from gardening will be eaten.  So we feel a good 6 strand electric fence will be enough to keep big and little critters out – at least the general population – and will eventually be a part of  our rotational grazing goals.  It’s a long term goal, but eventually we will have 3 fenced in spots – one for livestock, one for the garden, and one to rest.  If nothing else, we can graze the goats there and turn them loose in the garden in the fall once I pull anything that could be harmful to them, and give their normal pasture a rest.
  • We finished 8 foot long, 2 foot wide heavy duty shelves to hold full jars of home canned goods.

March:

  • I fenced in a 130×70 area with U-posts and chicken wire to be used as my spring garden area, to keep my free range chickens out of until our permanent fencing goes up.  I pulled weeds, piled them up, and burnt them.  I then rototilled 16 garden plots within the fenced in area leaving a path large enough to drive down with the trailer for bringing out transplants and bringing in the harvest.
  • In March we brought home 59 Buff Orpington chicks and 5 Silkies.  The local farm supply store gave us an amazing deal on the whole brooder of chicks, which were originally marked half off because they had a new shipment of chicks coming in and they had to move these out.
  • While my brother in law was up visiting our new home and celebrating my husbands 40th birthday, he happened to catch white leghorns on sale and bought them for us.  (I think he said something about it being a housewarming gift… Perfect, if you ask me!  lol)
  • We began starting seeds indoors!
  • We got started with wood for the upcoming cold season.  We heat our home with wood, so the earlier in the year we get started, the better off we are.

April:

  • The first seeds were planted in the dirt for our cool weather crops, and indoor seedlings are doing well!
  • Potatoes were planted outside the fenced in area because the brains I picked said chickens left their potatoes alone. We will see. (UPDATED – they do!)
  • In April, we butchered our first meat birds – and filled the incubator up to do it all over again.  We are leasing out a portion of my field and our farmer came out to plow and disc the field, including the portion I will be using.
  • I marked off my summer garden with a handful of U posts, so our farmer knows where not to plant.  My main summer garden, not including the cool weather garden or the additional spot I have on the other side of my garden, is 100×130.
  • We brought home our first bottle baby goat in April, and will be bringing home a trio of goats at the beginning of May.  Momma is on lease to us so we can get the hang of milking while she continues feeding her twins (a little boy and girl).  Once they wean we will return mom and raise the babies.  The little boy may become a poppa for our other two goats.
  • By now, I have fully embraced my role as a farmer and truly feel like one.  I saved a newborn rabbit who fell out of its nest in the hutch and was cold and still.  I didn’t have time to sit down and heat it up, so I put it in my bra to warm up.  In no time it was ready to go back to mom.
  • Our well pump failed.  $1000 later we are up and running again.  And even though we have a well, moments like these are why I still store water.
  • Laundry started hanging on the line again.
  • I noticed the majority of the raspberry bushes I transplanted last fall had survived.  Yay!
  • Tomatoes were transplanted to bigger cells, sweet potatoes were prepared for sprouting.

May

  • The summer garden went in.  Despite a freeze warning on the date of our last expected frost (well played, mother nature), inches of rain falling over the course of a day and a half of solid rain, and low temps once again dipping in the low 40’s making us all wonder if we would see a frost during the last week of May…..  Everything seems to be thriving so far.
  • I used my seeder for the first time putting corn in, and later green beans.  It spaces, plants, covers with soil and marks my next row.  This will be so valuable on the farm especially when it comes time to plant those teeny tiny carrot seeds.
  • We started getting our electric fence up to keep deer out of my garden.  Or, attempt to.
  • Three hens, including a turkey, went broody.  A chicken and a turkey shared a nesting box the whole time they sat on eggs.  They even shared sitting duties and would move the eggs from one to another as each got up to walk around.
  • We brought home 3 more goats – a mom in milk and her twins.  We are “borrowing” her for the summer to get the hang of milking in preparation of having our own to milk next spring.
  • We bought our first apple tree.  We have a couple on the property, but this was our personal addition to our future orchard.
  • We wouldn’t be able to put up the pool we moved with us this year, but the farm kids made do with the water trough.

June

  • We finished the electric perimeter fence around the garden.  Next we will separate the enclosed area into my original three garden spaces so the garden can be eaten down and fertilized over the fall and part of the winter by livestock (and be kept in).
  • We harvested our first strawberries, peas and broccoli!  The chickens and ducks have sure done a number to my green bean seeds and corn – one of the hazards of free ranging chickens!  They also damaged a lot of broccoli through scratching around it.  I will try the broccoli again this fall now that the majority of the birds are being penned.
  • Mulberries began ripening.
  • Harvested (legally!) a deer killed by a car.  Kill tags for these situations are free and available out of season for crazy folks like us who don’t mind fresh “roadkill.” I process them from start to finish.

July

  •  We had free wood chips delivered from a local tree service.  I have begun transforming part of my garden by rototilling the walking paths and laying chips in a thick layer to prevent weed growth.  I recently broke (literally) our push mower and not having anything beat up enough to attempt mowing the paths with, the weeds have gotten so tall!!  I am still looking for the blade somewhere in my garden…….  But the walking paths are still quite rocky and not being able to see through the weeds I didnt’ want to risk our riding lawn mower considering that is the only thing we have to mow our lawn and keep that under control.
  • A recent storm left a large tree across a front lawn.  The homeowner was kind enough to let us take the tree and said she would be having two more cut down and she would call us to get the once they are down.  We heat our home with wood and this tree was a huge step in getting us ready for the winter.  Now that the wood is here, we have to take the time to split the wood and stack it.
  • Green beans are starting to be harvest-able.  Herbs have been going strong.  Lots of baby tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers!
  • The fall garden is being started.
  • My big kids and I saw the results of our hard work and we were able to begin canning our own home grown food for the coming winter.

It’s been a great year!!  

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