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! 🙂
I can barely believe that our nearly three year journey will come to fruition in just a couple of weeks! Our house is almost complete and we will be calling the farm our home by the end of March.
We have been genuinely satisfied with our choice of a house construction contractor, Bland Construction. We have run into very few issues in the building process and even those were handled quickly and satisfactorily. I know had we chosen one of the other contractors we received bids from that this process would never have gone so smoothly and probably with less quality that those at Bland have provided.
Once we get moved in, our next task is to begin bringing in the livestock, but before we can do that we need to finish fencing in the barn are where our new critters will call home. As such, we launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise the money we need for fences, animals and all the associated accoutrements involved. Almost all of the fence posts are in the ground and we have all the fencing we will need to close it up. If you would like to financially help us out we would be extremely grateful as the cost of building and traveling between our city and future homes have been considerable.
** UPDATE ** We want to thank all those who donated to our fundraising campaign and we invested your donations in some very important infrastructure improvements that have made a huge, positive difference. THANK YOU!
We’ve been doing our research on the kind of sheep and goats we plan to acquire, but the process is one of those daunting tasks that we want to get right. My wife is very excited about the sheep and her plan is to purchase some Delaine Merinos for their wonderful wool. The goats are my project and I’m still wavering between dairy Nubians, meat Boers or a combination of both.
In other news, we did take a weekend off from working on the farm back in February in order to attend the Mother Earth News Fair in Belton, Texas. There were a lot of great exhibitors there, but I most enjoyed the presentations by Joe Salatin and Wranglerstar. We also had the opportunity to meet the Wranglerstar and Homestead Kids families in person. It was a wonderful day of “downtime learning” and friendship.
Although we’ve been somewhat disappointed in our hopes of living on the farm by the end of 2015, things are continuing to move forward and it looks like 2016 may actually be our year to do so. In the meantime, we’ve slowly been progressing towards that goal.
We’ve put some more finishing touches and updates on the barn. Because of the drought we really had very little idea what to expect in wetter weather and discovered that our barn location is a little wetter under heavy rain than we had anticipated. Because of that we’ve had to shore up the base of the barn some as well as add some drainage around it, but we think we’re getting it just about right.
Our little riding lawn mower took a beating this summer. We knew it wasn’t meant for keeping up with the demands of our farm, but we tried to hold off as long as possible. After replacing blades and several sets of bearings and belts we decided enough was enough. In October we bought a 1981 Massey Ferguson 205 Compact Tractor that came with a brush hog and a grading blade. It’s a small 20 HP diesel, but the first time we plowed through some very tall weeds with it I knew it would be the answer to a lot of our problems. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for trouble to show up. At the end of November I tried to start it and it wouldn’t even turn over.
I went to the helpful folks at TractorByNet.com and they graciously helped me diagnose the problem. Water had gotten into the cylinders causing a condition known as hydrolock. The potential causes were a blown head gasket or a cracked cylinder head. I ended up tearing half the motor apart and the cylinder head looked to be in good shape. I replaced the head gasket, put it back together and Lil’ Red is up and running again.
We finally got all the paperwork done to build our house in the middle of October…then the rains came. It was proving impossible for the construction crews to get concrete trucks onto the property to get the foundation poured. We had no idea this would be an issue considering the years of drought we had been in, but when the rain does come it doesn’t take much to make a muddy mess of everything. Last week they were finally able to get enough stable road in and the foundation has finally been poured!
There hasn’t been much activity on the farm recently, but with the Christmas season upon us I thought I’d share some Christmas songs that don’t usually to make it onto the typical radio Christmas playlists.
Christmas Night in Harlem – Louis Armstrong
Dominic the Donkey – Lou Monte
Lighten Up It’s Christmas – The Geezinslaw Brothers
Christmas Shopping – Buck Owens
Christmas Time All Over the World – Sammy Davis, Jr.
Christmas – Honey & the Bees
PANCHO CLAUS – Jose Gonzales-Gonzales
Have you heard of the American Farm Bureau’s “Patriot Project? If not, the goal of the project is to ” to facilitate an educational and professional relationship between military veterans seeking a career in agriculture with experienced farmers and ranchers.” The pilot program runs from 2015 to 2016 and works by matching up experienced mentors with veterans just entering an agricultural career.
I came across this program looking for opportunities to connect with experienced farmers in order to give me a bit of an educational boost as we launch our farm in the coming year. Becoming a participant seemed like a long shot for me as this is after all a pilot program and only a very small number of mentors/mentees will be paired together.
I received an email late yesterday announcing that I have indeed been selected as a participant and have been paired up with a mentor in the farming and ranching business here in Central Texas. I can’t begin to describe how excited I am at receiving this opportunity!
We promise we are still around! There hasn’t been much activity on the farm this summer as the heat keeps us from spending too much time “on the ground.” We’ve also been in a bit of a holding pattern waiting for our city house to sell as well as lining up everything we need to get started with building our farm house. I’m happy to report that yesterday we finally signed the papers to close the sale of the city house. We didn’t experience the price we had hoped for, but we are very glad to have that experience behind us so we can better concentrate on the future.
A little work has been done to finish the skirting around the bottom of the barn and we started fencing in an area where we plan to house chickens and start our gardening. We did cultivate a small food plot, but being summer already it wasn’t really time to plant. We did decide to throw a few squash and watermelon seeds in the ground to see what happened. The results haven’t been spectacular, but we didn’t really expect all that much with not being able to water and tend it regularly. We have a few small vines with tiny squash and watermelon starting to develop, but for now this is just for fun and if anything does actually grow to maturity it will be an added bonus.
A local farmer has been tending our hay field for now and with all the spring rain we received this year, he is reaping quite a nice hay harvest this year.
That is pretty much all there is to report for now, but hopefully things will start picking up again this fall. In the meantime, our Facebook page gets updated quite a bit more frequently thanks to my wife, so please feel free to visit and friend us on the Whirldworks Farm Facebook page.
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!”
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
One of the greatest American stories is that of John Chapman, known commonly as Johnny Appleseed. Johnny is remembered in our American lexicon as a man passionate about apples and apple trees. He traveled far and wide planting apple tree nurseries. His devotion to sharing nature’s bounty carved him a permanent place in our history. Unfortunately, had Johnny been born about 230 years later his actions just might get him thrown into jail, or at least into some pretty severe legal troubles.
If a Johnny Appleseed in today’s world devoted himself only to planting and growing apple trees, he would be relatively safe. However, the day he bit into one of those apples, took out a seed and handed it to someone else he just might be in violation of the law in most States.
The various State Agriculture Departments impose a strict permitting process for producers and sellers of seeds. The permitting process requires distributors to properly test and label their seed varieties to ensure that consumers are protected from fraudulent business practices.
Unfortunately for smaller, non-profit operations in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, the local governing authorities are applying this law to their operations as well. In doing so, the community seed libraries are being suspended or shut down altogether in the name of a fight against “Agri-terrorism.”
The irony I find here is that there are a very small number of extremely large agricultural corporations distributing untested “franken-foods” into the marketplace without receiving so much as a second-glance from the same officials shutting down these community libraries.
Thankfully the actions of these government agencies is getting more and more attention. There is a gradual up swelling of citizen opposition to these overreaches and now there is a nationwide campaign underway to allow seed exchanges or libraries to operate without being required to submit to the burdensome costs of permits and regulations.
If you would like to find out how to support the seed-sharing movement and to sign their petition, please visit: SaveSeedSharing.org
In addition, if you’d like to get even more involved on an actionable level, you can learn how to start your own Seed Sharing Library or discover if there is already a nearby library that you could get involved with, visit: SeedLibraries.net
Before you go, here’s a short video that I remember from SOOOO long ago about the legendary Johnny Appleseed.
In honor of our finishing the construction phase of our barn (more details to follow), I thought it would be interesting to put together a short pictorial essay of some of the more unique barns I’ve seen on the web. I can’t say much about each of these barns as I haven’t personally seen any of them, but they are certainly eye-catching and indicative of building skills that have all but disappeared. I hope you enjoy these barns.
Today is March 17th and chances are that you or someone you meet today will be wearing green in honor of remembering the legacy of Saint Patrick. There will be parades, green food, green drink and plenty of tall tales. I wonder though how many of us know the real, true story of Saint Patrick. Here’s a hint: it isn’t about leprechauns, snakes, 4-leaf clovers, or green beer.
Patrick’s true story is about his mission to bring the message of God to the druids and pagans living on the island of Ireland. The clover was indeed part of Patrick’s message, but rather than the famed 4-leaf clover, he used the 3-leaf clover to illustrate the trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Thankfully you don’t have to take my word for it as Patrick left behind his own biography in his “Confession.” It is a marvelous and wonderful read, especially for those who want to get to know the true Patron Saint of Ireland.
Here is Saint Patrick’s Confession.
An Irish Blessing
May the rains sweep gentle across your fields,
May the sun warm the land,
May every good seed you have planted bear fruit,
And late summer find you standing in fields of plenty.
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