Progress on My Farm – Part 1, by Animal House

The following is an overview of our farm progress at the end of 2021. For those of you who don’t know me, I am a widow and grandmother of retirement age. Eight years ago I bought a country property in the mid-south 300 miles from a large metropolitan area and two-hours away from a large city and one hour away from a small city with a hospital and medical specialists. The closest town has two gas stations, a pharmacy, a medical family practice, and two grocery stores, some fast food places, and a few other family-owned businesses.

The property had a very old barn which was used as storage, a water well, electric power, and lots of acreage, but no septic system. The sellers used the old pipe to the woods system but they put in a new septic system as a condition of sale. The house was old and needed a new kitchen and another bathroom before we could move in and I splurged on a whole house backup generator. The other updates are done as we can afford them and they are still ongoing. My oldest son, a truck driver, moved closer so he could help me when he was not on the road. Eventually, he moved on to the property permanently.

My goals in moving out to the country were to: (1) be more secure; (2) become less dependent on buying from stores, (3) have room for my kids and other family members to come to if and when things fall apart for them, (4) learn skills to develop cottage/home business(es), and finally (5) learn to be more self-reliant so I could live in freedom and independence. It has been lots of hard work, with some failures. But over the years, we have gained confidence in our abilities and acquired new skills. Everything we have done has been on a very tight budget and everything is paid for in cash; I have no debt. This is a summary on how we have developed the farm over the years and where we are at the end of 2021.

Year 1: After the house was made livable, the first thing to be done was to fence a half-acre of the back yard for the dogs; at that time I had 5 small dogs, a stray red tick coon hound and one feral kitten which came out of the woods. The coon hound had 6 surprise puppies. She was so emaciated even the vet didn’t realize she was pregnant! That brought us up to 12 dogs; we eventually gave most of the puppies away, but kept two.

Next came a chicken coop and fence around the chicken yard. A neighbor down the road gave me a bunch of hens, a rooster, and a couple of ducks. I had never lived in the country nor had I raised chickens before; thus I lost 5 hens the first six months due to inexperience and predators; a fox, raccoon, owls, and hawks. Since I’m usually a quick learner, I put up two hot wire lines around the chicken fence; one 12” above the ground for the fox, raccoons, etc., and a top hot wire above the fencing for the winged predators. Within two weeks the wire shocked several 4-legged critters (we heard them cry in pain) and fried two owls when they landed on the wire. Digging through the boneyard near the barn we found a couple of old junk file cabinets to put in the chicken yard and also piled old tree limbs around the chicken yard for the birds to hide under when the winged predators came hunting.

Year 2, we fenced almost an acre of the front yard and added a farm gate with an alarm system to the driveway, and started the garden. Toward the end of year 2, I had a second well drilled and a simple pump (manual hand pump) added as a redundant backup. My son built a pump house around the well and made it large enough for some storage. Also, when all the trees, bushes went on sale at the warehouse store in the city, I bought some evergreen trees and holly bushes to provide privacy along the county road. They were about 12” tall when my son dug the holes; now the trees are over 6′ and the bushes about 5′ high. When you live way out in the country, people abandon their unwanted dogs and cats when they think they can get away with it; by the end of the second year we had three more dogs.

Year 3, I got one male and two female New Zealand rabbits to breed. I had never done this either, but some good books and you-tube helped a lot. Son built the cages when he was not on the road. I let nature take its course and soon we had a dozen big rabbits. I learned to identify problems, medical issues and treat them; but I still lost two rabbits. One baby rabbit’s teeth grew fast and curved, I had to cut them with a toenail clipper, but the condition eventually caused the rabbit’s death. One of my favorite does became paralyzed and had to be put down. Also, that year, my son built another chicken coop for the 12 ornamental silkies, he wanted to raise.

I bought a mid-sized tractor with 4 basic implements: bucket, bush hog, tiller, and a box blade. Huge help in keeping the farm/barn dirt roads from being washed away and keeping them usable. The bush hog also keeps the 12-acre meadows under control. At the end of year 3, had the long driveway blacktopped and built an extra parking pad, also black-topped. After the driveway was permanently settled, I had a 4-stall pole barn built to protect vehicles from the weather. I also took in two more abandoned dogs and rescued three feral kittens about 10 days old, which I hand fed them for two weeks until they could lick on their own. They are now the most affectionate animals I have ever had.

Year 4, I got the farm utility vehicle; a side-by-side all-wheel drive with a dump cart on the back and a winch on the front. It really saves us a lot of walking around the farm, especially when we need to go to the back 40, which is mostly woods with a few meadows mixed in. It’s pulled several neighbors out of mud and makes moving loads from the house to barn and out-buildings much faster and easier. We also enlarged the garden to twice its size. It takes a couple of years to enrich the soil and get rid of all the weeds. Southern clay is tough; we used fall leaves, sand from the creek bed, manure from the surrounding cattle farms, pine needles and anything else we could get free and tilled it all in. In the spring it gets tilled again about 5 weeks before in-ground planting. When we put the seedlings in they get crushed eggshells and rabbit poo for fertilizer. Each year we wait longer to plant in-ground. Used to be we could plant at end of March for cool weather plants or early April; now we wait until end of April for cool weather plants and this year it was May before we got veges in the ground. Climate change (aka seasonal change) has lowered our average summer temps by 10°F. Have a feeling the coming Grand Solar Minimum is going to drop the average temperature again.

Year 5, I can’t remember when we added pigs to the farm; maybe it was year 4. Anyway, we built about a 1/2 acre pig enclosure a little past the barn. Son built a shed for weather protection, added 300 gallon tote for water and mud wallah and fenced it with welded wire and a bottom hot wire. It’s shady in the summer time and we add a lot of straw in the winter time. So far we don’t breed them, I just get 2 feeder pigs when I want them. We harvest them ourselves; that was a fun first experience!!! (See the five-part article that I wrote, titled From Piglets to Bacon, in the SurvivalBlog archives.)

We expanded the fencing to cover all the acres near the house and barn and put up the air-lock. Our neighbors kept leaving the gates open and unlocked and we lost a couple of dogs that way. We built a 3-gate “air-lock” so people had to come in one gate and close it, then enter another gate and close it. There are padlocks on the outer people gates and are only unlocked when we are expecting visitors or deliveries. Neighbors are used to it now and usually call before they drop by.

Year 6, I bought a couple more implements for the tractor; augers to drill holes for trees and fences, forks and a hay spear and, at the very end of the year, ordered an excavator attachment. Didn’t use it that year but wanted to have something to dig when I wanted to. Reading about the Grand Solar Minimum got me thinking about colder weather and when Avalanche Lily and JWR recommended building a greenhouse, I thought it a good idea. I ordered a 20’x20′ hoop house kit just before COVID got in the news. The kit arrived in good time but we put it in the barn and left it for the winter.

When COVID was announced in China I knew that we were in for trouble, I just didn’t know how much trouble. I stocked up as much as possible as I knew prices would go up because most of our stuff comes from China. I bought extra lumber, roofing tin, screws, extra items we use frequently around the farm. We also laid in a 6-month supply of animal feed. I never dreamed we were about to be locked up in our homes!

Year 7, before the first COVID stay-at-home order was implemented, I ordered a lot of medical supplies which came in before the 15-30-60-90 day lock-downs were implemented. Thanks to advice from blog contributor Tunnel Rabbit, I also ordered oxygen concentrators and replacement parts for all the tools and extra batteries. The lock-downs were not severe in the mid-south; most of the places I frequent stayed open; the only things that closed were some churches, gyms, indoor sit-down restaurants, and schools. There were no California communist-style rules. On the farm, it was life as usual, except that we sprayed down our delivered packages and mail, just in case.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)