We stand now on the brink of Year Four (!!) of making a farm out of nothing.
If you’re new here, here’s a little background. This 40-acre farm, wooded and long-abandoned when we bought it, was once cleared land with crops and pastures wherever possible amidst the sloping landscape. Back then, it was part of a much larger holding. Along the road, small tenant cottages housed workers at the old gasoline plant up the way. Oil rigs were everywhere and there was a bustling community known as Stringtown. This farm sat smack in the heart of it. There was a small church at the far end of our meadow that doubled as a one-room schoolhouse on weekdays. My grandmother lived in one of those tenant cottages and she later taught in the one-room schoolhouse and also at the new schoolhouse that was built across the river we look over from our porch. She married the son of another large landowner across the river and later lived on out the road across the river ford, where my father grew up.
This farm has been abandoned for at least 60 years as any kind of working operation. The tenant cottages are long gone and the little church burned down. The woods took over and only the meadow bottom along the road remained cleared. (Some people used to live down there in a trailer, which has since been removed.) We had not so much as a tumbled fence post to start with to turn this land back into a farm.
We named our property Stringtown Rising Farm in honor of the history of this area and the town that once existed here. What a journey it has been from the slanted little house to here.
Our first year farm goals included basics like getting the house built, starting our chicken flock and goat herd, and establishing a garden. By the second year, we had sheep and were in serious need of a lot of fencing. I was also wishing for pigs. And goat babies, I wanted goat babies! That didn’t happen that year. (Clover can be so uncooperative.) My third year (2010) farm goals were as follows:
1) More chickens. CHECK. (Was there ever any doubt? I always have more chickens.) I also wanted more ducks. CHECK!
2) A second chicken house for chickens not ready to go in and out of the house/yard (NO CHECK), and a separate duck house (NO CHECK).
And a barn. NO CHECK.
3) Continue to improve the garden and plant more roses, blackberries, blueberries, etc. CHECK. (Still didn’t get to the asparagus, though.)
4) Goat and sheep babies of our own. CHECK! CHECK!!!
5) Continue to work on my cheesemaking (CHECK), knitting (small check), and learn to make soap (CHECK!).
6) Figure out why I have a cow bell. CHECK!!!!
And now we have a brand new year–to start fresh, to dream again, to believe that all is possible.
Fourth Year Farm Goals:
1) More chickens. And more ducks. Because I’m insane, plus this is an easy goal to accomplish and I don’t like to be too hard on myself. I need to be sure I have at least one success to report next year.
2) A second chicken house for chickens not ready to go in and out of the house/yard, and a separate duck house.
AND A BARN.
I’m pretty sure if I keep setting this goal, one day it will happen!
I want to build a “duck ‘n’ buck” yard out here around the pond.
The pond will provide water, making the ducks blissfully happy, and the bucks will protect them by their presence. (I find chickens who roost on the goat pen gates tend to be the safest free-rangers because the presence of larger animals seems to ward off predators.) I also want a buck yard that is in reasonable proximity to the house because Mr. Pibb really needs to go to a buck yard but I can’t bear to send him down to the meadow bottom. I’d also like to bring Eclipse and Rhett up because I miss them. I don’t like goats in the meadow bottom!
Mr. Pibb: “But I love living with the girls.”
As for a barn, I have a little dream of a little barn in Beulah Petunia-land where feed and hay can be stored for her. A new milk stand that has better access and a small fenced barnyard where I can separate and bring together mommy and calf more easily.
I’d also like a big barn in the meadow bottom. You know, while I’m dreaming.
3) Continue, as always, to improve the garden, but most especially this year I’d like to finally get some asparagus growing. Asparagus has been on my list since the asparagus I got the first year didn’t make it. This will be the year of the asparagus! I also want to get rhubarb growing successfully. We planted two rhubarb plants this past year and they both died. I also want to make a pie garden.
4) More farm babies! Bring ’em on! Goat and sheep babies. Fanta, Sprite, and Nutmeg are all pregnant, and I’m hoping the sheep are, too. Pickle cookies for everyone!
NO new dogs.
5) Become a better cheesemaker (I’m working on my curds), and also continue my soapmaking journey by learning to make soft soap.
6) Work hard and get out of debt. Beeeeee frugal.
And I might even write a book…….
Clover: “You can do it, Woman.”
I’m suspicious of her encouragement, but…. Anything is possible. It’s January! Even Clover can turn over a new leaf!
Go back in time:
Farming from Scratch, Year One
Farming from Scratch, Year Two
Farming from Scratch, Year Three