Farming from Scratch, Year Two


We are gardening on a dime this year! Look at all these seeds. Over 50 packets.
They were free! Faye, who works at the local garden center (aka grocery store, pizza shop, movie rental store, deli, hardware store, and so on–the little store in town), took them home from the store last fall and kept them in her fridge at home over the winter. They were going to be thrown out. They can’t sell last year’s seeds. Tim (who owns the little store) told her she could give them away! So Faye took them out of her fridge this week and back to the store–and handed them out. I love Faye. And Tim! Recently, they had a freezer breakdown and were going to throw away boxes and boxes of berries that thawed–Faye took them home for free and made cobblers for all her friends! (Including me!)

These seeds may not sprout as well as brand new packets, but they’ll do all right. Whatever we get out of them, they’re free. A whole garden full of free!

Last week, we got two tons of compost from the City of Charleston for $50. Not quite free, but that’s a lot of compost!
Two truckfuls. You know exactly how much compost that is when you’re unloading it one shovelful at a time from the back of a truck. Here’s the compost after it was spread around the garden.
Next we’ll take one side of the fence down and till the compost in with the tractor. We’ve got all kinds of other stuff we’ve been saving up over the winter, including poopy straw from cleaning out the chicken house and goat house.

I’m working on getting some things going in my homemade biodegradable seed-starter pots. Yellow and green peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower….
It’s still too early to plant in the ground here for most vegetables, but we’ve got the peas and lettuce fired up.

We are beginning Year Two of making a farm out of nothing. This 40-acre farm, wooded and long-abandoned, was once cleared land with crops and pastures wherever possible in the sloping landscape. Abandoned for at least 60 years as any kind of working operation, we had not so much as a tumbled fence post to start with to turn this land back into a farm. Our first year farm goals included basics like getting the house built, starting our chicken flock and goat herd, and establishing a garden. Last year’s garden was full of challenges due to top soil being scraped away during house construction. All that compost this year will help.

We also got quite a bit of fencing done last year, but more is on tap and soon. We need to get the sheep out of the goat yard and onto greener–and bigger–pastures.

Second Year Farm Goals:

1) Fencing and pastures for the sheep.

2) A better garden than last year! (And we’ve got 10 new fruit trees coming!)

3) Pigs. Yes, we’ve decided to get pigs! And, as if the planets were either in perfect alignment or completely out of whack because this is so bizarre, on the way home from picking up Morgan at softball practice yesterday the Ornery Angel stopped me on the road and out of the blue offered to give me a piglet. I don’t make this stuff up!

4) More chickens!!!!!!!! If they don’t cooperate and make some for me, I’m going to go out and get some! We lost a hen the other day. Have no idea what happened. Just went out to the chicken house and there she was, dead. No sign of any wound. Just….dead. I think Mean Rooster did it. In the lounge with a candlestick.

5) Goat babies of our own. (Please, Clover?) We don’t know yet if Clover’s pregnant.
Clover: “That’s on a need-to-know basis. When I think you need to know, I’ll tell you. In the meantime, I would like a pickle cookie. Just in case.”

6) Take control of the animals……….

Reminder: The Chickens in the Road interview will air this weekend on Inside Appalachia. (Saturday at 6 am and Sunday at 6 pm.) You can also listen to the interview online here at the West Virginia Public Radio website.


  1. Steph says:

    Oh that clover, she’s a sassy one!
    I am also planning to expand my garden this year. Last year was my first. Have you tried any heirloom seeds? I know you can save your own seeds to plant from them. I love your idea for seed starter pots. I may just have to try that.

  2. Senta says:

    We have woke up to snow every day this week, but it is suppose to be up in the 60’s this weekend. I am going to move my seedlings out to the cold frame this weekend. So far I have not wanted to sit in the snow while I planted them. :clover:

  3. Diane says:

    Free seeds for the garden how cool is that?? I am thinking of how I want to do my garden this year. I am waiting to see if we get a week of good weather around here. We get a nice day or two, then it rains, then gets cold again. I have so much I want to get started on. lol. Like useing old tires for small plant beds to extend my garden this year.

    Oh you and your neighbor might become friends over a little pig!!! Who knows she might be sneaking up your drive way at night to see what is going on at your house and decided that you need a pig also. lol. All I know is that when you say you would like some kind of farm animal. God is listening to you and he is provideing them for you. At least that is how I see it. 🙂

  4. CindyP says:

    And the Stringtown Farm continues to grow… The Ornery Angel’s coming around!! Must be a peace offering, why wouldn’t she keep it?

    Now that is gardening on a dime!!! Even $50 for all that compost is a great, great deal!! I’m using your seed starting pots, and they seem to be working great! I just didn’t start saving soon enough….using egg cartons, too.

    And how is #6 working out for you???????????? hehehe!

  5. Heidi says:

    Dead hen?!?! no wound, or at least not a visable one could mean a weasel…. or mink. They can kill a chicken, by biting its neck – lick the blood off and you will never know the differance… yes I am serious. We had that happening a few years ago and could not figure out what the heck was going on. Finally we put the dog in there and she caught the little bugger red lipped…so to speak. Just a possibilty – mean rooster is Sparticus is it?

  6. wkf says:

    Have you read or gotten the Book Carrots love Tomatoes, Louise Riotte? I was reading it yesterday and couldn’t stop thinking about you. Now seeing the view from your porch you could make a gorgeous garden. It is Chock full of info,that you don’t need a horticultural degree to understand.

    I have pig envy and you don’t even have yours yet. :pinkpig:

    And can we get a hallelujah and an amen for the Ornery Angel.

    We have witnessed “Do Unto Others….” in action!!!!
    Well Done!! Well Done!!! :snoopy:

  7. Linnet says:

    That is quite a lot of gardening and animal farming but I’m looking forward to reading about all the things you talked about! I find having a plan always helps me keep on track or at least know when I’m getting off track to do things that are more fun:)

  8. Nita in South Carolina says:

    You might be overreaching with #6 . . . :devil2:

  9. LizB says:

    This smiling goat face is making my day! :woof:

  10. Gail says:

    Hooray! A piglet! Now I can get educated on how to raise a pig. They are adorable as babies. I am coveting your compost! Yes, your farm has really grown, and will always be a work in progress! My favorite part of the farm is all the animals! (especially when they talk!)

  11. Ang. says:

    Yay for free seeds!!! Those seeds will sprout just fine for you. We use seeds last year’s seed regularly with good results.

  12. Kathryn says:

    We have a hard freeze warning for Monday and Tuesday. Monday is Opening Day for the Cardinals, and we are maybe getting snow for goodness sakes! This is just awful planning. No gardening around here for a few more days. Our trees are budding out, and the dogwoods just may pop today! Redbuds are about finished, and the saucer magnolias have finished. I want to work in our gardens, but I guess I will stay inside and stomp and mutter. Oh well, I can always make pie.

  13. Nancy in Atlanta says:

    I’m still giggling at your goals – #6 – are you kidding?!!! And your reference to the ones you already accomplished made me grin, too – I’m sorry. I looked back at your glee over the door that let you reach into the next boxes for eggs, and remembered how your chickens preferred laying eggs on the floor. And the free piglet from the ornery angel just HAS to be a spy.

    But it’s still going to be a great year for you!!! :sheepjump:

  14. Lynda Dunham-Watkins says:

    I live in NE Texas and have a garden in full swing. I made it smaller last year and love the ease of tending it. With beds, mulching the paths, etc., almost no weeds! Yea!..did have to cover with sheets last week though…had a freeze! Love this site!

  15. MARY says:

    :snuggle: Way to go gardening on the cheap! LOL! I know horse manure makes great compost, but what about all the other critter droppings? Can’t it be made into compost? You would have a lifetime supply! That was really nice of the angel, she couldn’t be that ornery if she gave you a piglet!!! Where is his picture??? Have a great weekend! :happyflower:

  16. Suzanne McMinn says:

    We don’t have the piglet yet! She has a pregnant pig and will give us a piglet when they are born. Maybe two!

  17. Jill says:

    We just love chickens. We ordered 100 rhode island reds and 30 didn’t make it because the post office decided not to pick up the package and let it sit for a day. Then they sent a replacement of 60 and 10 died. We put these in our basement with pine shavings and stall dry. All are now outside in a barn stall that has fencing on the inside to keep the critters out. We have done this several times. Its fun to watch them grow! Keep your pigs somewhere you won’t smell! They love to dig and make messes but again are fun. We have had potbellys and also raised a larger one for food! Getting ready for 3 week old dairy cows coming Saturday. We have 2 goats that we milk and are getting a gallon and a half milk a day and one goat is only milked once! We are going to use the extra milk for the cows. Goodie one more thing to do!

  18. Karen says:

    Suzanne, you are my inspiration! We also bought a farm last year, and I just planted my first garden there, also on a dime. Husband cut down lots of cedars to make a raised bed garden, then we filled it with the following found additives: pigeon manure from two friends who have homing pigeons (hundreds of them); old rotted manure and topsoil from the paddock; wood ash from the fireplace; soil from dozens of old annuals; and many five-gallon buckets worth of coffee grounds from the local coffee shop. The coffee, by the way, is supposed to keep the deer away, but I’m skeptical. Then I stopped at the garden store on my way to the farm and the nice lady there gave me two dozen broccoli plants that she had decided to pitch because she had too many!

    We don’t have any critters yet except some boarding horses, but hope to someday. Thank you for all your stories!

  19. wildcat says:

    Will the baby piggy get to drink from a bottle and sleep on the porch with Annabelle and Coco? I don’t know how much more cuteness we can stand! :heart:

  20. Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife says:

    I think you’re doing a darn good job in making a farm out of nothing. Love those seed starter pots. I’ll admit that I’m being tempted by the TV commercial that’s selling Tree Tomatoes. They promise three professional nurseryman packs of tomatoes. I asked the Farmer what that meant….nurseryman packs. He said it’s three small seed starter pots, probably only three seeds …… for $9.99.

    I think I’ll pass them up. Year old seeds to just fine. I’ve had seeds much older than that germinate. Good luck with your garden. I’ll be watching with great interest.

    – Suzanne

  21. midwestmom says:

    :snoopy: a piglet! :snoopy:
    I can’t wait to see pictures and hear what Clover has to say about this!! (my six year old loves the animal posts & loves when Clover demands cookies)

  22. DeeBee says:

    What is the purpose for having pigs? I’m thinking bacon, but… really?

  23. The Retired One says:

    Such ambition!
    I admire your energy!

  24. anni says:

    Love that your getting a pig, as always you rock!
    Robyn (11) is so jealous. We love reading the animal posts.
    Thanks for the daily dose of inspiration.
    anni and Robyn

  25. Melissa Marsh says:

    I won’t have a garden this year :hissyfit: because I’m in an apartment now. Although I could try doing a mini garden on my deck…but I am horrible at remembering to water things!

  26. becki says:

    Spring in Galveston TX…

    On Sept 13 2008, Hurricane Ike struck our portion of the upper Texas coast. More damaging than the wind was the storm surge that flooded 75% of the homes on the island. A lot of the vegetation on the island was damaged. Butnow its spring….

    The oak trees survived (including the one we planted right after we bought our house in honor of a dear friend that died–we stole the acorn from her yard while we were helping clear her stuff out)

    The fig tree is back–even though it was partially uprooted. We had four massive oleanders, we lost two and the other two are critical.

    But, things are GREEN! The mockingbirds are chasing the squirrels. And my cats.

    And the house is repaired. Almost.

    I love spring. And this little island.

  27. Amanda says:

    I heard the Geens feed and seed has baby chicks. They were also supposed to get pullets.

  28. Robin G. says:

    You do have copies of all the Foxfire books, yes?

  29. Suz in the Tules says:

    :chicken: HEY!
    Don’t you have to let chicken poop sit for a year or so before you can use it? I’ve always heard it was HOT and couldn’t be used right away.

  30. Suzy says:

    I keep trying to talk my hubby into moving back to W.V.and getting some animals,but he won’t budge. You are a real inspiration for all those farming women,if you can do it, they can!

  31. Carol says:

    I haven’t commented before but I just had to tell you how much I love that picture of Clover. She is second in my heart only to Annabelle.

    I predict that you and the Ornery Angel will be fast friends sometime soon. She just needed some time to warm up to you! And how could she resist?

  32. Kate says:

    Wow, I’m jealous of that great score! The dirt looks wonderful, too. I got some great time in the garden during the sunny day yesterday.

  33. Claudia says:

    So many positive things happening… and a piglet or two too!I’m working to get my garden bed done before that blasting Texas heat hits. I’m off to rake!

  34. ShadowWoods says:

    Ah, the annual cycle of planting the vegetable garden…Ain’t it fun?!?! I grew up with gardening, and as an adult, have always had one, even when I lived in the City. Now, at ShadowWoods, we have over a quarter-acre, totally organic, vegetable garden, as well as another half-acre fruit tree/berry orchard. We keep expanding and we’re thinking about creating a truck garden to provide fresh food for the local low-income, senior and “mis-nutritioned” that live in the local hills. Gardening is hard work, but oh, so rewarding. Have fun Suzanne!

  35. Treasia/TruckersWife says:

    Free seeds you lucky woman. As for the pigs, dear god place them down wind. 😆

  36. Donna says:

    Wow, Ornary Angel…looks like you are reaping what you have sown – care. Love is always the answer. LOL Unless she spikes that piglet with something, or it’s deformed, or has disease. LOL LOL LOL Just joking.

    Wow, your farm is coming right along!!!

  37. maryann says:

    Actually the poopy straw should go into a compost bin, or be spread onto the garden to let rot over the winter; never use raw manure straight into a garden. Raw manure is hot and will burn your plants, especially horse manure. Not sure if you have checked out Mother Earth website.
    I see you have bean seeds, not sure if you are doing corn but plant your green beans with corn plants as the beans give off nitrogen and corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder.

  38. jean says:

    I love when you talk thru Clover. Or is it the other way around? Which ever it is, Clover just cracks me up.

  39. JeannieB says:

    Suzanne, if you make pickle cookies for Clover, you will never master #6. I kinda hope you don’t, it would be boring if you were able to control them.

  40. Barbee' says:

    A pickle cookie!! Perfect! Clover, you are sooo clever.

  41. catslady says:

    ummmmmmm…as far as I know there is only one thing you can do with a pig… 😥

  42. Nancy in Atlanta says:

    Hi! I just had to stop back by and tell you that while browsing the greeting cards in Walmart a couple of hours ago, I spotted Annabelle! Yep – she was featured on the front of an Easter card!!! Well, it sure looked like Annabelle…..

  43. Estella says:

    What an amazing job you have done on your farm in the past year!

  44. Brenda Kula says:

    The seed packets alone are beautiful. I’m very enamored of seed packets. They’re so colorful and full of hope.

  45. monica says:

    Have you thought about rotating the garden with the pasture land? The animals can poop right where you want them and you can have the ground ready for the next year. It is almost like one stop shopping!
    You won’t look like this at the end of the day either–covered in poop. :dancingmonster:

  46. mmHoney says:

    Don’t be in a rush to get your plants in the ground. The warmer the ground the faster your seeds and plants will grow. If the ground is to cold they will go into shock. Sunshine is the answer.

  47. SuzieQ says:

    Few things cuter than a baby pig. We used to bring a couple to the house to play with them…when we could sneak them away from the mama pig…then you have to sneak them back to her…mama pigs are VERY protective of their babies! You wouldn’t think they could chase you so fast.

  48. shirley says:

    I choked up when I read about the “ornery angel” stopping you on the road and giving you a piglet. Then, when I read the comments later today, I saw where she gave you two!
    I think that was her way of welcoming you to the “holler” (as we say here in WV)
    She just may become a friend some day.
    And did you ever dream you’d see the day you’d be thrilled over two pigs and a truckload of compost?

  49. Lisa says:

    “Pickle cookie” *snort*

    Oh, how I love Clover. She’s the goat version of ME.

  50. momanna98 says:

    All of that compost looks divine!
    I don’t comment much, but I wanted to say that I just listened to the radio broadcast and it was done so well. It was really neat to hear your voice.

  51. Amber says:

    It’s so wonderful to watch you make all of your dreams come true!

  52. Taryn says:

    How old does horse poop need to be before it won’t burn the plants? I have built a raised garden (gophers are evil here) with nothing planted yet, and I have 9 horses worth of poop, some poop still green, some old and dried. I was thinking of filling the bed with all that poop, but now I think I shouldn’t. Does anyone have any real life info? This is my first real garden. Thanks!

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