Farming from Scratch


There is so much to do to make a farm out of nothing! And the constant rain this spring isn’t helping, although I love rain.

See how muddy it is around our new chicken house? The yard all around our house is that way, too, because we haven’t had a chance to do anything about it yet.

The green is so gorgeous, though. I love the lush, lush green of West Virginia in the spring.

This 40-acre farm, wooded and long-abandoned, 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. 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.

First Year Farm Goals:

1) Build a house. (Check! We have a place to live…..!)

2) Start a chicken flock and build a chicken house. (Check! We have chickens. And we have a chicken house now.)

Chickens are so much fun! I love my chickens, even the little psycho.

Did she just say something?

“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

See? SEE? You heard that, too, didn’t you?

We’re going to wait another week or so to put them in the chicken house, but it’s ready for them. I love this little door so that I can gather eggs without going inside the coop. There’s a latch to keep it securely closed.

Then it opens into the back of the nesting boxes.

And inside, there’s a new roost just waiting for my chickens.

3) Miniature goats. (Almost check. We have two goat babies coming as soon as they are born and weaned.) And build a goat enclosure and a goat shelter. (No check…. This is a pressing, upcoming project.)

4) Get a garden started. (Sort of check.) By the way, thank you for all the great ideas and suggestions about our garden challenges. I don’t think we can afford (either in money or time) to do any construction projects like gardening boxes or terracing this spring, but we may be able to incorporate some of those things next year (when my He-Man Helper isn’t otherwise occupied building chicken houses and goat enclosures). But–we have a garden started, which is the key step for the first year, and we’ve got some of the longterm gardening in place–getting blackberries, blueberries, and a peach tree planted, getting flower bulbs and asparagus in the ground, getting a garden fence and gate constructed, etc. We’ve got something to build on next year.

5) Fence the meadow bottom. (Check in progress.) In order to ever get a horse and/or that ornamental cow, there’s going to have to be fencing. We’ve got most of the fence posts up, so we’re getting there, slowly.

Hopefully, the second year of our farm will mean chickens regularly producing eggs, goats matured so they can have babies and be producing goat milk, garden continuing to progress, a fenced meadow for a horse and a cow, and please, please, a new “old-fashioned” barn under construction. The second year will mean a house settled into, a dedicated “cellar” space prepared for storing canned goods (for that garden that will eventually become abundant!). I want to learn to make goat’s milk soap and goat cheese. And candles.

The second year sounds a little more fun than the first, doesn’t it? And yet, maybe someday, I’ll look back on this first hard year of struggling to create a farm from scratch and remember it fondly.

While I sit on my porch eating pie and being thankful I don’t have to live it again.


  1. Kathryn says:

    What you are doing is the same as what your new peach tree is busy with. You are putting down the roots so that the fruit will grow on a sturdy tree. It takes time, but so does anything worthwhile. And, when you are eating that piece of peach pie in a few years, you won’t even regret having to hack through the clay to dig the pain in the neck hole for the tree! Thank you for the pictures this morning. I do love that chick. Have a lovely day.

  2. happyathome says:

    O.k., you inspire me! I have always wanted a small farm. We have over 7 acres and a lot of potential. You have made strides in a short period of time. Time is the key word. Stop by my blog some time. Look forward to your future posts and inspirations!

  3. Jyl says:

    A grand scheme indeed! At least you are making progress

  4. Kim A. says:

    You will be amazed, looking back, at how much you accomplished in such a short time.

    It’s all good!

    -Kim :wave:

    P.S. That chick is cool! I *love* that chick! And hey, a little house finch has made a nest and laid her eggs in one of the hanging baskets out my front door, so next week I should see babies! I’m going to try for some pics. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Blaze says:

    You’ve made a ton of progress on the homestead!
    Very coool :weather:
    Hope you can get things set up for your goats in time.
    Good Luck with that!

  6. Ann from Montana says:

    Kim A. said it… and nice to have the blog with the photos and history of the progress. When I get frustrated with progress in my corner of the world, it is looking back at what things looked like when I started that changes my perspective to – Wow, it’s coming along!

    And I try to remember to enjoy the journey – these will eventually be “the good old days”!

    Plus, when started consulting and read a book about consulting which was both serious and a bit “tongue-in-cheek” – one of my favorite pieces of advice from that book, that applies to life in general:

    Once you solve problem #1, problem #2 becomes problem #1 … i.e. there is always something ๐Ÿ™‚ !!

  7. Wammy says:

    Question….Will 52 always be 52 even when he has a birthday? The farm looks great! You should be very proud. Wishing I could do the same. And so rich in family history, that’s the best part.

  8. Suzanne McMinn says:

    I think he has decided to be 52 forever! ๐Ÿ˜†

  9. Kristen says:

    We started our “farm” from scratch also. We have been here 5 years and this year I finally feel like it is starting to resemble a farm. The house took us FOREVER and now that it is pretty much done we get to dedicate time to the outside stuff. Hang in there..I have come to even appreciate all of the mud because it is MY mud and we have lots of it. I could make a killing if I could find some way to market good ole WV clay. Love your pictures. I think we are supposed to have a pretty nice weekend without rain…so let the projects begin!!!! :bananadance:

  10. Remudamom says:

    It’s really fun to look at another part of the country. It’s just beautiful there.

    As for the horse thing, I strongly suggest a sturdy pony that can pull a cart. We’ve got 12 horses and four ponies, and while I’ll sell a horse I have way too much fun driving the ponies and their little pony cart to think of parting with them.

    Maybe you should get a horse for riding and a pony for driving. They like to have a buddy anyway.

  11. Becky says:

    Living near and knowing the history of your family and their home is quite inspiring. I know a lot of history of where my family came from but I don’t live near there. I long to visit and take my children and teach them their history. Someday soon I may be traveling your way for that reason. And to visit family and friends.
    You have come a long way in a short time! Relax and enjoy! :clap: ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Annie says:

    That poor chick. It’s just her unfortunate coloring that makes her look like a whack job! (That is my favorite line from that movie!)

  13. Kacey says:

    well, you have the important part finished. The house. The rest will come along in time. It sure sounds like a lot of hard work, but it will so be worth it in the end.

  14. Maria says:

    LOVE the chicken house!

  15. Granny Sue says:

    I started with bare, overgrown land (think briars and brush and forest, with a small meadow) over 30 years ago. Our farming has waxed and waned over the years from a full-time tobacco–truck crops–livestock–etc place to chickens and gardens. Now it’s growing again, with chickens, turkeys and pigs along with gardens, etc. Yours will get there–the first year is toughest.

    The coolest thing about West Virginia is how fast things grow. We have trees that we planted that are over 40 feet tall, lots of apple and peach trees, herbs, and flowers everywhere. It won’t be as long as you think before you’ll have a thriving garden and critters everywhere. You’ve done well so far!

  16. Jennifer says:

    What a beautiful and rich heritage you have on your land. It’s almost like you can see and hear the days gone by. I’ve enjoyed watching your first year on the farm and am confident your second year will be just as productive. And goats milk is really delicious!

  17. Jenn says:

    You’re about where we are with the farm. We have the chicken house, just finished the goat house (and brought home to 2 month old Nubian doelings last week! SO CUTE!), I have about half the garden in and all kinds of bulbs/bushes/flowers planted. I am ahead of you on the horse pasture fenced and occupied. It’s hard work, but it’s such a good kind of hard work.

    Re: your chicken house. I LOVE IT! I love that you guys used old boards to build it. It’s gorgeous. I do, however, have a suggestion for your nest box access door. Put a lock on it, or one of those hook/eye latches that have the spring closure on them. Raccoons are VERY dextrous and will have that latch figured out within five minutes. We learned the hard way and lost a number of our hens to a marauding ‘coon.

  18. Jyl says:

    Ok, so I have decided…I so want the psycho chicken. It is so cute and I think it would fit in perfect at my house

  19. Judy says:

    Now I’m really wanting to get those chickens that I’ve been longing for.

  20. Jennifer Robin says:

    We are undertaking a similar project over here in the woods. I can’t wait to see how you do with your goat project! I just love watching to see little Inigo turns out too!

  21. Amy Addison says:

    LOL on Chick Inigo.

    You’re making good progress on your Farm Check List. The garden boxes and terracing are nice, but not necessary for a successful garden. I’m sure you’ll have fabulous veges this year.

  22. jean says:

    Like the others have said, you have done so much in such a short time. Keep going and good luck.

  23. robin says:

    throw a few logs down to keep that top soil in…gotta keep it there during the rainy times….
    great plan and isn’t it fun from the beginning! pioneers!
    great name in inigo – suits him.

  24. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Her name isn’t really Inigo! (Sorry!) That quote is a famous line from The Princess Bride movie. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

  25. Brandy says:

    Your goals are set and you’re more than halfway there. YAY!

  26. Estella says:

    Congratulations on this years progress!

  27. Susan says:

    You are well on your way to reaching all of your goals. Congratulations!! :chicken: :sheep: :shimmy:

  28. catslady says:

    What is the name of our favorite evil eyed chick??

    You’ve accomplished soooooo much – :clap:

  29. Barbara Watkins says:

    Hi there, your farm is coming along beautifully and your chicks are wonderful. I just wanted to mention that it’s very hard to keep critters that want to eat your chickens out of the hen house, so I hope you’ll be looking at every nook and cranny to seal up tight and keep all the little sweeties safe.
    Smiles, Barbara

  30. LizB says:

    I have chicken envy; those are on my want list, along with a compost tumbler and a rain collection tank. Your farm is so lovely!

  31. Carolyn says:

    Psycho is so photogenic and I think she enjoys it. I think you are totally blessed in your life and love being able to share in your joy through your posts. Thank you, Suzanne, for just being you. xxoo

  32. anne says:

    Suzanne, this is the recipe my husband’s grandmother made. It never fails ! Makes the best pie cust ever! I think peach pie is the best. My daughter makes the best peach pie !

  33. Kim W says:

    Ooooooohhh!!!! I want to be your neighbor!!! I would LOVE to help you w/all that stuff…just to do it.

    Blessings from Ohio…

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