Farming from Scratch, Year Four


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.


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


  1. Miss Judy says:

    Suzanne, thank you for all your years of “scratching”. You have been a blessing to all of your CitR friends.
    I have learned that what I thought was accidental was actually providential.I truly believe that was why I found CitR.I had been praying for something to give me a renewed intrest in life. Who would have thought a simple Google of “chickens” would lead to so much enjoyment.

  2. Lynne says:

    This is the first day of the new year, therefore anything is possible! :pawprint:

  3. G says:

    The happiest and most fulfilling of New Year’s to you: I find your blog inspiring.

  4. Kathy in FL says:

    I’m going to follow your lead and SET GOALS, instead of making resolutions! Thanks for showing me this new perspective on beginning a new year! Good luck to both of us!

  5. wkf says:

    Happy New Year Suzanne! We have a similar Goal this year, BARN! :hissyfit:

    Good luck on all your endeavors, I will enjoy reading them.

  6. Granny Trace says:

    :snoopy: Dreams…Goals…Your blog has been so inspring to me. You do a great job.Thank you so much for chickens in the road!! I canned last year!! I enjoy your blog and all the friends here everyday. I am dreaming of a barn and goat for 2011!! And more chickens and gunieas…
    Happy New Year Suzanne,Family & Friends!!
    Granny Trace

  7. Diane says:

    Happy New Year. You have great goals. Such an inspiration. This year we need to be more frugal. I am looking forward to it myself. Just something about the challange of doing more with less is exciting to me. Canning is one of my goals this year. Making more crafts. I go to school also and a goal is to start using what I learned so far to generate extra money to pay off bills. We are a busy family so lots to do for the next year as well.

  8. Cousin Sheryl says:

    I saw on the news last night that this year is going to be the year of canning for everyone due to the new “American frugality.” People want to know that their food is bought local (safe) and healthy. I see many more “hits” to the CITR blog with people looking for canning instructions.
    Like you said in that one post, country people are always frugal because they know how to survive. CITR and your loyal bloggers will lead the way for the clueless Americans who want to learn about the simple life.
    Happy New Year to ALL!

  9. joycee says:

    I was telling someone over the holiday to make her best decision she should write down the pros and cons of the situation. Surely after seeing it in print, you realize the monumental task you are slowly but steadily clicking away! That land is amazing, God’s country…and your ties to that land are so moving that your words nick at my heart. I too have land that provided for my family going back to 1860. It’s not the land we live on, but it remains in my care. Your posts never disappoint Suzanne, a book would be fascinating! I’m betting a barn is in your future, maybe two!

  10. holstein woman says:

    Hey Suzanne, Happy New Year and many BLESSING for the New Year to All.
    I have a goal already set in motion, another cow (3). I make cheese and am in the process of getting a cheese business going. I make fresh unpasturized cheese from cows milk. My goal is a cheese kitchen and milking parlor with electricity in. Everything is on extension cords for the second year. Too much to do, and BO is disabled and doesn’t have enough energy to boot!!! Next goal is a calf barn where I can pour milk and clean up after feeding without going from barn to barn. My next goal is a chicken house. I gave BO the photo of how I want the outside to look. It has to house 80 hens and 20 roosters (for butcher)with a brooder box and feed. I have another goal, but it probably won’t happen this year as much as I need it. That is a Greenhouse. There are too many things to be done to even think of a greenhouse now.
    I pray you get your Barn up and more chicken and duck houses up and perfect for all your critters. BLESS YOU!!! you. :sheep: :sheep: :chicken: :moo: :snoopy:

  11. texwisgirl says:

    My wish for you is a BARN!!! I think we could do a new-fashioned barn-raising via the web. Just put a button on the side of your blog and we could make small donations towards barn materials – our way of helping since we can’t actually all come to hammer nails and put up rails. 🙂

  12. Sue Nugent says:

    :snuggle: Suzanne, you are an strong and amazing woman for achieving your goal of purchasing your ancestors homeplace, much less making the upgrades and improvements you have achieved and are still planning.You are a shining example of what we as women are capable of,if we set our minds to it. You are truly an inspiration to woman everywhere. I’m wishing you success in all of the goals you have set forth for yourself and your family this year.

  13. blueberrylu says:

    Write the book!!! :sheepjump: Some combo of your country life, frugal living and recipes would surely be a hit, especially in these times where many people are looking at a return to the old ways of doing things like cannning and preserving. I would buy it for sure, and this is coming from the woman who hasn’t bought a book in years because I can get them to read free from the library!!!

  14. Shelly Messier says:

    I would like to see more crafts projects. Here is an idea and easy; homemade cinnamon toothpicks! Just like the kind we used to chew on when we were kids. There are a few recipes on the internet. Also you should write that book because I think it would be a big seller and I have wanted you to write one the past few years. I know it will be a big hit, then you will be free of debt because you will get a huge payment! You could have a chapter on home decorating, farm animals, crafts, recipes, your family, gardening, your humor, etc. :happyfeet: :happyfeet: :happyfeet:

  15. Joy says:

    I agree with texwisgirl, put up a “free-will” donation button for those of us who WANT to donate to your barn fund.

    Although I know you don’t want to give anyone the impression that *that’s* what your blog is about (because it’s not). I do understand that. I just wish there was a way for us to help. We’ll keep sending contests and ways for you to make money your way!

    I love reading about where you came from and where you are going. God bless you, your family (including 52 :happyflower: ) and your life on the farm. :hug:

  16. Valerie says:

    A wonderful post. I’ll be crossing my fingers that you get that big barn you need. You’ve come such a long way in just 4 years, such accomplishments and much hard work! Congratulations and best of luck in 2011.

  17. Ann says:

    Happy New year to everyone & thank you for the endless amount of laughter & Tear, Excitement & Ideas You have become my farm Idol.
    A book would be awesome you could become the James Harriot Of Stringtown Rising Farm .
    Have a wonderful year, My wish for all of is a NEW BIG BARN.

  18. Sharon Skelton says:

    Setting goals, big or small, is the best way to see your dreams come true!

  19. Susan says:

    You need a catfish pond, too. :moo:

  20. Kathy says:

    You are inspiring! Along with all your accomplishments you should add that you have kept a household going and raised and fed 3 healthy teen-aged children. If I win the lottery you’ll get your barn! HA! :purpleflower:

  21. Miss Becky says:

    Suzanne you’ve accomplished so much in a short amount of time. It may not seem it’s been short, but reading all of what you’ve done, all the goals you’ve met, it’s awesome. I hope you one day get that BARN. And you will. I continue to be awed by your strength and talents. If you dream it, it will come. :yes: :yes: :yes:
    Happy New Year Suzanne. And many more.

  22. debbie says:

    Write a book about all your adventures getting this farm up and running….I will buy it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. maryann says:

    First: Happy New year to you!
    I can’t believe this is going on the 4th year, where did the time go? It seems like yesterday you were talking about the building of the house.
    For a laugh check out this duck house (not mine we’re not allowed farm animals here.

  24. Mother of a ROCKSTAR says:

    Anything is possible!! keep to your plans and keep dreaming…it will come true. HAPPY NEW YEARS!!!

  25. Susan says:

    Put your bottom in a chair, choose the writting instrument of your choice and start the book. THEN…comtemplate if you want to see it in print. Like my daddy said, start in the foothills where you can’t see the mountain. Clover really wants to help and is just full of advice. And we’d all love to give our two cents worth of advice as you go along.

  26. Barbara W says:

    I think I’m going to write down my goals too. This year plan to plant fruit trees and more blackberries to name a few. Love your blog. Me two, planning on raising mallards again.

  27. Marion says:

    Last year, because of your blog, I got chickens. I learned to care for them and ate eggs laid in my own backyard for the first time ever. I learned, when the time came to cull the roosters, how to butcher chickens (and that I will never buy straight run chicks again). I paid a deposit on two, as yet to be born, goats. All because you wrote this blog.

    Because I bought chickens and am getting ready to bring home baby goat, my landlord has found a renewed zest for life and his farm (we rent 1/2) after losing his wife in 2009.

    All because you write this blog. If you write a book we will buy more than one copy to spread the joy. If we win the lottery, you will have your barns. You inspire and keep so many people motivated.

    Thank You!

  28. Marion says:

    Oooh, I forgot – because of you I will be learning to make CHEESE!!!

  29. Alison says:

    Happy New Year! Are Giant Puppy puppies in your future at some point? They would be so very cute. :yes: :yes:

  30. Roxann says:

    My dad said I’d probably like your blog, and he was right 🙂 Loved it. Hope you get your barn this year. I’ve got one of those on my wish list too, lol.

  31. Jan says:

    I would love to see a book. I think you have enough material in the blog for a great book. I guess it wouldn’t be as much fun, but you already have experience putting a book together. I would buy it and lots of copies for my friends and family. I love your blog. This is the first time I’ve posted a comment.


  32. Nona says:

    Okay first of all Happy New Year! You really do have a great blog.
    I agree with so many of your posters, write a book with all you do and your wit will make it a best seller!!!
    Love your site found it by accident and am so glad! Heres to a better year than last year.

  33. Carol says:

    Happy New Year to you and your family, and good luck with your plans. We love you, Suzanne.

  34. brookdale says:

    Happy New Year to you and your family, Suzanne. I’m going to borrow your idea of making GOALS, not RESOLUTIONS. Hopefully I’ll be able to check off the goals.
    Number One is to clean out my back bedroom, which has turned into a storage room. Supposed to be a sewing/craft room!
    Have a new flower garden to make, etc. etc.
    You have inspired me to start baking again…have to try the Grandmother Bread soon.
    Here’s hoping all your Goals will be realized!!!Even the Barn!

  35. Brenda says:

    Happy New Year! I can’t remember how I found your blog, but I’m glad I did. I’m originally from West Virginia and I miss it so much – now I am a Californian. I think about returning to WV to live and am glad to see that someone did and is so happy about it. I really enjoy your stories and pictures.

  36. Cheryl LeMay says:

    Happy New Year to you and your family! You have accomplished so much in the short time you have lived there. It’s amazing.I’m sure you will achieve most of your goals. I have a suggestion about your asparagus wish – you may already have some growing on your property. Wild asparagus is the exact same vegetable as what you’d put in your garden. When you go for walks keep your eyes open for it. I think it’s easier to spot in the fall when it turns golden yellow. Also think about the wild fruits and nuts in your woods. In the spring when the wild fruits are in bloom take note of their location and identify them when they leaf out. I’m sure on a property of that size you should have something like wild plums or elderberries.Just a thought.

  37. Ramona says:

    It’s good to have goals. Good luck on meeting them.

  38. Alison says:

    Suzanne, I love this site. I came across it a few months ago and check in everyday. I am retired, grew up in NYC, moved alot in my life, (the smallest town I lived it was 35,000), and I now live just outside Washington, DC. I always dreamed of living on a farm, and though I consider myself adventurous, I would never have had the nerve to do what you are doing. Hence, I am experiencing that dream through you and this site. Thank you. I look forward to continuing this journey with you.

  39. MaryB says:

    Oh Suzanne I love love love this! It is a dream come true!
    I have so many questions.. I love your animals and farm and land! I want to know how to grow asparagus.. and how do you keep the goats contained when they eat their way out of everything! haha I love Stringtown!

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