From the dirt to our plate; the trials and realities of first-time farm ownership

Week 27: Entering the Downhill Slide

WEEK 27


We have just passed the half-year mark here on the farm and I couldn’t be more pleased with all that we have accomplished so far in our first year owning a farmstead.  However, with so many great accomplishments came a pretty crazy learning curve and I have learned a lot over the last 6 months.

For the most part, the remodel went smoothly.  One reality about DIY projects will always ring true – not everything will go as planned.  Surprises crop up everywhere.  You run short of this, you need that instead of this or perhaps you should have done this instead of that.

My advice?  Just breathe and try to be accepting of the entire process.  Sometimes you will be so miserable you have to laugh because nothing can be done about it.  It is what it is and you power through it.  More importantly, be flexible and always budget for more; time wise and money wise.

I’ve learned about our well water, changing water heater electrodes, testing and setting up a water softening system.  I know the correct consistency of ceiling texture, how to drill holes for door hardware, how to convert a gas range to propane and even how to quickly and effectively kill a mouse.

Furthermore, I’ve learned how to use a table saw, chop saw and how much sanding goes into proper drywall seams.  I also know the value of a good primer, high quality paint and exactly how long it takes to wash both from my skin.  I know the importance of a good pair of gloves, sun protection and how strong one can become through daily hard work.


Along the way I’ve also learned a great deal about our animals here on the farm.  Gone are the romantic notions of feathery balls of fluff wandering around the yard, eating from my palm as the harps play.  As exciting as my first time poultry experience was, daily care brings with it an entirely new reality.

Plain and simple, ducks are messy little buggers.  They make quick work of messing up anything that has water even remotely near it.  Water dripping off the camper roof instantly turns into a muddy rut as the ducks dig in.  The same holds true for any spot of ground a poultry waterer sets upon.  Don’t even get me started on the mess involved with their kiddie pool.  As much as I loved them in the beginning, I’m fairly certain I now love my chickens more.

The whole duck egg debacle pretty much pushed me over the edge into becoming a crazy chicken lady.  Beyond the general rule that my ducks seem to drop eggs everywhere, I can’t eat them (see some of my previous posts for details).


With chickens, the egg laying story is much more pleasant.  First off, I can eat chicken eggs.  Secondly, even as free-ranging chickens, they go back to the coop and deposit their eggs in the nesting boxes.  As you might have guessed, I’m not a fan of the year round Easter egg hunt and my chickens inherently know this.

Barring the fact that poultry of any kind pretty much poop anywhere and everywhere, chickens are actually cleaner than ducks.  By the looks of my back deck you might not agree but there are no muddy, messy holes in the ground by chickens.  They do like scratching out dust bathing areas but depending on where they put them, I don’t mind it nearly as much.

All in all, the flock and the  coop was easy to manage once the water situation was under control.  I tell my husband weekly that I’m not opposed to having duck for Thanksgiving dinner but I’m sure he thinks I’m kidding.  In reality, I couldn’t be more serious.


This summer I’ve also learned that starting a new garden in an already established lawn can be productive yet very weedy endeavor in its first season.  Our theory was to ‘go big or go home’ and unfortunately time constraints had us pulling weeds far into late summer and early fall.  We simply couldn’t keep up.  I wouldn’t have done it drastically different but now I am well aware of what to expect in newly opened ground.

Long neglected property brings with it plenty of opportunity for days of long hard work.  The amount of Canadian thistle on this property was and still is in desperate need of attention.  It grew like wildfire in the newly opened gardens, it’s in the raspberries and the rhubarb is nearly choking with it.  Mother Nature and her hearty invasive weeds know no boundaries.  Making the land work for us the way we need it to will take years.


Mice and big black crickets are synonymous with farms and living in the country.  They are literally, EVERYWHERE.  Walking through the woods, in the yard while mowing the lawn, in the Quonset, the garage, the attic, the basement, in my laundry room…these critters get into everything.  I think over the course of one October weekend we set traps and caught about 15 mice in the garage alone.  Two things are for certain, this will be a continuing battle and I’ll never forget the smell of dead baby mice in my car’s air filter on a hot summer’s day.

I’ve also learned that farms are very dirty on the inside as well as the expected dirt outside.  Boots track in mud, leaves, grass, chicken, duck and dog poop.  Our house is a dedicated sock or slipper zone.  Still, you name it, I probably sweep it up daily.

Dusting during harvest season is a lost cause and you better keep your windows closed tightly if you don’t want remnants of the neighboring field covering everything.  Long gone are the days of wearing jeans for more than one day – there is always something on them I’d rather not see or smell the next day.   Cleanliness is a never ending battle.

Some of the best lessons I’ve learned have been to expect the unexpected and learn from the surprises.  So the tub drain pops out at the tail end of draining your bath.  At least the basement hasn’t been finished, the water will dry, now it can be fixed and it could have been worse.  Yes, the deer came in and raided the apricots you just realized you have growing…it’s okay, there’s no time to can jam and at least you don’t have to pick them up.  You learn to find happiness and beauty in the experience.

This week, week 27, we are about to turn the clocks back.  Our days will be shorter than ever as we struggle to get projects completed.  We are now on the 3rd version of the wood stove hearth wall shelf, so stay tuned for that addition next week.

Our work is never finished, summer hasn’t been long enough and the list of things to do keeps growing.   New experiences will crop up, failures and successes will happen side by side, yet we will be loving every minute of it. The first 6 months was just the tip of the iceberg.

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FUN FACT:  On the farm, dog vomit generally does not contain dog food.  You can expect anything from deer poop to dead birds to find their way onto a living room rug as was my case during the writing of this blog.  FYI God does not drop high-protein kibble out in the field for your pup to devour.

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