SmithFarmsWest.com

OUR JOURNEY FROM CITY TO COUNTRY

I'm by no means an expert and still have some learning to do in the area of feeding and giving animals water, but I've found that anything that makes feeding and watering the animals easier is a good thing! I still have more to learn in this area and would love to put a better watering system into the donkey pen, but for now, I'm happy to give them fresh water one or two times a day because that means I'm making sure to check in with them and give them the attention they need. I've had a lot of comments and questions on the chicken feeder I made and have used for over a year now. It has been very helpful. Connor and his grandpa made a pig waterer that has made keeping clean water in the pig pen a lot easier. Chicken Feeder As soon as we got chicks I recognized a major food and water waste issue even in the brooder boxes. Once the chicks were old enough to send outside, I knew I wanted to use a feeder that would help with this issue and a waterer that wouldn't allow the water to spill or get dirty. I searched and searched online for chicken feeders and came across someone who made their own out of a plastic storage bin. I was a little skeptical because I wasn't sure the chickens would figure it out, but they caught on immediately. The first feeder I made required a lot of help from my father-in-law. I didn't have the drill attachment to cut the holes into the box. Since it was a clear, plastic storage bin it became brittle quickly after one summer worth of sun. Once it cracked and started spilling feed I made a replacement. This time my father-in-law offered to give me the drill attachment, he's a smart guy! Now I can make feeders whenever I need one. hole saw drill attachment So the process is pretty easy: Get a plastic storage bin with a removable lid. Clear is nice because you can see how much feed you have left, but it gets brittle quickly from the sun. Using a hole saw, make holes in the sides. Be sure to check out the link to the specific measurements so that your holes are easily accessible for the chickens. Buy PVC elbows and attach to box with caulking/sealant that is waterproof and appropriate for outdoor projects. Allow a day of drying time.Fill up with feed and spend your time talking to your chickens instead of filling up feed containers! I have 8 hens and I only have to fill up the feed box every 3-4 weeks. The feed also stays dry with the box out in the rain! https://blog.mypetchicken.com/2015/10/05/diy-no-waste-feeder/ This is the link I used for materials and directions to make the chicken feeder. Chicken Waterer My favorite chicken waterer is the Little Giant Hen Hydrator! Many stores carry them, but I love Tractor Supply, so here's…

Elderberry Pancake MuffinsElderberry Pancake MuffinBlackberry CobblerElderberry Jam (syrup) making- skimming off the unwanted "stuff"Boiling elderberries, mashing with potato masher to juice.Straining JuiceInversion Canning MethodElderberry syrup on yogurt with walnuts.Lucky chickens devoured the juiced elderberries and leftover oatmeal. I am lucky to be able to pick elderberries and blackberries along the edge of a neighbor's orchard. My friend came along and we had a blast walking and picking berries on a cool-ish summer morning. We set out with the essentials for berry picking: gloves, scissors/clippers (to snip off clusters of elderberries), bags and buckets, paper towels, and hats. http://www.talesfromthekitchenshed.com/2016/09/harvesting-elderberries-picking-preserving-recipes/ When I was researching elderberries, I found this link helpful! After picking, I couldn't wait to get home and decide what to do with all of these berries. After washing and laying them all out to dry, my kids were begging me for breakfast. Deliciously ripe and sweet blackberries are amazing and they became really tasty when put into homemade buttermilk pancakes! I was having a major crush on these berries, it's no surprise when the pancake batter made itself into a heart and shared the love. My kids were in awe and my son kept saying, "Mom, it tastes just like cake!" https://lilluna.com/buttermilk-pancake-recipe/ Here is the buttermilk pancake recipe I used. After eating way too many blackberry pancakes, I had batter leftover. I whipped up a batch of elderberry pancake muffins! Yum! Elderberries having amazing nutritional and medicinal uses, but they are also tasty and juicy! Just last year a neighbor introduced them to me, I didn't even realize they grew in my area! They must be picked when they are dark, not green and are easily snipped from the tree in clusters. I wash them while gently pulling them from the stem into a colander. I end up doing a few washes to be sure they are clean and all bugs and other unwanted items are out of the mix! Now completely stuffed with blackberry pancakes, I set out to find the ideal elderberry jelly recipe. I found one and began the work of sanitizing jars and boiling/juicing the berries. I have yet to invest in a canning set so I used the inversion method of canning. Basically, all items need to be hot and when jars are filled and closed up, flipped upside down and left for 20 minutes or so, you end up with sealed jars. The unfortunate part was that I made a big OOPS and didn't use enough pectin, so I now have some really delicious elderberry syrup. I give away most of what I make, but also plan to eat it with my yogurt and oatmeal on a regular basis! A friend also suggested adding it to sparkling water (I might add some vodka as well). Here is the recipe I used for the elderberry jam (syrup in my case): https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/elderberry_jelly/ At the end of the jelly/syrup making, I had one more berry task: blackberry cobbler! Still completely stuffed from pancakes, it was difficult to…

Kitchen before the island Before we even moved in and had contractors coming and going for remodel work, they all commented that our kitchen really needed an island. After we moved in we realized more counter space and more storage for large items that wouldn't fit in our cabinets would really be nice. Whenever we had large groups over, we struggled for places to put things and needed more surfaces to serve food from. Not to mention the fact that my kids were eating at my antique dining room table and it was starting to show the wear and tear. I knew I didn't want a cookie-cutter island that I could order online. I also wanted something rustic, heavy and open. The top surface was also very important since my husband does a large amount of barbecuing, meat prep would be happening on it and whatever surface we chose needed to be easy to clean and sanitary. So when we hosted our friends and started talking about all of this after they were the 100th (not really, but possibly) person to say, "You know, you really need an island!", we began to brainstorm how it could be built. Lucky for us we have a really talented friend Brian, who has a talented friend Greg and the two of them just started up a furniture and decor business called Sawdust & Solder with his business partner Greg. So when Brian suggested he and Greg build an island for us, I immediately started looking through Pinterest and discussing design. Over a few discussions and texts back and forth with ideas, I narrowed it down to this one island for inspiration: https://www.shanty-2-chic.com/2018/02/diy-kitchen-island-2.html I fell in love with the legs on this island. They aren't cheap, but I think they are worth it. Since this project, Brian has a lathe and can make legs himself. https://www.osbornewood.com/1489.aspx?position=1&searchGUID=2b42ba22-8215-43ac-8e23-50f99b6e270a&sortOption=Relevanceso expensive, but so worth it stain samples The most difficult part of the project for me was choosing the stain color. As you can see in that first picture of our kitchen, we have floors with a lot of grain and color variation and I didn't want the island to compete or add to the amount of wood grain in the room. I wanted something dark since our cabinets and counter top add a lot of white to the room. The original plan was to stain the island the top right color in the stain samples photo above. But, at the last minute (carpenter's nightmare) I decided it needed to be different. So, after numerous texts and time viewing the samples in the kitchen at all different times of day; I finally settled on the darkest stain. I am so happy I did. The black stain compliments our black hardware, doesn't compete with the flooring and grounds an otherwise very lightly colored room. prep for pouringdrying, lots of dryingbefore sanding of edges The one thing I knew I wanted to change about the inspiration island we found on…

I have received a discount for my honest opinion of this service. All opinions are my own. Megan Hensley with Cappuccino Just a few months ago I didn't even know what a farrier was, let alone imagine that I would ever need to find a good one. Although I have ridden horses sporadically; I never had to actually care for a horse. When we got our first donkey (Cappuccino) in September I knew she would need hoof care, but didn't know much more than that. Her hooves had been trimmed at her previous farm with no issue, so I figured the same process would continue and called up the first farrier I could find. He came out and while he was a very nice man, he wasn't prepared for the tricks Cappuccino had up her sleeve. Cappuccino started out by rearing and pushing me around while harnessed, mainly because I wasn't using the proper techniques, attitude or process to harness and lead her. Then, whenever the farrier approached her she would thrash about. It didn't take him long to quit. In hindsight I am glad he did give up quickly. I'm thankful she wasn't pushed into something that might give her a bad experience and issues to work through later on. He suggested I get sedative and call him back out when I was prepared to sedate her. I was devastated. I knew I could do better. I knew I could find someone who could teach me how to take control of my interactions with Cappuccino, while also loving and respecting the magnificent animal she is. So, how did I find the fairest farrier by far? I'm in a few farm and livestock Facebook groups, mainly to help me learn about my farm animals through reading questions and comments others post. One group member had posted that she was looking for barley straw for her donkey and was wondering if anyone knew where she could buy some. First of all, who knew there were so many types of hay and straw? Before farm life happened to me I just figured there was hay, plain and simple. I did a little research about barley straw and asked the fellow group member why she was looking for it. She tagged Megan Hensley and raved about her, suggesting I check out her FB page. This information and the connection I was able to make with Megan online was about to help me and my donkeys immensely. Soon I found out that she was a farrier and although she lived on the northern coast, she could travel to Smith Farms West someday! That day came this past Thursday. I had waited through a couple of storms in February in anticipation, eager to learn from her and have the donkeys hooves trimmed. I knew the chance to actually see someone work with and handle donkeys would help me know how to approach, harness, lead and care for them myself. In the months I waited for…

https://youtu.be/BwzHdGP4lgw I'll admit, they're a little spoiled right now. They've gotten used to an every morning breakfast routine this winter and are getting a little demanding. Cappuccino woke me up yesterday at 6 AM demanding breakfast. They LOVE their wheat straw, and come running when they know they are going to get food! Kiwi has the cutest runway strut. Now I'm off to scoop donkey poop and do some mowing. I can't believe I'm excited to mow, it's a sign that we're almost done with mud.

Last May my husband had this great idea, "Let's plant a pumpkin patch!" he said. So, like most of his ideas, I tell him he's crazy and then execute the plan and end up really happy I went along with it. The kids and I spent a few hours spreading out a mountain of dirt and planting seedlings we just grabbed at our local garden center. We planted five seedlings, hoping we'd get enough pumpkins for ourselves and a few friends. The process for growing them was simple. We hooked up soaker hoses to our nearest hose bib and every couple days I'd run the drip in the evening for a couple hours. Some days I'd forget, some days I ran it for more time. I didn't keep track, even though I figured I probably should. It was beginner's luck for sure, they took off! We had been told by everyone in the area that the soil on our property would be amazing to grow in. We also have the benefit of a local beekeepers bees pollinating to their heart's content. We were thrilled when we discovered towards the end of September that we had perfectly sized, beautiful pumpkins ready to harvest! Once again, the kids and I held a work day and with a lot of teamwork, we harvested just over 200 pumpkins! We were in awe! What would we do with all of these pumpkins? I started posting in our local community's Facebook group that we had pumpkins to sell. I posted on my personal Facebook profile and took loads to work to sell; before we knew it we were sold out! We didn't sell them for much, about $2 a pumpkin, but the money was a huge addition to the kids' 4-H fund. The money helped them pay for their registration for 4-H this year and will also help out with animal expenses. May will be here again before we know it! We are planning now for a bigger, more diverse pumpkin patch! Who knows, perhaps someday our open acreage will end up being a pumpkin patch?

I remember the night clearly. Jeremy and I were in yet another serious discussion about whether or not we should really do this. We had made decisions along the way that certainly put us in the directions of moving to the property we now call Smith Farms West, but this was THE decision. We had made an offer on the property, but it was contingent on the sale of our house. After a couple months of waiting for an offer on our city house, we had gotten one. Clicking the box on the electronic form our real estate agent sent us was going to make the rest of the decisions from this point forward for us. So, we stood there late at night in our newly remodeled kitchen and weighed the pros and cons yet again. In recent days we had made lists of the pros and cons, imaginary budgets of how we thought the finances would go after the move, priority lists for the remodel of the new property (if we even got it), etc. But now we were down to just one final choice. As with any major life-changing decision that couples face together, there was a certain amount of questioning involved. Is he saying “yes” because he thinks I want him to? Is she saying “yes” because she thinks that’s what I want, but perhaps I don’t. On and on the questions went. Few people even knew we were going through all of this because we didn’t say much about it, almost sure that it wouldn’t work out. We were sure that at some point along the way the deal would fall part, something would keep this from happening. From the first look at the online real estate post when I called it a shack and thought that would be the end of the discussion, to the first visit that Jeremy had arranged when he contacted the selling agent without me knowing, to the first viewing of the property when I fell in love, and then to the final inspections; somewhere there was bound to be a hiccup. There were hiccups, but not any that stopped the process. Each step we took the doors kept opening, so we kept knocking and walking in faith that this was all meant to be. I’ll admit, I didn’t feel all that in touch with God at that point in my life. Honestly, my time and energy was spent on making myself better physically. It was important and time well spent and I felt great physically, but not spiritually. We had tried out churches, none feeling right and I was in a whirlwind of dealing with life stuff, so I wasn’t spending the time in prayer, scripture or worship that I needed. I was hoping this was all God’s purpose for us, but uncertain. I felt like as long as doors kept opening, we should keep pursuing the move to the country. You know that overplayed song “If it’s Meant to…

If you buy a city girl a farm she’ll want some chickens. The chickens will be cute and produce delicious eggs. Because they’re so low maintenance, she’ll want more animals. And soon she’ll get two lambs who don’t need shearing and keep the weeds down. Then she’ll get a puppy, why not - it won’t be so bad, and he’ll be so much fun! But after some chickens get killed and she hears rumors of coyotes she’ll feel the need for- A donkey! The donkey will help scare away intruders, and also eat more of the grass. Well, now that there’s protection she’ll want another lamb. After all, they’re so easy and cute! Once she hears the donkey braying and sees it’s lonely, she’ll want another donkey. So, she’ll find a friend for her donkey and then maybe the first donkey will hee-haw less. Now that the donkey has a friend it’s time to start looking for a pig, summer fair is soon. And after she gets a pig, she’ll realize more eggs would be nice, so she’ll start looking for another coop! I have always loved the series of books that started with "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" and when I was buying yet another animal for the farm, I realized that I have become the mouse.  For now, the animal additions seem neverending. When it all started with the chicks I was overwhelmed with the amount of work involved while they grew in their brooder boxes. But, with each animal addition, I've gradually gotten used the time and effort involved to keep the animals on the farm happy and healthy. These days I make a morning dash out to the animals in the morning to give food, check water and unlock the chickens. I've learned this is best done before changing into work clothes (yep, I've got a day job) so that when the dog jumps on me with muddy paws or the straw sheds all over me I'm not ruined for the day. In the afternoon I do another round of the same but add in donkey poop scooping twice a week and egg gathering. The time I'm able to spend with the animals in the afternoons is all determined by the time my human children need from me. Many days I'm helping with homework, doing laundry, playing baby dolls with my daughter or getting some chores done. You can see why the gym I've set up in the shop hasn't gotten much use! The weekends are my catch-up time to go to the feed store, give extra time and attention to the animals and clean up from all of the dirt tracked in by the dogs all week. It's busy, sometimes expensive, but I wouldn't have it any other way! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I get this "ugh" feeling when I'm doing something new or challenging and it's not coming naturally or as quickly as I had hoped. It's the same feeling I remember getting while learning algebra in middle school and the same feeling I had while trying to get a decent grade in Greek class in college. Yep, it's ALL Greek to me! I got that feeling today, it came up suddenly when Cappuccino's ("Cappy":youngest donkey) farrier arrived. I explained right away to the farrier that this was my first donkey hoof trimming experience. I wanted him to know right off the bat that I didn't have a clue about what was coming. It's probably a good thing I didn't. Cappuccino was not at all eager to cooperate and the farrier ended up leaving without trimming her hooves. She pulled and pushed all around. I am thankful she didn't kick either of us. Ultimately, I'm happy we didn't push things too far, for the safety of us all. She will most likely need to be somewhat sedated for the next farrier visit. I'm hoping after more work and practice with her we can get to the point of relaxed and calm farrier visits without a prescription (for her or me). The experience gave me that "ugh" feeling because I realized that I hadn't been doing what I was supposed to with Cappuccino and perhaps I'm not a natural at donkey ownership. Growing up, my limited horse experience was with horses that were older, cooperative and approved for kids. I'm finding out how smart Cappy really is, she knows I'm clueless and unless I do something to change that, she'll keep taking advantage of the situation. I have to build confidence with her, be bold and smarter about how I handle and interact with her. Plus, I flat-out need to spend more time interacting with her, inside the pin. My biggest struggle since moving to the farm has been prioritizing my time. I have a full-time job, I'm just a "farmer" on the weekends and time off. I'm balancing a family, animals, exercising (or how to avoid it), work, etc., etc. Since the first day here it's been a question of "what absolutely HAS to be done today?" Sometimes it's mowing, weed-eating, cleaning, resting, fixing, and shoveling. One thing I love about the farm is that it forces me to spend more time outside. I've always been a bit of a compulsive cleaner and it's difficult for me to ignore certain chores inside in order for me to do what needs to be done outside. I've gotten better at this since coming to the farm, but more practice needs to be done. I'm realizing I have to do yet another reprioritizing shift and spend more time inside the pin with the donkeys. Cappy (and Kiwi as well, but she's super easy-going) need to be harnessed regularly, feet picked up consistently and brushed. This must become a priority. I'm so thankful that the generous…

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