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…

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?

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.

Shortly after we moved to the farm I did a major "cleaning" of the "barn". I use cleaning and barn losely since a barn is never really clean and the barn is more of a really big shed, but it is very helpful for storing our hay and giving the lambs an indoor place to retreat from the elements. So, I swept and even vacuumed up cobwebs. This makes me laugh now because the cobwebs were somewhat gone for perhaps a week or so. For some reason I thought I could stay one step ahead of the spiders and keep the barn free of all intruders. Nope. I've now learned that I can't keep the spiders out, or the kittens. Right after cleaning the barn I was walking around inside and thought I had found a dead animal. After turning the light on and getting a little closer, I realized it was actually a pile of kittens! They were obviously cold and hungry and I was worried and a bit freaked out. I wasn't afraid of them, but I knew once my daughter saw them she would want to keep them and I knew once my dogs saw them they would want them to go away. Thus began the start of saving the kittens. I of course turned to Facebook for advice from my cat-loving friends. They had great advice, most of which I followed. I drew the line though when it came to be being a surrogate mother to these kittens. We provided food in the area and the momma cat appeared to be coming back to the kittens to feed them and also eat the food we left out. Not long after we discovered them the momma cat moved the kittens. I thought our experience housing kittens was over, but no, it had just begun. Next thing I knew these kittens were popping up everywhere! Sometimes they were in the backyard, close to the pool and we'd have to scoop one or two up with a shovel (afraid to touch them and have the mom smell us on the kitten and reject it) to move it to safety. If they spotted us out on the property doing farm chores, they'd follow us and end up too close to the house. We didn't want them around the pool or especially the dogs. But, unfortunately, we were not successful. Franklin (who has since crossed over the rainbow bridge) had a traumatic life experience with a kitten invading his house while he was just a puppy. He never got over the experience and ever since hated all kittens and cats. The kittens didn't seem to understand this and would naively enter the dog pin. When the dogs would bark and run towards them, they would just freeze. There was this one night we heard all types of barking and carrying on outside. Before we knew it we found ourselves flying out the door, scantily clad and desperately trying to save the…

There I was just sitting at the table working on the computer and on the phone with my favorite technical consultant (my Dad) when I heard a knock at the door. It was one of my most helpful neighbors with two metal contraptions. I have to admit I was still in my PJ's and putting off some farm chores. His visit got me moving, I threw on clothes and out the door the kids and I went so we could learn to set gopher traps! The first step is finding a fresh mound, poking the stake into the ground to find where the hole or tunnel is and then digging a hole to uncover the tunnel. The trap gets set and placed in the hole, then covered with some yummy grass. This clever neighbor welded a chain from the trap to the stake to make it more difficult for an animal to run off with the gopher and trap. So far we haven't trapped a gopher, but we'll see how things go tomorrow. The gophers are out of control right now. It's truly amazing how much area they can cover and how many holes and mounds they create in such a short time. Our dog Henry (the coonhound) will smell them underground, dig, catch them and swallow them whole. For obvious reasons, he's limited to hunting in just the dog area and I have a feeling those little pests know it. They've got free range over the rest of the 5 acres and they seem to enjoy it. The winter certainly seems like their peak tunneling/digging time, but I could be wrong.

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