Pig Slaughter Day at Our Small Farm

Today is slaughter day at our fledgling farm–pig slaughter day. And so I am in town at a coffee shop as I write this. Because I hate pig slaughter day. I mean, I was a vegetarian for 24 years! Raising pigs for food is a huge about face for me. And don’t judge me too harshly for staying away and leaving Bob to deal with it alone. Last time I was the one there alone when the mobile slaughter unit showed up.

Raising meat for food is not something we take lightly. It’s not that I get attached to the pigs, that they have names, because I don’t and they don’t. (OK, I do get a little attached. Pigs are just such characters! How can you not get attached??) But we strive to take really good care of these animals, with plenty of fresh air and room to roam and fresh water and healthy food. Unlike the shrink-wrapped pork people buy at the supermarket, our pork comes from pigs that have lived a very good life.

And that’s why we do this, raise pigs and slaughter them. People are going to eat pork. Period. Isn’t it better for all–humans and pigs alike–if people eat pork raised in a humane and natural way? Digging in the dirt and playing chase and stuffing their noses into pumpkins and sleeping in literal pig piles?

As just two people, Bob and I can’t do anything to stop factory farming and the American obsession with cheap food that leads to the inhumane treatment of animals. But we can do one tiny little thing when we raise a few pigs and people buy our humanely raised meat instead of the cheap stuff. And slaughter day is a necessary part of that process…which gives me a little comfort.

But I still hate slaughter day.

Before and After Photos: Patching a Chimney Hole in the Kitchen Ceiling With a Piece of Antique Tin

Our very old farmhouse was built in pieces, and the kitchen (and therefore wood stove) got moved as the house got added on to. That means we had not one but two chimney holes in ceilings to deal with. We’ve yet to deal with the one in our daughter’s bedroom, but the kitchen ceiling we did tackle.


That photo above is what we had left AFTER we pulled down the old chimney, pulled the sheet rock off the walls, and stripped all the paper and nails off of the ceiling. You can see some flashing that was around the old chimney, and the brown tarp was part of our effort to keep water out, since the roof also had a hole in it once the chimney came down. The good news was, it was easy for the electricians to run the wiring at least!

Below are some photos of the hole today. Here’s what we did: We found a piece of antique ceiling tin (actually, a friend found a piece of antique ceiling tin) that was painted pink and cream. I spent hours and hours and hours (and hours!) trying to sand and strip all of the paint off, because my original vision was for a piece of shiny tin, not painted tin. When I finally got it to the state you see it in now, I said, “Forget it! We’re going with the antique-y look!”


The idea was to put a piece of tin over the hole so the kitchen table could be centered under it and it would look like it was supposed to be there.


First, we had to tackle the wall. We pulled planks off of a wall upstairs and used those to make a “new” plank wall out of old boards. When we ran out, we pulled apart an old sheep feeder in the barn and used that for the rest of the planks. The planks got primed and caulked and painted. (And you’ll see we need to caulk and paint again. Heating our house with a wood stove has meant a lot of the caulking needs to be redone, both in this wall and in the four ceilings we restored. Sigh…)


We got the ceiling all scraped, sanded, caulked and painted (see really good before and after pictures of the kitchen ceiling). Then a friend got this tin up (while my husband was deployed) and put trim around it. I painted and caulked. Then we put the kitchen table under it, centered just right, and voila! You’d never know there was a chimney there nor a huge hole!!



Although it’s not a very clear photo, you can see the detail in the tin a little better in this photo above.

We are far from done with this renovation, but it’s good for me to look at these before and after photos to remind myself how far we’ve come! And now as our Pacific Northwet spring begins to finally warm up and dry out, it has been really nice to turn our attention to starting a small farm at last, since that’s why we bought this place in the first place. Then this winter, we’ll get back to the renovating and get this old farmhouse ever closer to DONE.

We Have a Creek! How Cool Is That!!

Of all the surprises we’ve had with our farmhouse renovation and trying to resurrect this abandoned farm, this week brought one of the biggest: It turns out we have a creek at the back of the property!

We thought it was just a run off ditch. There was no way to see what was really there because the area was so overgrown with blackberries (in some places, 30 feet deep) and fallen trees and underbrush. But this week our neighbor Alan arranged for an excavator to come in and they spent 13 hours clearing out and piling up the old fencing, the dead trees, and the blackberries, and generally cleaning up the creek banks.

I couldn’t believe it when I walked to the back of the property and saw we had a creek!! Bear was ecstatic too. Within minutes, he was covered in wet mud from exploring. How happy was Bear? You can watch him do his “happy run” in a short video at the end of this post. 🙂


This picture above is looking north. This was my first time seeing the creek and before all the clearing was done. I can’t tell you how surprised and overjoyed I was at this discovery! I was standing there texting Bob all kinds of “isn’t this cool??” texts. 🙂 I don’t know if you can see the burn piles on the right of the photo, but there are a lot of them and they are BIG.


Hey look! Bear’s in the creek! Shocker! But boy, do we have our work cut out for us now!! We have wood to cut up and brush to burn and blackberries to KILL. Plus there’s some cleaning up of the creek itself to do. See the metal roofing pieces and pipe? Yeah. We need to haul that out and get it to the scrap metal place, sigh…


This picture above is looking south. See all that muddy area? That was all blackberry bushes and brush. Look how much land we just got back!!


This picture above is of a clearing on the other side of the creek. We knew it was there but couldn’t really see it. Now we’ll be able to get to it and explore it. Apparently there used to be houses back in there way back when, and a pond for fishing! Hmmm… I wonder if we can bring the pond back somehow? Where’s that excavator??


For some sense of how overgrown things were, here’s a picture of where the creek starts on our property. It’s no wonder we didn’t know it was there!

And here’s how happy Bear is about the creek. Bear shows his happiness by just plain running full out…and man, he is FAST! 🙂 I can’t run like Bear, and neither can Bob, but I’m pretty sure the joy in Bear’s run is equal to our joy at this discovery!





Funny Cow Breeds Poster…and Why I Want a Devon :-)

Love this cow breeds poster!! Partly because it’s funny because it includes a Cash Cow and a Holy Cow, but partly because it includes a Devon and that is the kind of cow I would reeeeeaaallly like to have as our breed as we are getting closer to starting a farm (after all of the renovations on the house which are still ongoing and our now renovations of the barn).

The Devon is a heritage breed that came over with the Pilgrims. It was a dual purpose breed, for both milk and meat, but sadly they started breeding two distinct lines in the 20th century. 😦 Still, from what I’ve read of the breed and its hardiness and size, I think it would be the perfect breed for us (the milk one) and I hope maybe next year cows can become a reality for our attempt at a small farm!

cow breeds poster

True Meaning of “Hen House”? Our Rooster Needs a Break, It Seems!

With these snowy days, I’ve noticed Rooster Cogburn has a funny habit…one that indicates life in the hen house is hard on a fellow! This photo isn’t very good, but here’s what happens: I open the chicken coop door and the “girls” decide it’s still too cold to go out so they stay inside. But not Cogburn! He’s out the door and under their little rain shelter (an old card table), and there he sits enjoying the peace and quiet. I guess life with 20 females ain’t all it’s cracked up to be when you’re cooped up with them for 14 hours straight! Poor Cogburn! 🙂

free range chickens--rooster escapes the hen house

When our free range chickens think it’s too cold to leave the coop, our rooster can’t wait to get a break from the ladies it seems!

The Chicken Tractor at Our Small Farm

When I accidentally killed chickens moving the chicken tractor, I whined about it on Facebook. That led to people asking me, “What is a chicken tractor?” There are lots of types of chicken tractors and I hesitated to talk about ours because it’s not fitting for what we’re trying to do now, but it’s all we’ve got and it’s the perfect setup for someone in the city wanting to raise backyard chickens for fresh eggs!

So I share photo and some details about it here:

chicken tractor

This contraption was built for me when I lived in the city. It was built for six hens and it was perfect for six hens. I’d move it around the yard once or twice a day and let the girls go at a small area of grass or bugs, then move them to fresh ground. It kept them safe while also keeping them moving and wow, did it do wonders for the lawn! Those girls made healthy green grass!

Eventually I started leaving the lid up and the girls would go wherever they wanted, including across the street (which led to many jokes about why the chicken crossed the road plus the one really embarrassing time when my chickens had traffic blocked and I could hear horns honking and I hid in my house waiting for it to all end!). But they always came back to roost at night.

It is portable plus the part that sticks out is the nesting box with room for three chickens at a time, and the lid lifts up for easy access to the eggs.

When I first moved to the country, I brought this with me along with my six hens and it worked great. Since moving to our small farm and building our chicken coop, we’ve used this chicken tractor to transition chicks from the “nursery bin” to outside, before they get moved into the chicken coop with the grownups.

The reason it has gone from chicken tractor to death machine recently is because I had too many chickens in it–fat, slow moving Frankenbabies.

But if you’re thinking about raising backyard chickens for fresh eggs on a small piece of property, something like this kind of chicken tractor is perfect! If you want more photos of it, like with the lids up, let me know. It even has a roosting bar going across the middle, which the girls always loved to use!

Moving forward, once my husband is finally home, we’ll build a more portable chicken tractor with room for more chickens, because we are going to keep the egg layers in the coop, and use the portable contraption for meat chickens only. That will make it much more lightweight because it won’t have the nesting box! And I will insist that it be as lightweight as it can possibly be so I can easily move it by myself, deployment or no deployment! (I’m thinking PVC pipe and tarp!) I don’t know what that looks like yet, because it still has to be strong enough to keep the coyotes out, so it can’t be totally lightweight, but we’ll figure it out. 🙂

I hope that answers any questions about chicken tractors, but if not, ask away. I am learning lots about starting a small farm by doing things wrong the first time!

Another Shocking Before and After Photo: a Corner of the Master Bedroom

Just a quick post to show the progress in our room from the before that we were sleeping in when we moved into the unfinished house in April:


See the missing floorboards? And that dark wall, that is the outside siding. Yes, we could hear the frogs and river as if the window was wide open because there was no insulation!

Today? Today we are MUCH farther along. We still have a long ways to go–the trim isn’t done and what is installed is yet to be painted, we need a new access door covering the crawl space to the attic, the closet has no doors, and so on and so on…but I like sleeping in the room like this so much better than the room like that! Shoot: I just realized I didn’t show the new floor in this after photo, sorry!
master bedroom after Oct 2013

You don’t want to know how many nights I slept on the sofa and air mattress while getting the room to this point. But it was worth it…

And the farmhouse renovation continues!!