I drove by our old house earlier this week and I can’t believe it’s been almost 7 years since we’ve moved to the farm. It’s been a true whirlwind as we’ve added fruit trees, gardens, sheep, chickens and a kid. It feels like just yesterday and as we are getting ready to overhaul the house it feels like we’ve been here the entire time.
Living here has been an adjustment for sure. Some good, some bad. I was born and raised out in the country but as a kid you don’t really grasp the full scope of all the work that goes into maintaining a piece of land. You also don’t realize how cool it is to live in the middle of nowhere. I grew up so jealous of all my friends that used to live in subdivisions and could bike and play with each other every day after school. The only kid my age in my neighborhood was my little brother and you can only play barbies and ninja turtles for so long.
I have great memories of going on Sunday afternoon nature walks with my dad and playing football in the front yard. One day when my mom was at work my dad lit part of the corn field on fire trying to cook hot dogs over the brush pile.
We had farm dogs (max and laddie) and raised 4H pigs. I did not always appreciate it at the time and it had it downsides, but looking back we had a pretty charmed time growing up where we did.
Now as an adult I see how much work it is to maintain the farm, animals, garden and land. Courtesy of Covid we have been able to make some improvements to the landscape and keep up on our gardens. Tomatoes anyone?
We get a lot of questions about our farm and I had so much fun with the Pentwater Q & A that I thought I would have one for our farmhouse.
How did you and your husband start the farm?
It is kind of a long story but we had found a house in Zeeland which is about 45 minutes north of where we live now. It was a fixer upper but it was right across the street from my grandma and up the road from my parents. It was 4 acres, a barn and a smaller farmhouse. We had plans drawn up and a handshake deal with a couple from our community. The deal fell through and we were devastated. We decided to take a drive and just see what else was out there. We found our current farm and fell in love. It was 4x the size of the house, 4x the amount of land and more outbuildings. The cons were the distance from work and comparable school districts but it was worth it to us. The community continues to evolve and grow and we love the long quiet drive home (most days).
How much time / day do you spend doing chores?
I guess it depends on what you call chores. We have the garden set up with an automatic water irrigation so most of the maintenance is random dead heading, harvesting and weed pulling. We plant most of our flowers in tarp to cut back on weeds and all of our veggies are in raised beds. The garden chores are about an hour a day unless I’m doing a full afternoon of weeding or deadheading .
The animals are relatively low maintenance. The sheep graze all day and come into the barn by themselves at night. They have a water trough that gets filled 1 – 2 times a week depending on how hot it is outside. We’ve cut back on their grain during the summer but in the winter they get a few scoops and we built a hay feeder so we drop a bail or two in each week.
The chickens also have large water and feeder containers. They get filled every other day and we collect eggs every other day.
I would guess that daily chores take about 30 minutes each day.
Twice a year we deep clean the barns, stalls and rabbit hutch. That takes a full day.
We also have the occasional vet appointment (1 hour appt’s) and then sheep shearing day twice a year which takes about 4 hours each time.
The key to “low maintenance farming” is the size of your feeders and water troughs and herd animals that graze themselves.
Who watches the animals when you are gone?
Because we have the farm set up to feed and take care of the animals for a few days we do not need anyone to check the animals if we leave for a weekend. If we travel for a longer period of time (more than 3 days) my dad, Joe’s dad or my Uncle Terry who lives up the street stops over to check on them every couple of days.
Do you have running water and electricity to the barns?
We have electricity which is great for those winter mornings and nights. Also we have water trough warmers that can plug in to the walls to keep the animals waters from freezing. We do not have water to the barn. We had a plumber come out but the cost did not justify how easy it is to run a long hose from the basement to the barns for filling the water troughs each week.
What time do you get up in the morning to feed your animals?
During the week we are up by 6am to take care of things around the farm before heading off to work. If it’s the weekend they usually get checked on around 8am.
Do you still have bees?
I did not have bees this year and I very much miss them around my garden. I was going to take Indigo Acres master bee class this summer before trying again but Covid messed that up. I hope to have that opportunity again next season before investing in a hive again.
How do you do maintain the farm, family and career.
The key to having a hobby farm like ours in my opinion is do the hard work first. Lay the tarp, invest in the bigger stock tanks, make sure you have good fences. Putting these things in first will set you up for success in the future. We have about an hour a day of “need to do” type things around the farm but the rest is not a life or death situation. Dead heading isn’t urgent but has to be done etc. We have the garden for relaxing and no matter the level of perfectionist I am I constantly remind myself that this is to bring peace. PS I have a full post on low maintenance gardening here.
Can you do fall planting in Michigan?
There are a few things that Michiganders can plant in Michigan. (I am zone 5B/6A). If you start now (September) you can squeeze in a round of beans, lettuce, spinach, chard, some varieties of peas. Fall is a great time for planting perennials and also your spring bulbs (tulips, daffodils etc).
How much time and maintenance are chickens?
Along with sheep I think chickens are some of the most low maintenance animals. They require a routine coop cleaning every few months, chicken feed and water. I collect our eggs every other day and also refill their water and feed every 2-3 days depending on how hot it is. We do not let our chickens free range we have a lot of predators for them but I would suspect that would cut back on coop cleaning.
Do you make money from your farm?
We break even. We started this hobby farm as just that a hobby. We both work full time jobs and I also have the store so the farm is meant to be pure enjoyment. We share our hayfield with a neighbor who cuts and bails the hay. We get 30% of the total bales and that feeds our animals over the winter. We also started selling flowers by the side of the road and that has been a fun little project with Otto. We are using the garden to teach him about work, money, tithing, spending and saving. We do sell sheep occasionally but that money goes towards their grain substitutes and vet bills.
How many acres do you have and what do you grow besides flowers and veggies?
We have 12 total acres on the farm and a good majority of it is hayfield. Mentioned above we split the hay with a neighbor and that gives us enough to feed our animals when they cannot graze in the winter. We also just planted fruit trees this spring and wild mulberry, blackberry and elderberries grow around the property. We are going to be putting in a grape vine soon as well.
Where did the cats come from?
Out in the country people feel it is fine to dump cats off at farms. A lot of times they come and go but lately we have two that have stuck around and are super friendly (and are getting fixed soon!). Daddy cat and levi cat are both female cats that my son, Otto the cat whisperer has made his quarantine companions. They are excellent hunters and have kept our barns pretty managed when it comes to mice. We have sat before and watched people dump cats into our hayfield it’s pretty maddening.
How many cats is too many cats?
All cats are too many cats. LOL. I am not a cat person but Otto surely is lol.
Are you exhausted at the end of the day?
Yes. and N0. Mentally and physically it’s a lot. However doing chores and visiting the garden is very therapeutic and enjoyable so it doesn’t feel like chores. Unless I have to clean the barns. I hate that chore and so does my allergies.
I hope that I answered your questions! I love sharing more about our farm and animals. This is truly our happy place and we love spending our days here. Quarantine was rough but we realized how much we really do love this land and all that it has to offer us. If I missed anything drop it in the comments below!