I have a saying I use quite frequently on the farm. “Cowboy up.”
When I first asked Elijah to help me haul heavy water buckets from our house to the barn for the animals, he wasn’t sure he could get the bucket all the way out to the barn. I told him, “Cowboy up, Elijah!” It means, stop complaining, toughen up and do it, even if you must struggle.
We’ve all had to cowboy up a little since moving to our farm, and perhaps I have the most. Little by little, the mushy, princess veneer is being scraped away by hauling water, squashing an infinite number of box elder bugs plus the occasional wasp, our super sketchy internet and phone service, tearing old, cobwebby cabinets off the wall, meeting a mouse in the kitchen (he was about to help himself to Jack’s kibble bowl when we both startled each other; may he rest in peace), cow poop being tracked into the house, ripping string off heavy hay bales and heaving them into the feeder and witnessing the joy of successful births as well as the discouragement of loss.
But lately, I’ve been dealing with a hideous hole in my kitchen wall, blackened and rotten by water, ever-dripping and open to the crawlspace under our house, which in my mind may as well be the gateway to the underworld, filled with critters that shall not be named.
Trust me, I’ve been repeating “Cowgirl up, Becca!” whenever I walk into the kitchen. Until yesterday, Ryan has been around to reach into that mess, remove the container and dump the water out as it nears the top while I stand a safe distance back, watching with a mixture of disgust and relief, happy to have a man around for “man’s work.” Well, Monday he went back to work and it just so happens this leak chose that day to begin dripping even more rapidly than before. Now it fills up every few hours, whereas before it would take all day. So now I have to reach in the wall several times over the course of the workday, pull this bucket out from under the leaky pipe, empty it and replace it. Now you may be rolling your eyes at me right now, thinking, “Umm, no big deal.” And you know what? You’re right. After doing it a couple times, although still unpleasant, it’s really not a big deal. Nothing has reached up from under the house to grab me. Nothing besides my good friends, the boxies, has crawled out (I’ve learned it’s a good day when the worst critter sighting is a handful of boxies). So far I haven’t been attacked by rotten wood or malfunctioning plumbing, either. See what happens when you cowgirl up? You grow. You become stronger, more independent, more confident, more helpful and brave.
Now this doesn’t mean I don’t revert back to my previous princess ways now and then. I’m just being honest here, folks. I was in the middle of a princess moment last night. Some would call it “venting” but I prefer to call things what they are; it’s a princess temper tantrum. After being married for almost 12 years Ryan knows to stay calm during these temporary lapses in my usual outstanding character. 😉 He just so happened to be reading a book by a successful pasture-based farmer and read a quote to me from the book. Wow, it was a timely word and just what I needed to hear.
“Believe me, few people get a farm dumped into their lap. If a dream is worthwhile it is worth some sacrifice, and that starts with little things before progressing to bigger things. Too many people want to get the bigger thing before they’ve proven faithfulness in the little things.”
~ Joel Salatin
What about you? Do you have a dream? Well, cowgirl (or cowboy) up! Make some sacrifices and struggle through it. I know it’s worth it.
It’s not secured to the floor yet, so we can still adjust the final location if needed. And what do you think of the countertop I selected? Y’all know we love us some rugged, farmhouse style, so we thought, “What’s more rustic than a DIY plywood countertop?”
🙂 🙂 🙂
OK, the plywood is just a temporary solution while we remove the last remnant of old countertop. After a few glory weeks in the kitchen, it will live out the rest of its days as our third rabbit hutch in the barn, where it belongs.
The island has made it possible to remove my remaining kitchenware from the old, peeling cabinets and throw those nasty boxes out the door. Good riddance!
My original island plan has changed somewhat. I was going to have an “L” shaped seating area around the island, as shown above. We decided to turn the island 90 degrees to the left and run a countertop overhang along the two long sides of the island, opposite each other. This way I can easily seat 6 at the island and no cabinet doors will be opening underneath the overhang. This seating arrangement may be unconventional for an island, but it takes advantage of the length of the kitchen rather than having stools congesting the area around the pantry. We also shifted the whole island a few inches towards the chimney wall to ensure there will be enough space between the cabinets along the back wall and the stools on that side. I hope this arrangement works well but I think we’ll have a better idea once we get the cabinets installed on the back wall. We’ll make a final decision regarding seating and placement of the island at that time.
The problem: When we removed our old sink base cabinet, we discovered it was functioning as a Band-Aid over a festering wound. We knew before we bought an old house that we were going to find some surprises along the way. As we began working in the kitchen we anticipated some sort of water issue by the sink as evidenced by our noses, plus visible water spots at the back of the cabinet. What we weren’t expecting to find, however, was a pretty active, quick-dripping pipe inside the wall. Ryan grabbed a plastic container to catch the water and assessed the damage. The subfloor is rotten and the wall studs look waterlogged. That water is dripping rapidly enough that by the time we woke up this morning, that large container was filled to the top and threatening to overflow. I would like to know for how long this has been going on. Months? Years? What a mess!
Our project is pretty much on hold until we can fix the pipe and repair any compromised structural components. It’s disappointing to come up against a major issue like this. We need to think about the best way to approach this problem and fix it correctly so no other related problems result.
I hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend filled with friends, family and the peace and presence of our Lord Jesus. No matter what circumstances we are facing in our lives, we can know an everlasting joy and peace given through Him.
Our long-awaited poultry order is only a week away from arriving on our farm. We are so excited. We ordered these little guys and gals back in January. We’re used to Amazon orders where you get whatever you want within a week or two at the most. Not so with chicks! You have to wait for hatching season and if you don’t place your order early in the year, the breed you want may be all sold out and you have to wait even longer.
We chose all dual-purpose, heritage breed poultry for our farm, with the exception of about 30 broilers, which are fast-growing meat birds.
Heritage breeds tend to be dual-purpose because they have not been specialized for only meat production or only egg production like the chickens used in commercial farming today. They grow slower than broilers and lay less eggs than “layers.” So why bother with them when there are “better” options out there?
Heritage breeds are hardier, smarter, better at foraging (which reduces the amount of feed we have to provide), have better personalities and provide some barnyard eye-candy with their array of colors and patterns. Although they grow slower than commercial broiler breeds, research shows a direct correlation to fast-growing meat and reduced flavor. Indeed, many heritage breed chickens are reputed to provide gourmet meat for the table.
Why, then, did we get broilers? For science. We want to experiment with modern broilers and be able to compare and contrast the meat quality, feed conversion ratios and hardiness between the two. We may even conduct a blind taste test and invite some willing participants to sample a few varieties and cast their vote for their favorite flavor.
Here is a quick run-down of the breeds of poultry we are getting.
The Heritage Breeds
We ordered 5 hens and 1 rooster each of the following chicken breeds:
This is a very old breed of chicken originating in England. They are docile, great foragers and are able to raise their own chicks since they go broody during the warmer months. They lay about 200 light brown eggs a year.
The classic Cornflakes rooster is modeled after a Welsummer! Hens lay about 160 large, brown, speckled eggs each year. This is a smart, hardy, Dutch breed that will continue to lay eggs in winter and reputed to be one of the best foragers around.
This breed was developed by a woman in Ohio in the late 1800’s. They are an active, cold-hardy breed and do not do well in confinement. They are excellent mousers, often compared to cats in their ability to pursue and catch rodents. Hens can lay 180-260 brown eggs per year.
Black Jersey Giant
This breed was developed to replace turkey and was used in the commercial meat industry for a short stint long ago, now replaced by fast-growing birds as it takes months for them to reach their full size of 10-13 pounds. They are large, lay about 160 very large brown eggs per year, and are known for their docile nature.
This breed is said to be the United States’ oldest breed of chicken, arriving on the scene during colonial times. They are calm, excellent foragers and can successfully brood and raise chicks. Their white-and-black barred appearance is the best camouflage from predators. They’ll lay about 3 eggs a week, even into winter months.
We ordered 4 each of the following heritage duck breeds:
Developed in the mid 1800’s. A calm duck, excellent forager and provides flavorful meat. They will lay about 100-150 white or blue-tinted eggs a year.
Developed in Great Britain during the early twentieth century. A hardy duck with excellent egg-laying potential. They can lay up to 280 white, cream or blue eggs a year.
Developed in the 1800’s, this duck is easily tamed if hand-raised. The meat is supposedly gourmet quality. They also lay around 100-150 black (yes, black!) eggs per year.
We ordered 3 Bourbon Red turkeys. The turkeys and ducks are sold “straight run” meaning they aren’t sexed before they are shipped to us. I am hoping we have at least one tom for the impressive feather display. This turkey breed boasts superior flavor, survivability and health compared to commercial varieties (although poults are very fragile and I’m not holding my breath that our poults will survive). Once they are older they are extremely hardy. Toms can weigh up to 23 pounds.
That concludes the heritage breeds we ordered!
We ordered 15 each of the following varieties:
This is the current foundation of the commercial chicken industry. If you buy chicken from any grocery store or restaurant, no matter the brand name or how it was raised, you can be sure it’s a Cornish Cross. Even many small, local farmers sell Cornish Cross, raised out on pasture in fresh air. Bred for extreme meat production, these birds grow so fast that if you do not limit their feed, they will be unable to walk. They cannot reproduce naturally, either. In nature, they would be annihilated. They are poor foragers, having been developed on commercial feed rather than on family farms like heritage breeds. I have also read they do not know how to keep in the shade on hot, sunny days and will overheat simply because they stayed in the sun. Basically every positive trait has been bred out of these things in favor of rapid growth of breast meat. They reach 6 pounds by 6-8 weeks of age. If kept longer than this, their health begins to decline to the point of death.
These grow a little slower than the Cornish Cross, but are more attractive, healthier and better at foraging. These are said to be a great alternative for a free-ranging meat bird. They’ll be about 5-6 pounds at 9-10 weeks old.
I think we’ll have some fun experimenting with these different breeds and getting to know which characteristics and traits we want to keep around on our farm. I can’t wait to see our chickens strutting, flapping, crowing and scratching around the farm. I’m sure they will provide endless entertainment.
When I say “done,” I mean done for now. 🙂 In the last post, my oven wall in the kitchen looked like this.
We worked all evening Friday and most of the day on Saturday and now it looks like this.
Pretty close to my original mock-up, right?Before we installed the pantry I was concerned it might appear to block off the stove area, but when I saw it put together I thought it really completed the wall. It’s so handy to have my pantry close to the stove. Ryan was able to relocate the light switch that was previously on the wall to the side of the pantry. I am so happy with how this remodel is turning out. We still need counters, backsplash, paint and the toe kick, which we will do once the rest of the cabinets are in place. I’ve had some time to think about the paint color and I am sure I’ll be sticking with the Frosted Jade paint color from Behr. I love how it seems to set off the cabinets and hardware. It gives this old kitchen a fresh and clean feel.
We removed the base cabinets from the back wall and will continue with the flooring all the way to the sink wall. Then we can begin installing the rest of our cabinets. We need to remove the old window on the back wall and install the sliding patio door soon, since I have a base and wall cabinet that will be installed partially over that old window area. Here is a refresher of the plan for this wall. I can’t wait to see the rest of this kitchen transformed!
The whole family broke in the new oven wall together by helping me bake a birthday cake for Levi and Micah’s birthday party. I can already see the fun, happy, family memories we will make together in this new kitchen!
Happy Friday everyone! I’m especially chipper this morning because of all the progress we’ve been making in our kitchen! The kids came down for breakfast this morning and Elijah said, “It’s actually looking like a real kitchen!” My thoughts exactly.
Ever since we sold our relatively new, relatively roomy house and moved to our farmhouse, I’ve had my share of emotional ups and downs. Sometimes I think, “What in the world did we just do?” Ryan can sense these moments and will quickly reassure me we will make this into a functional and comfortable home. I believe him. I know we will. The hard part is getting there. It’s dealing with the dysfunction in the meantime. The mess, the disorganization, the lack of pretty. Eventually this home will look put together. Until then, I have my blinders on in order to keep calm. If you come visit the farm, put on your blinders, too. We provide them at the door.
However, days like today I think “I’m so glad we did this!” It’s work. So much work. Each project takes much more time than what I estimate. But I can get a glimpse of what each room will look like in my mind and I know it’s worth it. We’ll have the memories and satisfaction of doing it ourselves, together. I like to think we’ll be 80 years old, rocking in our matching recliners and one of us will turn to the other and say, “Remember when we fixed up that farmhouse?” These are the good ol’ days.
Progress on the kitchen has been slow but steady. Remember the “before” picture of the stove wall?
We removed the old, ugly, awkwardly positioned cabinets off the wall in this corner. That felt so good. You can see where they were because there was this mossy green color behind all the cabinets…well except where they painted the wall white to look like the cabinets actually had a back on them.
Ryan needed to put an outlet in this area so we could mount our microwave above the stove. He opened up the wall, drilled through a few studs, then fished a wire down to the outlet/light switch you can see on his right. This also gives a peek at what’s inside the wall…fiberglass insulation! I’m glad whoever redid all the sheetrock had the good sense to take the opportunity to install insulation throughout the house. There could just as easily have been old newspaper or nothing between us and the cold, winter air. We also installed about 1/4 of our new flooring on this side of the kitchen. Wow, what a difference that made! Next, we began installing our bases and wall cabinets. (Don’t mind my stockpot of bone broth simmering on the stove. This is a working kitchen, even in the midst of a remodel.)
This is how the kitchen looked after a Sunday and two weekday evenings’ worth of work. Everything takes a long time to get started, and when you’re working in the evenings after a long day, by the time you finally get all the materials collected and figure out the right way to approach a project, your eyes are heavy and it’s time for bed. And then there are the hurdles in the way like walls that aren’t square when you are trying to hang cabinets.
We took the whole evening off from the kitchen Wednesday night and dropped the kids off at church, treated ourselves to coffee and when we got home, sat down to get semi-caught up on Survivor (the only TV show we watch these days!).
Last night Ryan installed the rest of the wall cabinets and put an outlet in the stove bridge cabinet. The outlet isn’t connected yet, so I have an extension cord powering my microwave today. But look at the progress!We still need to install the pantry on the right and Ryan needs to move that outlet/light switch combo onto the side of the pantry so it’s not covered when we install it. I’m hopeful we can get this accomplished tonight as well as get the cabinet hardware installed. You can see in the above picture I’m trying out a few paint samples (ignore the green on the top left). I was originally trying to find the perfect shade of warm neutral for the walls. I’ve tried out 4 samples. I even mixed two together and put that on the walls. Nope. Nothing was speaking to me. Everything looked like shades of peach. Then I decided to try the color I had selected as my accent color, Frosted Jade, on the walls. It’s a light teal (it looks a little too blue in the picture.). I love it! It really gives the kitchen a crisp, fresh feel. I don’t normally love a lot of color on the wall, but I think if we stick with a more neutral countertop and backsplash, the soft teal will be a fun pop of color. Sticking with the farm theme, if I paired the teal with some browns, it would be similar to a basket of chicken eggs. 🙂
A few updates to the kitchen plan:
First, the cabinet company sent (and billed) us two 30-inch pantries, when I only ordered one. We thought about returning it, but it’s a hassle to return something big and heavy so I began to look around for a place to put it. I found the perfect spot next to the washer and dryer.
The only problem is the pantry is 24 inches deep, like a base cabinet, and that wall that it’s sitting on is not flush with the rest of the kitchen, so it sticks out too far into the room.
If we were to cut the depth of the pantry down to about 12-13 inches, it would be the same as an upper (wall) cabinet and also just about flush with the washer and dryer. I think this is the perfect solution! I can use this extra pantry for laundry storage, but more importantly, for bathroom storage, as the bathroom is just on the other side of this pantry. There is literally no storage in the tiny bathroom. I bought a tall, thin linen cabinet that sits on the floor, but with this pantry I may not need the linen cabinet in there taking up room.
I decided on this hardware for my cabinets by Martha Stewart. They have yet to be installed, so I’m holding them in place to give the full effect. 🙂 They feel pretty heavy-duty and I love the Bedford nickel finish.
I always thought a farmhouse sink would be way too expensive for our budget so I didn’t even allow myself to think about getting one. We have so much to do on this house and I have to spend our renovation money wisely. I did a little research and I was right that some farmhouse sinks are crazy expensive. Consider this one for about $1,600.00.
Gorgeous, isn’t it? And so not happening. As much of a focal point as that sink would be, I can’t justify paying that much for a sink. At the end of the day, it’s just a hole in the counter top. As it turns out, they do make some farmhouse sinks for people with real-life budgets. I ordered this 33 inch stainless steel farmhouse sink and faucet combo by Vigo. It was on “special buy” and they gave me an additional 10% off because I’ve called in so many times to fix issues with my cabinet order.
We’ll have to modify our sink base to allow for the sink apron front and will also have to reinforce the base to support the added weight of this thing. It’s worth the extra work because I’m going to love this sink. My dishwasher washes most of my dishes for me, but whenever I need to hand-wash something large like my stockpot or griddle that doesn’t fit in my dishwasher, it’s very difficult to wash in my double bowl sink. Washing large items in this farmhouse sink will be so much easier. I think it will add a touch of character to the kitchen and match nicely with our stainless steel appliances.
The first time we walked out to get mail on the farm we were greeted by a disappointing sight. We discovered the door to the mailbox was figuratively hanging by a thread, literally one loose screw.
It dangled in the breeze that way for a few more days until it altogether detached; rather symbolic of this property as a whole.
Unloved, neglected and let-go.
That’s about to change. This old farm will get whipped into shape, slowly but surely, inside and out. On the exterior, the reform begins at the street with a new mailbox. A mailbox befitting of the cute, charming farm I envision this place can potentially be. A chicken mailbox. Helga, to be specific.
I saw a picture of a mailbox available for purchase from Mailboxes and Stuff.
It’s so cute, isn’t it? The $160 price tag, however, was enough of a deterrent for simply purchasing the mailbox, so designing and constructing a chicken mailbox myself quickly landed on my to-do list. I enjoy the occasional craft project when the mood strikes and this seemed like a fun way to express a little creativity. Unfortunately, my artistic skills are nowhere near gifted, meaning this project had the potential to resemble a product of preschool art time. Be that as it may, I decided to take a chance. I’m very pleased to say Helga turned out adorably well. Equally pleasing is the fact I paid nowhere in the vicinity of $160.
This is how I made Helga.
I free-handed a chicken head, wing, foot and tail on a few sheets of the kids’ construction paper.
I cut out the pieces and taped them to a white mailbox (bought on clearance for $10 from the local hardware store) to assess if each was the right size and shape. After a couple corrections, I was satisfied with each template.
I traced my templates onto a 1×10 board, being sure to make two wings and two feet.
Ryan bought a new jig saw and was happy to have an excuse to test it out. (He is putting together quite a useful workshop of tools!) After satisfactorily taking a practice swing on some scrap wood, Ryan did an impressive job cutting out each chicken piece for me with his jig saw.
I sanded each piece with 100-grit sandpaper until the edges felt smooth. Then they got a couple coats of white paint. When they were dry, I painted the legs and beak yellow, and gave Helga a red wattle and comb. I used a black sharpie for the eye.
See the knot in the wood on Helga’s neck? I ended up filling that in with wood filler, sanding it smooth and repainting it, along with a few other spots that weren’t quite up to Helga’s standards.
We glued the chicken pieces onto the mailbox with heavy-duty construction adhesive and placed her in a safe somewhat less-dangerous spot to cure.
She’s finally ready!
Ryan got home from work this evening and raced to get my mailbox installed before sundown. After a few unexpected (not really, we know better by now) installation obstacles, we have a new mailbox.
Now doesn’t that look better?
It’s so satisfying to get a project completed, even a small one like a much-needed new mailbox.