A Visit to the Farm

      42 Comments on A Visit to the Farm

I haven’t been out to see our mini-farm in weeks, although Chareva has been out there to meet with contractors.  Today we drove out to shoot some “before” pictures and video.

“Before” means before we renovate the house and clean up the land.  As I explained when I announced we bought the farm, we got it cheap because the elderly widow who was living there let pretty much everything go.  The picture below, which I posted previously, was from her realtor’s site, and it was obviously taken some time ago.  Notice the short grass around the barns.

We know the front pastures can look like this.  But they don’t currently.  Here are the front two pastures today.  Notice you can only see the roof of one of the barns.

There’s a back pasture too, which appears to be bigger than the front two.  I don’t know for sure, because I’ve only eyeballed it.  I don’t want to walk around back there because the weeds are nearly as tall as I am, and lord only knows what kind of critters are lurking in them.

I once read that if humans disappeared from the earth for a couple of hundred years, it would difficult to find evidence we ever existed in most areas — the exception being the big cities and the desert towns.  Everywhere else, the plants would take over.  I believe that’s true.  Not many years ago, the fenced-in area you see below was a pen for a dog, which means it was probably all grass in there.  Look at how thoroughly the weeds and saplings have taken over.

We own a good-sized chunk of the forest behind the house, but it will be awhile before I do any exploring back there.  If you look closely, you can spot the fence in this picture.  The fence is maybe 25 yards from the back of the house.  The waist-high weeds have grown right up to it and partly over it, and to get back to the trees, I’d have to stumble through a jungle of weeds.

The previous owner clearly had a major fear of someone getting in the house, which I guess is understandable to an extent, since she was an elderly widow living alone.  Every single door looks something like this:

There are even deadbolts on the doors separating rooms within the house … apparently she wanted to be able to lock herself in one room if need be.  There are also burglar bars on all the windows — every single one, even the second-story windows.

Sure, no one’s getting in — but if there’s a fire, no one’s getting out either.  We are of course having all the burglar bars removed.

And just in case someone managed to get past all the deadbolts and burglar bars, most rooms in the house had at least one these in a corner.

When we first walked through the house, I wondered why an older woman who didn’t even have cable owned so many TVs.  Well, they weren’t TVs; they were monitors for her security cameras.

I mentioned in my first post about farm that the whole place smelled like mold, dirt and dog hair.  Here’s a sample of what’s currently all over the floors.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, believe me, I’m not.  If the place hadn’t been in such awful shape, it would have easily cost $100,000 more, which means we’d still be dreaming about owning a mini-farm instead of actually owning one.  Over the next few months, we’re having every floor refinished, every room re-painted, replacing all the fixtures, tearing out the basement and having it rebuilt, and generally cleaning up the mess.  That’s all in the renovation budget.  We’ll deal with the land after that, or perhaps while the house is being renovated.

Despite all the mess, it was a grand feeling to walk around the land today and know it’s ours.  To the girls, it’s already the world’s greatest play land.  They found a wheelbarrow and began pushing it around the huge grassy area in front of the house, picking up sticks.   They also went exploring around the creek, which they’ve done on every trip out there. They were having a blast, and complained rather noisily when we told them it was time to leave.

That’s me this afternoon, looking at the property from the road.  The house is somewhere behind the first line of trees, up on a hill.

Just over two years ago, I was watching my girls play on a 4 x 6 patch of grass in front of our townhouse in Burbank, feeling sorry for them because they didn’t have a real yard.  That was one of the many reasons I decided it was time to move.  I didn’t want to give them a childhood I wouldn’t want for myself.

In a few months, this will be their yard.  That makes every bit of work coming down the pike more than worth it.


42 thoughts on “A Visit to the Farm

  1. Jennie (the gf-gf)

    What a beautiful place! I hope your daughters love it. The house I grew up in had a huge backyard with apple, pear, plum, and cherry trees, and my dad had a small garden of miscellaneous veggies. I currently live in an apartment with a deck so small I can’t even grow tomatoes on it. 🙂

    I hope we’ll all love it more when we can walk around the entire property without a machete to get through the weeds.

  2. Ellen

    Awesome, Tom. We have 12 acres way outside town here in Wyoming, and I love the privacy. There are no sirens or dogs barking, and we can see every star and the milky way in the sky on a clear night. The only sound we hear in the morning are the birds. Enjoy! Your stress level should drop dramatically once you get settled.

    I felt relaxed just walking around the place, in spite of the mess.

  3. NikFromNYC

    I’m afraid my farming is currently limited to a large auto-misting radish seed sprouter, though I do own farmland in S. Dakota, far far away.

    I occasionally check back in on paleo blogs, this time productively, given the latest commotion about insulin in relation to Taub’s claims.

    My version of altered eating is just low carbs and ketosis measured a few times a day with Ketostix. No theory or complicated adjustments, just a “piss stick diet” that allows me to lose a half pound a day when I want to. If the stick isn’t purple, I cut back on carbs. It seems quite robust once I’m in ketosis, so I’m lucky I can dine out without being too picky, and alcohol also doesn’t affect ketosis for me either but it does indeed stop weight loss. Once I created a list of low carb ingredients I found that classic French cooking, Indian and stir fry, along with classic American breakfasts all are perfectly suited to very low carb recipe creation. Mashed cauliflower with meat gravy is my ultimate comfort food.

    Hey, where do I get a full copy of the funky electronic song that appears after the “Last Supper” scene in your movie at 9:20? Is it one of the songs listed in the credits?

    Tom Monahan and I are working on a CD of songs, including some from the film and some others we just happen to like. Unfortunately, moving into an apartment and dealing with all the farm stuff has delayed our progress for now.

  4. Becca

    This is still such an amazing story. No matter how awful it looks, I would take it in a heartbeat! 🙂 One consolation: some of those weeds/grass in the pasture are probably just growth from this summer. Or, is that only in Florida that the weeds grow that fast??

    I think it’s at least one summer’s growth. In the future, I hope our livestock will keep the growth at bay.

  5. Mark. Gooley

    When I bought my land and cleared enough for a repo double-wide I’d bought on the cheap, I thought that nature wouldn’t take over so quickly if I didn’t keep mowing and
    clearing. I was wrong. I thought it was just the warm north Florida climate and the relatively rich soil on that land, but it seems to be the rule rather than the exception: the plants you don’t want will try to take over, and in my case the plants I did want have tended to die. I was raised in suburbia, and the aggressiveness of my “lawn” came as a shock.

    A small tractor with a brush mower may be necessary. Maybe some grazing animals would help…

    Grazing animals are definitely in the future plans.

  6. labrat

    You’ve got a nasty virus attached to your website. I don’t know if you can do anything about it. It’s a “proserve” security alert thing.

    Our internet provider is on the case.

  7. Kimji

    You’ll be blogging “Under the Tennesse Sun” for us….I’m recently read “Under the Tuscan Sun” and remembering the first few chapters where Mayes is describing the run down villa and over grown vineyard & how insane and yet inescapble the desire to restore the house and grounds and make it a home….definitely an odyssey of love. This is life and love and family and friends.

    Sounds like something I should read.

  8. Dianne

    Congratulations, Tom. What a wonderful place to raise your girls. We live in the country and I love that my kids were able to grow up out here.

  9. T.J. Freeman

    Tom, I’m so excited for you and your family! This is a huge undertaking but with such rich rewards for everyone :). The security bars and camera are cracking me up; most people out here just leave their doors unlocked especially if they live out on a farm. Hope you have a blast on this project!

    I believe she was suffering from a touch of paranoia. It’s hardly a dangerous area.

  10. Angelyne

    What a wonderful thing you are doing for your girls. When I was a child, I lived in suburbia. It was however a fairly new development and you could still find bits of forest, and even empty fields behind the school. Amazing how entertained a child can be by puddles and frogs. So much better to have a real forest and a real creek to explore and play in. They are going to remember this forever.

    I had a similar childhood when we lived in Iowa. Our subdivision was two blocks from a park, lagoon, creek, and undeveloped forest (which has since been developed). I spent a lot of time in the woods or getting wet in the creek and lagoon. Loved it.

  11. chuck

    Wow….I am super jealous. Hopefully you can get over your critter fear because you are gonna be surrounded by them out there. Many of them can be quite tasty.

    I’ll get over it, but it’s taking some time. Yesterday as we were going up the driveway with the windows open, some flying big black bug landed on my arm and I nearly did my “scream like a girl” thing, much to Chareva’s amusement. Tthe place was absolutely infested with wasps when we first saw it, and wasps scare me silly … so any flying insect that lands on me is assumed to be a wasp until proven otherwise. This one wasn’t.

    The Older Brother and I both have stories about facing down snakes … sort of. Let’s just say neither of us earned a “snake killer” badge in the process. So it’ll e interesting the first time I deal with a slithering menace.

  12. Diana

    Sometimes I wish I could deadbolt myself in a room without my kids intruding! LOL!

    Hmm … maybe I shouldn’t be so hasty in removing all the locks.

  13. Chris

    Looks like you need some goats! Congrats on the farm – I am jealous.

    We may do the rent-a-goat thing this time around.

  14. Beowulf

    I’d say you are one lucky guy, but the reality is that you worked very hard to make this dream a reality for you and your family, and luck had little to do with it. Congrats! I’ve been saving to do the same thing for the past year or two, but it’s a slow process. Seeing someone else achieve it gives me hope.

    I worked for it, but having this property come along at exactly the time we needed it feels like luck, or fate, or whatever you want to label it.

  15. James Birdsall

    Goats, you just need some goats and a small portable electric fence. They will clear that property faster than you can say “goat milk”.

    There are people around here who rent out their goats as land-mowers. We may try that, since we’re a long way from getting our own livestock at this point.

  16. GuineaPig

    “In a few months, this will be their yard. That makes every bit of work coming down the pike more than worth it.”

    that is so sweet. Wish you the best of luck on the renovations.

    Thank you. As a father, nothing makes me happier than seeing my girls thrive, and I believe they’ll thrive here.

  17. Don in Arkansas

    Welcome to the joys of renovation. My wife and I live in a 100 y/o house with 35 acres of mixed pasture & woods that we moved into about 10 years ago. Room for a big garden and more. There is always a ‘project’ to be done in remodeling/renovating/updating/repairing but the end result is worth the work($$$). The upside with you purchase is you will never ever have to sit around on the weekend being bored! There will always be something that needs work. You need never pay gym fees again. Go drive 30 or 40 t-posts for a new fence and you have had your workout. Plus, you can actually see what you accomplished.

    I’ll leave house renovations to the professionals, but I plan to try building a new fence myself. I figure the worst that can happen is I mess it up and have to try again. Either way, the rusty barbed-wire fences are coming down. I don’t want the girls anywhere near them.

  18. Sabrina

    Hi Tom, Your farm looks fantastic, I’m so jealous and excited for you! If the boundary fences are in good shape, you could get some goats and a female guard donkey immediately to take down the weeds, they could probably clear the area by the time the renovations are done. Brush-hogs and mowers are good, but can be dangerous when you can’t see or don’t know what’s under the grass. I once mowed an “empty field” and kicked up some leftover metal something that went zooming past my head.

    From my childhood farm’s lesson: goats can get stuck places that make no sense, get eaten by wildlife a lot, and only eat young tasty weeds or prized garden possesions. Sheep eat mostly grass and won’t touch weeds at all usually. Happy Farming!!!

    Thank you.

  19. Galina L.

    I am looking forward to read about your renovation saga. Do you know, by chance, where did old lady do after selling her farm to your family? I hope the farm will be in possession of your family for generations to come.

    She bought a house in Nebraska, in a little town where her deceased husband’s family lives. Apparently they’re her closest relatives. Her only son died many years ago.

  20. CeeBee

    Oh my goodness, that poor woman had more than a “touch” of paranoia! Bless her heart.

    As I read your post I took a walk down memory lane. When I was a little girl my daddy moved us out to 40 acres in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t renovate an old house, he built us a new one. There was only a dirt road out to the property. Not a gravel road, but DIRT. We eventually did get a gravel road. Anyway, I spent the best years of my childhood on that place. You and your wife are giving your girls a wonderful gift.

    I really hope you post more pictures of what the place looks like now, and how it progresses through the renovations.

    Also, when I mentioned that my dad built a house, I should have mentioned that everybody in our family helped build it. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Anybody who could follow directions, use a hammer, paint brush or drive the tractor and bush hog was put to work.

    I’ll definitely be posting on our progress. I think this will be a great place for the girls to grow up.

  21. Mark

    With all the security measures in the house, it looks like it’s ready for the zombie apocolypse.

    I hope she was just a bit paranoid … hate to think we just bought our own Amityville Horror house.

  22. Marilyn

    Tom, it’s beautiful!

    Mark Gooley wrote, “maybe some grazing animals would help.”

    Yes, I was going to suggest some goats. I’ve seen lots of information about their ability to eat the most incredible things and really clean up a place.

    I’ve heard they’ll devour your books if you let them. We’d best keep them away from the valuables.

  23. Marilyn

    Re: goats. I just did a Google search for three words: goats clean up. Might be worth having a look. If you’ve never owned livestock before, here’s another learning curve for you. 🙂

    We may try the rent-a-goat service this time around.

  24. LCNana

    Tom, I could sense a big smile on your face in every one of your responses. It must be a wonderful feeling to have done something so good for your family – and I’m happy they’re happy – sad to say there are little girls out there who would freak if they had to live a few more blocks from ‘the mall’ – glad to see your little darlin’s haven’t been spoilt. God bless you and your Good Dad efforts!!!!

    Thank you. I hadn’t thought about us being a safe distance from the mall, but it’s definitely an advantage.

    And yes, I’m smiling.

  25. leoncaruthers

    Congrats, Tom. You’ve got plenty of open space to work with. The farm I bought was intended for keeping horses, and it’s already appropriated portioned and fenced for them, so I’ve got a bit of work to do in getting it ready for real livestock (horses are pets unless you can get work out of them, at least in the US, not that my wife would let me eat them anyhow).

    You’ve got work to do, sure, but you can just decide and go for it. It’s enviable.

    I’m looking forward to doing some real work out there. I haven’t used tools beyond a hammer, screwdriver or drill in ages.

    No horses for us. They’re just expensive toys as far as I’m concerned.

  26. ChrisNpiggies

    Love the farm! Went to my first local chapter WAPF get together yesterday, and learned that if you want goats for milk and cheese, you DO NOT want a billy goat around. They stink and make the milk and cheese too goaty.

    Good advice. I’m not sure we’ll ever try owning goats, but sheep are a possibility.

  27. Underground

    A friend of mine moved into a house here, and the previous owner had IR beam sensors all over the house. But the weirdest thing was that every closet door in the place had 4-5 bolts on it. On the inside.

    The weeds will get knocked down some once we get some cooler weather, that’s your chance to do some damage. You’ll be better able to see what’s going on. I’d say at the very least get it bushhogged around the buildings to start with this fall before anything too tough sets in.

    That’s one of the terms I’ve learned recently: bush-hog. Apparently it’s a verb as well as a noun, since people have been telling me, “Get someone out there to bush-hog it.” Ask me three months ago, I would’ve guessed a bush hog is a hog that lives in the bush country.

  28. Andrea

    Tom, here are a couple of places in TN that rent goats out to clear overgrowth:



    The thing I love about goats is that they are more effective than humans for clearing saplings, poison ivy/oak/sumac, kudzu, brambles, and so on. They love all that stuff. Plus they leave behind some of the best possible fertilizer – for free! They also work remarkably quickly. Check ’em out if you haven’t already.

    I’ll pass these on to Chareva, a.k.a. the farm wife.

  29. Katy

    “I’ve heard they’ll devour your books if you let them.”

    My son’s German shepherd/lab puppy ate my copy of Emerson’s essays and the last 6 chapters of Moby Dick. I swept up the remnants and took them to class in a paper sack. Yes, the dog ate my homework:-)

    At least the dog has good taste in literature.

  30. Alexandra

    What a lovely piece of land.. I think those folks are saying “Brush hog” which is a tough as nails mower for behind a tractor. If you don’t already know where it is, keep an eye out for an old orchard, there is certainly one there. Not to be an alarmist but also be aware of a possible dug well out there somewhere, in my neck of the woods they are on every old farm and can be quite large and deep and sometimes only covered in old rotted boards. Maybe the former owner can recall it’s location so you can button it up.
    By the way, the wood trim looks like heart pine..awesome stuff that will refinish beautifully.

    I’ll definitely keep an eye out for wells. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t gone exploring in the fields with the tall weeds; no idea what I’ll stop on or into.

  31. Amy Dungan

    I can’t wait to see all the progress! I know this will be a fantastic place for you all and I have no doubt it’s one of the best moves you could have made for the girls.

    I can tell already they’re going to love having all that land to explore.

  32. David

    Please leave some overgrown brush near the edge of the property so I can park my Tiny House on your land without being seen.:-) Just kidding!


    Think of the possibilities when your daughters hit their teens and aren’t quite so adorable as they are now.

    If I happen to spot your tiny house in our bushes, I’ll look the other way and move on … provided you bring bacon.

  33. Jason

    How about a couple of cows to take care of the grass “problem”

    Next year, perhaps. We plan to start with chickens in the spring, then see how it goes.

  34. Anne

    Will be fun to read your updates as you renovate. It is a lovely property. As far as goats, I had two milk goats many years ago and they gave us all the milk we needed. Of course it meant having to milk them 2 times a day. It was work but I enjoyed it.

    The does don’t smell bad like the bucks do. We did not have a buck. We raised a couple of wethers for meat too. Did I give you a new word?

    Enjoy your farm.

    Thank you.

  35. CeeBee

    I think that a Bush Hog is the brand name of a particular type of brush hog. (Or it could be the “correct” Southern way of pronouncing the name of that machine, in which case, Tom, you’d better start saying it right!)

    I’m working on my southern lingo. I’ve already determined, for example, that there’s no such thing as a one-syllable word. I now get my “ha-yer” cut.

  36. Underground

    It is bushhog. Some words get split into multiples, others get syllables mixed together indistinctly.

    A mower, or finish mower is for when there’s just grass. When it gets too tall for that, or you have tougher plants mixed in it’s time to get it bushhogged. Basically a big really heavy duty mower like you cut hay with. The next step up is usually a dozer or front end loader. And/or fire.

    Goats will do a number on the viny plants as far up as they can reach. They would definitely get the fence cleared off, one side at a time. They’re excellent for clearing out woods with lots of undergrowth. They don’t always do so great at open areas that are overgrown though. Maybe if you confined them.

    The other thing, I don’t know if you have pets, but don’t let them wander. There will be coyotes, and they’ve been known to take small pets from backyards in much more built up areas.

    We had neighbors who lost cats and small dogs to coyotes even back in Burbank — I used to see them out wandering when I walked late at night. My “pet” on the farm will be a large, ferocious dog to protect the chickens.

  37. Marla

    Having lived for a couple decades on similar land, my recommendation is to mow the weeds NOW. It’s not the plants you see now that are really the problem, as they are probably annuals (except the tree saplings). The problem is the hundreds of seeds that they are growing and maturing as we speak. The worst things for good soil fertility are the traditional weed killers (2-4-D, roundup, etc), and if you’ve got weeds coming up everywhere next spring you will be tempted to take the easy way out and spray.
    Another name for a bushhog is a rotary cutter. I have an old Ford 3000 diesel and a heavy bushhog and it will go over the top of anything I see in your photos, and mow it flat. Just take it slow in low gear. And do it now (hire a local person to do this, it should only cost a hundred dollars or two – depending on the acreage).

    I think that’s good advice. We’ll hire someone local this time around. Maybe next spring I’ll learn how to be a pro bush-hogger myself.


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