It’s 75 degrees today in Franklin.  I’d say Spring has sprung.  Good weather for some farm work.

While I was sitting at a desk writing software for a living last week, Chareva took advantage of the warmer weather and doubled the size of the chicken yard.  All the fencing behind the barn (right side of the picture) is newly installed.

We haven’t let the chickens into that area yet because we still need to put a net over it.  It wouldn’t do the chickens any good to peck some fresh ground and then get carried off by a hawk.

Chareva and the girls have also been working on getting the garden going.

Cardboard?  Yeah, I wondered about that myself.  Chareva tells me the cardboard prevents weeds and attracts worms.

This year’s crop will include (assuming all goes well) broccoli, kale, spinach, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, squash, green beans, sugar-snap peas, zucchini, strawberries and sweet potatoes.

I continued my war against the briar jungle a few weekends ago by clearing a large area around our creek, which runs between the front and back pastures you see in the picture below.  Before my two days of hacking away, we couldn’t see the back pasture from where I took this picture.  That’s how thick the jungle was.

I also learned the value of a good helmet that weekend.  I cut through a vine as thick as my wrist that had wrapped itself around one of the trees.  Turns out that tree had a dead limb that was held in place by the vine — as I discovered when the limb fell and delivered what would probably have been a knockout blow to an unprotected head.  The helmet absorbed much of the impact, and all I did was stagger like a drunk for a moment before recovering.

I had originally planned to clear the jungle at the back of our property as well, but I was overcome with a dose of realism.  I work full-time, I’ve got a roast to write and produce before the low-carb cruise in just six more weeks, and clearing another acre or so of jungle could have easily occupied all my weekends.  So I went looking on Craigslist and noticed an ad titled Reclaim Your Jungle.

The crew that did the reclaiming used an impressive machine that basically sucks weeds, bushes, briar patches and small trees into the front and grinds them into chips.  In a matter of hours, they cleared an area that would have taken me lord-only-knows-how-many days with my rotating saw.  It was money well spent.

The two areas you see behind our back-yard fence in the pictures below were briar jungles before.  We couldn’t see much of anything past the fence.  Now we can see all the way to the hills behind our property.

Shortly after that area was cleared, I looked out the window one day and saw this:  deer wandering down from the hills.  We counted six of them.  They’ve probably been visiting that area regularly, but we couldn’t see them before.

With the last of the briar jungle gone, I was able to spend part of this weekend doing tasks more appropriate for my tools, such as tackling the dead tree along our driveway.

That’s the tree that once dumped a big, heavy branch onto a spot where Sara had been standing just moments before.  We told the girls not to play near the thing anymore until I could cut down the remaining branches.

I don’t plan to cut down the remaining stump.  It’s not dangerous, and it’s right in the middle of an approach to one of my disc-golf baskets.  Jimmy Moore demonstrated a tendency to hit that tree during our rounds, so I want to leave at least part of it in place.

The limbs I cut down are already dry enough to burn, so we’ll be chopping those up for the wood stove.

Speaking of the wood stove, I heard something making noise inside the stovepipe this morning.  Chareva opened the top of the stove to take a peek — I of course was looking for a weapon in case a small badger jumped out and attacked her.  Turns out a bird had made its way into the stove.

It sat there calmly for a moment (long enough for a picture), then suddenly panicked and began to fly around the room.  This caused the girls to scream — which to a small bird sounds like “we’re going to catch you and eat you,” so it flew around the room even more desperately.  After attempting several times to snag the bird with a fishing net (as I did my part by capturing the effort on video), Chareva finally opened a window and the bird escaped to freedom.


28 Responses to “The Farm Report: Clearing and Planting”
  1. lantenec says:

    Off subject but thought everybody might get a kick out of this article:

    While I don’t agree with everything, he does have some nice little nuggets like this:

    “Eating fatty foods has become the culinary version of “Breaking Bad”: a dangerous walk on the wild side for the otherwise timid consumers of tasteless butter substitutes and Lean Cuisine. Soon the fear-of-food crowd will leave us with nothing but watery prison gruel (whole grain, of course) and the nine daily servings of kale, collards, spinach and other pesticide-laced and e-coli-menaced greens and fruits on the agribusiness-promoted “food pyramid.””

    A good read…..


  2. Lori says:

    What an improvement! I don’t know about your area, but around here, all the brush would be a fire hazard.

    Brush was certainly a fire hazard when we lived near L.A., which is basically a converted desert. It’s not as dry here, but I wanted the briar jungle gone for all kinds of reasons.

  3. Thomas Plummer says:

    Thanks for sharing Tom. I really enjoy reading these. It allows we town dwellers to live vicariously through your adventures. There are so many things I would love to do but have to wait until we can move to the country.

    I will always be grateful that Chareva pushed me (gently) into this. It was her idea, but I’m lovin’ the life here in the sticks.

  4. sapphirepaw says:

    It looks like a flash picture of the bird, I wonder if that disturbed it.

    They make covers (chimney tops?) for chimneys designed to keep birds and bats out–it might be helpful for you. My parents got one when an adventurous bat found its way past the flue and came flying out of the fireplace in front of my mom (who then screamed the loudest I’ve ever heard ANYONE scream….)

    I remember a bat finding its way into our house when I was a little kid. I can still see my mom trying to swat it with a broom.

  5. Kathy says:

    Tom, you’re such a superb writer! I just love reading your “tales of the farm”.

    Thank you.

  6. Nads says:

    So, I assume you’ve ordered the herd of cattle to come in now you’ve cleared the land?

    Not yet. We need to get the entire property fenced in first, and that’s not a cheap proposition.

  7. Andy says:

    Very beautiful land you have there! It’s just in need of a lazy sheepdog to guard the fort.

    We have two not-lazy Rottweilers, but they won’t have the run of the property until we get it all fenced in.

  8. Elenor says:

    How lovely to see your farm. And how lovely to see y’all working away on it! Is that really the ‘bluebird of happiness’ that come to visit?!

    Could be. We’re pretty happy around here.

  9. Steve says:

    I’ve had birds get loose in my house a total of four times. Twice I was able to get the bird out safely. The other two times I am ashamed to say I ended up having to take care of business. If they get in a room that has no operating window it starts to get grim.

  10. Jana says:

    Great job on the work to your property. It looks really good.

    When I was a teenager, a bird flew down our wood burning stove pipe and got stuck. It had happened before so we did what we always did and opened the nearby slider and closed the curtains enough so the bird wouldn’t hit the window side. It was all going smoothly. Just as the bird was released from the stove and heading straight for the open air my cat darted down the stairs and across the room, leapt six feet and snagged it. I had to catch the cat to get her to release it.

    That’s quite an athletic cat.

  11. Bill C. says:

    Your property is looking good! I’m going to try to tell my wife “I have work to do on the computer, you go put up the fence, honey.” and see how that works out for me. I may need to borrow your helmet.

    After coming home from work to find Chareva had been banging t-posts into the ground with that heavy t-post hammer, I had to get out the chainsaw and tackle that tree just reclaim my manhood.

  12. Jim Butler says:

    Hey Tom…
    Great progress. Wait until you go out to your garden one fine morning and find that it’s been all but destroyed…even though it’s fenced it.
    Those 4′ fences you have are not much more than a high step for those deer that are so beautiful to look at 😉

    Ask me how I know 😉


    I was just warning Chareva about that today. I think we need to string the fencing much higher.

  13. Jeanne says:

    I still see ponies on your farm.

    Sorry to go off topic, but does anyone have a good source for relatively inexpensive Precision Xtra ketone strips?
    I just got into ketosis, and I am so psyched. I can see the weight coming off of my waist, and I want to be able to monitor what’s happening.

  14. Galina L. says:

    Thank you, Tom. I feel that every post about your farm is a special treat for your readers, in my case for sure.
    I wonder, would goats eat the briar bushes? When I see goats, they are usually not behind a fence, with a rope which is tied to something. Also, there are movable fences. I believe Cordian mentioned it , he used such fences in order to change the location of his farm animals on a pasture.

    From what I’ve been told, goats will eat darned near anything. We may get some goats eventually.

  15. K2 says:

    Good on you and the family, Tom! Your hard work is paying off. I am sure you not only enjoy the fruits of your labors – fresh veggies and eggs, firewood, etc – but the labors themselves. There is something so satisfying about doing that kind of work on your own. That said, I totally don’t blame your for hiring a crew to do the major stuff, freeing you to work on the finer details.

    I am envious of the life you and your family lead. You are an inspiration! My dream is to have a small piece of land where I raise chickens for eggs and organic veggies and herbs, both for my consumption and to sell the excess at farmers’ markets. I figure one of those Tumbleweed tiny homes would work for me, leaving more land free for growing things. Every spare penny is going into a money market account to make that happen.

    Speaking of saving pennies, oddly, a whole foods way of eating is actually saving me money. I typically have coffee (usually a pretty good kind) with cream in the morning, tea/water during the rest of the day (maybe some nuts if I get really hungry) and a great dinner. So, really I only need food for one full meal a day. For instance, last night was herb poached salmon and pasture-butter glazed asparagus and roasted sweet potato chunks. The portion was really small, but I was totally satisfied. I think the nutrient-dense real food meets one’s body’s needs with smaller amounts, thus saving calories and money. 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing the Naughton Farm (or do you have another name for your place?) adventures! Take care.

    We haven’t named the place yet. You’re right; the labor itself is satisfying. Something about working outdoors kicks up the happy hormones.

  16. Marc says:

    Now that you’ve got the briar jungle cleared, you can expand the course with some holes in the woods. Maybe a couple along the creek (with the water out-of-bounds, of course).

    Four holes go over the creek, with mandatory shots between trees. When we had the back of the property cleared, I explained to Chareva that I could in theory expand the course back there, and she explained to me that I wasn’t going to do that. Since I’ve already reserved much of the front part of the property for my course, I could she see her explanation was correct.

  17. Brenda G says:

    At the Iowa State Fair they have a chain saw artist that sculpts art from logs that people buy at auction at the fair’s end. When a strong wind storm a few years back felled several large trees, they had this artist carve sculptures from them rather than the expense of extracting the stumps. Maybe you could find a chain saw artist near you to carve a sculpture worthy of your beautiful Tennessee farm. Love the farm reports btw….. makes me homesick for the rural Iowa I grew up in instead of the suburbs I’m stuck in.

    The girls like the twisted stump. They think it looks like something from Harry Potter.

  18. Nowhereman says:

    “tales of the farm”.

    Sound like a good book title. 😀

  19. Beowulf says:

    However did you accomplish so much physical labor on a low-carb diet? Don’t you know that the USDA recommends lots of grains for energy? You’d think you were tapping into your fat stores or something. Perish the thought!

    I somehow managed. After another session of cutting up the branches on Sunday, I went to the gym and lifted weights, then played 18 holes of disc golf before dinner.

  20. labrat says:

    No brainer. “Fathead Farm”

  21. JoAnn says:

    One thing I noticed about the Nashville area during our visit a year ago, is that it is over run with brush. I love how you have reclaimed the land and made such a beautiful homestead. I hope that many others in the area will follow your example. Off Topic – I have been following your blog after watching Fat Head over a year ago. My health has improved tremendously. Thanks.

    I’m happy to hear about your improved health.

  22. Jennifer says:

    I love your tales from the farm! Even if reading this today maybe me a little depressed as I stare outside at three, four or five feet of snow. Sigh… I think spring forgot us up here in Canada.

    I’m sure Spring will remember you soon enough. I don’t miss long winters, but I would have enjoyed one or two good snowfalls this year. We only had one snowfall and it melted the next day.

  23. Jesus. Maybe you just didn’t see it, but you’re supposed to spend several minutes looking over anything you’re about to cut to spot problems — especially like dead branches — before you fire up the chainsaw. Good you had the helmet on, but they don’t call sh*t like that “widowmakers” for nothing.

    Grab a copy of “The Backyard Lumberjack: The Ultimate Guide to Felling, Bucking, Splitting and Stacking” so I’ll sleep better. Otherwise, I’m telling Mom!

    Yeah, I learned that lesson the hard way, otherwise known as the stupid way.

    Don’t tell Mom. She’ll be calling every day to warn me about dead branches.

  24. Marta says:

    I think you should name the farm “Cabeza Grasa” (Fat head in spanish) 🙂

    I like it.

  25. Ok. Your secret’s safe with me. One of our local power squadron (boating) members who instructs for our ABC boating and safety course likes to tell the calss that

    “Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.”


    Fortunately, the lesson wasn’t fatal.

  26. Jeanne says:

    Answered my own question, went to an online Canadian Pharmacy, found the strips for just under $2.00 a piece.

  27. Martin Lopez says:

    Hi Tom

    great farm. i suggest you check joel salatin’s polyface farm for some neat ways to do pastured chickens and in fact pastured anything. also alan savory of holostic management. he explains how grazing animals can be great for the stomach and the land, managing them as nature intended.

    Chareva has read one of his books and is a big fan.

  28. Marcus says:

    More on goats;

    It sounds like they may be the solution to your brushwood clearing.

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