Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wonderful Holiday Weekend

We've been having a wonderful holiday weekend here on the farm and it's not over yet.  Tomorrow family comes up for some fun and even Monday will be part of our weekend.

Wanted to share... the other day driving early before the sun came up, it was quiet and beautiful as my headlights glinted off the frost on the random grass.  Not the snow... just the grass.  Looked almost like when the fireflies are out in the fields just after dark.

Hopefully within a couple days we'll be starting the Recipe section of the website.  We're going to do it as a blog so it will be searchable with tags.  For those who know us and have heard us talking about some of the yummy things that we make... as well as anyone wondering what we do with the food we produce here at the farm... hopefully this new recipe blog will pass on that information.

Happy holidays to everyone from all of us here at Serenity Valley Farm!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Yule

I'm a day late, I know.  But for everyone who celebrates Yule and the returning of the light to the world... I wish you the brightest blessings of the season.

The whole family tried to watch the lunar eclipse Tuesday morning (as well as the meteor shower that you were supposed to be able to see as the moon went dark), but we were thwarted by a light snow shower that had the entire area under a cover of clouds.  We did manage to get the lights up in the front of the house and play a bit of Settlers of Catan (a new favorite game).  Ate Bourbon Venison Steaks for dinner Monday night (a recipe that will soon make its debut in the Recipe section of the website).  Absolutely delicious!

Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday week!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Spent part of yesterday moving the peepers into the main hen area.  Figured it was about time.  And the weather for the most part is cooperating (up near freezing instead of close to 0 at night).  Took them over one at a time.  The hens were curious about the first few... more likely asserting their top place in the "pecking order."  After about 8 of the 24 peepers though, I think the hens figured out they were outnumbered... and boy did I hear it.  Each time I came back with another peeper, the hens "yelled" at me.  After a while, it looked like it was Junior High School dance in there... with peepers on one side and hens on the other!  This morning they were more integrated... mostly I think because the main nest box the hens use is on the peeper side of the room.  As long as I don't hear/see any snapping in time to music (ala West Side Story), I think it was a successful integration of the chickens.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friendly Neighbors?

Almost forgot to mention this... This morning as I was getting ready for work, we heard the distinct hoot of an owl outside.  I think I saw him/her sitting in a tree behind the neighbor's house.  First owl we've heard here.  It was pretty cool.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

First Snow (in pics)!

This weekend we got our first measurable snowfall... about 2" or so.  I headed out on Saturday to take a bunch of pictures... here are a few:

Kids playing the snow.  Rhowan is having a "snack" while Willow is creating "paths" in the snow with a weighted down muck tub.

Rhowan playing in the snow

Rhowan took Reilly out to enjoy the snow (as a Newfoundland, he's certainly built for this weather!)  Here the two of them are playing in the pasture outside the henhouse door.

The completely painted SVF sign in the snowfall.

After taking these shots, I took a few of the critters... including the "peepers" who are growing up quickly!  Enjoy!!

"Waldo" - still unsure what breed she is (and I do think she's a she)

3 of the Rhode Island Red peepers

One of the Arcauna peepers

While I was cleaning the hen house area, one of the barred hens tried to make a run for it out the door (into the workshop)

Charlie & Moonlight opted to snuggle in the enclosed portion of their hutch while the snow was falling.  Smart bunnies!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pirates have Parrots. Vikings have...


Or so Thom says!

That's Waldo... our mystery chick.  Still not sure what he/she is, but he/she was kind enough to stand for this silly picture.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Enjoying the start of the Yule season

For us, the Yule season begins on the full moon preceding Yule.  Usually that gives us a week or 2 of "season" to enjoy.  With this year's December full moon falling ON Yule, we have an extra long season.  November's full moon was this past Sunday... so our Yule season is actually in full swing.

Sunday, the farm provided as Thom was able to bring down a doe in the back pasture.  Great bow shot!    Sunday evening's dinner plans were changed from London Broil to fresh liver and onions.  She'll be providing for us for a while.

The peepers (chicks) are getting big and starting to look like hens.  And I think Waldo might just be a hen as well!  I think we'll probably integrate them in with the older hens in a couple weeks.  Need to get a few new nestboxes up before spring and rework a few things in that room, but looking forward to having everyone in one spot.  At least til spring when we look at possibly ordering a few more.

Yesterday was the first day we only found 3 eggs from the 5 hens.  I'm sure it has to do with the shorter days.  Hopefully we can extend their laying just a bit.

We had a family discussion over the weekend and decided that we're going to raise a few turkeys for next fall... probably 25 total.  They will be pasture raised and we'll start taking orders for them when we get them sometime in July.

Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow to all.  Hope you enjoy the day!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

End of the season

It becomes quite obvious no matter where you are on a day like today when the rain is falling and the temps are in the 40s, that summer really is over... and fall leaving us isn't far behind either.  We're looking forward to our first winter on the farm if only because it's OUR farm.  Personally... I like the other 3 seasons much better.

This weekend we officially closed down The Shindig.  Since it's an open space, everything susceptable to freezing was brought into the house.  The fridge and cooler were unplugged and the bar stools were taken back into the dining room.  We may still gather in The Shindig here and there as the weather permits, but for all intents and purposes, shindigs at The Shindig will have to wait til spring start poking her head out of the ground and clouds and warms things up to a reasonable level.

Thanks to everyone who helped make our inaugural season, even if it was short, a great one.  Those who helped Thom build the tavern space on our work days... those who came to hang out and make it the special space that it is... thank you all.  We're already thinking about special events to host for next year.

Monday, November 1, 2010

And the winner is....

Happy November!  We're actually forecasted for our first taste of snow later this week.  I don't think any of us are really ready as we all love fall and wish it would hang on a bit longer.  But we're logistically ready I think having done a bunch of winter prep.  Need to prep the bar (removing all the stuff that would freeze, etc.) but otherwise we're ok.

Speaking of the tavern, the naming contest is officially over.  Saturday at 10pm we closed the voting and tabulated and receiving over 50% of the votes, the official name is ...

The Shindig

Thanks to everyone for voting!  The 50/50 drawing winner was Amanda.  Congrats!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Life in Pictures

Been fairly neglectful on posting pictures in a timely manner.  I'm just now posting chick pictures and they've changed SO much in the last 2 weeks.  They're now at that ugly duckling stage where they're losing the baby chick fuzz and getting their big bird feathers.  Kind of comical.  But here are some cute fuzzy chick pics...

chicks exploring the hay bedding

at the feeder

Chicks are funny when they fall asleep.  They do that head-bob thing and just CRASH -- face first in the ground if they're laying down... the one standing in this pic is also sleeping.

This is "Waldo" our "free rare exotic chick" that we received with our order.  No clue on breed or sex.

One of our Arcauna chicks.  We've been referring to her as "Hawk" due to her facial markings.  Quite striking really.

Proof that chickens are NOT vegetarian by nature.  If picking at worms and bugs doesn't convince you, here's one of the hens (at one point there were 4 of them huddled around) pecking at a MOUSE!  Not sure if they killed it or found it dead but they were having a good time with it.

Almost done!!!  This is the farm sign that is going out by the road.  A little touch up (where the screws are), some poly for protection and a coat of white on the posts and it will be done!!

And finally... this is Jewel.  A 3yo femal Australian Cattle Dog mix (we're pretty sure with Basenji).  She's currently "on trial" from an Indiana herding dog rescue, but after a week, she's probably staying.  Great running partner, good ratter, and wicked smart.  She's just never allowed in the pen with the rabbits.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The race is on!!

1 week to go in the Name the Tavern Contest (and 50/50 Raffle) and we have a new leader!

1. The Shindig
2. The Withers Tavern
3. Kookyduke's Tavern
4. The Browncoat Tavern
5. Old Nelson's Charge
6. The Bascule Tavern
6. The Prancing Pony Inn
6. The Stirrup Cup Pub
9. Airs Above the Ground Tavern
9. The Shiny Oxer Tavern
Remember, you can vote as often as you would like between now and 10pm next Saturday (October 30th).  The official name and the winner of the 50/50 Raffle will be announced at 10:30pm (although probably not posted here until Monday morning).
In other news, it's been kind of a rough week chicken-wise.  Monday morning we lost one of the Rhode Island Red chicks and Monday night we lost one of our great Barred Rock hens.  Everyone else is doing really well so we're not looking at anything contagious.  There is the probability that our egg production ... slipping from 1 egg per hen per day to occasionally all BUT one hen is due to simply the shorter days.  Still looking forward to spring when all the chicks start laying.  Will be posting current pics of the chicks soon... they've started to lose the baby fuzz and are turning into beautiful birds.
Received 10 Eastern Red Cedar tree seedling transplants in the mail yesterday from The Nurseryman.  They're planted in various locations on the north side of the property along Old Dayton Road, hopefully to grow up quickly and act as a wind/sound/noise break between the farm and the road.
We've also started "interviewing" for another dog here at the farm.  Gypsy has made her preference for running the long distances with Chris pretty well known so one of the jobs of the new pup will be to be Chris's running partner as she continues to work towards her goal of eventually running a marathon.  Will post information and pictures as soon as a dog is selected.  We're primarily looking at cattle dogs or cattle dog mixes since Gypsy is such a wonderful girl.
Bella the cow is on hold til we determine for sure if she's been bred.  She'll be here eventually and we've started making preparations for her arrival (fencing, hay, etc.).
Still have horse boarding available.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The chickens are home!!

The 26 chicks we ordered arrived this morning.  Went to pick them up at the post office at 6am.  They were in a box that was smaller than I thought it would be, but all were chirping away -- probably half from the jostling and half from the chilly morning air.  Brought them home and got them all settled in their new room, complete with feed, water and a heat lamp on a bed of pine shavings.  They seemed happy enough when I left.

12 Arcauna hens, 13 Rhode Island Red hens and our 1 currently bright solid yellow mystery chick (or as the company puts it -- our free rare exotic chick).  I swear he/she is like waldo in that picture... but easier to find.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Catching Up

First, finally have pictures and results for the Kelly Day (Trail) Race held on October 3rd.  Congrats to our 4 division winners and thanks to all our runners and walkers (and parents) for coming out to the race.  It was a great success (as mentioned in a previous blog post) and holding a trail race is something we definitely want to look at doing at least annually (maybe spring and fall?).  All of the recap information can be found off the Calendar of Events page, but if you want to jump directly -- check out the Event Recap page for final placings and times and the Race Day Pictures page for pictures of the winners, the race and the trail.

The whole family drove over to Columbus to attend the All-American Quarter Horse Congress at the Ohio State Fairgrounds.  It's a great show but we were heading out for the shopping... and drooling as they always have quite a few truck and trailer dealers in the area.  It is of course MUCH less crowded during the week than it is on the 3 weekends that Congress runs.  Managed to do quite well with our shopping list which included several items for the barn.  Came home and laid out the interior fenceline of the upcoming Paddock Paradise.  We're getting quite excited about being able to offer this setup to potential boarders.

Speaking of which, we do have 1 potential boarder but would love to have 1-2 more (so the horses wouldn't be out by themselves).  Horses are of course herd animals and prefer to have company.  If anyone is interested, please see our Boarding page for details or contact us to discuss or schedule a tour of the farm.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First trail race, tavern updates and impending new arrivals

Sunday we held the Kelly Day Race.  This was a simple trail race on our running trail (just over a mile in length) for the kids and parents of the homeschool group (WILC).  We had 23 runners participate and several other visitors.  A bit chilly but great for running.  Afterwards, the kids entertained themselves running around the farm or playing air hockey, while the adults congregated either in the lounge area or in the bar itself (mostly in the bar as we have a couple kerosene heaters in there).  Hopefully we'll get the pictures downloaded from the camera soon, but it was definitely a success!

With several runners in the family, we hope to make a trail race at least an annual event, and eventually our goal is to be able to host a 5k trail race around the property.  Look for more trail updates as they happen.

Friends stopped by the tavern last week and a suggestion of writing on the bar our favorite, funniest and most poignant quotes from Firefly was mentioned.  We love the idea and have started putting it into place.  So next time you're at the Tavern (chilling or perhaps voting for a name), you'll have some reading material on the bar itself.  It's looking really nice so far.

We have 2 impending arrivals at the farm.  First, sometime next week we expect our day old chicks to arrive!  There will be 26 -- 12 arcanas, 13 rhode island reds and 1 mystery chick (could be of any breed and either sex -- here's hoping it;s a hen or his name will be Broth).

Also this weekend, we learned that we should be the proud owners of a Jersey cow in the near future!  After speaking with a farmer on the topic several times, she has agreed to sell us one of her cows.  Soon there will be no more sleeping in... but the fresh milk will definitely be worth it.  Watch for more details!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Welcome to October - now open for business!

It's hard to imagine that it's already October.  Wow. 

Yesterday our first ads went out for boarding.  Need to get a couple flyers made up so I can post them at a few places but the ads are out!
Small family farm recently purchased and have renovated to accommodate 2-3 boarders. Partial to full care available. Stalls available as needed but primarily 24/7 access to large run-in and paddock/pasture. Will be creating a Paddock Paradise configuration – great for older horses, ponies who shouldn’t have access to a lot of grass and IR horses – proven that horses move more (great for getting and keeping horses in shape as well as legging up after injuries)! PERFECT SITUATION FOR A RETIREE OR INJURY LAYUP! No riding facilities but within 30 minutes to over 100 miles of trails (and within 3 hours to over 650 MORE miles!) – including less than 4 miles to Sycamore State Park’s horseman’s camp and trail head. Over 15 years experience in all facets of horse care and management, references available upon request. Monthly board starts at $150 for partial care (you supply feed). Happy to negotiate additional services as needed/wanted. For more details see our website at (under Boarding). Call 937-687-7777 or email to make an appointment to see our farm and discuss how we take care of your horse!

Also been spending a bit of time updating/renovating the website.  Really liking how it's coming along.  Still more to do of course... there always will be, but it's a very good start if I do say so myself.  If you are reading this some other way than coming through the website, check it out at

The weekend is a busy one -- judging a horse show on Saturday plus getting trails ready for hosting the homeschool group on Sunday for the Kelly Day (Trail) Race.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Building Stalls and a Fort! (plus Tavern Naming contest update)

Work is progressing at Serenity Valley... in some cases at a tremendous speed!

We are *THIS* close to being able to advertise for boarders.  The stall is done (except for mats which will be purchased next week at Quarter Horse Congress).  We've put down extra stone in a couple places where the run in footing was a little soft.  The ramp to the workbench area has started and will be solid AND soft for the horses.  3 of 4 lights in the area are up and running!  it's really looking nice.

Due to the chillier fall weather that finally descended upon us, we picked up a ginormous tarp from Craigslist (bigger than the seller advertised) and the bar now has a roof!  The goal being to be able to keep a bit more heat inside the bar area for upcoming gatherings.  Yes, between surrounded by canvas and now covered with a tarp... it looks like we built a fort! :)  but it does help retain heat.  I only wish I'd remembered to take pictures during construction.  which reminds me... next time you're at the bar, take a look at the washers used to help keep the roof tarp in place.  I think they'll make you smile.

Winterizing activities will start in a couple weeks.  Until then, we're continuing to clean out the storage area (in order to house hay for horses as needed), finish the stalls and further "insulate" the bar.  Oh and we'll be getting a tree to plant sometime this week for the patio area. 

The latest standings for the Name the Tavern Contest & 50/50 Raffle are below (as of Sunday, Sept 26).  Remember... voting open til 10pm on Saturday, October 30th (during teh Halloween Party) with the drawing at 10:30.  you do not need to be present to win the 50/50 drawing!  Name that collects the most $ will be the official name of the Tavern.  Each $1 you vote gives you a chance in the drawing to split the proceeds.  Vote often!!

Name leaderboard:
1.  The Withers Tavern
2.  Kookyduke's Tavern
3.  The Shindig
4.  The Browncoat Tavern
5.  Old Nelson's Charge
6.  The Bascule Tavern
6.  The Prancing Pony Inn
6.  The Stirrup Cup Pub
9.  Airs Above the Ground Tavern
9.  The Shiny Oxer Tavern

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Last Day of Summer update

Last day of summer still is feeling quite like summer, as the weather forecast is calling for a couple days of high 80s and afternoon thunderstorms.  As dry as it's been, if that's what it takes to get some rain our direction, that's probably ok.

Everyone at the farm is doing great.  We've cleaned out the run in part of the barn and have begun to build a stall.  I think as soon as we can get that up and look at purchasing some electric tape fencing, we'll be advertising for a couple pasture boarders.  Thought long and hard about it and I know boarding can be iffy, but I think it will help in the long run.  Pasture board only, no riding.  My ideal would be to find a couple older retired horses.  Guess we'll see what we come up with.

Couple of events coming up:

First, Kelly Day Race.  Willow's idea.  We're inviting the WILC (homeschool group) kids and their families over to the farm on Sunday, October 3rd for a trail race.  2 laps around the running trail (about 2.5 miles total) followed by snacks and just hanging out at the farm.  If this goes well, it may be something we look at repeating in the future in a more formal way.

Second, the Halloween Party.  Keep it in mind -- October 30th.  Costumes encouraged but not mandatory.  Not sure when we're "starting" yet but request to bring a snack/desert/drinks to share.

The Name the Tavern 50/50 Raffle is still going on!  In fact, we had a name suggestion that we liked SO much that we're adding it to the mix -- "The Shindig".  If you've already voted, your vote still counts although if you want to change it, let us know and we'll switch it.  Voting open now through 10pm at the Halloween Party.  Vote ANY time you wish... doesn't have to be at a party.  Vote as often as you wish and for as many different names as you wish.  Name that collects the most $$ will be the name of the Tavern.  Each $1 you put into the voting gets you a chance in the 50/50 Raffle!

Hope to post more pictures of projects soon!  Stay tuned!  Fall is coming. :-)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Feeling like fall

LOVING the cooler weather we're now having.  It's so much nicer and so much easier to get things accomplished around the farm when you aren't constantly sweating.

The first official SVF party is now history.  Thanks for everyone who came out.  Hope you enjoyed yourself.  The LBDHW (Labor Day House Warming Bash) was a success by all accounts.  Had some folks filtering through in the afternoon then a nice group from dinner til late, even a few that crashed in the camper.  Have a couple pictures I need to get posted but once dinner arrived we all got so busy enjoying ourselves that we forgot to take a lot of pictures.  Oops.  Have to do better next time.

And the next party is planned -- Halloween!  Costumes not required but highly encouraged.  We're working on ways to keep some heat in the bar too.

Speaking of bars, the Name the Tavern contest is going on and getting some good feedback.  Can't wait to see what the name of the bar is going to be.  If anyone is interested, voting will take place between now and the Halloween Party and you can vote whenever you want and as often as you want.  Remember, every $1 vote also gets you an entry into the 50/50 raffle!

In other farm news...

The hens are doing great.  we're now getting essentially 1 egg per day per hen.  We also have 25 chicks on order from McMurrays Hatchery.  They should be arriving next month -- 12 Arcaunas (laying blue/green eggs) and 13 Rhode Island Reds.  By spring our personal egg production will have grown enough that we may be able to start selling a few dozen/week.

We're also investigating options for the next year... be that broilers, growing out a calf or pig for butchering, or boarding a couple horses.  Lots to think about.

And lastly, we're working on revamping the website to be more up-to-date and useable.  Plus we've added a Facebook account (Serenity Valley Farm, what else?).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back to School Update

Ok, not really as Willow and Rhowan are homeschooled and won't be starting "classes" til after Labor Day... but it's ok.  Couldn't come up with a catchier title.

Been a whirlwind of activity... mostly in the barn.  As mentioned, the chickens have been giving us eggs (note the photo evidence below of the first 2 collected).  Typically 2-4/day.  We have realized we have a couple rodents in the barn that need to be evicted/exterminated and we MAY be losing eggs to them.  Have to see after the eviction.

Chris with the first 2 eggs produced at SVF
The girls -- Barred Rock hens
Went last night and purchased all the immediate supplies needed for chicks.  The plan is to order them soon so we'll start getting eggs from them in the spring.  Minimum order is 25... only question now is ordering all 25 Rhode Island Reds... or doing a mix of RIRs and Arcaunas (for the blue/green eggs).

The bar/tavern/pub/dancehall/whatever you want to call it is looking amazing!!  The floor is finished (added a 2nd layer of plywood so it's VERY solid), the railings were completed a couple weeks ago at a "work party" we had with a bunch of our wonderful friends coming out to help.  The bar is up with a plywood top.  no fronting yet but solid and functional.  The furniture we picked up at the auction last week looks amazing and fits so well.  And this week has been all about lighting.  Put up 2 ceiling fans in the large area and then hung 10 (so far) hanging lights in various places along with a string of "cute" lights, a string of holiday lights and a tube of lights.  the Latter is hung under the backside of the bar and looks great... the others are up over entrances.  I hope to get some decent pictures of the place all lit up in the next couple days because it really does look fantastic.  Finish the bar and clean up the wood and it really could be rented for functions as it will look amazing.

In the meantime, here are a couple pics from the work party a couple weeks ago:

Rhowan working on the railing.
Dakota, Brandon and Ryan working on the railing.
L to R: Willow, Dakota, Chris, Rhowan, Amanda, Thom... and I think Brandon's foot -- relaxing the in bar post work!
Thom drinking a beer in/at his bar.

And just a couple other shots...
Side 1 of the SVF Farm sign... almost done!

Reilly is staring at the door to the chickens... he KNOWS they're there!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Eggs & Auctions

First the eggs.  The chickens gave us our first eggs yesterday (sunday).  It was a great sight to see!  Here's hoping for a lot more soon.

We participated in an online auction of a local business liquidation.  Their stock had all been sold and it was the store furnishings that were being sold.  We came away not spending very much money at all, but in return we "won" quite a few wonderful additions - including an electric beverage cooler for under the new Pub bar as well as several tables and chairs for the Pub, a bookcase for the house, and what I hope will be the whiteboard we've been talking about getting for our calendar.  In addition we picked up a few things that I couldn't pass up for the price and we'll be looking to list them on Craigslist as soon as we pick them up.  Should be able to make a little money on the deal.

In other news, parts of the garden have been doing really well.  We have tons of tomatoes, some funky shaped cucumbers and a few peppers are ripening.  The peas were doing well as well, but I think they've been "missed" the last few harvesting rounds by the kids and I'm not sure they're producing anymore.  The corn and squash?  Well... not sure if it was the weeds they were planted amongst or the soil that's in desperate need of a LOT of help, but they're not doing well at all.  I'm contemplating mowing the whole area and just calling it a wash and start laying compost in that space for next year.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chickens, Cats and Bars... oh my! Plus a Party!

More unpacking has been completed. In fact, I think we're basically done with everything IN the house. Now the chore is to start going through all the boxes in the barn storage area. The chore part of that will be sorting through it all as there's plenty of stuff back there that is probably good for Craigslist or a yard sale. Speaking of the latter, I think we're going to try to do a Yard Sale the last weekend of August.... although that is only 2 weeks from now, so we'll see how that goes.

Thom's work on the bar has been wonderful! Of course nothing got accomplished last weekend as we were working at Hunters Run Horse Trials in Michigan. But the floor in the main bar area is done, the bar is designed and a bit of the railing and new walls are up. Took pictures last night of the progress and one day I'll get them posted.

Speaking of pictures, I did take this one last night...

It's a horrible picture taken by my phone -- which really should leave the photography business and concentrate on being a phone. This is the farm sign... partially completed of course.  I'm just excited to get a photo on this blog at all... even if it's crappy quality, out of focus, too dark AND the subject matter is a half painted scarecrow wearing Jayne's Hat.

This past week we drove out to Germantown to visit Trudy.  She has pastured chickens, both laying hens and meat birds as well as pasture fed jersey cows (what amazing milk!).  She was kind enough to let us come up and just talk to us about how she manages the animals, both the chickens and the cows.  And it was the middle of the afternoon and blazing hot (reference my sunburnt shoulders for verification -- OUCH!).  We definitely have a great idea on how to work with the chickens now.  We just need to get some.  Think we'll be waiting just a bit longer, perhaps even through to spring before getting a milk cow.  But we're definitely anxious for the fresh eggs!

As for the "party"... the house/farm warming shindig date is set -- Saturday September 4th.  Time is only determined by the participants.  Pretty much our philosophy is show up when you want... leave when you want.  It's a holiday weekend so we're not opposed to a several day party. :)  And we have plenty of crash space between couches and floors in the house... the "sleeps 9" camper we can put up... and the 7000 sq ft barn.  I think we'll have some munchies and foodstuffs plus some drinks.  Haven't confirmed it yet though so more details to come.  At the very least, the grill will be on-site... the bar, now dubbed Serenity Valley Pub, will be ready to be inaugurated... extreme bocce is on the menu as is a bonfire after dark.  Need directions?  Just ask.

And lastly, due to the pasture mowing guy mentioning the field mice and actually seeing one in the barn the other night, we have adopted 3 new barn cats from Jen's (iTolt Training Center) -- Pictures coming soon but we now have in addition to Curlina and Phoebe (who has started going outside), Buff Puff, Daryl and OB (aka Other Brother Daryl).  Buff Puff is a long haired mostly white girl and EXTREMELY laid back... even when Curlina is growling at her for 10 minutes straight.  Daryl and OB came from the same litter.  Daryl is a gray/black tiger.  OB is black.  Neither have been spotted for more than a micro-second since their arrival, but I'm sure they're around.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ah, projects!

No, before you ask, we are NOT unpacked yet! Found the camera... but the adapter to download the pictures is still AWOL amongst the boxes so no pics to add to this blog yet. Which is really a shame... cleaned up and decluttered, the house looks fantastic! And the barn looks even more cavernous (if that's possible).

So the work has started. Last Friday we replaced the water softener and added a sediment filter to the water line. It took literally ALL day to do for one reason or another, and is going to cost a little more as we now have to replace the faucet in the downstairs bath, but the water is now clean, clear and beautiful - not to mention tasty! YAY!! No more water jugs! I think the only one who will bemoan that at all is Reilly who enjoyed playing with the empty jugs (at least long enough to chew them up a little and drag them around the house). Have to recalculate my shampoo usage too as I've noticed getting a LOT more suds with the same amount than we used to.

We've also gotten someone lined up to bush hog (mow) the pasture. It's been in desperate need of being cut for almost 2 months now. Thom tried, but I guess in the end realized it was just easier and actually LESS costly to just hire someone to do it. Would love to find someone willing to do it on trade (either for the hay it produces or for something else) but in the meantime, I think once we get it under control the first time, we'll be able to keep it down. Especially once we add animals.

We have a line on some chickens and possibly a cow but that will probably wait until after we get back from Hunters Run Horse Trials next month. No sense in getting the critters and having to have someone stay at the house so soon afterwards to care for them. We'll just wait another week and it will all be good.

Thom's at an auction this afternoon trying to score us a table saw. *drool* mmm... power tools! :-)

The project list is still quite long as I'm sure it will be for a while to come yet (if it EVER dwindles). Have had a couple people over lately and love it. I hope people are comfortable stopping by on a whim or just hanging out even if we're working on something.

Monday, July 19, 2010


No, I didn't forget about this blog. After my last post stating that our 2nd appraisal had come through and we should close soon, we hit another snag. Thought I'd best leave this alone til we got it all settled. Yet another wild turn on the rollercoaster that has been purchasing this farm -- we could't get a PMI company to sign off on the loan. The loan itself was no problem but the PMI portion was an issue. Back to Farm Credit to go through them to get the full loan as they require less down without PMI than traditional lenders. BIG issue there as it turned out while the financials were ok and within the Farm Credit lending standards, their underwriter "felt" we'd be too stretched and denied the loan. Finally worked it out with Envoy Mortgage and the seller.

But it's done -- the farm is ours!! We spent our first night there last night, among all the boxes! Phoebe the cat was NOT amused to be put into the cage in the car to transport -- I swear she was meowing 4-letter words to us as we drove the last load yesterday from Cottage to the farm. Reilly and Gypsy arrived on the previous load and while happy to be with us, Reilly was a bit unnerved all evening at the change in his surroundings -- on top of the hard wood floors that he now has to traverse. He did seem better this morning though.

So it REALLY begins... the adventure of being farmers, homesteaders, whatever you call it. We officially own 3.788 acres with a nice house and huge barn! We have a contact for getting some laying hens in the very near future and the potential of a jersey cow of our very own! The To-Do List is long and will I'm quite sure never end but that's ok as it is fully expected and for some reason doesn't seem as daunting. I think it's because we all WANT to live here and feel like this really is our home and not a temporary location until something better happens. The kids are THRILLED to have their own rooms. we're all thrilled with the additional space.

Heads up -- house warming party Friday, September 3rd (the friday of Labor Day weekend). Bonfire, official opening of Serenity Valley Farm as well as Kookyduke's (our bar in the barn)... come see the place, hang out, whatever!

~~ Tammy

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Good Appraisal

The 2nd appraisal just came back good... at the original contract price... slightly above the amended price. We're now waiting for the underwriters to sign off on it and then we can set the closing date.

Guess it's about time to start packing!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Farm Pictures - Finally!

Finally uploaded the couple hundred photos of the farm off the camera... here are some good ones...

East side of the farm taken from the garden (where it looks all weedy).  Buildings right to left: House facing north... detached "other" building facing west... detached 1 car garage facing west (behind the little pine tree)... corn crib partially hidden by garage.... the big barn is in the background behind the garage and corn crib.  Old Dayton road is off pic to the right.

View of the farm house and outbuildings from the SE corner of the property.  The land planted in corn won't be ours til we pick up the option, but this gives you a VERY good idea of how big this property is!

View from the NE corner of the "Back 10" -- this is the additional 10 acre plot that is somewhat hidden with woods and a treeline from the road.  Currently share cropped but will be the first of the additional land that we "reclaim" for our personal use.

Part of the Kitchen.  The cabinets are custom made with virgin pine to match the 1 existing wall unit of original virgin heart pine cabinets (1916 built).  Several of the custom cabinets are extra wide and/or extra deep to accommodate things like pots, pan, crockpots and small appliances.  The one drawer under the dishwasher is big enough to fit a small child!  Kitchen also has a brand new oak wood floor.
view of the first floor bathroom... with marble countertop and shower threshold, large shower with double shower heads and beautiful restored wood floor.  There is also a wall of custom built cabinets behind the picture taker.
View of the living room area from the foyer.  Foyer has brand new premium carpet.  Living room/dining room (aka great room) has brand new pine wood floors, large closet, 2 matching chandelier lights and a matching ceiling fan, plus there is a built in 1916 built cabinet in the dining area.
More pictures later I suppose.  Literally Chris took almost 300 and we've been doing work on the house since then (finishing the bathroom, painting the mudroom, decluttering, etc.) so we're taking more almost every time we go out.
To update the process... the new appraisal was completed yesterday morning.  Now we're just in wait and see mode again until that report comes back.  We're expecting it later this week.  Stay tuned!

Friday, June 11, 2010

History IV: Catching Up to the Dream

The more we talked and the more we saw of the farm in New Lebanon (hereafter deemed "The Farm") the more we liked.  It was bigger than Germantown, definitely had more work done to it and thus less we'd need to do.  Although it had less land initially, the option made MORE land available.  AND we didn't have to wait to purchase because the purchase price was well within our current budget since we had yet to sell Cottage.  The only questions remained had to do with how to get it done.

The initial plan involved a discussion with Farm Credit, who held the mortgage on the property.  After a short discussion, we worked towards being able to assume the existing farm loan and then turn around quickly and refinance with Farm Credit to get the additional equity out of the property to finish paying the selling price.  At the same time, being worried that there wouldnt' be enough equity to fulfill the purchase price with that plan (knowing Farm Credit will refi no more than 85% of value), we also started talking to Wright-Patt Credit Union about a 5% down conventional loan.  Opted for locking in the 3/3 Convertible 30-year ARM rate at 3.5% instead of the Fixed 30 year at 5% knowing we would be refinancing in 18 months time.  We signed the contract on the intial purchase for $160,000 with $10,000 back from the seller.

Snag #1 was hit when Farm Credit informed us that their underwriters were concerned we would assume the mortgage then "skip out" on the seller for the refinance.  Somehow they thought A) that that was even a remote possibility and B) it would come back to bit Farm Credit.  They denied me assuming the mortgage based on those ASSumptions.  The loan officer (Megan) is outstanding and I look forward to working with them in the future... this just wasn't meant to work out.  So we proceeded on the basis of doing the 5% down loan with WPCU.

Snag #2 was a biggie and happened just a week ago (yes we're all caught up to current already!):  the Appraisal.  None of us had an inkling in our brains that the appraisal would come back less than $150 at a minimum.  Personally, I was thinking mid to high $160's would be the lowest.  We were all wrong.  Despite having a "farm girl" do the appraisal, it came back and shocked us all -- $126,000.  Megan and her appraiser at Farm Credit looked over it for us, I spoke with both Drew and the appraisal company manager and we all tried to figure out what happened.  Despite all of us coming up with new comps to give to the appraisers, they refused to budge.  She stated their appraisal was good, the comps were accurate, the property was "average" and simply not worth more than $126,000.  My favorite was when she described what would be needed for a "Good" rating -- and then proceeded to name things that have already been accomplished (new floors, new roof, new wall coverings).  When I mentioned that to her, she was adamant that due to things like the first floor bathroom not being completed, THAT was why the property was "Average".  I pointed out that those things would take less than a day to complete and could we do them before closing and having the appraisal changed.  I received a resounding NO.

Thanks to Leonard's connections, we are now working with a new mortgage lender.  Several people both in and previously in the business have assured us that the appraisal company (Stickleman, Schneider and Associates) have held a reputation for quite some time as being excessively conservative in their appraisals.  Lovely.  The terms with the new company aren't as nice -- a fixed 30 year loan with a slightly higher interest rate and higher down payment (10%).  They of course aren't guaranteeing their appraisal will meet the new contract price ($154,650 - adjusted due to legalities of the seller giving us money at closing), but all indications are that it should at least close the gap.  Fallback plan is that the seller will hold a 2nd note that will need to be paid in order for us to purchase the optional land.

So once again in the process we're in "Wait" mode.  We do have renters for Cottage all set up (minus an actual contract yet)... and the budget has been modified for the new Farm mortgage payments.  It all looks doable.  Now as long as the next appraisal comes back ok.

This weekend is the Stagecoach Days festival in town.  Chris will be running (run/walking) her first 5K tonight and we'll probably visit the festival sometime tomorrow.  In the meantime, we'll be busy doing all those little things that the previous appraiser dinged us on... to get them done before the new appraiser comes out.

Sometime soon I hope to post pictures of the Farm.  Have to download them off the camera first. :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

History Part III

History Part III:  Knowing When to Quit

When we last left our farm buying adventure we were searching for a buyer for Cottage so we could purchase this lovely 18 acre farm in Germantown.  Although the contract had expired on March 31, the seller had verbally told us she was waiting til the end of April before she did anything like relisting.  Cottage is a lovely first-time buyer house and the federal tax credits were extended to the end of April.

Unfortunately, while we had quite a few showings, the end of April came and went without a solid offer.  A week before we had discovered we could put my house up for loan assumption and while that generated interest, not enough to bring a qualified buyer to the table.  We spoke with the seller on the phone and found out some interesting information.  Turns out that the price tag she was adamant about reaching for the sale of the farm included not one but 2 loans -- the mortgage and a $40,000 personal loan.  So while we agreed that we could simply do a loan assumption on the mortgage, we still needed to find a way to come up with $40,000.  We spoke at length with the loan officer at Farm Credit and devised a plan -- assume than refinance to get out equity.  Unfortunately after doing some serious investigation, there was no way that plan would result in the entire amount we needed... at best, we'd still be looking at needing $25,000 (and looking at the plan in hindsight, we doubt we'd be able to cover much at all given the market).

It was at this time that I personally began to try and let go of the Germantown farm.  I had tried to offer the seller a payment plan deal on the 2nd loan, but she turned that down flat.  Aside from winning the lottery, there simply wasn't a way I could see that we could swing the financial end of the deal in order to buy the farm.  Much less that we still needed to sell Cottage in order to do it and had NO qualified prospects on the horizon despite constant listings on Craigslist.

2 days later I saw an ad on Craigslist for a farm in New Lebanon.  Needed to just drive to think a bit and figured I would drive by and see if it was worth dragging everyone else to see.  When I saw the place, it looked nice enought that I stopped to pick up a flyer... that's when the owner invited me in for a "tour".  2 hours later I left the farm, vowing to bring the family back the next evening knowing they'd be wow'd.

and they were.  That tour lasted 2.5 hours.  It's an interesting house, interesting seller and interesting deal.

Stay tuned for History Part IV... the end of the history lesson and where we catch up to the here and now....

Thursday, June 3, 2010

History (II) and Reading Lists

History Part II: Bigger & Better in Germantown

So winter was approaching.  We had a contingent offer on Cottage but the farm we were looking at purchasing was no longer available.  Time to start scouring again!  After the Villa, we decided that we definitely wanted at least 8-10 acres or more if we could.  The idea of having not only a large garden and some laying hens and horses, but possibly our own milk cow was taking shape.

Along came a 1905 built farmhouse on 18 acres outside Germantown.  The house was smallish -- only about 1500 sq ft... slightly larger than what we were in now, but did have a big kitchen, 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.  And of course, there was the 18 acres!  They were beautiful ... slighly rolling, some woods, a creek, and all in pasture.  Unfortunately, we were going up in price so we definitely needed to sell Cottage first.  But, all indications were that we could still afford this farm.  AND the mortgage broker we were using was now authorized to process USDA loans and there was a 0-down USDA Rural Housing Loan that might fit our needs.  No down payment!  All we had to do was wait at this point.

January came and our buyer's credit had cleared up to the point that the mortgage broker and realtors all felt we were going in the right direction and the contracts could be drawn up and financials pulled.  We were set to close at the end of February on both places.  We would be "homeless" for a week as our buyer needed immediate occupancy while the farm seller wanted a week after closing to vacate.  No worries.  It would be worth it.  The inspection on the farm went STELLAR.  The appraisal however didn't.  At the time we thought poorly of the appraiser who stated the farm was a "working" farm which killed our deal with the USDA loan.  However, in hindsight he was trying to help us attain the appraisal value we needed for the deal.  It resulted in a lot of stress as I ran around and called different banks trying to get a loan that I could afford.  In the end, we talked about a loan assumption through Farm Credit and I thought we'd be ok.

Turns out all that stress and worry was for nothing.  Closing was scheduled for February 26th, but on the 20th, I got a call from my realtor that my buyer had backed out.  In hindsight, the fact that that inspection/appraisal period had come and gone without anything being done on Cottage should have clued me in.  We were devestated.  Buyer told 2 different stories -- having to renew her apartment lease and finding a FSBO she liked better -- so we don't believe her and have refused to release her earnest money back to her at this point.
Farm seller requested we renew the contract, contingent on the sale of Cottage of course, through the end of March.  No problem on our end doing just that as we wanted the farm.  Certainly didn't want to lose it because this buyer backed out on us.  We just kept trudging along.  Relisted on the MLS and had quite a few showings in March and April, but no offer.  The contract on the farm expired and I kept in touch with the seller directly.  She was giving us til at least the end of April before she tried to put it back on the market (coinciding with the end of the Federal Tax Credit program).

Could we get a buyer and work out the deal?  Stay tuned for Part III....

The New Reading List
A few days ago I received a catalog in the mail.  Acres U.S.A.'s book catalog.  WOW!  I don't think I've ever received a non-equestrian catalog that I've enjoyed so much.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love learning and am a sucker for interest related how-to type books.  I literally found dozens of books that are now part of my wish list... everything from disaster preparedness to livestock management to gardening to business advice.  The catalog is 80-ish pages with 5-6 books per page typically.  WOW!

I checked with and the library and found quite a few of them at either location and in some cases cheaper (but some not).  Some of them (like Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth) I think will be fantastic reference books to actually have on hand... so I will be purchasing those.  Others I think are either going to be good reads or I need to see before I spend the money, so I'll be looking at the library for those.  I did request 7 of them from the library yesterday:

  • Milk-Based Soaps by Casey Makela

  • Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs by Sandie Shores

  • Small-Scale Livestock Farming by Carol Ekarius

  • Just in Case by Kathy Harrison

  • Handy Farm Devices & How to Make Them by Rolfe Cobleigh

  • Organic Body Care Recipes by Stephanie Tourles
In addition, the UDBB had a thread yesterday that named several books which deal with surviving after some disaster... so I added The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler to the list.

~ Tammy

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

History (I) and our first party?

Breaking up the history of how we got to the farm we're getting into a couple different parts (probably 3)... makes it easier to read and hopefully a bit less rambly.

Part I:  The Villa

Over the last couple years, we quickly came to realize that we needed a plan.  The kids were getting bigger and we were definitely outgrowing the house on Cottage -- a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1425 sq foot home on a corner lot 3 blocks from the civic center.  We wanted our own farm if at all possible.  So we set about doing what needed to be done.  In 2008 our "big" project was reroofing the shingle parts of the house.  In 2009 we did the gutters/soffits/facia (and evicted our tenants -- squirrels, birds and bats).  The plan was to do carpet and such after the winter snow/mud and then put the house on the market spring 2010.  As the saying goes... things don't always go according to the gorram plan.

In August we started looking at houses.  The idea was to narrow down what we liked/didn't like and what we wanted and what was available, so when the time came, it would be easy(er) to find something.  We came across a lovely 1970's built home that was fantastic!  3500 sq feet, 3 car attached garage, a detached garage/building all on 10 acres and we thought it might be within our price range.  So off we went to the mortgage broker to discuss options.  Well, the property was within our price range... but we would HAVE to sell the house on Cottage first.  Guess that moved up our timetable a bit!  We spent about 3 weeks doing everything -- new carpet, new paint, fixes, upgrades.  Cottage went on the market mid-September 2009!  "The Villa" as we called it would be ours as soon as we got an offer. :)

Then came the long wait.  We didn't even have a single showing until November 2nd... but that showing turned into an offer!  That's the good news.  The bad news was 1) the owner of the Villa had leased it out for a year starting November 1st and 2) our potential buyer had crappy credit.  #1 we didnt' have any control over.  #2... we accepted a contingent offer of sorts (nothing on paper) as she worked with our mortgage broker to get her credit up to snuff.  So our next steps -- look for another place for us and hope we either get another buyer or this one cleans up her act soon.

Stay tuned for Part II....

In other news, we are still waiting on the appraisal to come back but feel it went really well.  At least the appraiser "knew" farms. 

Spent most of the weekend out there in one fashion or another.  Got a few things accomplished.  Purchased our first farm-related item -- a Cub Cadet 29cc gas-powered weed whacker.  Realized my mistake at purchasing squash seedlings -- ended up with 18 zucchini, 18 acorn and 72 butternut!  Oops.  But we did get them all in the ground, along with another 8 cucumbers and 15 hills of corn and beans.  Took some walks around the property and relaxed on the porch or in the living room here and there (it was HOT out).  Gave a few tours to friends.  Drove the new barn van into town to grab lunch on Saturday (that was INTERESTING).  We also cleaned out the storage unit and moved all that stuff into the back room of the barn -- no more $125 per month rental fees!!  Took a TON of pictures of the farm on Sunday... but don't have them loaded from the camera yet.  Stay tuned for that fun.

Monday was Memorial Day.  We ended up with a few friends out at the farm to see the place and it evolved into an impromptu cookout!  Well, the grill needed to end up at the farm anyway eventually, right?  Had a great time and broke in Kookyduke's (the future bar in the barn) the right way... with some good food, nice drinks and fabulous friends.  Hopefully we'll be all moved in by the 4th of July and can really have a nice holiday party.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The beginning of the end

It's been almost a year since we started the process of finding a farm for our family.  We've been through 3 different properties since then... each one we wanted with all our hearts... each one better than the last which was some consolation when we lost each one.  3rd time is the charm perhaps, but we're *this* close to closing on our farm... the best one yet.  We don't have a closing date yet, but it will be within the next month.  Figured it was time to start this blog.

Over the next few days I'll catch up with entries on how this whole journey has gone.  I'll also be posting pictures of the farm and of course following the rest of the process of the purchase.  Then of course we'll be following our progress in our new life... as farmers.

Hope you'll join us for the journey!  It's gonna be a kick-ass ride!