The First Twelve Months: Month One ~ A New Beginning


Our garden, the barn, and our home

I thought I’d start a series of monthly posts that would give a snapshot of the first year on our homestead.  Sort of like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book The First Four Years?  This is the Black Fox Homestead’s answer to that: The First Twelve Months.

I intend for these to be very honest including the lows as well as the highs, the surprises: good and bad; as well as the major events of each month.  In addition to this being our way of documenting this momentous first year I thought this might be helpful to anyone else looking  to do the same thing whether that would be in an urban or rural setting.

So then Month Number One:

The most major event was of course: moving in.  Another “major” event although not quite as momentous was making a deposit on eight Rhode Island Red chicks to be picked up from a local hatchery in June.

Major additions to the homestead: a dehydrator.  Ok.  Maybe this isn’t  major, but it has already been used several times stocking our pantry with home made items to help stretch our grocery budget.

The biggest surprise: Experiencing culture shock.  I never expected this to happen by just relocating 40 miles east from where I was born and raised, but yes, for about two weeks I wandered about in a bewildered daze.  Life in the country is just different.  People perceive you differently.  Things move at a much slower pace. Life is very simple.  The town is very small.  Newspaper headlines in the wake of a major election feature (I kid you not) the blooming roses in front of City Hall.  Even though the change of pace was refreshing and welcomed it required adjustment on both our parts.

Biggest challenges included:

*Getting our appliances converted from natural gas to propane.  This may sound obvious to someone who has used propane before.  We hadn’t. And we weren’t informed when we closed on the house that this had not been done.    So we moved into our home and began to settle in unaware that we could not use the range or the dryer.

*Distance. Whether it was the 40 mi trip into the city that we initially thought would be no big deal (it is), or the walk 300 feet down to the curb to retrieve the trash can; distance was an adjustment.  We really are pretty far out here (and we love it).

*The Wind. One of the lines in our state song boasts: “Oklahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…”  Being OK born and bred I grew up hearing it,  but living on a mostly unprotected treeless plain it takes on a whole different meaning to me. The wind blew constantly  the first two weeks we lived here with gusts up to 40mph sounding like they would lift the roof off the top of the house.  They didn’t.  But they did blow the trailer into the side of the barn and blow away our still empty rain barrels.

*Gardening in the country is an entirely different ball game than gardening in an urban back  yard.  A lot of this is, I believe, due to the wind.  I’ve dealt with drought. I’ve dealt with pests and disease.  I’ve never dealt with wind.  This truly is a challenge and one that at times, I will confess, overwhelms me.  When we made the decision just a year ago to transition from the city to the country it was only to be just that: a change of address with more space to garden.  But since that time our vision has widened to include so much more than what we had originally planned, and our garden will be more than just a hobby.  We look at what it is now: a tiny patch planted late (due to the move) that isn’t coming along as fast as we would like (although it is growing).  Then we look at what we hope for it to become: the lifeblood of our homestead.  Standing out in the howling wind and weeds I’m tempted at times to feel overwhelmed by the challenge.  But before we moved we made a pact with each other that we would not give in to discouragement. We would instead use it as a motivation to find creative, workable solutions.  I know a thriving garden out here is possible.  I’ve seen the hoop houses at the homestead down the road (and envied them).  It is just a matter of figuring out how to make it work. So, needless to say, the winter months will be devoted to researching fast growing wind breaks and how to implement them.

Our goals for next month:

*Planning the spring crops and ordering seed

*Planting the seeds for our first “market crop”: spinach

*Hosting a visit from a potential client interested in our produce

*Making curtains

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The First Twelve Months: Month One ~ A New Beginning — 39 Comments

  1. Looking forward to hearing how your adventure progresses. Interesting that already you’ve noticed some big differences in culture and weather that you hadn’t planned for…I know just what you mean, by the way, about headlines in a small town newspaper. Our election results were overridden by high school soccer tournament news. Good luck!

    • Haha! That’s hilarious. I was floored that something like that would make it to the front page! The following week it was the town Christmas decorations.

  2. I am dealing with the same issues of a move from a suburb to the country and I can SO relate to all of this! It’s nice to see that I am not the only one trying to ‘adjust’ to country time! I look forward to more installments! Best of luck! :)

  3. What a great adventure. I spent 26 yeas in NM and found the gardening a challenge outside the city. I was very successful with a walled garden that backed up to our home in ABQ. When we moved out to the open heights in north Albuquerque the micro environment was much more harsh and the wind was a major factor all year. I worked a large garden in the open yard for 2 years with mixd results. I then moved the vegetable garden into a walled area the following years and finally harvested some crops. The yield was never as good as in town in a protected yard. Walled gardens have been used in europe to shield plants & animals from the cold & wind for centuries. The strong sun and drying winds seem to stress the average vegetable plant. You might also try local, native, open pollenated heirloom varieties to increase your success. Best of luck.

    • Thanks! :) We may have to go to something like a walled garden and have talked about the possibilities. I’ll have to see if we can find a source for native heirloom varieties. The closest that I know of is Baker Creek in MO. We’ve been using heirlooms for a few years and were hoping to try and develop our own strain that was a bit hardier to the elements. I guess it will just take some time.

  4. I too have moved from suburb to country. When I was little I lived on a farm. Last 15 years lived in a suburb. It has been a big change. I too and going to garden and hoping it will be my lifeblood. I have 60 chickens, 32 ducks, 7 guineas and 3 peacocks. Right now I sell chicken and duck eggs. I am planning my garden and also will be ordering seeds. I am building coops for all of the fowl. Just completed the peafowl coop and working on the chicken coop. I wish you the best of luck in all that you do.

    • Thank you so much! Do you blog? I would love to see your coops. Our chicks are due to arrive in June so we have some time but my husband has already done some research on coop building. 60 chickens! Wow. I’m impressed. We’re starting with um. 8. Ducks are another thing we are interested in too. We have a large pond that we just had rebuilt.

  5. LMAO. I read this and immediately thought of myself. We moved from Fort Worth, Texas (big city) to 3 acres in rural northern Missouri last year. The closest town has a total population of, wait for it, 97 people. It is a 25 minute drive to the grocery store, which means a drive down a 2 mile stretch of gravel road before you hit the highway. But I LOVE it! I never realized how dark it actually gets at night until the move. And the stars!!!!

    • I realized after I posted this that I forgot to mention the stars. Looking at the night sky has been one of the high points. It really is beautiful. And so are the sunsets. I never was one to watch the sun set until we moved out here. Gorgeous.

  6. I am sure you’ve already thought of this, but there are fast growing trees that you could plant here or there to block the wind.
    We live not too far away from you (state wise). We live in NE Texas. Although we live in a brick home on 2 acres (we’d love more as God makes it available), we are still in the country and love it. BUT! If you had of told me 10 years ago that I’d live in the country, know how to drive a tractor (and LOVE IT!), have a clothesline and think chickens are the cutest things… I’d have told you that you were crazy!
    I love this life and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    I look forward to your blog updates on your homestead.


    • Yes Janet! We’re looking into something like that. Ideally I would love a windbreak all along our property line. We also have a view to the north that isn’t as pretty that I’d like to block. The forestry region here offers native trees at a huge discount if bought in bulk. We’d like to do it, the one thing holding us back at this point is figuring out how to get water all along the fence line. We have considered just a few, and we’ve also considered tall growing annuals such as sunflowers planted next to smaller crops as a temporary fix. I can’t wait to get a clothesline. I think my husband is going to build me one in the spring. Thank you so much for your input! :D Have a great afternoon.

  7. Just think of all the pioneers who made do and survived off their land – with no modern conveniences!
    I am sitting here remembering when we lived in our little farmhouse. I don’t even know what all we did, with one vehicle, no TV and no computer. We sure did read a lot!

    • …and I’m trying this again because our wonky rural internet connection just timed me out. :x As I was saying…I haven’t read Little House in years and now all of a sudden I want to go back and reread them all. I had no idea you lived in a farmhouse once upon a time!

  8. Wow, I will be looking forward to each of these posts eagerly. We are 9 days away from moving to our 1/2 acre on the outskirts of a small town from inner Melbourne so our stories parallel closely. It’s nearly Summer here though so we’ve also had to get in our veggie gardens quick smart before the move which has been challenging to keep them watered.
    We too have already noticed some culture shock – driving to Ballarat, the nearest city to where we will be moving to choose carpet and tiles, we found that businesses still close at lunchtime on a Saturday and don’t open on Sundays. I’m not a huge shopper but I have become used to going shopping whenever I want/need to.We also found the next week, when we drove up to make sure we were there before 12 that businesses in small towns will close their doors for the towns show day. We’ve also met a lot more of the town locals in the last 2 months than we have met of our neighbours here in the city. People are friendlier, more helpful and open and generous to a fault too. The offers of help from near strangers have been overwhelming.
    Good luck with your adjusting to your new life and I hope you settle in in all ways quickly and easily.

    • Oh wow! I had no idea you were from Australia! I have a friend there who is also gardening, keeping chickens, goats, and the like. “Small world”. :P I actually think it is kind of cool that a business would close mid-day. That sounds so old world but can see how it would be a real pain. I look forward to keeping up with your progress as well. Adding your blog to my google reader…

      • Wow, thankyou! Yes, I think the closing at midday is cool, very cool in fact as it’s going to provide a much better life work balance for those working there but it will take an adjustment in thinking none the less.
        Where abouts is your friend? I’ve now got a few friends doing the same thing, or at least embarking upon the journey to dong the same thing.

  9. Now I’ve got the Rodgers and Hammerstein ditty stuck in my head! I LOVE the idea of a town that cares about the roses in the front of City Hall!

  10. Thank you for sharing your story – I look so forward to following along with you! My husband and I hope to get a homestead next year, so I will be anxiously watching and learning from all that you are going through in your first year. Gardening and chickens…the first two things we hope to have too. :-)

  11. Jenny,

    I am looking forward to hearing more about your new country life. My husband and I are trying to become more self-sufficient and everyday is a small step toward that life. I admire you what you two have done so far and anxiously await to hear about any new adventures!

      • Jenny,
        I am actually on your blog again today. I discovered it last night and am catching up a little on your story. You can probably guess where I’m at with only a few hints: flip flops, pond muck and snakes. Any guesses?

  12. Just a thought…have you considered using straw bales to build a temporary wall around your vegetable garden to block the wind? You could make it smaller or taller depending on your crops by removing or adding bales. The bales could be anchored to the ground with long pieces of rebar if you think the wind would topple them. The earthworms would love you and you’d be adding organic matter to the soil.

    Another thought…could you use the rebar to set your PVC hoops on? The straw would act to keep that little microclimate warm too.

    • I had heard about hay bales, yes. We liked that idea and may do it yet. Right now we’ve used some floating row covers and that has helped some. That’s a good idea about using rebar with the pvc….I’m going to pass this on to my husband and see what we can come up with. Thanks so much for the advice Stacey!

  13. Hey Jenny, just got done reading this first entry – yeah, I’m a little late in reading this, but I am very interested in seeing how the move is going for you. I too, am doing this. We have just gotten word last week that our offer was accepted on a farmette in the mountains of PA. We will be putting this house up for sale. It will be a very exciting time as we will have extended family moving with us. Even though there are already raised beds and apple trees up there, I think I will also have the wind problem as well. I will be following you!

    • Hi Alice, It’s nice to meet you! We’ve been here for about a year now. Like any change there has been some transitions and some things that we’ve had to get used to but we are so happy we made the change and have really enjoyed life here in the country. The biggest adjustment I think for us was the change in the gardening zone. Once we finally did get our garden established it produced well and we had enough produce for us this first year. Not really enough to sell (we had some weather issues there) but plenty for us with extra to preserve for over the winter. We’ve got our chickens and I expect them to start laying, hopefully, in a few weeks. The wind ended up not being as much of an issue as I had thought but I did write what I learned about windbreaks here. Congratulations on your farmette and best wishes for your upcoming move! I hope the sale of your home goes through in a timely fashion (we had to deal with that as well). If you have raised beds in place and apple trees, I would think you’d have a great start. Thanks for the follow. :)

  14. Pingback: The First Twelve Months: Month Twelve ~ This is Home | Black Fox Homestead

  15. I realize I am a year late posting a reply to this, but I just found this site. As my wife and I are doing the same thing, I’ve been researching a lot. The story of the wind reminded me of something I had read many years ago. Back in the pioneer days in the plains, there was a thing called “prairie madness” that would affect it seemed the women. What they attributed it to was the constant wind blowing the the logs of the cabin where the women spent most of the time while the men were out working, hunting etc.. The houses weren’t built to today’s standards of course, and the sound that would be made with wind blowing through it was led them to prairie madness. Thought it was appropriate to add here :)

    • Haha! I can totally see that. Our house is well insulated but we have a metal roof so one hears ev.ery.thing! I was not prepared for that. Thanks for sharing. :)