If this is a Farm, Where are the Animals?

One of the first things we did upon arriving in Indiana, was to survey the area we can use for our little hobby farm.  There is a large barn with an open central area flanked by fenced in runs, room for pasture or pens around the barn, and a nice level open space backed up against a light forested area.  Before we can get any animals we need to make repairs to the barn and put in some fencing.

The barn appears to be in relatively good structural shape.  It is currently used by a neighboring farmer as a storage area for equipment and hay which leads me to believe the roof doesn’t leak, but that remains to be seen.  It isn’t ready to provide shelter to goats, or any other animals that need a secure and safe place. On one side wall timbers do not reach the ground (see photos), allowing animals that are meant to stay in the barn a way out, and predators a way in.  The other side has a concrete brick wall at ground level – so that’s what we’ll need to install.  The fenced in runs need timber repair or replacement and we need to be able to secure the doors.  There are a number of weeds – Virginia creeper mostly – and even a small tree growing inside the barn that will need to be removed.

These photos show different views of each of the two runs along the sides of the barn.  The upper photos show the run we will try to fix up first – It needs gaps fixed, plants removed and the little concrete wall built. The run shown below needs more timber repair and has two holes in the roof above.











We made a list of some of the tools and supplies we will need to fix up the barn (some we can borrow, some we may be able to find for free, and some we will have to purchase):

  • Hatchet/saw
  • Rake
  • Shovel
  • Concrete blocks
  • Boards
  • Wire fencing
  • Pallets – we think we can fashion some ‘stall’ areas using pallets
  • Nails or other fencing tacks

There is no Home Depot near us (so I removed the Home Depot gift card from our Amazon.com wishlist) but there is a Lowes and a nice independent hardware store called Bear’s Hardware where we can get supplies. I’m watching craigslist as well for bargains!

Despite the heat and drought, which has baked the ground into brick hardness, the area around the barn – destined for use as a goat pen – is rich with a jungle of vegetation. Some of these plants might be fodder for goats, but others may be toxic.  Before mowing them all down I’m hoping to identify what’s what and keep the useful plants.  Goats are great browsers and brush clearers!

Although there is some fencing around the barn it is in poor repair and doesn’t encompass the area we want to use.  So while we will attempt to make use of what is there additionally fencing will be needed.  According to some experts the best fencing for goats is woven wire fence – strong and high enough to keep the wily critters contained.  Others swear by electric fences.

For this part of the job we will need fencing wire, posts and post clips and other hardware (I’m amazed at how many pieces and steps a seemingly simple fence requires).

The heat has made it difficult to get started on these projects – even though we are all chomping at the bit to get going. The only respite from the heat has been during the brief rain storms that roll through in the afternoons – generally with winds, thunder and lightning and power outages!  We do hope to get started this weekend with some of the plant removal, leveling the floors, and building the concrete walls if we can get some of the materials purchased.

Once we have the barn and fenced pasture we can get some goats!  We are looking at a breed of meat goat called Kiko.  Registered Kiko goats cost $200 to $300 for bucks and $250 and up for does. They come from New Zealand and are hardy, good mothers and parasite resistant.  We would raise them to sell.  We may get one or two dairy goats to provide milk and other dairy products for the family.

Other farm projects include building a chicken coop, raised garden beds which we would mulch over the winter and then plant next spring, and bee hives.  At some point in the future we might add other poultry (turkeys seem popular around here), some sheep or other fiber animals, and a pig or two.

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24 Responses to If this is a Farm, Where are the Animals?

  1. We just bought a pair of pigs to raise for meat. Our local feed store carries and recomends 4-in-1 feed to raise them on and a 9-in-1 to finish them with. They also recommend monthly worming with Safeguard pellets. Just courious as to your thoughts on this recommendation.?

  2. bogart says:

    Makes sense — definitely not good to spend on a wheelbarrow if you’ve got something functional!

  3. Grace says:

    Welcome to Indiana!! It’s not the heat that’s bad, it’s the humidity! Seriously, it takes some getting used to. I recognize the hardware store you mentioned. Nice little town. We have vacationed there and I try to go to the shops every few years.
    You still have time to plant a garden. You can plant tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets. Container gardening is much less work and the plants do just as well. Raised bed gardening is great – no tilling or weeding and less water usage. The work is in building the beds and filling them with dirt. You will have to protect your vegetable plants from the deer.

    • boxcarkids says:

      Thanks Grace! We don’t have good garden space – even for containers- where we are staying. And while we could put containers in at our other relative’s house (where the barn and our pasture area is) we won’t be able to protect them from deer or other pests. We hope to put in raised beds at that location and fence them to keep out the free-loaders! If we can we will get those in and fenced in time to put in some fall/winter crops. I was just reading up on the possibilities the other day and think we could try broccoli and leeks at least.

      • Gretchen says:

        I have actually found raised beds inside fencing to be a pain. Unless there is a fence around the whole yard. (Pain as in scrapping my elbow, rump, what have you…)

        I grew up with, and still garden with, (and my 89yo grandmother still gardens with), just a fence around a garden plot. I just dug up and out the turf, placed fencing around the outside and worked the soil and planted on the inside. Maybe not as productive as raised beds, but cheaper. You can always add the raised part later.

        Good Luck, have fun sifting through the conflicting advise, and I know well that like all the rest of us – you’ll figure out by doing what works best for you!

        Oh, I also live in deer & woodchuck country, unless you plan on sleeping in the garden and fence is a must! little thieving buggers, grrrr.

  4. USAF_wench says:

    Have you considered dropping the idea of goats right now? Chickens kept in “chicken tractors” would eliminate the immediate need for a coop and you could probably get 2 flocks by winter

    I’d also suggest you get food planted right now, without doing anything fancy in terms of garden construction, and a part-time job immediately since you’ll not have enough cash flow from agriculture for a long time.

    • boxcarkids says:

      We cannot plant a garden right now. We don’t have garden space at present, and are in the middle of a drought and heatwave. It’s late for planting summer veggies and too early/hot for fall veggies. We do hope to have chickens before too long although we have more than enough eggs from our relative’s chickens right now. And naturally I’m applying for all sorts of jobs from those in my field (environmental project management) to cashier at the local grocery store.

  5. Lynn says:

    Have you and all the kids tried goat milk? Not just a sip but a whole glass of the stuff? Tried it over cereal? It’s a very different, strong taste . It would be a shame to spend $250 or more on a dairy goat and find no one can stand the taste. I have to agree with Belinda about checking out the market for goat meat. I have never seen any for sale here. I also wonder if there are restrictions about who can sell it–maybe you need USDA approval? I don’t want to spoil the enthusiasm, just would hate to see you put in a lot of money and effort on something that costs a lot and does not bear fruit.

    • boxcarkids says:

      Lynn – you may have tasted milk from goats that were pastured with rams or that had eaten particular plants that impart a strong taste. Goat milk is better for you than cow’s milk – both from a health standpoint and also from an enviromental standpoint (Cows use up a lot more resources than goats). Check out this article – http://www.mtcapra.com/benefits-of-goat-milk-vs-cow-milk/ And no worries – remember I’m a researcher at heart and have very carefully looked into all aspects of raising goats. One of the reasons we would raise meat goats over dairy is that you cannot sell the raw milk (but family members can drink it) but goat meat can be sold – you arrange the sale with the buyer and deliver the goat to the slaughter/processing facility and they pick up the meat.

      • Celeste says:

        But have you and the kids actually tasted it? That’s what I’m curious about.

      • A new neighbor says:

        Goat’s milk is delicious! As long as your facilities and equipment are clean, and like you said, not housed with the buck/ram as well as grazed on appropriate pasture, you are good to go! We drink it raw, and my kids and I love it, not to mention the health benefits. We have been told that different breeds’ milk can taste different from each other, even different goats within the same breed, maybe due to the butterfat content, I’m not sure. Fiasco Farm is a great website for all kinds of info on getting started with goats.Our goat’s milk tastes like vanilla ice cream! Good luck at your new farm!

  6. Belinda Gomez says:

    Is there a real market for goat meat around there? No point raising them if no one will buy them. And you might make sure none of your kids are allergic to bee stings before you start. i’d say you should start with some vegetables so you can feed yourselves before you plunge into livestock.

  7. Judith says:

    I wish you all a very good start! I’ve been following your journey for quite a while, and you all really deserve a long time of good luck.

    Here’s the link to a blog that might be useful:


    It’s written by a young woman named Jenna who four years ago only had a dream of a farm and has by now managed to buy a small farm, buy her dream pony and give up her office job to live as a small independent farmer, by sheer force of will, and writing some books in the process. She writes about everything that happens on her farm, good and bad, and I think you might really get some good tips. She has also started to give workshops at her farm and to give online seminars, it might be worth thinking about buying a pass for those.

    She does a lot by bartering, and has in the space of 2.5 years managed to become part of the community of farmers there (Washington County) and create a circle of friends that really helps when there are bigger things to do – like a barnraising.

    She writes a lot, so if the sheer volume of things to read there is intimidating, start in January of 2010, that’s when she got the farm. Reading about some of the beginner’S mistakes might help you avoid some, and it’s simply great to witness how she started scared with only a dream and how confident she is now.

    You can do it, too! You have a lot of people rooting for you, even if many a lurkers – like me 😉

    Btw, from what I read on Jenna’s blog, you should consider raising meat rabbits. They don’t need a lot of space, grow up quickly to sell and the meat apparently tastes really good.

  8. D Schaefer says:

    Where are you living now and how long can you stay on this farm? I would hate to see you and children do a lot of work and then asked to move. Did you get clothes for your daughter? Do they need school supplies? Best of luck to you, you sure have had a hard time! Hope things get better very soon!

    • boxcarkids says:

      We are staying with a relative now but hope to move out into a house of our own as soon as we can get through the planning/approval process and raise money for a used mobile home. We will be able to stay so that’s not a real problem.

  9. Pam McCormick says:

    Just an idea, is there a way from readers/viewers to donate say for ” 1goat” or something like that? You know like “buy a brick” campaigns that churches did.My point is many readers have come to enjoy your postings and would like to help.Some of us could donate say 25-50 dollars till the $200 is met and off you go to buy a goat! When you are ready for the goat,bees etc.Just thinking someone clever out there could set up a site or way to be a part of setting up your farm.Then there is the whole idea of sending you what you need like a set of clothes for the kids,back to school supplies etc.Just thinking out loud.Best Wishes on your new life.

    • boxcarkids says:

      Yes, I have to figure it out but I can make a list of some of the animals and supplies we need to buy and will try and figure out how to link it to a donation link so you can select bees, goats, fences, feed or whatever. They say it takes a village – this would be a cyber village barn raising!

  10. It looks beautiful there – I hope this new adventure goes well for all of you. I enjoy hearing your story…

  11. Maryl says:

    If you could obtain your CDL you could sub as a bus driver. Believe me, every other bus driver in my school district when I was growing up was a farmer. What’s really nuts, knowing how strict the rules are now, every so often our driver would pull up into his own driveway and head into the barn to check on a sick calf. We kids would sit on the bus and never dream of misbehaving – after all, Reese would tell our parents, which was far worse than telling the principal if we acted up! I can also remember him stopping on the side of the road so we could watch deer out in the field. And the real prize winner – when kids would puke on the bus, we’d pull into one of the farms, park on a grade, he’d open the emergency door and say, Lift your feet up, and flush it with either a hose or a five-gallon bucket of water out the back door. Country life!

  12. SMS says:

    Get your wants and needs out on Freecycle and Craig’s list. Add pitchfork and wheelbarrow to the need list. Suggest smaller wheelbarrow so kids can handle it. Get steel it’s durable, but keep out of the rain and can mix mortal in it for your blocks if you’re just doing a bit at a time. Rinse good or it will set in the wheel barrow. Ask me how I know ~he he he. Also start seeking out sources of hay/straw/grain for your animals. Getting more expensive as the drought continues.
    Start in either early in AM or before night fall when things start to cool- take a the crew and do 15-20 minutes clean up in the barn. You can’t wait until it cools off in September. It will give them a routine that they will get used to when clean up changes to chores.
    Find your self a bee keepers group. Often they can give you tons of advise, know cheap, and maybe free sources of their old supplies.
    You have a ton of work ahead of you.
    Good luck on the job search. Check with the local school for substituting jobs etc before everything gets filled.

    • bogart says:

      Actually I’d recommend this wheelbarrow: Rubbermaid
      RCP5642BLA – Big Wheel Utility Cart (see e.g. Amazon); it balances fabulously (note: two wheels, and they are well positioned to keep the whole body stable not only side-to-side but back and forth), is easy to push or to pull (including for kids, relatively speaking), and will haul horrendously heavy loads. I say this as someone with considerable wheelbarrow experience!

      (It’s not cheap, though, so may not be an option for you. But if you are going to splurge on something, you could do worse than to make it this).

      • boxcarkids says:

        No splurging for us right now! We have use of our relative’s tools and they have a very standard wheelbarrow we can use.

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