Kids and Farm Life, a Match Made in Heaven

Our sons Jason (left) & Joshua (right) enjoying farm life.

I grew up in the country & loved every minute of it. We had goats, chickens, ducks, bunnies, a pony & of course cats & dogs. My brother, cousins & I were always riding our bikes down the dirt road, trying to catch turtles in the pond, riding 4 wheelers & making other priceless memories. I have always thought that a childhood spent in the country is special, especially when you’re lucky enough to share it with animals.

Jason & Joshua, farm life 🚜❤
Animals teach important life lessons, like eat your snacks up high so the goats can’t steal them!

Safety first!

Our kids love spending time with the animals. We teach them how to properly handle each kind of animal to make sure everyone stays safe.

We have 2 horses, Harvey (27 years old) & Bert (41 years old). They were both my childhood horses & are now enjoying retirement on our farm. Both horses are well trained & extremely gentle but horses are very big & very fast, which can be dangerous. Each horse weighs over 1,000 lbs so you can get hurt really bad, really fast, even if it’s just an accident. For those reasons we are especially careful with the horses. The kids are by no means scared of the horses but are taught to have a healthy respect for their size & strength.

Joshua talking to Bert, our 41 year old horse.
Jason grooming Bert

On the other hand, we also have very small animals that require extra care for their own safety. Our baby goats were less than 2 lbs each at birth. The boys were only allowed to hold them while they were sitting down so the baby goats wouldn’t be in danger of being dropped.

Kid people with their kid goats
Holding just-hatched baby chicks

Work ethic

Our kids are still young; Joshua turned 3 last week & Jason turns 5 this week. They both help around the farm with lots of chores like filling water buckets, measuring feed for the animals, sweeping and even cleaning stalls.

So we don’t have to do those things anymore since the kids do them, right?! Hahaha! No. They are still kids & still do kid things. Sometimes I find sticks floating in the water trough where they were pretending the sticks were boats. They help clean stalls for a few minutes then get distracted & have to have a scooter race. They also like making ‘concrete’ in my buckets by mixing sand, rocks, water, goat poop; you know, whatever they find. We always have to go behind them & finish the chores but they are still learning & we greatly appreciate their effort.

Joshua, helping around the farm when he had just turned a year old.
Jason helping me clean the barn. He is 4 years old in this picture.

Unique experiences

Of course there are some experiences that farm kids get to have that are unique to country life. Most kids would beg for candy at the checkout line but when you’re at the feed store during Chick Days, you may impulse buy a box of baby chicks.

Jason with his box of baby chicks.
Goat kisses

And what could be more fun than riding around a store on a cart full of several hundred pounds of livestock feed? Riding on that cart with your best friend, your partner in crime, your brother.

Best friends, partners in crime, brothers. ❤❤

 

How we turned a carport into a barn

It happens to the best of us. You start out with a few chickens (the gateway drug to the livestock world) then soon start experimenting with other animals. A donkey? A goat? Sheep? Potbelly pigs? Emu?! The sky is the limit! Who knows what will show up on your property. That’s part of the fun (for me anyway, but probably not as fun for my husband who gets to build their homes).

The horses have their own barn but there wasn’t enough room for the goats. After all, the herd just went from 2 goats to 5 goats. They more than doubled their numbers in less than a week & needed their own space. Well played, goats.

I started searching Pinterest for goat barn ideas & of course was not disappointed. There were so many creative  barns made out of many different materials. Then I saw  something that caught my eye: a carport turned into a barn. It was cute & looked so easy to build (hahaha!! Spoiler alert, it’s not as easy as it looks).

24×24 carport.

We eventually landed a used carport & set it up in the corner of the pasture. According to my expertise all we had to do was tack up some plywood & cut a few windows & doors. My husband (a contractor) quickly burst my bubble with reality. Yep, he was going to do it the right way so the barn wouldn’t blow away in the first storm. After all we live in hurricane alley (& he knows how much I worry about my animals) so he made a valid point.

We hooked up the trailer & took a trip to the home improvement store. One of my favorite places to go! Seriously, I have this thing where I think I can build anything, probably because I watch too much HGTV. My husband is never too excited in those stores because he frequents them for work.

We started to load up sheets of plywood, 4’x4’s, concrete, screws for metal, screws for wood, some kind of metal strap things, some giant screw things, & other stuff they don’t talk much about on HGTV. After paying an eye-opening total at the register, we loaded up our loot & headed to the barn.

Just some of the materials from the home improvement store. Those are sheets of 3/4” treated plywood & they are heavy! Our son was more than willing to help.
My husband (left) & stepdad (right) working on the goat barn while supervisor Sprinkles makes sure their work is up to snuff.

We laid 4’x4’ treated wood posts on their sides on the ground then set the carport on top of those posts (with the help of the tractor!). This was done to keep the bottom of the carport from direct ground contact & hopefully extend the life of the metal. Large bolts were drilled through the metal & into the 4’x4’ to keep everything in place.

You can see the carport sitting on top of the 4’x4’ wood posts.

The plywood walls were attached to the frame of the carport with 1.5” self-tapping metal screws. This part was way harder than I thought it would be. The 3/4” plywood was pretty heavy (even heavier because it was rained on & therefore added quite a bit of water weight) & awkward to handle. The hardest part was driving a few hundred metal screws through the plywood & into the steel frame. It should probably be a new CrossFit class.

Bottom row of plywood finished & 4’x4’ wood posts up.

Next we put up two 4’x4’ treated wood posts on each end of the barn. These would serve as a support for the barn doors that would be added later. The 4’x4’ posts are 12’ long. We dug a 2’ deep hole with post hole diggers for each post, set the post in the hole, made sure the post was straight & level, then poured a 40# bag of concrete in each hole.

Framing started on the ends of the barn.
More framing on the ends of the barn & the second row of plywood finished.

Unfortunately we were interrupted by a hurricane before we could finish the barn doors. We boarded up the unfinished parts with plywood & screws then used anchors to secure the barn to the ground.

The anchors that we used to secure the barn to the ground. These were attached to the frame of the barn with bolts, screws & washers.

After the storm passed, my stepdad made custom Dutch doors to go on each end of the barn.

The Dutch doors are up! My husband also cut windows into the barn for more airflow & ventilation.

I couldn’t be happier with how the goat barn turned out. Of course we added a few things after we thought we were done (doesn’t that always seem to be the case?). Extra windows, vents, whitewash, a chicken coop, sand – you get the picture. I’ll share the upgrades that we did in a later post.

Please let me know if you have any questions & I’ll do my best to help!

Chickens: the gateway drug to the livestock world.

A silkie chick

The barn has always been my happy place. The smell of hay, the sound of silence, the escape from the pressures of society, & of course my best friends live there, horses. I still enjoyed taking care of my horses & spending time with them but I was also constantly reminded of my limitations. No riding, no jumping, no competing, no shooting guns on horseback & playing cowgirl. This made me pretty depressed. I had no idea what non-horse people did with all of their time. I’m certainly not the type that will be happy & fulfilled by spending my time indoors.

My boys Harvey & Bert, enjoying retirement

I still loved my barn time but felt like something was missing. One day my husband surprised me by bringing home a small chirping box from the feed store. Inside were 6 little fluffy-butt baby chicks! I was in shock because I’m ALWAYS the one bringing home animals & my husband is the voice of reason (‘what exactly are you going to do with 2 feral donkeys?’ Ok, he had a point).

I let the chicks loose in our bathtub & hung a light over them to keep them warm. My husband quickly remembered why he should have surprised me with flowers instead. I started googling ‘baby chick care’ & was soon flooded by too much information & too many opinions. Oh no, chicken people are just as crazy as horse people!! I was stunned yet relieved, I will fit in just fine in the poultry enthusiast world.

The 6 chicks that started my addiction when they were about 3 months old. And yes, they are riding a Tonka truck!

Of course neither my husband nor I had any idea that chickens were like a gateway drug into the livestock world. I soon wanted more chickens. Who knew they came in so many colors & patterns?

They were actually pretty entertaining too. I don’t know about you but watching a chicken leap out of your lap & snag a wasp out of the air is pretty impressive. Bonus: I’m allergic to wasps! Did that chicken save my life? Probably not but it was still pretty amazing to witness.

My chickens are obsessed with mowing time. When you start the mower they will stampede towards you, then follow you up & down each row, eating every bug that is unearthed. Pretty sure they think of our mower as a big Pez dispenser.

Of course my flock grew very quickly thanks to the feed store. Every Spring the livestock feed stores & hardware stores get in hundreds of adorable baby chicks. They cleverly place them between the entrance & the feed section so you are overwhelmed by cuteness when you just need a bag of feed. But you can’t buy just one! Most stores have a minimum purchase of 6 chicks so they can keep each other warm, or keep each other company, or just increase the store’s revenue. Either way your flock will grow by leaps & cheeps in no time.

I went to the store for a bag of feed & came home with these little fuzz balls.

The chickens that you already have are determined to increase their numbers as well. I collect eggs every day & try to discourage broody hens (those are the hens that try to hatch eggs). Every once in awhile they will succeed in hiding a nest then parade around with another 8 or so baby chicks about 21 days later. Is it adorable? Yes. Does it increase your feed bill? Absolutely.

We went out of town & came back to a broody hen on a hidden nest. She increased our flock by 7 just a few days later!

Of course if you have a small coop & keep your chickens locked in that coop at all times you won’t be dealing with hidden nests (or a daily Easter egg hunt). We free-range our chickens during the day & only lock them up at night so they lay eggs all over the place (except in the variety of nesting boxes I made).

One of the chicken’s favorite nesting sites, in my hay feeders.
The flock stampeding when I let them out of their coop for the day.

My flock started outgrowing our acreage so I rehomed a few chickens to some good friends. Don’t worry, we still have enough chickens to make the neighbors give us weird looks.

In the beginning…

My mom, brother, & me with our two goats (TJ, left & Katie, right) 1985


So how does one become a livestock enthusiast (aka crazy horse/goat/chicken lady)? Everyone has a different story. Some want to trade in their stressful city life for a simpler one so they move to the country & buy a few animals. Some are born into an established farm family where they make their living by the livestock that they raise. It all started for me as a kid in the country. My mom is a big animal lover so I guess I got it honest! When I was a kid we had a pony, goats, ducks & chickens.

Me & my first pony, Booger Bear 


My pony’s name was Booger Bear (we didn’t name him but we didn’t change his name either!). He was a POA which is a Pony of the Americas. We got into so much trouble together while I was pretending to be a real deal cowgirl back in the Wild West. I fell off of him several times & he ran away with me whenever he felt like it. Looking back I realize he put up with so much like ill-fitting tack, a folded up quilt for a saddle pad, a wild 4 year old rider with no fear & the list goes on. I wore Velcro shoes while riding (not safe! Don’t do it!) & a hot pink cowboy hat that I got from the county fair. Hey, ya gotta start somewhere! That pony started a lifelong love of horses that continues to this day.

After Booger Bear, I went on to have two more horses, Harvey & Bert. I still have both of them, Harvey is 27 years old & Bert is 41 years old! How long do horses usually live? I get asked that question all of the time, especially when people find out that Bert is in his 40’s! He is certainly the exception in the age department. I promised both of my horses that they could hang around & eat my money for as long as they want & they have certainly taken me up on that offer!

I haven’t ridden horses in a few years due to  a traumatic brain injury that I sustained 6 years ago. It completely changed my life & I have permanent issues that I struggle with daily. I’ll go into more detail in a later post.

Me & Harvey on a beach ride


Bert, enjoying his retirement