Building a farmhouse: Land clearing & the foundation

My hubby doing a little lot prep after working at his real job all day.

My husband & I have lived comfortably in our small home but then we had kids & everything started shrinking: our home, our cars… our bank account! We wanted a home with more space so that we could start hosting family holidays & have friends visit without being too crowded.

We started building our farmhouse in October of 2017. It has been a very long process, years in the making. From getting the construction loan clearing the raw land, we have certainly invested quite a bit of time, effort & of course, money.

The land that we purchased is almost 6 acres. About 2 of those acres are already cleared & that is where our barns & pastures are located. We had to rent equipment & hire a machine operator (my uncle!) to clear the remaining land for the homesite. Operating heavy equipment looks like fun & seems pretty easy. I got to try it out for about 5 minutes & yes, it is fun (for the first few minutes anyway) but is it easy? Nope, not even close.

I had to try out the land clearing equipment. It is a lot harder than it looks!

After a few weeks of land clearing & some impressive bonfires, we started prepping the site. Getting the actual homesite ready for building is called site prep & it is much more involved than you would think!

One of our giant bonfires. Those are about 20-30’ trees on the pile to give you an idea of the size of the fire.

Our surveyor came out & used a transit level to determine the elevation of the site so we would know how much sand to order. You ideally want your home to sit on an elevated spot to prevent flooding problems. Moisture under your house can cause a lot of damage (rot, mold & mildew to name a few) so it is best to keep your house as high & dry as possible.

Using the transit level to measure the site.
Our boys watching the dump truck delivering sand. Note the giant bonfire behind the truck!

So we had load after load after load of sand delivered to raise the homesite. You would think sand is really cheap when you live by the ocean but it is surprisingly pricey. The kids loved the sand delivery because what kid doesn’t love giant piles of sand?!   The dump truck driver even honked the truck horn after each delivery which the kids thought was awesome.

After having lots of sand delivered & spread, we had to dig footers for the house. The building code in your county tells  you the size, number & location of footers that you need based on your blueprint. The entire perimeter of the house was dug out as well as various spots towards the middle of the footprint. Rebar was then placed in the holes as support for the concrete. At this point we had the county inspector come out to ensure everything was up to code so we could proceed with pouring concrete.

The footers around the perimeter of the house.
One of the footers in the middle of the house.

The footers passed inspection so now we got to cover them up with concrete!

Concrete getting poured in the footers.
Concrete in the footers!

Once the concrete cured (hardened) the brick mason started work on the blocks for the foundation.

The start of the cinder block foundation
The block foundation! The black things are foundation vents.

My husband wanted an extra tall crawl space (the space between the ground & bottom of the house). He has done a lot of work in crawl spaces & said it makes life much easier when you’re doing any install or repair work. It is surprising how many things get installed in the crawl space!

Building materials being delivered!

Now that the masonry work was complete we were ready to start building the floor & framing the house. Stay tuned for our next post when the house actually starts looking like a house!

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. ❤❤

 

Retail therapy: Livestock style

Charlotte on the ride home

So I was advised by doctors not to ride horses again after my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I needed a new (safer) hobby.

One day I happened to see an ad with some beautiful goats for sale & thought they would be a fun addition to our farm. I mean they’re goats: they’re cute, they’re funny, what’s not to love?!

What it’s really like to go goat shopping

We drove to a beautiful little farm with goats running around everywhere. It was amazing! I purchased 2 gorgeous does (named Silly & Charlotte) that were pregnant. Yes, pregnant! I just jumped into the goat world head first.

Charlotte (left) & Silly (right) going for a walk

I loved my new goats. They were sweet, affectionate, & made me laugh all the time. They really added a lot of fun to our farm. I even took them on walks sometimes which they loved. People would take pictures of us & we often had people making ‘baaaaa!’ sounds to the goats when they would drive by. Just about everyone gets a kick out of seeing goats!

It soon became obvious that both girls were definitely pregnant. We didn’t know how how many babies each doe would have so the size of our herd was going to be a mystery for a while. The vet said they could ultrasound each of them to confirm pregnancy & count the babies but that would be an expensive vet visit, on top of the other vet bills I already had with 2 horses & my old dog that was in kidney failure. The vet said she didn’t think the ultrasound was necessary & kind of gave me a rundown on what to expect (when your goat is expecting! See what I did there?!).

Silly when she was pregnant

Even though I knew all about taking care of horses, goats were a whole new world to me.  I bought some goat books & started reading blogs written by experienced (& not so experienced) goat owners.

Raising Goats for Dummies is a great book for goat owners. Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats is also good & I still refer to both books often.

I didn’t know exactly when they would have their babies so I obsessively checked them over every day, looking for any sign that labor was near. One day Silly was very vocal & wanted to be right beside me every second. I knew we were getting close. I had yet another doctor appointment for myself that day so I couldn’t stay with Silly all day but I checked on her before I left. Then when I got back from my doctor’s appointment I stopped in to check on her. She saw me then laid down & started pushing. Baby goats were on the way!

 

 

 

Magnolia Market: visiting the Silos in Waco, Texas

The infamous Silos at Magnolia Market

Family time is very important to us. My husband & I used to travel every chance we got but having two small children makes traveling a bit more difficult… and expensive. While we love the farm & all of our animals, it is nice to take family trips & get to explore the world around us. We try to make time for a family vacation every year & last year led us to Magnolia Market, made famous by the show Fixer Upper. We were immersed in shiplap, subway tile, chippy paint & modern farmhouse decor.

A beautiful rustic outdoor sink in the Market

So how did we end up choosing Magnolia Market? I am a fan of the show & always amazed at the talent & creativity of Chip & Joanna Gaines. My husband is a contractor that does a lot of professional remodels & new construction, so he actually gets many requests to recreate the Gaines’ famous modern farmhouse style. Requests for subway tile & farmhouse sinks have dramatically increased since the show became popular.

Subway tile inside the Market

Seeing the Market actually wasn’t the main reason for our visit though. Our main purpose for flying halfway across the country was to visit my brother in law who is currently stationed at Fort Hood. But when you’re a Fixer Upper fan & only an hour away, of course you make time to see it in person!

A map of the grounds at Magnolia Market

The grounds at Magnolia Market are beautiful, clean, family-friendly, & of course impeccably designed.

There are even man-benches strategically placed for bored husbands.
Willies Jeep

Of course the place was packed but we still had a relatively easy time finding free parking & easy access bathrooms. Tip: if you drive past the Bakery (it will be on your right), then take the next right, there is a free parking lot just for Magnolia customers. You can go in a back entrance without having to cross a road, a definite plus if you are traveling with kids. Other area parking lots are charging upwards of $20 just to park! Another side note: admission to all of the Magnolia grounds is free!

Dont forget to explore all of the grounds. There is a small retail shop towards the back of the grounds called Magnolia Seed & Supply. There are also plenty of beautifully landscaped gardens throughout the property.

A small animal pen was tucked away in the gardens but there were no animals in it at the time. Maybe a future goat or chicken house?
Genuine, Joanna-approved #Shiplap! This is located in the Seed & Supply shop, towards the back of the Magnolia grounds.
Inside the Seed & Supply store.
They have a variety of shirts & souvenirs for sale in each building. Here is just a small sample.
I love this garden! So much inspiration for our own homestead.
The line to the Silos Bakery was wrapped around the block so we decided to skip the baked goods.

Giant swings & plenty of seating are available throughout the property.
There is a large area where people were having picnics & playing some activities supplied by Magnolia, such as beanbag toss. The grass is actually artificial turf!

Are you a fan of Fixer Upper? Do you have any farmhouse inspired decor in your house? We would love to hear about it!

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