The Pheasants Move Outside

After raising the pheasant chicks for 4 months, they were ready to move to their outside pen.  I had spent the past couple of weeks constructing a pen that was 35 feet long x 40 feet wide and 10 feet high.  It had wire mesh sides which were also buried underground to keep predators from digging under.  I put netting over the entire top to keep my birds from flying out or hawks/eagles from flying in.  I thought it was “predator proof”, silly me!

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I raised the pheasants in the outdoor pen for the next two months.  It was amazing to see them transform from young chicks to fully mature pheasants!  They were beautiful and it was heart warming to know that we had raised them from little tiny chicks!  Finally, I was ready to release them into the wild!  I recalled that I had to obtain written permission from the Department of Natural Resources based on the permit I had obtained.  I pulled my permit out of the files and located the number on the form that I had to call.  I gave them a call to ask them what type of “formal permission” I needed in order to release my birds.  Was it a formal letter, an email, some type of form?  The lady on the other end of the phone listened to my question and then very matter of factly stated “you cannot release your birds into the wild”!  I was stunned!  I said, “I beg your pardon!  Did you say I cannot release my birds?”.  She said “Yes!.  I told her that I didn’t understand, and that I had been talking to DNR for the past several months and that they had been helping me to plan their whole eco-system.  Why would you now tell me I can’t release them?  She asked me whom in DNR I had talked to?  I gave her the name of the gents I had talked to and she said “Oh, that is just the wildlife management group, they don’t know anything about permits”!  I told her that I could not believe that her own department didn’t know their own rules but she said they were separate groups.  Errrrgggghhhh!  I was so frustrated!!  She told me that they would not permit the release of pen raised birds into the wild in order to prevent the spread of diseases.  I told her that all of my birds had been inoculated against all common bird diseases but she did not budge!  I then asked her what the heck I was supposed to do with the 90 birds that I had raised to release.  She said the only way I could release them was for hunting or dog training.  This meant I had to release the birds a few at a time in order to train dogs but then the birds had to be shot as they took off.  She said there was no other way.

I made the decision that I would use most of the birds for training but that I would hold back about 20 of them for breeding new birds (this was based mostly on sentimental reasoning, not logic).  We released the majority of the birds for training dogs.  Most of them were taken home by the dog’s owners but several got away, when the shots were missed.  Those birds hung around for the next several months in the area but slowly the sightings decreased.  After about 8 months, no one reported seeing any pheasants around.  I kind of expected that but it was still pretty disheartening.   We even heard one story from a friend in a nearby neighborhood about our pheasants.  He told me that one day he was out mowing his back lawn when he heard two gun shots coming from the property next door.  He ran out front to see what was going on.  He saw his neighbor running out from his front door with his shotgun still smoking.  He ran out into his front yard and grabbed two dead pheasants and then ran back into his house.  So much for hunting ethics and being a good sportsman!

I continued to raise the remaining birds in the pen.  We even saw some new chicks hatch within the pen over the next few months.  It looked like my experiment would work and that I could raise more pheasants.  I wasn’t really sure what I would do with them but I really enjoyed seeing them each day, even if it was just inside the pen.  For some reason, some of the new chicks decided it would be a good idea to sneak through the wire and get outside the pen.  They were just small enough where they could squeeze through the chicken wire.  We were lucky enough to catch them doing this a few times and we would put them back in the pen.  But, a few times the barn cats got to them first.  Life can be cruel on a farm sometimes.

It had become a routine to check on the pheasants each day and see how they were doing.  I still enjoyed seeing the brightly colored males strutting around inside the pen.  They also made some interesting “calls” that were fun to hear and made the farm a better place to live.

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One day, as I headed down to the barn to feed the animals, I looked into the pen and noticed a bird lying still on the ground.  This was a bad sign so I went to check it out.  I went into the pen and approached the bird.  It was dead.  Something had attacked and killed it and partially eaten it.  I couldn’t believe it and immediately set out to determine how, whatever it was, had gotten into the pen.  I walked the whole perimeter and couldn’t find any signs that something had broken in.  I then checked all of the overhead netting and found it to be intact.  I was puzzled!  I ended up back at the door and looked very carefully.  There were no gaps but there was what I would call a slight “divot” in the soil under the left side of the door.  It was no more than one inch deep and about 6 inches wide.  I started to wonder if maybe a weasel or ferret had somehow dug under the door?  I wasn’t sure what other kind of predator could fit under a hole that small?

That was the only possible entry point I could find so I decided to focus my effort there.  That night, I took a “Have a Heart Trap” which is a metal caged trap with a trap door on the front.  The idea is that a critter will walk into the cage to get to some bait at the back end.  When they walk towards the back, they have to walk on a false floor that lets the door close thereby trapping the animal inside without injury.  I placed the trap just inside the door where the predator had dug under.  I also placed a couple of logs on each side of the front of the trap to force the predator into the cage (I had to do this because the trap door sticks out about 5 inches from the front of the trap when it is open).  I came down the next morning to see if I had caught anything.  The trap door was sprung but there was nothing in the trap.  I also had two more dead birds!  What ever it was that was killing the birds was not only an accomplished hunter but it was also leaving most of the dead bird behind.  It was almost like it was just killing them for the sport.  Strange………..I also noticed that all of the birds were missing their heads and necks but most of their bodies were untouched.  Also strange…….!

I decided to improve the trap that night so I made a wire mesh tunnel straight from the door of the pen to the trap.  Now, nothing could go anywhere but under the door and follow the tunnel right into the trap!  Boy was I smart!  Or maybe not so much…….The next morning I came back down to check the trap.  There was nothing in the trap but I had two more dead birds!  After careful inspection, I discovered that whatever it was had gone under the door, but instead of staying in the tunnel, it dug under my tunnel before going into the trap!  Boy, was I getting schooled!  I was now down to about 16 birds and I was getting mad!

My next attempt was to stop by the local hardware store and by some of those nasty snapping leg traps.  I hadn’t used those in the past because I had other animals, including the pheasants, that could get caught in those.  I left my cage trap and tunnel in place but this time I placed the leg traps just on the other side of the tunnel were the critter had dug under.  I figured if it tried the same tactic, that it would run into the leg traps!  But, I also had to worry about the pheasants in the pen stepping onto them.  So, I built a 3 foot high fence all around the inside of the door area and the trap.  Kind of like a foyer area :’)  Hopefully, this would keep the pheasants from getting near the trap.  I came back down to the pen the next morning anticipating that I had finally stopped the attacks.  No such luck!  The cage trap was sprung, and one of the leg traps was sprung but nothing was in either one of them!  A male pheasant was dead and two more females.  This was very bad as I had only kept two males in the pen with the rest being females.  The males will actually attack and fight each other over the females (just like men :’) so I was trying to keep that to a minimum.  I was now down to 13 birds with only one male left.  This was one smart critter and I still didn’t know what it was.

That night I reset the traps and filled in the hole under the pen door with pebbles and dirt.  Then, I climbed up into the barn’s hay loft with my shotgun and waited.  I had a great vantage point to watch over the pen’s door.  I sat there until about 1 in the morning before I finally gave up.  I had to go to work the next day so I needed at least a little sleep!  I never saw a thing.

I didn’t get to check the pen the next morning but when I came home that evening, I had three more dead birds!  Now down to 10.  The next day I went back to the hardware store and bought a total of eight more leg traps.  I placed them all in the “foyer” area and covered them with straw.  I figured that if the predator dug under the tunnel again, it might walk around in that fenced in area and step into one of the traps before it could get to the birds again.  The next morning revealed no success.  The predator had dug back under the tunnel and sprung two of the leg traps and still got away!  I was amazed and frustrated!  My last male pheasant was dead and three more females had been killed.  I was now down to six birds and all of them were female.  No more chicks!

For the next couple of days, I continued to reset the traps in the hope that I could catch this killer.  It continued to get by the traps and kill more birds.  I was finally down to just one bird and I didn’t know what else to try.  I was going crazy trying to figure out what could be killing all of my birds!  I didn’t have the heart to subject the remaining bird to another night of horror so I let it go.  I left the dead birds in the pen to serve as bait and planned my final trap.  I removed the cage trap and the tunnel.  I left the inner fenced in foyer in place and then I dug up all the ground in the foyer area down to about 2 inches.  I then placed a total of ten leg traps on the ground and covered them loosely with dirt.  I then sprinkled straw over the whole area.  It was kind of like a straw covered minefield.  Since there were no more birds left, I didn’t know if the night stalker would come back but I thought I would give it a try.

Well, the next morning I headed back down towards the barn and looked into the pen.  I saw that something was in the pen near the door and my heart started racing!  As I got closer, I saw that indeed, something was just inside the pen.  I moved in closer and couldn’t believe my eyes!  There, just inside the door was a very large raccoon!  The largest one I had ever seen!  It was caught in four different traps and it saw me coming.  It was hissing and snarling at me as I approached.  I thought this couldn’t possibly be true!  How could something so large have fit under that little tiny gap?!?!?  But, the raccoon had tried to escape after being caught and had his head under the door and outside the pen.  This in itself was amazing since his head was the size of a medium sized dog.   How did he compress his head to fit through a one inch gap?  To this day, I haven’t figured this out.  I also don’t really know why the final trap set up worked when all the rest did not.  I guess I finally got lucky.

Since this raccoon had wreaked so much destruction, I had no problem dispatching him!  Good riddance!  When I lifted him up he must have weighed 30 pounds!  He had been eating well!

Ever since that incident, I have never thought of raccoons the same.  I had always envisioned them as cute little masked bandits.  I now knew them to be crafty, skilled hunters who were quite strong and determined.  Like I said, life on a farm can have its cruel side too.

Mad Raccoon

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Raising Pheasants

One thing I learned about having land around you, you feel like you should do something with it.  Or at least I do……….

So, now that we had the horses settled in, I started looking towards my next adventure.  I had always thought pheasants were beautiful birds and it would be cool to have them around.  They had actually populated much of Maryland in the past but were now harder to find.  I thought it might be neat to raise some and introduce them to the property.  Who knows, maybe they would stick around and thrive?

I started researching on-line to learn more about raising pheasants, what type of habitat they liked and what foods they thrived on.  I was going to do everything I could to give them a fighting chance.  I contacted our local Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to see if they could help me out.  The gentleman I talked to seemed very interested in my venture and he told me all kinds of things that might help, but in the end he warned me that it probably wouldn’t work.  He said that predators in the area and lack of good cover would probably keep me from being successful, but he wished me good luck.

I still wanted to give it a go so I figured I would provide even more cover than I had originally planned so that they could hide better.  I picked one field on the property that was about 4 acres in size that would be “Pheasant Glen”.  I spent the next several months planting shrubs that pheasants liked for food and cover.  I tilled the pasture and planted several different kinds of grains as well.  I then brought branches and dead bushes in from the forests to build rows of cover that the birds could hide in.  Lastly, I dumped piles of ground up oyster shells all around the fields so the pheasants would have a good source of calcium for good egg production.  I stood back and surveyed my work…..I was ready to start!

I ordered 90 pheasant chicks to start off with.  It turns out that chicks can be shipped in the mail!  I wasn’t sure how that would work but it appeared to be a routine procedure for them so I just went with it.  They told me the chicks would be shipped in about 3 weeks and that they would send me an email letting me know more details closer to the shipping date.  When I placed the order, a note popped up on the web site which said to make sure to get any permits required by your state.  I didn’t realize I needed a permit for raising birds!  Oops!  I contacted DNR again and sure enough, the state of Maryland required a permit for raising birds.  I quickly filled out the form and submitted it with the fee of $15.  I hoped it wouldn’t take too long!  Lucky for me, about 10 days later, my permit was approved!  Yeah!

Then, just as promised, about two weeks later I got an email saying the chicks would be shipped in the next couple of days.  I was really looking forward to them arriving.

I decided to convert one of our stalls into a chick brooding room to raise the new pheasants.  We had barn cats so I had to make sure there was not way they could get in.  I wrapped all the walls in thick black plastic to keep any drafts out and then I made a 2×4 framework at the top of the stall to serve as a roof.  I nailed chicken wire over the whole surface to keep pests out.  Finally, I installed a hanging heat lamp from the ceiling and covered the entire floor with pine shavings.  We were ready to receive our new guests!

The following Thursday, I woke up at 5:30am to get ready for work.  I had just hopped out of the shower and finished shaving, when I heard the phone ring.  That was strange!  It was 5:50 in the morning!  I ran to answer the phone and it was the post office!  The nice lady on the other end informed me that my chicks had arrived and that I should pick them up right away.  Holy crap!  I didn’t even know the post office was open that early!  Luckily, it was only a couple of miles from my home so I headed there right away.  When I arrived, the place looked completely deserted.  I headed inside and all the interior doors were locked.  I wasn’t really sure what to do but I saw a sign next to one of the locked doors that said “ring bell for parcel pick up”, so, I did.  I waited for about 15 seconds and no one answered so I was going to try again.  But, just as I reached for the button, I heard a “cheeping” sound getting louder and louder.  Then I heard the door being unlatched and the postal clerk appeared at the door holding a box that had a lot of chirping coming from it.  I told her I was here to pick up chicks thinking I was being funny.  She said “here ya go” without missing a beat!”.   Rats!  Another wasted joke!  I told her thanks and that I was sorry for the trouble of having to deal with this so early.  She said don’t’ worry about it as they handled a lot of chicks there.  Who would have thought?

I took the new chicks home and placed them in the stall.  I was very happy that I had prepped it ahead of time!  I made sure they had food and water and then I headed off to work.  This would be their new home for the next couple of months until I could move them outside.

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Becoming Horse Owners

It was so exciting to have horses on our farm and now we had to get used to the routine of taking care of them.  Prior to heading off to work in the morning, we had to head down to the barn to feed, water and turn the horses out into the pastures.  Once the horses were out of their stalls, we had to “muck” the stalls, which basically means to use a pitch fork style tool to sift the horse droppings out of the pine shavings.  You also have to scoop up any urination spots and put all of this into a wheelbarrow and dump it outside.  You would be surprised how fast this pile builds up day after day!  The horses enjoyed grazing in the pasture during the day and at the end of the day, you bring them back in, feed and water them, brush them down and then leave them in the stalls for the evening.  On weekends, we would add riding to our routine.  It took us a while to figure out how to properly place a saddle on them but once we figured that out, it was fun to hop in the saddle and ride around the pastures.  Every now and then, I would surprise Robin and the kids by saddling up my horse and riding by the front windows while they were inside.  It was quite entertaining for them to see such a large animal walking past the window when they weren’t expecting it!

The horse farm that we had purchased our horses from had given us 7 days to have a Vet check performed on the horses to make sure they were in good health, so we contacted our Vet and had her check out our horses.  It was really interesting to see all of the tests that she ran our horses through.  It was far beyond checking their hooves, teeth, eyes and taking blood samples.  She took them out in the paddock and walked them in tight circles, had them trot, walked them up and down hills and more.  We watched anxiously as she wrote things down and assessed their fitness.   When she was done, she gave us the news.  Ranger had passed all of her tests but she very directly said we should send Forest back!!!  We were stunned and surprised as he seemed perfectly healthy to us and he was such a sweet horse!  What could possibly be wrong?  The Vet took the time to explain her findings…….during one of the tests, she had guided Forest to walk in several very tight circles while he was on a lead line.  She was looking to see that the horse would cross one leg over the other as it pivoted tightly.  Forest had planted one of his rear legs and literally spun around that leg without lifting it.  He was drilling a hole in the ground as he moved around the circle.  The Vet stated that this meant he had some type of a neurological disorder which was manifesting itself as pain he was experiencing with his back leg or hip.

We were very sad to hear this but it was what it was.  We contacted the horse farm to tell them the Vet’s findings.  They of course wanted to see the report and said their Vet had given the horse a clean bill of health.  We went back and forth on this a bit but they did live up to their guarantee.  We had to take another day trip to the farm to pick a new horse.  After looking at several other horses and taking them out for test rides, Robin finally selected Rusty and he was delivered to our farm a week later.  Rusty passed the Vet check so we now had our two horses and could focus on training and riding.

Rusty and Ranger

Ranger

Ranger

Rusty

Rusty

Our FIrst Animals

Well, we went through the normal routine of getting boxes unpacked, pictures hung on the wall and furniture moved around. Things were going nicely with the head start we got from our friends during the move. We were getting settled in to life on a farm. Just prior to us moving in, the owner had mentioned to me that he was getting a bit stressed out with trying to move 15 years worth of junk out of the house, barn and garage. He wasn’t sure how he could get it all done in time. Since they had helped make our dream come true, I told him to take what they wanted and I would either keep or get rid of whatever was left. It seemed like the least I could do and he enthusiastically accepted the offer! That turned out to be a good deal for me as well as he left all kinds of odds and ends that proved useful for repairs later on.

The farm had been used by the previous owners as a horse farm. Both Robin and I had limited exposure to horses, mostly in the form of an occasional trail ride, but we thought it would be neat to have our own. So, as our first official act as wanna-be farmers, we started looking around for a horse. We found a nice farm in Virginia that had several horses for sale. Their web site was well done and provided pictures, prices, and detailed descriptions of each horse. One weekend we made the day trip to the horse farm to take a closer look.

We told the owner about our limited experience and what we planned to use the horse for, which was trail riding around the farm. Robin was already taking riding lessons so she could be more confident in the saddle. Based on our inputs, the lady showed us a couple of horses to look at. This was primarily going to be Robin’s horse so I was going to let her choose a horse she was comfortable with. Robin chose a horse named Forest to take for a test ride. Forest was a beautiful black quarter horse who was very mild mannered. Robin rode him around the ring and really seemed to enjoy the way Forest responded. As she was a novice rider, Forest was a good fit as he was not easily excited.

Robin's horse Forest

Robin’s horse Forest

Robin rode Forest for about 20 minutes and seemed to enjoy herself, then she wanted me to try him out to see what I thought. We switched out and I gently nudged Forest to begin walking. Forest didn’t respond so I bumped him with my heels just a little bit harder, still nothing. I tried my best cowboy impersonation and made a clicking sound with my tongue and again nudged Forest. He didn’t seem interested in doing much at all. Becoming just a bit frustrated, I kicked him a little harder still with my heels and he finally started walking! For a whole three steps! Then he stopped again. I had heard that some horses respond to different signals so I asked the owner what this horse responded to. Her response was that he was just a very quiet horse and took a lot of encouragement. Well, I tried again and was able to get Forest moving but it took constant effort. If I stopped nudging him, he would stop. I found this to be too much work for riding a horse. But of course, Robin had fallen in love with him. I encouraged her to at least try another horse or two but I had a feeling I was fighting an up hill battle. I asked the owner if she had a horse with a little more “energy”. She seemed uncomfortable with my request due to our lack of experience but I was able to talk her into showing us another horse. I asked her about a Paint that I had seen that I really liked the looks of. She told me that he was probably more horse than Robin could handle. I persisted and said I would still like to see the difference. So, she brought Ranger over to us. Ranger was larger than Forest so maybe a bit more intimidating. I hopped up on Ranger and barely tapped him with my heels and he started walking! Ranger handled very well and I really enjoyed riding him. It didn’t take much more to get him into a trot but I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. Luckily he stopped on command. Now this was a fun horse! I talked Robin into giving Ranger a try. It took some effort for her to mount him as he was tall for her. She stuck with it and was able to settle into the saddle. She rode Ranger for about 10 minutes and then had had enough. Ranger was too much for her at this stage of her training plus she didn’t like his gait.

We tried a few more horses and Robin and I had both chosen our favorite. Unfortunately, they were two different horses! I told Robin that we were here to pick out her horse so we would go with Forest. She asked if I was OK with that and I told her it was fine with me, but that I probably wouldn’t ride him much myself. The horse farm owner overheard our discussions and stepped in to “help”. She said that if we were interested, she would offer us a two horse discount. Lucky me! But, it did solve our problem. Plus, this would allow us to ride together on the trails.

So, that was it! Ranger and Forest were coming to join us at Fairwinds Farm!

Ranger

Ranger

The Move

This is the view of our place as you drive up.

This is the view of our place as you drive up.

Well, we settled the paperwork for the lease and we started planning our move onto the farm.  We were so excited!   It was like Christmas!  I had to keep pinching myself :’)

Most of our stuff was still in California and we had a “dreaded” self move ahead of us.  I had left my last job abruptly due to ethics concerns and really had no plan.  I just knew I needed to get out.  So, everything was on me, but it was the right decision!  I started searching for the best (meaning cheapest) options for moving our household goods across the country.  I first checked with moving companies and quickly realized there was no way we could afford that.  I then moved on to Pods and truck rentals.  The cheapest option I found was a trucking company that would drop off a tractor trailer at your home for three days.  You had to load it yourself and then lock up the trailer.  They would then pick the trailer up and drive it to your new destination.  At the far end, they would leave the trailer at your new place for another three days during which time you were to unload it.  This option required the most work on our part but we were able to move the majority of our good across the country for about $4200.

I had just started a new job and was still getting used to the routine.  Despite this, I had to tell my boss, Mack, that I needed to take the upcoming Friday off because that is when our trailer would be arriving.  I told him I had to have it unloaded in 3 days.  He asked how I was going to unload the trailer.  I told him that since we were new to the area, that it was mostly my sons, one friend and a couple of my wife’s family members that would be doing the heavy lifting.   It was going to be a long, hard weekend!  Mack then asked me why I didn’t ask some of the guys at work for help.  I  chuckled at that because anyone that has ever moved and asked for help knows that it is usually only your very best friends that will put up with that.  I told Mack that I didn’t know anyone well enough to ask that of them.  He shrugged and walked away.  I went back to work and was working on my computer when I saw a new email pop up.  It was from my boss.  The email went out to the whole team and basically said that the new guy (me) had a trailer full of his household goods showing up and that I needed help.  He said unloading would happen on Saturday  but that I was too chicken to ask for help.  My boss said that if anyone showed up, he was sure I would supply the pizza and beer.  I was a little embarrassed when I saw it, but I thought I would just see where it went.  I didn’t see any responses to the email over the next couple of days so I figured it was a noble attempt by my new boss but it was just asking too much.

So, moving day arrived a few days later.  The trailer showed up as promised on Friday afternoon.  We did a quick check of the contents but decided we would wait until Saturday morning to get started in earnest.  We got up early and opened the trailer.  It seemed like a daunting task to get it all unloaded in 3 days!  We figured we would just take one piece of furniture at a time.  My friend and his wife arrived, as well as my sister-in-law and her husband.  My father-in-law also came to help.  We started unloading and I was on my second trip out to the trailer when Mack and his wife pulled into the driveway.  I was amazed!  After a quick hello, he jumped right in and started unloading and asking where we wanted stuff.  I was very thankful for their help!  What a blessing.  Well, over the next half an hour, car after car pulled into our driveway until I had a team of 10 guys and three of their wives helping out!  I was definitely working with a great group of people!  The women helped my wife put things away and clean the kitchen while the guys moved piece after piece of heavy furniture and boxes.  It was going very quickly and smoothly with one exception………..

The previous owners had left their dog at the farm until they could get settled.  Their dog was a very large Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Ducky.  Ducky was a bit intimidating due to his size and the fact that he was built like a tree trunk, but he was a very friendly dog.  I do remember the first time I met him was with his owners a couple of weeks before.  When I got out of the car, Ducky came running over to me with a log in his mouth!  I couldn’t believe that a dog could carry something that large and heavy.  His owner told me that he wanted to play fetch and he dropped the log at my feet.  Luckily, he missed my toes!  Well, I picked up the log to throw it for Ducky.  I don’t know if you have ever tried to heave a log but it is no easy task.  I could barely get a grip on it and it weighed about 12 lbs.  I threw it as hard as I could and I am pretty sure I lost some skin on some of my fingers plus got a splinter or two.  Well Ducky took off at full speed to fetch the log.  He grabbed it right up in his jaws and came running back.  I think he did this about 6-7 times before he tired out.  Thank God!  I don’t think my arm would have taken much more!

So, while we were trying to unload the trailer, Ducky seemed to take a strong liking to one of my friends, Gary.  This friend owned dogs and apparently, Ducky really liked the way they smelled on Gary’s pants.  Ducky kept sniffing my friend’s pants while we were trying to move furniture.  He kept getting under foot and almost tripped my friend several times.  It was like they were glued together!  We had fun giving our co-worker a hard time about having a new buddy.  We suggested maybe they should date first before getting so friendly :’)  Anyway, this went on too long and was slowing us down so we ended up putting Ducky in the garage until we were finished.  That seemed to do the trick!

The entire trailer that took me and several other people 3 days to load was unloaded and put away in two hours!  What an amazing group of people!  As things were winding down, it was getting close to lunch time so we ordered some pizza for the gang.  While we waited for the pizza to arrive, I asked if anyone was interested in seeing the property, most everyone wanted a tour.  We gathered everyone up, including Ducky, and headed for the back of the property.  Ducky didn’t waste a second finding Gary again and stayed right by his side.  We cracked a few more jokes about Gary and Ducky as we headed towards the back pasture.  There were three horses in the back pasture that were owned by people renting out stalls.  They were about 200 yards away when they saw us heading towards them.  Well, I had introduced myself to the horses earlier in the week and they all seemed gentle and friendly.  But, for some reason, when they saw the crowd of the 10-12 of us heading their way, they raced at full gallop right towards us.  Our first thought was how cool it was to see horses running like that in the open.  What a beautiful sight!  But they kept coming – still at full speed!  When they got about 70 yards away, one of my friends asked me it they would slow down.  Trying to be reassuring, I said, “Of course they will”.  I was hoping I was right, but I was starting to get nervous!  I told everyone to stay together.  Then they got to about 20 yards!  I was about to run screaming like a little girl!  Then all of the sudden, at about 10 yards, they dug in to the turf and came to a skidding stop just in front of us!  Phew!  That was a close one.  Of course I pretended like I knew that was what they were going to do :’) Didn’t want to look bad in front of my friends after all!

Well, once I was able to breath again, we started walking towards the back again.  Ducky was still glued to Gary’s side as we pushed our way past the horses.  Next thing we know, the horses fell in behind us and started walking with us.  We all thought this was kind of cool but before we got used to it, the horses started working their way into our group.  They walked past a few people in the back and then fell in behind Gary like he was their long lost friend!  So now, Gary had Ducky glued to one leg and 4 horses behind him and flanking him on both sides!  We couldn’t believe it and it was a hilarious sight!  We asked Gary if he was building an ARK that we didn’t know about?  We all came to a stop to see what the horses would do and they stopped with us, except one that was right behind Gary.  That one took a few more steps and then rested his chin on Gary’s shoulder!  Well, that did it!  From that day forward we gave Gary the nickname, Dr. Doolittle!

Rusty and Ranger

The rest of the tour was uneventful and everyone really enjoyed the walk.  We then headed back up to the house to join the rest of the group and get some pizza!  We had a real nice afternoon enjoying pizza, beer and sharing stories.  It was a good day!  The farm was starting to become ours……….

View of house from the driveway.

View of house from the driveway.

Welcome to Fairwinds Farm!

Hey there!  This is a blog about moving onto and living on a farm.  We moved onto our farm over 5 years ago.  I had always wanted to own some property and we finally got our chance when we moved to Maryland in 2007.  Since then, it seems like I have had a story to tell my friends almost every day about some adventure, or misadventure, on the farm.  My friends suggested I start to put the stories into print so here we go……..

Maybe you have thought about buying some property in the past but didn’t think you could pull it off.  That was us.  We moved to Maryland with the hope of finding a few nice acres just to have a little privacy.  We never figured we find more than that.  Plus, we still had a home in California that we needed to sell so any offer we made would have to be contingent on that.

Over the years, with many moves under our belts, Robin and I had both compiled a list of things we liked or didn’t like about houses (they weren’t necessarily the same things).  As we looked at different properties, we had a hard time agreeing on any one property.  There were some houses we liked but the land wasn’t very usable so we kept looking.  As we ran low on choices, I started looking at properties that were higher in price than we could afford.  I did this in part because I thought I might be able to talk them down to our range and the other part was out of curiosity.  I just ended up becoming envious of things we couldn’t afford, but I kept doing it anyway because I had already looked at everything else dozens of times.  So one day, I am searching for properties on-line and I decided to search for any property over 3 acres just to see what was out there.  I saw all of the usual suspects, so I past by those and kept working my way up in price, even way past what we could afford.  At the end of the listings was this beautiful 70 acre farm that was twice what we could afford.  I wondered what it would be like to live on such a place and then I shut off the computer for the evening.  For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about the 70 acre farm.  I looked at it again several times over the next few days.  I noticed on the listing that it had been on the market for close to a year.  That made me wonder why but I went back to reality and kept looking for things in our price range.  For weeks and weeks nothing worthwhile popped up and I found myself returning to the listing of the farm I had seen.  I don’t know why but I couldn’t stop thinking how great it would be to live there.  I told Robin about it and she thought I was nuts for even looking.  She was right but that didn’t stop me.  Finally, I decided to ask our realtor if he would show it to us.  He was a bit surprised when he heard the asking price.  He said that he didn’t usually show properties to clients that couldn’t afford them.  I told him that I understood that but that if he showed it to us, he would at least know what the property was all about in case some other client asked about it.  He gave me a raised eyebrow but said “what the heck, things are slow anyway”.  So, a week later, we went to see the farm.

When we drove up to the house, the other realtor was already there and the owners came out to the driveway to meet us.  This made me nervous because it seemed quite formal and we were just being “looky-lou’s.  When we got out of the car, I looked out over the property and said, “Wow!  What a beautiful farm!”.  The owners were walking over to us and they overheard me say that.  The husband said, “Thanks, we built it from scratch”.  He introduced himself and said “why don’t I show you around?”.  His wife introduced herself and she offered to take Robin around separately.  Again I thought this was a little too much attention but it sounded like fun.  To this day I don’t know why but the two realtors paired off and seemed content to let us do our thing, so they just talked in the driveway.  Well, the tour was a lot of fun and we loved the property.  I really enjoyed talking with the husband and it turned out Robin enjoyed talking with the wife as well.  As we were preparing to leave, the husband asked me what I thought.  I told him that we loved the place but we had to wait and see what happened with our house in California.  I also told him that the price was a little high for us but I was hoping we could come up with a way to make it work.  I asked him if they would ever consider an option like leasing to own?  He said they were building their new home out of state and were planning on the money as retirement income and to live on after moving so they really wanted to cash.  I told him I understood but if they ever changed their mind, to please give us a call.

Over the next month or two, we kept looking at other properties but I also kept my eye on the farm.  I guess I was hoping against hope that they would drop the price, a lot, or it would at least stay on the market.  Then one day, about three months after we first looked at the farm, the owners called and asked if we were still interested in leasing?  I told them that we would love to talk to them about it but I couldn’t promise we could afford what they might ask.  They told us to come on over anyway.

We met in their home to discuss the details.  The wife started the conversation by telling us that a lot of people had looked at their property over the past year and a half but that we were their “pick of the litter”!  Apparently, our appreciation of what they had built hit a chord with them.  They told us that several groups had made full price offers but that they all wanted to change the farm to either industrial buildings or ball fields.  They found it refreshing that we loved it for what it was and would build on what they had already accomplished.  I was so excited I almost fell out of my chair.   We then started to discuss the details so this was far from a done deal.  The husband told us the monthly payment he was looking for.  I already knew in my head what we could afford and this amount was about $1000 more per month than we could swing.  The disappointment must have shown on my face because before I could say a word, he stopped me.  He said I know this is a lot of money but we have a couple of folks that were renting stalls in their barn and they also rented out an apartment over their garage to another tenant.  The husband said if we were willing to let them stay there, then we could keep that rent and put it towards our payment!  He said that those two rents added up to about $1100/month!  We couldn’t believe it!  This could actually work!

And it did!   We leased for about 3 years and while we did, the owners dropped the price due to our payments and because the market was still dropping.  It finally got to a point where we  could afford our own mortgage.

The reason I went to such lengths to tell this story is because I believe there is a moral to it.  The moral is, chase your dreams!  They won’t always work out but if you never follow them, you will remain stagnant.  We ended up on the property of our dreams just by asking a few questions and offering an alternative solution.