Spring Projects for an Old Farmhouse


A photo of the author, Caleb ReganSitting at the kitchen table recently, watching the flicker of an old-fashioned oil lantern, the winter conditions outside reminded me of how wonderful it is to live out in the sticks.

Wintertime out in the country, unlike any other time of the year, brings to mind how far from the comforts of city life we really are – it feels freeing, in a sense, to sit at the table playing dominoes, no television in the picture, not dependent on any outside forces. Looking out the window, I can actually see the moonlight on the timber set 100 yards away. Man, does it look cold. I can say with some confidence that I will never live within city limits again.

Douglas County Farmhouse

The only frustrating thing thus far – we moved in at the beginning of October – has been too many projects for the amount of daylight with which we’ve had to work. Winter can be a difficult time for me, since Monday through Friday during the shorter days of winter I leave for work in the dark and return home in the dark. No daylight hours except for the weekends.

This old farmhouse (somewhere around 175 years old) calls to me, and I rush home at the end of every day, don a headlamp, and head out to walk the dog down through the woods, or to turn sod for next year’s garden. I’ve also worn that headlamp while making some chicken coop repairs and even dispatching an opossum that managed entry into our hen house.

Predator pressure aside, my first project is expanding our poultry-raising efforts. I’ve managed to barter lumber from a neighbor in exchange for a couple weekends worth of drywall help, so building a permanent coop with a rotational grazing model chicken yard (for our laying hens), then building a larger movable chicken tractor for 10 or so meat birds in the spring are at the top of my list. I’ve already budgeted supplies for the NathanWinters' Movable Birdcage, so once deer season ends, I’ll have my work cut out. The project is already sketched out, and war has been declared on the resident coon, opossum and coyote populations. Along those lines, be sure to check out “CopingWith Critters” on Page 13.

Chuck Mallory
2/8/2013 2:51:56 PM

Caleb, your farmhouse DOES look in good shape. I would have never guessed it was that old. As for the short days, trust me, it's even worse farther north. When I first moved to northern Illinois and in winter saw it starting to get dim at 4:15 p.m., I was like, "What?" Interesting comment about the bloggers, too. Even if people talk about some of the same issues, everyone has a different "voice"--some people are funny about rural life, some are more desperate, some more reverent. Actually, Grit.com was ahead of the curve. The Chicago Tribune is trying, like TV stations have already been doing, to get people to "send" them things--only instead of just photos, they want to hear your experiences, have you share your response, etc. The internet has created a form of interactive journalism. Fortunately, Grit.com already has this with a large community of bloggers and others!

2/6/2013 7:53:20 PM

Caleb, old farm houses can be challenging to keep in good repair. Yours looks like it's been well taken care of. My grandson would agree with you that there's not enough sun light in the winter. Being dark by 5:30pm just drives him crazy in the winter. Did you build the deck on the house? From your opening comment about the flickering light from an old fashioned oil lamp, I am wondering if that was just for ambience or if seriously you don't have electricity in your house. Have a great country day.

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