My husband, Owen, and I bought our 6.5 acre property in 2016 and have been building up our homestead ever since. We are located in a small town in Western Washington, right by one of the most beautiful rivers for catching salmon and steelhead. We are surrounded by towering evergreens, flowing rivers and streams, gorgeous lakes, and plenty of hiking trails.
Throwing the stick for our dog, Thor, in the river right by our house.
Hitting the trail with Thor. This hike is just a 5 minute drive from our house so we play here often.
We are located in garden zone 8a. Our last frost is about mid-May and our first frost is in the beginning of October. We have two seasons in the Pacific Northwest: cold rain and summer sunshine. Most years we get at least a little bit of snow, but our weather is so moderate that it isn’t always a guarantee.
The garden that came with our home.
When we first moved in, we inherited two large raised garden beds and a raspberry patch from the previous owners. We ended up removing the raised beds and putting in a huge Back to Eden style food forest. Our garden is now roughly about 2500 square feet.
We transformed our small garden into a Back to Eden Food Forest.
When you enter the garden, it’s like walking into a whole other world. A winding path makes it’s way from one side of the garden to the other, passing by multiple strawberry patches, the chicken coop, the raspberry patch, and making a final loop around Strawberry Hill where the path is lined with fruit trees. Three apple trees were here when we moved in, and then in 2019 we planted two more pears, a peach, a plum and a cherry.
We built our chicken coop and run so that it is attached to the garden. We wanted to have easy access to the compost that our chickens make for us and be able to throw garden waste in their run for them to snack on. Sometimes people ask if the chicken coop smells (like most coops do) but as long as we keep adding layers of “browns” (woodchips, straw, leaves, etc.) to their run, it doesn’t smell at all.
Our chicken coop is attached to the garden so we can feed them our garden waste and have easy access to the compost they make for us. You can see our raspberry patch on the other side of their run.
I spend late summer and fall in our kitchen canning, freezing and dehydrating our produce. I try not to let any of it go to waste. Plenty goes to neighbors and friends, and anything that starts to get a little too ripe goes to the chickens. I make all kinds of goodies: pickles, dilly beans, applesauce, jams, ketchup and so much more! It takes a lot of time to do all of this work, but the end result is so worth it. All of these things taste so much better than anything you could buy from the store, plus you know exactly what’s in it. No pesticides or nasty chemicals here!
A batch of homemade garlic dill pickles straight from our garden.
The chickens are a super important part of our set up. We raise them for eggs, compost and meat. They get all of our kitchen scraps and yard waste and turn it into rich, creamy eggs and luscious nutrient-dense compost. We use the deep litter method in our run, which means that instead of removing and replacing their bedding every week, we add more browns to it (straw, leaves, woodchips and wood shavings) and let it compost in place. The chickens spend their days turning and pooping in the compost. There is hardly any work on our part until the day we screen the compost so we can layer it in our garden.
We currently have 16 chickens in our flock: 3 roosters and 13 hens. We have Rainbow Dixies, Production Reds, Barred Rocks, Black Austrolorps, Buff Orpingtons, Americaunas, a Red Ranger, and barnyard mixes from all of the above. There are always chicken shenanigans happening. The roosters have a good pecking order established, but there is competition for the ladies which always makes things interesting. And although the hens have their own pecking order, they are not always very nice to one another. Chicken drama!
Big Daddy Roo — our first rooster from our first generation of chickens. He is an evil, aggressive rooster who attacks me any time I turn my back on him, but I’ve come to love our love-hate relationship. He’s made me tougher and keeps me on my toes!
The ladies are prepping a new garden bed for me so I can plant more strawberries. Love their fluffy butts.
I let the flock free range for about two or three hours before the sun goes down. If I let them out to roam all day, it is pretty much a guarantee that a predator will nab one. This way, they spend most of the day making our compost, but they still get a chance to eat grass and bugs. Then they put themselves up for the night in their coop when the sun sets.
Big Daddy’s two sons with their mini flock. We incubated eggs from our chickens and now have these gorgeous mixes. I love the blend of the Americauna and Dixie Rainbow (the two blond looking hens in the front).
We have a chicken tractor for our meat flock that we raise once a year. The tractor gets moved daily so that they always have new grass and bugs to munch on, with an additional benefit of fertilizing our field. Our birds have a great life (much better than they would have at a factory farm) and one bad day. We don’t take the gift they are giving us for granted. We don’t let anything go to waste and use all the scraps to stock up our pantry with homemade chicken stock for cooking.
Here are our Red Rangers relaxing in their chicken tractor. They have plenty of space, and always have access to fresh grass and bugs.
Owen presenting our new chicken tractor that he built.
We have three adorable pit bulls (Marley, Lola and Thor) and two sweet cats (Jinxycat and Keeyu). Our dogs are our security and the cats are our pest control. The dogs helped us raise the cats from the time they were 2 weeks old, after the dogs found them in some bushes on our property. I used to bottle feed one kitten, while our pups would lick and cuddle the other. The cats are especially fond of Momma Marley, our 14 year old pit bull, and love to tag along on her daily stroll.
Our sweet pups (left to right): Thor, Marley, and Lola. Marley is Lola’s momma.
Our cats have become expert hunters and bring us mice, voles, moles, and any other pesky critters they can get a hold of. It’s because of them that we don’t have to use mousetraps and poison on our property. They also patrol the garden daily and have helped keep it clear of bunnies that want to eat what I grow.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see plenty of our dogs, cats and chickens hanging out in the garden and around the property.
Momma Marley and her two baby kittens, Keeyu and Jinxycat.
Marley had been a wonderful momma to many litters of puppies so she knows the drill….just lay there and let them climb on you.
Lola is sweet just like her Momma Marley and loves to cuddle with kittens.
Lola is waiting patiently to help with feeding time.
Our dogs helped me so much with these kittens. I would bottle feed them and then Marley and Lola would give them a bath. They calmed the kitties in a way I couldn’t, and now they are all besties because of it.
As they started getting older, the kittens’ love for Momma Marley grew too.
They still love walking the property together….
…and giving each other Eskimo kisses…
…and hanging out on the couch.
It has taken some training, but our dogs get along really well with our chickens too. I can let the chickens and dogs out together and they will be just fine. The dogs are more concerned with finding chicken poop treats than the chickens themselves.
In the early days, when Roo and Lola were first getting to know each other.
It didn’t take long for everyone to become buddies.
Although Thor is more concerned with chicken poop treats than friendship.
We still have goals for our homestead. We would like to add beehives so we can produce our own honey and beeswax. And down the road, we’d like to install solar panels to produce most, if not all, of our electricity. I’m coming up with new projects to do all the time and will be writing about them so you can try them out for yourself.
But in the meantime, thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed your visit and will come back soon!
You can read more about our homestead in these popular posts:
- Our New Homestead
- The Truth About My First Year Homesteading
- How We Created Our New Back to Eden Garden
After a long day of playing with pups and patrolling the garden, Keeyu likes to take a nap.
- Learn more about The Nature Life Project here.
- Meet Monica, the writer behind The Nature Life Project here.