Friday, June 13, 2014

Name Change

Hey Jim here.

You may have noticed that our name has changed from "Willow Run Ranch" to "Willow Valley Ranch". There were a couple reasons for this. One, Willow Valley Ranch sounded cooler to us. Two, there is a housing development in the near by town named Willow Run Ranch, so we wanted to change it to avoid confusion.

Some things here and there may still say Willow Run Ranch. You can ignore those, or let us know and I'll look into changing them. One such issue you may notice is for our YouTube channel name. Google does not let you change your user name, so I just re-labeled the channel. Not a solution by any means, but it's the best I could do.

Take care,

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Welcome Spring!!

Ginger Spice :)

Spring has finally arrived on our little piece of heaven.  Adorable little fuzzy butted chicks are happily chirping and our 4 - that's right 4 baby goats Rose, Daisy, Willow - and our newest addition - Cedar are constantly racing up and down the hill with excited skips and kicks.  To say the least our numbers have swelled and we couldn't be more pleased!

Our beautiful eggs of all colors!!
With the egg licensing complete for the chickens our next big goal is to have our family farm Animal Welfare Approved certification.  This is a free certification that is totally voluntary.  It has to do with how your animals are cared for daily to ensure each chicken is given a good, safe, and as natural as possible life.

Renovations were needed on our main coup not only to house our additional little babies, but to meet the requirements for the certification.  This includes a larger foot print, improved air circulation, A frame perches, and additional nesting boxes.  We are done with the main coup area, but still have the nesting box room to add on.

Our cameras have been down for a week or two, but we promise they will be back up shortly and we can't wait to share with you what we have been working on!!  For more information on the Animal Welfare certification please check out their site:


As far as our goats - we have grown there too.  We are up to 8 gorgeous goats!!  They include 2 Mini Lamanchas, 3 adult doe Nigerian Dwarfs, 2 doeling Nigerian Dwarfs, and the big shocker - even to me - a buckling Nigerian Dwarf Cedar.

Stay tuned for pics, pics, pics!!  Show season is upon us and starts officially May 18th.  We have a lot to learn, but are excited to meet more goat people (never thought I would say that)!!

Currently, two of our Nigerian Dwarf adults are pregnant and we are excited.  So, with 2 in milk and 2 more soon to be what are we doing with all the milk?  Soap, cheese, lotion, and butter!!  Plus of course, it is so delicious in a nice tall glass too.

Next up on the goat front?  Building 2 more stalls for our little ones to come.  Then, we are getting our Artisan Cheese license!!  Currently our biggest favorites are the honey cinnamon and lemon pepper garlic...YUM!!

Thank you all for your patience, friendship, love, and support!!

Cedar and Lily

Saturday, March 22, 2014

This is what I wrote that got so much attention to almost turn our small world inside out.

Have you ever had a dream?  I mean the kind that starts as an ache in the front of your sinuses and turns into an almost painful tattling in your teeth?  The kind of deal you would happily live for or just as happily die for?  Have you ever given up the here and now and the pain it holds for just a moment to hold in your hand what might be....if so...I'm sure we have seen each other on a small piece of land and hope we have named Willow Run Ranch.


Friday, February 14, 2014

What They Don't Tell You About Homesteading

Now, it's not so much that these are secrets all homesteaders keep to make the rest of the population fail should they decide to buy a pair of muckers and head for the country.  They are more like things that those who have never lived a sustainable lifestyle most likely would ever stop to contemplate long enough to realize the outcome of.   They are the sort of thing like never being told when you get pregnant you will have gas....a lot of gas.  It makes sense, but never really seems to come up in polite conversation.

 So, here we go:

1.)  If you are a homesteader with animals, the worse the weather  (either hot as Hades or double digits below zero) the more time you will spend out in it.

If it is terrible and uncomfortable for you outside, it is even worse for your livestock who never get to sit next to the fireplace sipping hot chocolate or lounge in air conditioning with ice cream.  If you ever want to find high quality animals for dirt cheap or free check Craig's List when it is over 100 or below 20.  All the better for the homesteader who wants to add to their farm when those with the best intentions get tired of being uncomfortable, doing chores, and the cost to maintain animals properly is at its highest.

2.)  You really should check the cell phone reception and high speed internet availability before falling in love with a piece of property.

We got lucky.  We are the last house on our county road to have high speed internet.  So, if you want to be natural and get away from it all, why would you care how many bits per second you get?

First, you most likely have chosen a relatively large piece of acreage that is not next door to your veterinarian. Even if you are neighbors, constantly calling on a vet is a great way to blow your budget and go broke in no time!  While you must be selective what you believe from the internet, it can be a life saver - literally.  If in the middle of the night, when your favorite goat is in labor, you aren't sure if the noise she is making is something to be concerned with you will be grateful for fast information to make a decision with.

Secondarily to quickly available information, you most likely are not going to want to trek into town constantly to pick up WD-40 or a movie.  Consider Amazon Prime.  Not only can you down load movies and television when you are snowed in and feeling the onset of Cabin Fever, you also can shop for just about any item you may need and often get it shipped to you for FREE.

Third, if you wish to sell or trade items produced by your homestead be it veggies, eggs, meat, or parts from that old tractor you need a way to communicate it to others.  This is where being able to quickly access networks for farmer's co-ops or to find a nearby farmers market that will allow your items is handy.

Fourth, if you plan to home school programs like Dela and K-12 will provide your family with the computers, books, supplies, printers, and teaching plans for free.  They will even reimburse for internet costs, but if you have a lagging class video it can not only be frustrating, but actually prevent your children from learning all they should.

Last,don't forget your friends and family.  By moving to the country you most likely have moved further from friends and family.  Depending on how far away you move, you may be racking up some long distance charges you did not plan into your initial budget for your new way of life.  This is where good cell coverage or programs like Skype can come in handy to help you keep in touch with those you care about.  Not to mention the bandwidth for all your coop cams : )

3.) Whether you are a full time homesteader or one of our weekend brethren, chances are you will need an inspection or license for at least one of the activities you are planning to partake in.

Your Agricultural Extension is a fantastic place to get information and licenses.  I live in the state of Ohio and I bet you didn't know that it is against the law to sell or even offer for sale any type of egg without an inspection.  Now, the inspection itself was fairly simple and inexpensive, but the point is that when it comes to the safety of you and your patrons, you can never be too sure.

The Ag Extension will also help you with plans for growth of your property to ensure that you are not building things two and three times as you move from a 1 cow homestead to an artisan cheese producer.  Every thing from home bakeries to indoor arenas offering lessons are covered.  They also will let you know what items on your property are required to have signage from electric fences to warnings to visitors about risks of equine activities assumed by entrance to the property.

4.)  Before you take up residence on a dirt road you need to talk to a professional lawyer, insurance agent, and tax accountant.

Don't stress!  These are not bad things.  The insurance salesman can help you set up farm insurance, which in most cases is very affordable and not only covers the home, but outbuildings, animals, and equipment contained.  The reason we urge you to do this prior to your move is so you have a clear picture of what items to be aware of that will raise the cost of your coverage.  For instance, it was not bringing home our horses that raised our premiums and almost cost us our insurance, but the fact that during a storm our son's trampoline had lost the original netting around it.  Without that netting our property was considered a risk and we could have ended up in a really ugly situation.  By talking with our agent and having him walk our property we were able to avoid a disaster.

The lawyer and tax accountant can help if you want to get a tax exemption as a farm and to plan for how this will affect your taxes.  Also, if you are making sales of anything from candles to goat berries it should be reported.  Often your ag extension or insurance representative can help guide you to quality professionals in your area.  You may only ever talk to each of these people only once and it may even be free (all the better)!  The piece of mind knowing that you have done things correctly will save you great amounts of sleep later on.

5.)  If at first you don't succeed....well, join the crowd!

So many of us pick our property and have detailed plans about how we will use each inch of it.  The country is filled with good intentions.  The saddest thing to see is the family who has saved, planned, and moved out here to garden, raise horses, or really any other singular plan.  When this one thing turns out not to be as enjoyable as they always thought it would be they decide that sustainable living is too hard and thankless.

Although I am by nature very much an all or nothing person, please start small.  Try a smaller garden.  Try 4 chickens.  Try 1 cow.  It is better to decide you really enjoy the chickens, but not the cow when you have minimal investment than to put everything into a single revenue stream.

When we moved to the country we did it because our city house was too big, my daughter had a horse we were boarding, and my dog weighed 180 lbs.  It just seemed to make sense that a piece of property we paid half as much for a month, allowed us to see our horse out the back window, and had plenty of room for my dog to run sounded like heaven.  Well, turns out my dog didn't even want to run.  The idea of boarding others peoples horses in our barn turned into a nightmare when people didn't pay or respect the property.

We weren't over invested in any particular area at that time.  Fortunately, we were able to part quickly with the boarding situation and bring in a low cost, but hardy friend for my daughters horse.  We fell in love with our first 4 chickens and have well over 50 now in counting.  Then, came the goats.  We enjoy these silly little critters so much we wonder why they get such a bad rap.

Now, please understand I am not advocating treating animals of any type or age as throw away.  We still have all of ours, but it is easier to place a few animals such as a single horse of 4 chickens than it is to find homes for 50 head of cattle...

So, there it is.  Everyone thinks of the first aid kits, quality chainsaws, and a good dog, but here are my top 5 I wish someone had educated us about.  We are still in God's country and haven't given up, but it could have been easier if only we had started with good information and contacts.

As always, thanks for joining us!  We would love to hear your thoughts or what you wish someone had told you!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Going for the Goats

On Friday of last week we received a call from a friend's farm that one of her Nigerian Dwarf does had given birth to 4 kids.  This was news we had been anticipating eagerly as the mother was 4 days over due!  We chose a time the next day for the family to pack up, drive an hour, and meet our newest family member.

When we arrived we were taken to a box containing three of the most adorable baby goats I had ever seen - the smallest too!  Two doelings and a tiny buck all weighing in at right around the 1 pound mark!!  Sadly, the last little doe born did not survive, but here were three amazing lives with bright shiny eyes and very loud voices staring back waiting for us to pick.

My daughter liked the largest doeling who was a wonderfully formed little tri-color.  She looked as if she had a permanent smile.  I was partial to the second to last baby girl with a mangled little ear.  I have always been the one to pick the teddy bear in the stack that isn't stitched quite right for fear no one else will see the perfection in the imperfect nature of these things and give them the love they deserve.  (Yep, I was an oddly serious child.)

Seeing that we were at an impasse with choosing one of the small does she offered to let us see the mother.  We gladly accepted and in the freezing cold winter all of us trudged through the snow to her barn.  For my loving husband this is where things got bad....really bad.

We were taken to a warm little pen with the sweetest tri-color goat.  She cried and looked miserable and lost without her babies.  My heart melted.  How crushed would I be if my babies were taken right after they were born?  I had to have her!!

My wonderful Jim, the love of my life gave in.  He knew there was no way his girls (wife and 11 year old daughter) could leave any of these girls behind.  A deal was struck and significantly poorer than when we had arrived we left with 3 does.

You may be wondering "What about the buck?"  He found a home 2 days later and wasn't alone for long as another doe delivered twin the very night we brought our girls home.

Arriving back at the homestead I showed "Chasing the Rainbow" now known as Rainy her new home.  She is currently sharing a stall with my little clumsy mess of a wether Blu.  She has had short visits with her doelings and has become quite attached to me.  I'm very fond of her and even in this cold find I can't stay away from her for long and head down to the barn with carrots, apples, and hugs probably more often than I really should.

As far as the doelings, they started in my children's bedroom however, after the first week they became a little too rambunctious to allow Adia and Noah to sleep.  They are currently residing in a plastic tote in our living room.  The tricolor registered as "Sundance Kid" (hey, we didn't get to pick it) is called Rose.  The poor little girl with the mangled ear, "Winter Dance" is known as Dallop of Daisy - or just Daisy.

Daisy did end up needing most of her right ear amputated, but is doing well and growing by leaps and bounds.  We are so in love with all 3 girls!!  We can't wait until the weather warms up enough we can take them out to play in the grass and spend time with their mom.

Check out these cuties on our webcams at!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Very Special Early Morning Arrival

The phone rang at 6:15 today.  That's 6:15 am.  I did not answer it.  As I heard the tone indicating a voice mail had been left, I panicked and reached for my cell phone.

Filled with dread I pressed the button to hear who was sick, or had died, or needed a ride home from God knows where.  Instead, a cheerful voice indicated she was from our local post office and our chicks had arrived.  They were processed and ready to be picked up.

I excitedly tried to rouse my husband and convince him he really did want to get up, warm the car, and drive me into town to collect my little peepers.  After that failed, I tried to convince the second biggest chicken fan in the house, my seven year old son Noah, that he wanted to get up, sit in a cold car, and ride with me to pick up the baby chickens.  I struck out there as well.

However, company for my harrowing trip into town came from an unexpected place.  My 11 year old daughter, Adia, pulled the covers off her head ask, "How cold is it?" and then proceeded to slowly climb from her bed and yank on a sweat shirt without even waiting for an answer.

The drive into town was cold and we blasted the heat to warm ourselves and prepare the 20 degree car for the precious package we had been waiting for.  Adia chatted excitedly on the way asking questions about baby chick care, possible names, and my favorite, "are we there yet?" after literally 2 minutes in the car.

We arrived at the post office within 10 minutes.  I proceeded to the door and rang the bell.  Quickly the door was answered and I was given a peeping box placed on top of US Mail bags and strapped into a plastic mail tote.  On the front was an adorable piece of paper indicating these were "LIVE" chickens (complete with a picture of an Elvis chicken.)

Adia held the box with a careful, still nature I haven't seen in her since the first time she convinced me she really could hold her baby brother.  She stared down at the box the entire way home.  She chattered less in lieu of listening to the tiny fluff butts in the box.

As soon as we arrived back home, we were met at the back door by the dogs who found the smell and sound of this strange container arriving at an odd hour highly interesting.  While I distracted the puppies with treats Adia woke the family.  We tried so hard to wait for the boys to arrive in the kitchen, but we were weak and carefully cut into the box before they could make it.

We were greeted by 17 pairs of adorable black eyes looking up at us.  Peeping and hopping and doing anything in their power for attention.  Adia was the first to reach into the box.

She pulled out a little black backed chick with a white cap on it's tiny head.  This minature life seemed to instantly bond with her.  The chicken is the only baby Black Crested Polish chicken I had ordered.  My daughter has decided to name her Aphrodite after the goddess of love and aptly call her Afro for short.

After we had all finished holding a chick and taking pictures it was time for them to go outside.  These chicks had been purchased for a very specific purpose.  Not only are they the next generation of egg layers, but they are also a gift to a broody chicken named Angelina.

Angelina has brooded eggs until they hatched and cared for chicks before.  She has also adopted chicks that weren't being cared for well by other mothers.  After adopting 7 chicks of another uninterested mother chick she was given the name Angelina after Angelina Jolie another fierce adoptive mother.  She was a gift to our family and has wiggled her way into our hearts.

Angelina decided she was going to brood eggs with or without my approval on December 21.  This very sweet hen turned into a defensive monster.  She stole and collected eggs and screamed at me when I came to collect them in with a sound that in my mind leaves no doubt that my precious chickens are in fact ancestors of the T-Rex!

On December 23 she won her fight with me and I just let her keep the eggs and brood.  We moved her into a hen house that was all hers with the exception of 2 Silky hens.  She sat, and sat, and sat, and sat.  We were able to candle and check the eggs twice and they were doing well and growing.

Then, the Polar Vortex hit a mere week before her eggs were due to hatch.  We survived and patted each other on the back that we hadn't lost a single animal.  What we didn't realize at the time was that it wasn't entirely true.  All 16 of Angelina's eggs had perished despite all of our best efforts.

Our family left the farm for a few days and watched the progress of Angelina and her chicks to be on cameras.  All seemed well until we arrived home 3 days before "hatch day" to discover there were no eggs.  As all good mama hens do, when an egg dies they dispose of it.  She isn't an egg eater in normal terms she was simply driven to rid her nest of embryos that were dead.

And yet there she still sat, depressed with her head down, refusing food, in her empty nest.  Angelina would not move.  Quickly my husband and I decided something had to be done.  We collected 3 eggs from other chickens and gave them to her.

She sat for another 3 days on those eggs.  She started looking around but, made no noise and did not seem to show much interest in food.  I did manage to get her to drink a little water and eat a few worms from my hand, but she refused to get up from those eggs.

Knowing that our hen had already lost a great deal of weight while sitting on her first brood she could not survive another 3 weeks.  We placed an order for day old chickens.  This morning, on the third day they arrived.

Our joy at the sight of the tiny chicks was nothing compared to Angelina's.  I fought hard to get her off her old nest and removed the eggs.  She screamed and flapped and struggled with me until....I produced the first chick.

The second I placed it in front of her on the hay she stilled and sat again.  She cooed at this little life with the love that only mother's understand in the first moment you see your child.  She tucked that tiny baby under her and seemed just as filled with joy each time as one by one I presented her with all 17 chicks.

Just as much as the chicks need the heat and safety of her to live we believe that she needed their vigor and curiosity to make her whole again.  She is taking food and water again and has cooed all day long.  It has just been a small tender reminder in the middle of  a harsh winter that even the tiniest things can make a huge difference.  These are the reasons we live as we do; connected to the land, to our animals, and above all to our family.

You can check up on Angelina and the chicks live at under the Brooding Chicken link.  (Please note Internet Explorer does not work for this application.  Please use Google Chrome or Firefox.)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Beginning of a Very Big Week

Well, back from my husbands retreat in St. Louis we are gearing up for an exciting week here at the ranch.  

Our brooding chicken seems to have lost all her viable eggs during the Polar Vortex cold we had last week.  She seemed so distraught Jim and I decided to get her some day old chicks to cheer her up.  We have a new brooding coop to prepare and of course, cameras to set up.

You can watch for the arrival of the new chicks on the chicken cameras located at

(Yes, we are working on installing more cameras so you can also watch the goats and horses.)

This week (hopefully) the female Nigerian Dwarf we have paid the deposit on should be born.  Mom goat is due on the 15th.  I will post pictures when I have them of all the new additions to come.  The goat above is our little wether Nigerian Dwarf, Little Boy Blu.

Back from having time to do my hair and make up and back to muckers and water pails.  It was nice to have a break for a few days from the chores, but I am so grateful to be back on the homestead.