Wednesday, September 2, 2009

the rules

I am often asked how I make time for the farm. My best answer for that is simple: planning. I have a schedule I stick to religiously, and a system of getting chores done that is so fine tuned and efficient by this point it flies by. I plan my evenings to include at least an hour of time outside working. (This hour is the quickest hour of my day.) Every night the animals with hooves are let out to pasture from the confines of their pens and the poultry are fed fresh scratch grains and oyster shell crumbles by the coop. While the livestock eat, I walk around in my big brown wellies and carry fresh drinking water and muck stalls. I make sure bedding is clean and the feed bins are topped off. I putter around the pumpkin patch and apples off the small apple tree in the garden. These I feed to the sheep and Finn. When the animals are once again refueled and content, I leave them to their grasses and go inside the cabin to light a fire and make dinner. I eat, knowing the animals will always eat first, and then before I change into lounge clothes I return outside just before dark to coax the animals back into their pens, close the coop door, and make sure all is well before I do the same.

I probably spend the same amount of time taking care of 25 animals and 13 raised beds as the average person spends commuting to their job: two hours a day. Not bad.

In the AM things go quicker. Since everyone has eaten and been given clean water the night before—my mornings are just a quick routine of dumping hay, scratching ears, and letting the birds out to free range the neighborhood. Sometimes Juno joins me, a neighbors black dog who looks like he's half Labrador and half Border Collie. Juno and I inspect the sunflowers and check on the progress of the younger members of the flock before he runs back to his owners cabin up the way and I go inside to be with my own dogs and a hot cup of coffee. Which by this point is on the stove spitting and bubbling. I can hardly wait to taste it. I would suffer without my coffee.

Keeping a small farm isn't hard—it's constant. You do it out of love and responsibility, not toil. As naive as this sounds from a single woman—I imagine it's not too far off from what keeping a husband or children would be: something others may see as work, but you see as the reason. Love's a funny thing. Sometimes it makes you sign new insurance documents or change diapers and other times it makes you wipe chicken crap off your sleeve cuff. I don't make the rules.

Photo comes from the old kitchen in Idaho. Annie watches the pre-game of an omelet...

21 Comments:

Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Totally off topic, but I wanted to let you know about an upcoming event (if you don't already know, that is).

The fifth annual Pennsylvania Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Festival will be held September 18-20 on 66 acres near Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary in Kempton, PA. The event promotes solar, wind and hydrogen power, biofuels, green building, organic farming and sustainable living.

You can check it out at http://www.paenergyfest.com

September 2, 2009 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I wouldn't say that's naive - that's pretty much spot on. The only difference with keeping a spouse is that they're putting that effort into you as well.

Our routine is almost exactly the same, but flipped - we do most of our work in the morning, and everyone gets topped off water and a general bed-check in the evening. Takes about the same amount of time.

September 2, 2009 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger Hansen Family said...

off topic here too but I have a plate that matches the bowl in your sink!! LOVE IT! Got it thrifting! One of my faves!

September 2, 2009 at 9:03 AM  
OpenID dykestrasalgorithm said...

That doesn't sound too bad. I always imagined that when I got animals I'd have to get up at 4 or 5 in the morning to take care of them before work, but hell, I already get up at 6, two hours before I have to leave, to give myself time to lounge around, play with the kittens, and let the dog out. It would be easy enough to turn that time to milking a goat and letting out chickens.

September 2, 2009 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

Sounds about like our routine here with 9 sheep, 2 goats, and assorted chickens, ducks, geese, dogs and a cat.

Taking care of animals is good training for having a family. Routine, responsibility, and a lot of crap. :) But, yes, much love as well.

September 2, 2009 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Kristina said...

I love your routine. I have much less to take care of - 3 raised garden beds and some worms in a bin. My husband and I have talked about getting chickens, but haven't gotten serious about it yet to even check if the city we live in allows it. I'm hoping they do because I really want chickens. I keep bringing it up as a way to put the idea in my husband's mind and give him time to warm up to the idea. I think he's getting close, which is exciting :-)

September 2, 2009 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Kathleen are you ready to get your mind blown: I designed that logo for the PA Energy Fest in 2004. That's my old kutztown club I belonged to!

September 2, 2009 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

hansens: word!

September 2, 2009 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

dykestrasalgorithm - the idea that you have to get up before dawn to milk is a myth! You can milk at whatever time you want, as long as you do it at regular intervals and are consistent. When we were milking, we milked at 7:30 am. And it takes a lot less time than people think. You can milk one goat in about five minutes. With setup & cleanup, I think it took us 15 to 20 minutes.

September 2, 2009 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Conny said...

Just curious about how the routine changes, if at all, in winter darkness?

That's so cool that you designed the PA Energy Fest logo. :>)

September 2, 2009 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Karen Sue said...

Jenna-
I think alot of the appeal is you do what you love and love what you do. Whether readers want the whole farm, or just some good looking homegrown veggies, ...oh, I guess what I mean- Doesn't everyone, at some time, sit beside someone who does alot of whining and complaining about the way things are and how it can't change and how they can't do anything about it. Poor me, poor me.

You show us that you can change it. If you want some sheep,but you can't fit 25 in your car or your house, you start off with a few and go from there. You make the time for the chores, if it is important enough. I can waste an hour in the same amount of time it takes to do something constructive with it. And you have lots of animal love for what you do.

September 2, 2009 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger ammamcp said...

lol Tara, same thing w/ horses, you just need to feed them about 12 hours apart. The only bad thing about our fdg schedule (often noon and midnight) was it embarrassed my farm mate. Her farm is surrounded by lifelong farmers who get up at 5 am!

I like the seasonal quality to farm living. More work in the winter and less in summer (feeding). The work is part what's going on now (are the blackberries ripe), what's needed for whatever season is coming and partly dependent on what you did yesterday.

Comes full circle.

Tara, I get the piece about a spouse putting effort into you, but I think there's also a feeling of reciprocity in farmcaring w/o a partner. I felt so blessed just to be there that most of the time it was a joy. I got so much back from the land and the critters.

September 2, 2009 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger E said...

2 hours a day - except that you have to be able to take time to deal with animal emergencies. Sick or wounded animals must be dealt with immediately - office schedule or no.

Especially with birthing and milking things don't always go as planned.

Escaped animals may have to be caught, stuck animals untangled, feed bins cleaned, frozen water thawed.

Those of you who don't have farm animals yet be careful so you don't make your margins too narrow. Everything will take more time, more effort, more money than you think. More things will probably go wrong, too.

Love my animals but won't keep them if I had to rush off everyday.

September 2, 2009 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger E said...

2 hours a day - except that you have to be able to take time to deal with animal emergencies. Sick or wounded animals must be dealt with immediately - office schedule or no.

Especially with birthing and milking things don't always go as planned.

Escaped animals may have to be caught, stuck animals untangled, feed bins cleaned, frozen water thawed.

Those of you who don't have farm animals yet be careful so you don't make your margins too narrow. Everything will take more time, more effort, more money than you think. More things will probably go wrong, too.

Love my animals but won't keep them if I had to rush off everyday.

September 2, 2009 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger twistie said...

Annie had the sweetest face! Oh those eyes!

September 2, 2009 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Another OT comment. But are you or anyone you know interested in angora goats. Susie Gibbs (MVHH/HVHH), who has a fiber CSA in NY is giving away a handspinner's flock AND a barn from
Sand Creek Post and Beam (but you have to put it together. She now has too many and doesn't want them to go for food. You can read about it at www.fiberfarm.com. then write a little essay and who knows. Maybe I'll be buying roving from you someday.

September 2, 2009 at 11:42 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I don't think keeping animals should mean you can't have a day job. People's lives can't always be ideal. In the case of my own farm, if an animal is sick or lost I take off from work and deal with it. Just because I rush out to work every morning does not mean I'm not able to raise livestock, dogs, and gardens....

September 3, 2009 at 6:25 AM  
Blogger Meredith said...

Just about right - keeping a husband and a kid is the same as aniamls and the gardens - it's all about having a schedule and sticking to it. I find that I don;t add another item to the mix until I have my schedule so fine-tuned, that it almost goes by itself. Thats why it took my 10 years of marriage to be ready to have a kid!
Now, if I could just get my husband to help in the gardens!

September 3, 2009 at 3:18 PM  
Blogger Louis said...

Jenna, when I saw this I immediately though of you. Not sure if this something you can take on at this point, but basically, they are having an essay contest on why you want to be a shepherd. The prize is a flock of high-quality angora goats AND a custom made shed. I wish you luck if you enter.

http://www.fiberfarm.com/2009/09/a-mighty-big-giveaway

Louis C.

September 3, 2009 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Ah yes, Jenna, it's all about love, isn't it? I grew up around horses and probably spent 8-20 hours/week (depending on what was going on) doing various horse-related things - and I loved every minute of it. Cleaning stalls, feeding, grooming, riding, cleaning tack, and just plain old hangin' out with carrots in my pockets.

People who aren't into animals/farms sometimes (usually because of lack of experience), I think, have a hard time understanding that this is something that can be really enjoyable and rewarding in the *best* way. Think of how much time the average American spends watching TV and tell me people "don't have time" to care for animals and/or plants!!

You ROCK, Jenna! Keep it coming.

September 3, 2009 at 7:53 PM  
OpenID tgorourke said...

I've wondered how you do it all, and figured it had to be something like that - a well-thought-out routine. People wonder how I always find time to run, and it's the same thing, I plan it. But I do appreciate all the time you do spend on everything, and it sounds like your animals do too.

By the way, I read your book, and have downloaded an app on my iPhone, called Dulcimer. Just wanted to say thanks, as I have found playing with that app quite relaxing. I know it's not the same as the real thing, but I just love the music it makes, and now want to teach myself.

September 6, 2009 at 9:24 PM  

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