Friday, July 5, 2013

Your Morning Here

I swear I get more of a workout doing the usual morning chores here than from any three or four mile run. A run is steady, hot, but only lasts around an hour and I can regulate my pace as I go. But farm chores are more like a boot camp obstacle course that never stops changing. The tasks may start as simply as feeding a horse some hay for breakfast but then quickly turn into much more. Here's an example of an average hot and sweaty summer morning routine if you were in my shoes. Enjoy the ride!

You give the horses hay and realize water level is low and murky in their trough. Uh oh, that won't do. You promptly go to the well (across the yard, about 40 yards, not far at all) to grab two five-gallon buckets. While carrying the first two of six buckets to the horses you realize that aphids are eating your pumpkin leaves and they need a spray of some soapy water. Shoot. So you pour in the first two buckets for the horses and then run inside to mix up a spray bottle of earthy-soap aphid smiting. You walk outside to spray and realize the sheep need water too. Now you are up to six double bucket trips, and you can taste the flavor of your eyebrow sweat. By the time you have moved 480 pounds of liquid by hand you start to feel it in your arms and hands, and realize you are late by thirty minutes for milking the goat. So you milk a goat! And realize they also need new water and fresh bedding inside their barn stall. All this rain has made it a musty icky place. So you haul extra hay in and make a clean bedding area before carrying the milk pail back inside the farmhouse. You set the milk pail on the grass and a young pullet starts to inspect it so you scare her off. It doesn't take long to lay out the new bedding and get the new water to the goat duo, but by the time that's done you see the pullet has created a roosting spot on your milk pail and you say a silent prayer for lids on metal milk canisters. Inside the farmhouse you go with the milk and chug enough water to drown a rat in. Then you filter the fresh raw into two quart jars and set them in the kitchen sink with big ice packs and a pile of ice. As they chill, you head back outside to take on the weeds. The new Cobra Head tool you got is a godsend. I use it to break sod, cultivate, weed, and everything else. The long handled magical staff takes out all the weeds between the garden rows and the sheep watch. Now you realize the garden is dry, it didn't rain last night, and you want to be out all day at an off-farm event. So now you need to carry four more buckets to the garden and water with your trusty metal watering can. You think, perhaps for the 600th time that week, that you need an outdoor faucet and hose but know you can't swing it. Even if the job cost $50 bucks that had to go towards late bills, the mortgage, or something else more important than your arm's preferences. So you water the garden and as you do the sheep are all baaing at you. You realize they need hay, too. Having not done the simple bale toss you usually do after feeding the horses because you were distracted by the watering and milking. So you walk to the barn and carry a bale, uphill, to the hollering sheep. They get fed, fresh water delivered, and now you are left with the chickens and rabbits. The rabbits in outdoor tractors need to be moved to fresh grass. So does the little chick tractor with eight chirping baby American Bresse. When chick and rabbit pens are moved and all given new water and feed it is time to get the other rabbits their water and pellets. You make sure everyone in a hutch or cage has ample feed and shade, and then head to the chicken feed bucket. At this point chickens and turkeys and ducks a like have figured out you are about to refill the feeder and they line up around you like the breakfast buffet line at a Hallmark Express during a football training camp. Pouring fifty-pound bags of feed, laying down some fresh bedding straw over the muddy or moldy bits of wet hay around the coop, and wiping sweat off your brow. At this point you may either feel inclined to pitchfork the old pig pen out, or at least get started on it, but then you realize you have friends coming to help plan out the hawk mews (which you have no idea how you will pay for yet) and are about to recieve guests smelling and looking worse than any of your livestock. It is 9AM. You have been outside for two hours. Your iphone has overheated and the audiobook is dead. You apologize to company for the state of the yard and the smell of roadkill wafting across the lawn and get hugs anyway because they just came from chores at their own farm. You look for your dog and see him hiding under a muddy garden cart. It's three hours to lunch and nearly ninety degrees and rising. You have an air conditioning in some closet but aren't going to pump up the already overdue electric bill. You mentally plan to dump both yourself and the dogs in the river later today and perhaps getting in a run decent enough to make a 90 degree day without jogging seem divinely comfortable.

That would be your morning here. It's intensely physical, hot, and sordid. But it is also amazingly rewarding and wonderful. Sometime around mid morning every animal falls silent, all their needs met and resting in the shade with cool water at their lips. The garden has been tended and sated, your skin goes from glistening to dripping, and your forget any sense of PMS or bad news. All you feel is relief and work done. Now you can decide what is exciting enough to cook up for the midday meal. How about batter frying that first little zucchini you picked? Maybe a chocolate goat-milk shake? The work is heavy but the rewards are divine. Inside the house it smells like fresh bread, just finished baking. There is a cold bottle of lemonade in the fridge. You have writing and emails ahead of you, workshops to plan and figure out, and are still trying to pay the May mortgage, which is starting to scare the hell out of you and make the hot nights even more sleepless.

That's your morning here. It's as dirty as it is lovely. It's as rewarding as it is terrifying. It's as necessary as it is humbling. It's a dream on rocky ground. It's a workshift paid out in milk, eggs, meat, and vegetables. It's who you are. It's impossible to go back now. It'll be okay.

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