Friday, July 14, 2017

Morning Chores

Morning chores start at the Space Coop. The new Eglu Cube has been nothing but a joy to own and use. I lift the handle that opens to raccoon-proof door and the five Silkie Bantams come down their ladder to the open door of the farm. This is the first chore of the day, letting the Floof Empire out of their spaceship and into the world of rain, moss, grass, grubs, and chicken feed they don't know I named Cold Antler Farm. I take a sip of the coffee in my hand and enjoy their fluffy-butt waddle to discovery as they head down the slope to the stream.

The rest of the poultry on the farm is in other disparate coops and tractors. The majority of the egg layers sleep in the barn on the wall of the goat pen. The meat birds are in two separate chicken tractors - one in the kailyard and the other in the woods between the kailyard and the pig paddock.  Because of the simplicity of filling chicken feeders and waterers - the birds get taken care of first. It's a job I can do with coffee in one hand and dogs playing tag beside me. It is amazing how much quieter a farm becomes when fifty-plus birds get their breakfast.

Next is the work of hay and water, which is fed to the livestock year round in varying volumes. The horses get some flakes to share, but most of their diet is out on pasture. Same goes for the summer sheep and lambs. The goats eat mostly hay and grain and before they are milked (last chore of the morning) they get some hay and their water refilled. The pigs need new bedding nearly every day (depending on the amount of rain) and drink like fishes when they are lactating. So now the real sweat of the morning has taken its first real calories off my frame. I don't have hoses to the stations so I carry 2 5-gallon buckets from paddock to paddock and they refill from the well-runoff hose. The good news is my farm is small and all of these water stations are fairly close to home. The highest and farthest is in the sheep's pen.

Feeding pigs is next. They get a mix of kitchen scraps, day-old whey or milk, fallen apples, grain, and garden scraps. It's done after the work of bedding and water. One of the real joys of the day is watching them all dine like the lovely savages they are.

Once every sheep, lamb, pig, piglet, chicken, chick, goat, horse, and hawk has had their food/water needs met I go back inside. This is when cats and dogs get fed and coffee gets refilled. I can clean up and prep the work of milking and cheese or soap making (depends on the day) and make my to-do list of logo designs, illustrations, writing tasks, etc. It's a nice ten-minute break from the physical work outside.

Next up on the AM chore list is milking. I head out to the barn with a pail and clean hands. I have some supplies like warm soapy water in a bottle and a cloth. This is for cleaning off udders before milking. The act of cleaning also helps to let down the milk and encourage the does to give it their all on the stanchion. While milking the goats get their grain. Their minerals are free-choice right now in a pail. I milk and listen to podcasts or audio books. It's a focused few minutes I look forward to.

Since I am in the barn I collect eggs, usually just one or two at this time of the day. Most of the hens laying now do so closer to noon. I get the rest at evening chores after dinner. 

The milk comes inside and is filtered and either set in the refrigerator in half-gallon mason jars or set on the stove to become cheese. I use packets of culture I buy online and the work of filtering, cheese-making, soap prep, and dairy dishes is second nature now. Today I am not making soap so chevre is setting on the stove and a half gallon is in the fridge.

Last I check on the gardens. A little weeding, some meal planning, and a mental inventory of what is growing and when it will be ready to harvest is ticked off in my brain. Today I have tomatoes, lettuce and kale greens, defrosted some bacon, and have bread dough rising. I'll make a BLT sometime in the mid-afternoon and that will be my first non-coffee meal of the day. Most likely my only meal of the day. I like eating one real meal a day and a little snack when the sun goes down. It works for me.

Lastly, the horses get their daily joint supplement powder with a little grain to make it appealing. It helps Mabel's arthritis and Merlin's older frame. By this time I am leaning back against the fence tired and happy. The farm is quiet. Everyone is eating, drinking, or napping off the morning's work of eating or drinking. The occasional hen squawks or rooster crows. A sheep might call out to a lamb or a dog will bark at a passing jogger - but mostly quiet. It's taken over an hour and now my day can truly begin.

Farming isn't for everyone, but for those motivated by bacon, checked off to-do lists, and possible pony rides - it's for some. 

P.S. Thank you to the 44 lenders who have been a part of the farm's Kiva Campaign! In 2 days we are at 30% and gaining ground! If you were a part of the truck loan through Kiva, you can log into your account and re-lend that money repaid to you to CAF again - or support another farmer!

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