Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Trick

The first morning walk outside isn't about chores. It's about the farm as a whole. I don't worry about carrying feed or refilling water, not yet. The first trip around the farm is to greet the day and see what's up out there. It's for the dogs stretch their long legs and for me to gather information. What is the weather like? What will it be like in five hours? Who is begging for their breakfast and who is silently chewing their cud on the hill? I count heads and watch bodies - is anyone showing any signs of lameness or injury? Is anyone acting weird? I notice levels of water or discarded hay not consumed the night before. Was it because that specific cut from that specific person's barn was too yellow when the lawns are still green? Did the horse eat what the sheep would not? How area those goats doing? Are they showing signs of being in heat? I walk and consider these things. I have learned this is 90% of farming - paying attention and applying that data.

I used to just head outside armored with wool and coffee. I'd jump right into work, just checking chores off the list as if they were math problems to complete and not living systems. Which meant I might be busy feeding sheep hay and water and not even get to the goat with a sore foot until 30 minutes later. Clearly the goat needed attention before he sheep needed hay.

I learned over the years that working smarter means a perimeter check of sorts. It means seeing who needs what, when, and in order of import. So when I do get outside to the actual chores (usually a cup of coffee and some emails later) I know exactly what to do. Time isn't wasted and priorities are in order - I know who needs water first, who needs grain first and what kinds. For another example: my pigs are sick of pumpkins and so are the sheep. What was gnawed on as a happy treat is now being used more as soccer balls. Only the chickens seem to peck at them now, and even they seem a little lackluster in their efforts. Oh well, to everything there is a season. Even the spice of pumpkins.

Snow is in the forecast for today. I am not sure how much or if it'll turn to rain in 30 minutes, but some. The good news is the temperatures are rising a bit later this week and that means I will have more opportunities to stack wood and make room for some more if I can get it ordered. Last night I heard a horrific crash and the wood I had stacked under the awning of the side porch all collapsed. It was frustrating because it basically means an hour of tomorrow has been stolen. Oh well, no sense in getting upset - just stacking better and (more importanyly) removing from that stack better so as to not weaken the integrity of the structure. Don't play Jenga with firewood, kids.

I also need to order more hay, get that in the barn... This is what farming on any level is - whether you have 3 sheep and a flock of chickens or a hundred head of Jersey heifers — it's about keeping a ledger in your head about everyone's status. You care most about the present, followed by the future. You can't focus on the past save to learn from your mistakes and fail better next time. On this cold morning of anticipated snow and warm wood stoves - I am focused on the present and excited for the future. That's the trick. If you're living this life and it isn't exciting you - if you don't wake up every day with a little buzz to make things better - why are you doing it?


Blogger Unknown said...

We absolutely love reading your blog. We are a small soon to be homestead. We have started with the easier animals i.e. pigs and chickens and have mastered each one before we decide to move on to the next. Our next mission is goats for milk and soaps, cows for butter and meat and sheep for meat as well as we are finally getting our chicken tractors built so we can get our meat birds. I am so excited but as you said most of it is observation being able to tell when one if your own don't feel good just by the look on their face. I look forward to your blog's as I learn something new every time. Thank you for being you!

October 27, 2016 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

The weather here in western Oregon has been very wet this fall. There has not been any frost or freezing yet. The forecast is for more rain. Some years are like this. The good thing is that the pastures are green and growing, so the Dexter cattle are still grazing. Soon, we will be feeding them as you are. Observation is the only way to really know what is going on. The farm does not take care of it's self.The wild turkeys are coming through regularly, and the deer enjoy the pasture. Deer season is still going on, and we have to watch for the poachers, and others who don't obey private land laws. It sure is a bummer when some men have buck fever so bad...that they don't think the laws apply to them.

October 27, 2016 at 11:54 PM  

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