Every year, during the time when the local kids have spring break…we start getting visitors. Friends and family members bring their youngsters out to play with the cattle, chickens and turkeys. This is always the time of year that reminds me of the biggest reasons why I raise, care and tend for animals the way I do.
Two days, two families. Smiles and laughter shared that no amount of money can buy.
Our first visitor that came this week was Sue and Ava. If you follow this blog on and off, you will know that Ava came out last year and the year before. Ava is a favorite, loyal visitor.
Last year, one of the calves kept trying to eat her hair. So this year…she was worried about her hair and kept telling them all “Please don’t eat my hair.” It is really amazing to watch kids with the animals though. This is what makes my job working with the cattle so important.
Not only with the kids…but with the adults it’s important too. You have no idea how many adults want to get “cow kisses”! It’s strange…but I get it. It’s that moment when you feel special with an animal. It’s that much greater because it’s a cow!
The following day after Ava came, we had new visitor for this year. A father (Pat) and his two sons (Logan and Connor). I didn’t know who was more excited when they pulled in…Dad or boys.
I haven’t seen smiles so big and so full of joy as when the calves started licking fingers and trying to get rubs on the head.
To those that don’t know me…this is the most important thing about what I do. Yes, I love raising our own beef, dairy and poultry. But, I LOVE sharing my passion for farm animals with KIDS! It’s an experience that I feel every kid should have.
There are really moments sometimes that almost bring a tear to my eye when I watch animals that are fearful of everything, nose up to a child. It’s one of those things for me.
To anyone in our area reading this…you are more than welcome to come visit, anytime. We love to have people stop by, young or old.
In the meantime, I will be out working (more like playing) with the cows…gotta get that next generation trained for cow kisses!
For some reason, the average person today doesn’t think about how much work actually goes into every meal they eat. I decided that since it is freezing outside this morning (2 Degrees F with a windchill of -10) I would take some time to walk you through the hours of my day. Not a day when I work both farms…just my own.
5:30 AM- That annoying alarm clock goes off. It sounds like a tractor trailer backing up. Nee, Nee, Nee. Hit the snooze to shut it up!
5:45 AM- That annoying alarm on my phone goes off. It sounds like a rooster. Cockadoodle doo. Cockadoodle doo. Hit the dismiss button, miss and hit the snooze. Alarm disappears. Swing out of bed, head into bathroom. Pee.
6:00 AM- Make coffee, get partially dressed. Jump out of your skin when the damn alarm goes back off. Cockadoodle doo. Quickly followed by Nee, Nee, Nee. Feel like you want to rip your hair out while attempting to locate the buttons in the dark.
6:15 AM- Kiss Hubby Goodbye since he has a “regular job” and needs to be in by 7 am.
6:20 AM- Head to the barn. Milker pail and wash bucket in hand.
6:25 AM- Start the milker pump, wash milk pail, feed grain (cows and turkeys), feed a small amount of hay, wash teats, put on milker. Get more hay into feeder. Check water (refill if needed).
6:40 AM- Measure fresh milk into two pails (2 pints each), feed calves milk, get more hay (second cutting grasses from small square bales), clean up manure, rebed, refill water and grain buckets. Clean milker pail with wash water. Take milker and pail of milk into the house.
6:55 AM- Shut off water (if it was needed), check the other pastures water. If needed, dig out hose, run from other barn, fill tub. Open the doors for the chickens. Gather eggs, check water, clean up manure piles out of nest boxes, feed scratch grain. If needed, mix up 50 lbs of scratch. 50% cracked corn, 25% crimped oats, 25% wheat. Mix in other barn, carry to chicken barn, fill bin and proceed with feeding.
7:10-7:15 AM- Shut off water hose, talk to cows (The Dexters and one steer). Talking the cows isn’t for pleasure. It is to check them out physically and personality wise. All the while asking yourself things like: Do they look clean? How’s they bedding? Any sores? Runny eyes? Any lethargy? Are they eating and drinking? How do the hooves look?
7:30 AM- If anything looks off, fix it. Make sure to make notes when returning into office inside the house. If something like a sore appears, take a photo (not the easiest thing to accomplish either). Speaking of photos…it’s about time for the sunrise, so make sure you take a photo to share.
7:35-7:45 AM- Check furnace. We have an outdoor boiler that provides all of our heat and hot water. This step is crucial!
7:45 AM- Strain milk, put into fridge. Make sure eggs are clean and dry, load into carton and store in fridge.
8:00 AM- Time for a cup of coffee! Take cup into office. Start making notes on animals into computer. I keep track of things like the weather, time of milking, any abnormal activity, amount of feed (both hay and grain), amount of milk produced for the milk cow. For all of the young stock, aka the calves, I track things like how much milk, how they drank it down, body condition, how much grain and hay they ate from the night before. Once per week, I take measurements of their rib cage and torso length and also note their growth. I also make notes for the poultry. I mark things like body condition (typical feather appearance), what grains they peck at first, how many eggs, how much laying mash (cornmeal, wheat, barley, oats, millet, grain sorghum, and finely ground dried distillers grains typically around 14-16% Protein) has been consumed, how much of the oyster shells remained, and how much water they drank. I also note things like hours of supplemental light in the winter time. How many hours, what wattage of bulb and the overall temperature in the barn when I first open the doors.
8:30 AM- Since I already have the computer on…time to check Facebook, Twitter and Emails. Sometimes, I even talk with my cousin over a cup of coffee. She lives about an hour or so away…not like I can just pop my head around the corner to chat.
9:00 AM- Time to get to work. Phone calls for the business, farm and personal business. Mr. Farmer usually calls me around that time too. He makes sure that everything went good for AM chores. If I don’t answer, I have to notify him immediately that I am alright or he is calling in the neighbors to come check up on me.
Sometime between 10-10:30, I usually start a batch of cheese. Lately we have been making a ton of cheese curds. Everyone seems to like them and just trying to keep up with family demands are crazy. Yesterday, I didn’t get started until about 12:30.
Since you need to watch the temperatures, stir and wait for time to elapse. I usually try to take that time to bake something. Yesterday it was bread. Today, I think I will make dessert bread.
Things are slower in the winter time. No gardens to weed or harvest. No fields that need to be checked. No harvesting that needs to get done. There are more trips to the feed store or local grain farmer. Too bad I never hurry when I go to them though. Winter gives me time to chat with the “help”! Also gives me time to see all of the different stuff they have…which really isn’t good sometimes!
The great part about winter is that you can spend more time scouring through the pantry to come up with some fantastic dishes to fix. Like our dinner last night. Fresh white bread with fresh churned butter resting in a big bowl of Corn Chowder laced with bacon and rum with cheese curds floating in the soup. Here in a few minutes, I will walk you through my afternoon (with photos for most). I will put it in a separate post…too many good things to add to this one.
Well, now you have walked through a “normal” morning for me in the winter. Most farms do more than that. Usually with two or more people working year round to produce all of those foods on your table.
The next time you sit down to eat a plate of food, ask yourself this…”Where did this come from?” Knowing where and how your food is produced in important in my mind. Maybe it’s because I have an inquiring mind that wants to know. Maybe it’s just because I have spent so much time on the farm that knowing where my food is produced is important to me. They are valuable lessons to learn. Make sure you just don’t look at the package and say “Oh yeah, that’s a familiar name so it has to be produced the right way.” Look into the background of where it comes from. Is it one huge commercial producer that has been known for animal neglect or abuse? Or is it from a cooperative of small farms that have received recognition for their humane practices? Or better yet, is it from a local producer?