After an unexpected 4-day weekend, it was back to work as usual today. Right now things are pretty quite, but they’ll be picking up in the next few weeks. That definitely factored into my decision to start in March. I wanted to give myself some time to get acclimated before things got too crazy.
Right now, a normal day starts at 7:30. Sort of. Ryan, Steve and I congregate in the kitchen where we discuss the day’s to-do list as we eat breakfast. Around 8:00, we get started feeding the animals. Cows and pigs get fed once a day. Chickens (layers and broilers) and the baby lamb get fed twice.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we put straw down in the cow barn. In the winter, the cows are kept in a large barn and adjacent pen because the pastures aren’t growing. However, keeping a large number of cows in a confined space for several months means things get pretty messy. And stinky if you aren’t careful.
Manure is fantastic fertilizer, but the issue is how and where to store it. It’s too much work to clean out the barn every other day and even if you had the time and people to do that, there isn’t a good place to keep that much manure until spring when it is needed. So you create a “carbonaceous diaper” (Joel Salatin‘s phrase, not mine) by layering the manure with straw or wood chips. Every other day or so you spread a layer of straw or mulch on top of the manure and then let the cows pack it down. The straw/wood dries out the manure and keeps it from smelling. Seriously. It doesn’t smell. If you don’t believe me, come visit. Once we move the cows out to pasture, we’ll have a barn full of fertilizer that its worth its weight in gold.
We have this nifty straw sprayer that makes things much more efficient. You throw a thing of straw in this rotating barrel and it sprays out a tube. Kind of like a vacuum hose, but it blows stuff out instead of sucking it in. By the end of the process, you are covered in straw. Every time we do this, I think “Man, this will be gross come July when it is 95°F and humid!” But then I remember that we won’t have to do it in July because they cows will be out to pasture!
But I digress.
After we feed all the animals and spread straw in the barn, it’s time to collect and wash eggs. Right now we have about 75 laying hens which means we have to collect, wash, & package 75 eggs. It’s not too bad, but soon we’ll have 400 laying hens! Thankfully, we are supposed to get getting a fancy egg-washing machine that should make things easier. Otherwise I’ll be spending my afternoons washing eggs.
Once the eggs are done it is usually lunch time and after lunch is normally open to whatever needs to be done. Today we worked on cleaning out a field that’s pretty covered in briars and scrub brush. On Friday we’ll use the afternoon to catch animals that need to go out to slaughter (a cow, a sheep, 2 pigs, & a goat). The other day we used the afternoon to count and catalogue the cows. It all just depends. The good news is that there is always something that needs to be done!
Right now we finish up around 4:00, but once we get the cows and chickens out to pasture, the days will be longer. We’ll probably start at 7:00 and go until 5:00 or 5:30 which is fine by me. The days are longer than what I worked in NY, but since there is always something to do, time seems to pass more quickly here.