A Glimpse of Day-to-Day
Have you ever wondered what a normal day on the farm looks like?
"That's neat that you work on a farm," people say when I first meet them. "So, what does a typical day look like for you?"
I smile, of course, and try to think of a way to answer that question that won't take ten minutes. We all know life is crazy. But farm life...
When you factor in weather, plus every piece of machinery that is hopefully (but not always) running smoothly, not to mention over a thousand animals living and breathing everywhere around you, life can be an entirely new level of crazy. That is not to say we don't have our routines. There are simply that many more monkey wrenches that can be thrown into those routines and flip them over on their sides.
For those of you wondering, for your entertainment, here is what just a plain ol' day looks like in the summertime at Sweet Grass Dairy, from my perspective.
5:30 AM: my alarm goes off. The coffee pot goes on. I am the only one on this farm who drinks coffee. Shocking, I know. So I have my morning coffee ritual with the cat, Smokey, and a guinea hen or two out at my humble camper. Sometimes the turkey waddles in and makes predictions about the weather according to what his knees are telling him.
7:00 AM: first on the agenda is chicken chores. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Well, thanks to the flow these guys have perfected, chicken chores are relatively simple, but rigorous. We have fifty-two 10x12 ft. shelters that get moved by hand down the hillside, and all those shelters need feeders filled and waters checked. Thanks to the in-ground water system that provides water hookups every two hundred feet, and lots and lots of quarter-inch hose, we don't have to haul any water. After years of raising chickens on pasture this way, Jacob and Elizabeth run this show like a well-oiled machine.
8:30 AM, maybe: someone gets on a dirt bike or a 4-wheeler and brings the cows from their current pasture to the barn, and we make ready to milk. We milk around 35 to 40 cows currently. In they go, ten at a time, graceful beings for sure. It may surprise you to know that cows can have attitudes. There is something lovable about them, still. My favorite cow is a Red Deven named Miley who came from Indiana. She is a classy lady.
We milk our cows once a day -- stay tuned for a future blog post on the reasoning for and benefits of this!
9:30 AM: someone has to feed the calves, and that's me! We are raising six calves born this spring to add to the herd. They are precious to be sure, but not the brightest crayons in the box. If they don't knock over their feeder before everyone is finished drinking, and if I get out of the pen without being stepped on by a calf, zapped by the electric fence, or spilling any milk out of the feeder, then I did an A-plus job. I'll nuzzle the baby goats. Everyone gets along great.
10:00 AM: this is usually when I'll check in on the Farm Store. Freezers get stocked, floors get swept (it's like making your bed in the morning -- gotta do it, even though it doesn't last long) and I try to pretty the place up. It can be a fun little social spurt in the day, as people will drift in and I'll get to visit with them as they pick up their goods.
If you haven't been in our Farm Store, what are you waiting for? Besides being adorable, you know it's stocked with the best meats, dairy, eggs, cereals, and kombucha that your American dollar can buy. Everything we don't produce here is sourced as locally as it gets, and you can bet we wouldn't be carrying it if it wasn't oh-so-delicious and wonderfully nutritious for your body and soul.
There is a beautiful variation to the days, and after chores are done, anything could come down the pike. Pig fences will get moved every week, as do the sheep fences, and depending on the day we will be jugging milk and prepping orders. There are always projects to be done, things to be fixed, or animals to move, and it's all hands on deck.
5:00 PM: the calves get their evening meal, for which they are very grateful, and the chickens get checked again. I'll fill the feed buckets for tomorrow morning's chores, because tomorrow morning...
...it starts all over again!
8:00 PM: Supper is finished and things are usually wrapped up. Smokey the cat is back lounging on my patio mat. I'll sit with him awhile and read a book until it gets too dark to see, and then we call it a night. Farmers should obey Ben Franklin's advice -- "early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."
(This doesn't always happen, but they're good words to live by!)
There. That took you ten minutes to read. Now you have an idea of what a "normal" day looks like at Sweet Grass Dairy. Come swing by any day and see for yourself!