Day in the Life of a Farmer

A Day in the Life of a Farmer

A Day in the Life of a Farmer

6:00 Wake up to alarm. Try to sneak out of bedwithout disturbing beautiful wife or two year old who’s snoozing between us. Am largely unsuccessful. Sneaking is not my forté. Grab a cup of coffee to down while putting on my coveralls. It’s 15 degrees on the seventh of April and the cow herd is calving. Dangerous conditions for newborns. The plan is to haul the last month’s accumulation of manure out of the cattle yards and use it to fertilize the fields while the ground is still frozen. It’s a week long job at least with nothing going wrong.

6:30 Check the cows. Discover a half frozen just born baby calf. Haul him in the calf sled to under the barn so I can get him nursing. His mama is not cooperative and keeps trying to charge me. Stupid cow.

7:30 Still having trouble getting her in the head gate. I’m sick of this cow trying to kill me, when all I’m doing is trying to save her baby. Take a break and go check the rest of the herd. Discover two more babies, just born while I was under the barn with the first ridiculous cow.

Drag them in to under the barn as well. Their mamas follow docilely like they’re supposed to. Get the calves all in the calf warmer—a tiny A frame shed with a heater.

Head up to the house for some frozen colostrum. I’m going to have to tube feed them all.

Put 9 year old in charge of warming up colostrum, the first highly nutritious milk. We always milk cows who have lost a baby or have extra colostrum, to keep on hand. Without those precious first few nursings of colostrum, the calves won’t live no matter what you do. It’s a miracle that newborn human babies who’ve never nursed can survive, as no animal will!

A Day in the Life of a Farmer

8:30 Go back out to barn to check on the situation and see that two of them are starting to stand and be halfway normal. The kids all want to come out and watch, so I let them peer through the window so they won’t disturb the mamas. Milk the two cooperative cows and tube feed their calves with their own mama’s colostrum since they can’t nurse yet.

9:30 Go back up to the house, get the warmed colostrum, tube feed the first calf. I don’t think he’ll make it. This is even more discouraging as just yesterday, I had twins (highly unusual for Gelbvieh cows), both born back feet first, both born dead. They’re supposed to be born front feet first. Besides feeling badly for the animal, we’re losing big money every time we lose a calf, and this is definitely not the year to lose any money on anything.

After feeding the calves, I headed up the breakfast operations while my wife was working out. Cadrian, the nine year old can make popovers on his own, but he still needs a little guidance and a lot of reminders.

10:30 Finally start hauling manure while it’s still frozen. I go into the cattle yards with the tractor, load the manure and the straw we use as bedding material into the loader bucket and dump it into the manure spreader. The ground needs to be frozen while I take it out to the field so I don’t tear up the ground with ruts, which then causes compaction, because I want to plant into it soon.

11:30 Take a break from hauling manure when my best friend comes over to get hay for his goat. We shoot the breeze for a while.

By this time, Jessica is gone to write all day at a local farmer owned coffee shop. I go back up to the house to check on the kids and get them to start lunch. They make frozen vegetables and macaroni and cheese.

12:30 The ground is starting to thaw, so I finally start chores. This involves feeding all the cattle in the cattle yards a special mixture of silage, hay and nutrients, and taking bales of hay out to the cattle in the pastures. I mow and bale hay all summer long so out cattle can be grass fed all winter, and I sell some hay to local horse owners. I keep a close eye on the worst off calf.

1:30 The kids are bounding around outside since it’s warmed up a bit. They want to help and be in the way and see everything. Elivette manages to get some milk to feed the half frozen, now thawed, babies!

A couple more calves are born, in the sunshine, which even though it’s still record lows,  makes a big difference so they were fine. After I got the new ones all ear tagged, I poured hot water over that first calf for quite a while, trying to get him warmed up internally.

2:30 Our pet cow Lolly had her calf! She is the smartest cow we have. She had the calf at the warmest part of the day, in the calf shed I just erected yesterday. Really it was probably dumb luck, but I like to credit it to her intelligence.

day in the life of a farmer
My wife with all her sick headache accouterments.

3:30 Jessica has gotten home but she has a sick headache and can’t go to the party with the family.

I get the kids around and we head off to Aviana’s friend’s and Challenge A director’s home for tacos and a sing-a-long. On the way, I meet up with Brielle’s friend’s dad, because her friend Esther has stayed the night and needs to be returned to her family.

4:30 The kids have a great time while I chat with some of our friends. I have to supervise our kids pretty closely because they’re still so young and impulsive. The family who live here with their two teenagers lead a completely different life than us with our six rambunctious rascals ages 2-13.

Our nine year old especially needs to have some quality friends who are boys. We seem to have a lot of friends with girls. He and the host’s 14 year old son love to wrestle and roughhouse.

7:30 It’s impossible for me to round up six kids. You have to start an hour before you’re ready to leave, and then when you finally find them all, and get them pointed in the right direction, someone wants to chat some more and they all disperse again.

Bedtime is the best time of day for this farmer!

8:00 Get teeth brushed and pajamas on. By lying down with her, I get the two year old to sleep. I love snuggling her and helping her fall asleep. Often I fall asleep with her for a little while, and show her how it’s done. This farmer teaches thegreatest life lessons: Bedtime is the best time of day!

9:00 I head back outside and get the calves nursing for the first time. That’s a huge relief! The first one died. I check the cows again and see another new calf born, which brings our total to 7 for the 7th! That’s almost 10% of our herd calving on one day. I have to go out to the field to bring back the tractor I forgot out there because I drove the tractor pulling the manure spreader back and then got busy with the cows. If I had a fit bit I’m sure it would show that I walked 20 miles today.

10:00 Sit down for a rest while Jessica quizzes me about my day for this blog post. I like that she’s paying attention to me, but I’m almost too tired to think! Snuggling with the puppy in the comfy chair is putting me to sleep.

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Chickens again!

 Upcycled soda crates as nesting boxes.
 Upcycled corn crib
This is temporary housing we think. We are 90% sure it’s coon proof. We need to get the dog used to the chickens, so then we can let them out during the day.
 We already got an egg! It’s kind of green!

 Aviana says the chickens are going to be her responsibility entirely because she wants to earn the egg money. She plans to check on them twice a day, collect their eggs and feed and water them. I want to encourage her, but I’m skeptical on how long the enthusiasm will last.

 Most of the new flock. We’ve got mostly Speckled Sussex, Golden laced and Blue laced Wyandottes, and a couple of light Brahmas. We also have a couple of Aracaunas, which lay green eggs. The rooster is a teddy bear of a Speckled Sussex. 

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Summer Fun

Things we have been doing:
Cloud watching.

Making giant bubbles.

Gardening. (I have an unhealthy fear of tomato hornworms; I make my four year old smash them)

Being sad we lost the pictures from Elivette’s 8th ,9th, and 10th month.
Going to the spray park.

Trying not to yell.
Starting over.
Not using the oven.
Keeping up with housekeeping. Mostly.


Going out for ice cream.

Playing in the pool. (Meet Kota)

Making memories.

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(thank you to Neil Young for the tune of “Old King”)

Belle went a-yappin’ after possum and coon
Wantin’ ta play ev’ry afternoon
Belle went a-sniffin’ and she would go
Was the best farm dog I ever did know

I had a dog and her name was Belle,
A finer farm dog I never could tell…
Any old toy in the yard she’d chew
Friends with the kids and the cats to boot
I had a dog and she was mine
I’d talk to that dog all the time
Just me and the kids and Belle by my side
Then one day that Belle up and died
Belle went a-yappin’ after possum and coon
Wantin’ ta play ev’ry afternoon
Belle went a-sniffin’ and she would go
Was the best farm dog I ever did know
Any old stick Belle would chase
Even though she wanted to she wouldn’t lick your face
She’d sit at your knees and beg for a pet
A finer farm dog I haven’t yet met
 I had a dog and she was mine
By my side, hangin’ clothes on the line
She was always keepin’ me company
That old dog meant a lot to me,

That old Belle was a friend of mine

Never met a dog that was half as fine
I may find one, you never do know
‘Cause I still got a long ways to go

Belle went a-yappin’ after possum and coon
Wantin’ ta play ev’ry afternoon
Belle went a-sniffin’ and she would go
Was the best farm dog I ever did know

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Chicken Surprise!

This is Buttons the hen,
 and her husband, Sophie the rooster.
Sophie and Buttons were given to us this spring when our town friends realized that Sophie was indeed a rooster and his crowing would not be a welcome addition to their neighborhood.

Unfortunately, several weeks ago, we couldn’t locate Buttons. They had been flying out over the top of their enclosure, and although we thought we had mended the holes in the chicken wire, we assumed that Buttons had escaped once again and met a bloody end at the hand of one of the many predators here in the country who just LOVE a chicken dinner.

I was pretty irritated that our chance for eggs was gone and all we were left with was a somewhat annoying rooster. I had been searching for a cheap source of grown hens so I could perhaps get a half dozen in our coop before winter and have some of our own eggs once again.

 Imagine our surprise when this morning, Buttons not only turned up (still inside the chicken run, I might add!) but with a family of eight little chicks! She’d been brooding all this time and found a mighty good hiding spot for her nest! I had gone into the two houses and chicken yard myself to see if I could find her, and never did. I must have been looking with my Man Eyes.

These are Plymouth Rock chickens, or Barred Rock.The Plymouth Rock is a dual-purpose, cold-hardy bird and therefore makes a great breed for the small farm or backyard flock owner. The breed became popular very rapidly, and in fact, until World War II, no breed was ever kept and bred as extensively in the United States as the Barred Plymouth Rock. Its popularity came from its qualities as an outstanding farm chicken: hardiness, docility, broodiness, and excellent production of both eggs and meat.

In terms of temperament, both roosters and hens are calm and will get along well with people and other animals such as pets. The hens often will go broody if in the right environment, and are good mothers. (Thank you wikipedia)  I guess we provided the right environment!

Taking chick name suggestions.Please leave a comment with your entry for names for our eight little chicklets (but if you can’t think of eight names, just tell me as many great ideas as you have!)

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Baa, Baa Black Sheep

Or whitish grey as the case may be…

The shearer sits a sheep on its rump so it is quiet and still. He’s amazingly fast and doesn’t nick the sheep skin a bit. I had no idea how much fleece I would be getting when I asked our neighbor if I could buy one.
Two bags full.
That’s a lot of fleece.
Especially for a girl who had to google “how to wash fleece” and doesn’t know how to spin.
But when I learn, and get a spinning wheel. I’ll be ready!
That’s not a sheep. That’s a Great Pyrenees named Ranger, and some kids: mine and a mama goat’s.

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Featuring Chicks

Don’t even get me started about the number of stitches I had to take out to make these dresses. Or the mistakes I couldn’t fix which I won’t point out to you. But I really LOVED the challenge and am really starting to enjoy sewing (now that I have several attempts projects under my belt). Let me just say however, sewing is NOT cheaper than buying.

I was looking at Gymboree’s spring lines to get ideas for Easter, and asked Kevin, “Is $35 too much to pay for a special Easter dress?” He thought it was, so I volunteered,” Maybe I could make them.” Even though I made a special trip to JoAnn’s when their material was 50% off and I had great coupon, I still spent nearly the equivalent of buying them there!

Not to mention my time is worth at least $25/hour. Right? Of course right.

New batch of baby chicks in our basement now. You probably don’t want to know…we’re planning on eating them in the fall…That’s life on the farm, folks!

Someone said I should frame this one, which I wouldn’t have thought of because I’m such a “smile and pose” kind of a girl…maybe I need to break out of my mold a bit…
He can sign chicken now, and did not stop signing it all day!

And this is to highlight that stinker face toddler I adore!

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Meet Belle

Come with me, let’s go see our new dog!
We’ll hold hands for safety. You’ll love her. She’s a six month old yellow lab.
And then, let’s run away laughing hysterically.
It’ll be so fun!

We’ve had her for two days now, and she seems to be adjusting to the Farm Fresh Life pretty well. She certainly is a sweetie.

Now we just need to train her, so she listens to me. She listens pretty well to male voices, but doesn’t seem to even hear mine. Kevin said it must be just my voice, that’s why he doesn’t “hear” me too.

Also, she needs to stop playing “Keep Away” with the girls’ shoes and hats. That would be annoying at any time, but imagine trying to corral a naughty puppy who is taunting you with a sandal in her mouth just out of arms reach, with a big belly throwing you off balance!
Please don’t try to picture that.
I have an image to maintain here.

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Regarding the Farm Fresh Family

(1)We really like our veggies.

The girls are having a snack while I’m doing the dishes. Suddenly, a sharp shriek pierces the peace.

I look over with my Mama face on, the one that says, “What the heck is going on over there?”

Two sets of big innocent eyes look up at me. The older one breaks the silence with a plaintive wail, “MAMA, she’s stealing my broccoli!”
(2)We kill things on date night.

Kevin and I went out on a date Saturday night. We went up to see Prince Caspian, which I enjoyed more than he did, and apparently, more than most people in the theater as I was the only one laughing at some of the quippy lines.

We got home to the big ‘coon stakeout. It wasn’t long before we saw eyes glowing at us in the darkness from behind the hen house. Pop! Pop! Pop! Kevin shot with his .22.

“Did you get him?” I inquire.

We went out to see. There, caught in our live trap and shot a couple of times, was a barn cat! Stupid cat. It’s its own fault really.
I go back in the house, because even though I was mad at the cat, I didn’t want to see Kevin have to put her out of her misery.

We had given up for the night, since usually with all that commotion the ‘coon would lie low. Kevin thought he’d go out and check things over one more time, and to make sure the cement blocks he’s used to block the door were still secure. We had been outsmarted by this ‘coon one too many times; we weren’t putting anything past the bad ol’ bandit.

“Bang!” I heard the roar of the shotgun this time, and a victorious whoop! Kevin came in to tell me the tale. He once again saw two eyes glowing in the darkness, and this time could make out a white stripe down the nose.

He shot a huge hole in the fence in the process, but he got that *&%^ ‘coon.

We’ll show him what happens to those who terrorize our chickens. Eventually.
(3) We take our kids to bars and teach them how to shoot pool. In a few years, they’ll be old enough to take wagers. Right?

(4) Killing things is a family activity.

Every time I pull out the fly swatter to kill a pesky fly, the baby runs up crying “Help! Help!” with a flyswatter of her own to assist in the deaths.
(5)We have an incredible sense of style.

(6)The most comfortable seat in the house is outside.

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Mean Ol’ Critters

We’ve lost half our chickens in the last few days. Kevin keeps finding dead ones in their run, in the Martin (a corn crib we let them into during the day), and in their new and old pen. Then this morning, we found two more, IN THEIR HOUSE! Whatever it is that is attacking them is fairly clever and pretty small. We thought we had their house all locked up.

We have little gates everywhere that are closed, their main pen has wire all over the top of it… At this rate, we’re going to have to start buying eggs at the store. Ick.

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