Thursday, March 6, 2014

What's In A Day?

  It has come to my attention that I really haven't said much about what I do on a daily basis here, or what my days typically look like as an intern on a small farm. Either I'm just forgetful (most probable), or extremely good at procrastinating (still a truth). We're just now creeping into spring, and the work load is slowly shifting, but for now, here's what my winter schedule looks like:

  6:30 - 7a.m. - Time to wake up! Oy vey... Do I *have* to wake up!? I admit that I usually try to sleep until 7am. If I'm lucky/lazy (ha. Take your pick), then I miiiiight sleep until 7:10; but that's not hugely often since that leaves me rushing!

   7:30a.m. - Breakfast! YUSSSS!!! *punches air with fist* I'm still convinced I have Hobbit blood in me somewhere down the line. 'Cuz I like to have breakfast, second breakfast (honest to goodness, I'm living with people who say things like, "We'll save these leftovers for second breakfast..." It's crazy awesome.), elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, supper, and then of course snack. I really can't believe I'm not fat... For as much as I eat, I really should be weighing more than 125 lbs. Not that I'm complaining though! ;) 

   8a.m. - Wash up jars for the morning milking, fill an insulated container with hot water (to wash udders/teats since the cows don't appreciate cold water!), suit up in my many layers of winter clothing which consists of a sweater, quilt-lined overalls, Carhartt coat, two pairs of gloves, thick wool socks, a huge scarf, thick knit hat, and my insulated Bogs muck boots. Yes, I look like the Pillsbury dough girl by the time I'm completely outfitted. Or rather, it looks like my eating habits have caught up to me. I've gotten used to the fact that I look like a roly poly dork though. 

 8:10 - 9a.m. - Start trudging up the snowy hill to the barn! If the weather is nice, and the roads are clear (we have a rather perilous and steep drive way...) then we'll drive up in the truck; usually with me sitting on the toolbox in the truck bed, since I think it's more fun to ride in the bed than in the cab. It only takes us 3 to 5 minutes to get up to the barn, and then after that, the wife and I split into our routine of barn chores ('tis only the two of us doing barn chores and all the dairy stuff). My side of routine is usually to get water boiling to wash the milking equipment, get the jars and strainer set up, fill the feed bin for Penny (first cow to be milked), and then grab ma'self the pail and some hot wash water, and start milking! Penny is normally a great cow to milk; she's a short, fat little Jersey who is almost black in color with orange points on her poll and nose (eeek! My favorite color on a cow!). Temperament wise, she is *usually* quite calm and placid. But oh heavens does that cow get grumpy sometimes... Most mornings I can milk her out in about 10-15 minutes, but every now and again she'll get ornery and not let her milk down. Thusly I have to admit defeat and let the wife finish her up. And so far I've only been kicked five times. Hehe. Four times by Penny (I had it coming... She had frostbite on a teat, mastitis in that same quarter, and I had to somehow get her milked out.), and once by Ellie, who was in heat and was veeeeeery grumpy that morning. 

  After milking Penny, I get her milk strained and chilling before passing the empty pail off to the wife, who milks Ellie. This is our way of splitting chores; we can each easily milk both cows, but to keep things balanced we each milk one, while the other does other barn chores. Once Ellie is in the stanchion, I work on mucking out the stall that she and Penny had spent the night in. The second stall is already clean (one of the wife's tasks while I milk), so once I'm done mucking I work on throwing a bale of hay to the cows, filling water tanks, sweeping the barn floor clean, and then driving Penny and the calves to whatever pasture it is that they're going to each day (depends on the weather). Somewhere in the midst of all this, I'll run Gyp over to the kennels where he'll stay with the collies until nightfall. At first he would hang around with me for barn chores, but he's gotten into the awful habit of harassing the cows (namely the calves...), so the folks here have asked that he gets taken to the kennels before the cows are let outside.

   9:30a.m. - 12p.m. - This is the most variable part of my day. All of December and January, and then half of February was spent working on the tree piles... 2.5 hours every day of burning cedar branches, and hauling + stacking cord wood. That doesn't sound like a bad gig really; a couple hours each day? Sounds perfectly doable... Until you're on your third month of doing it every stinkin' day. It was a great learning experience, sure; I'll be the first to say that. But I'll let y'all in on a little secret of mine: I hate fire!! Yep, call me a sissy. Or a coward. Or a fraidy cat. I'm afraid of fire. To me, fire is too unpredictable, uncontrollable, and dangerous to be comfortable around. It's right up there with thunderstorms and tornadoes (this is where my host family and everyone here quizzically asks what I'm gonna' do when the spring storms come; to which I reply that I have no clue!). The small bit of a control freak in me hates dealing with things like fire and storms because I have no control over them. Bad things might happen, and all I can do is watch. Anyway... Almost three months of working in close proximity to a huge bonfire was nerve wracking, and to be completely honest, I broke down right at the end. I'm not entirely sure why, but one day I had just had enough of those piles. We were all finishing up our break and as everyone began getting up to go back to work, I busted out in tears. I normally hate it when people see me cry, but right then and there I didn't care that everyone was watching. More than anything, I did NOT want to go work on wood! Everyone was amazingly patient and understanding, and I was given the alternative job of making lunch. 

  We did finally finish up those monstrous piles, and now we're working on hauling all the stacked cord wood up the long driveway and stacking them up there where they'll be picked up by someone who is apparently buying all of it to get it chipped. I don't know details on that... This work I don't mind. No fire involved! And this is fun since I get to ride along on the tractor. Oh and get this: I got to drive the tractor yesterday!! Huge honor there. It felt slightly disloyal, seeing as it's a Kubota, but hey, it's still a tractor. It's still nice and rumbly and fun. ^_^ 

  Other projects we do before lunch are things like putting up fencing (we just fenced a part of the forest for the cows, and soon there will be hogs in there!), pruning fruit trees (did that yesterday!), dairy work (making cheese, butter, yogurt, kefir, etc.), and lately we've been starting on starting the veggie plants. 

12p.m. - the rest of the day - Noon marks lunch time!! I'm usually pretty darn starfished by this time ("starfished": a mix between being "starving" and "famished". Yes it's legit. Don't argue with me). After lunch, and cleaning up all the dishes, I usually have the rest of the day to do whatever I want! On Tuesdays it's my job walk up to the barn at 4pm and do the evening milking/barn chores (takes about 20 minutes), but other than that I'm as free as a bird. What I do with my free time varies from day to day; sometimes it's outside playing in the snow, inside reading a book, doing research on the computer, annoying the grumpy cat here, taking a power nap (Truth: I love taking naps horizontal life pauses), hiding somewhere in the forest and playing my ocarina (sounds like a penny whistle, looks nothing like one), or just hanging out with the folks around here. 

  7 - 9p.m.. - Movie time. Its pretty much become habit now. 9 out of 10 times we watch a Dr. Who episode (fish fingers and custard! My fellow Whovians will get that reference. Hehehe.), but one never really knows... Sometimes it's a Sherlock episode instead, or we'll watch a little kid movie like Sword In The Stone, Veggie Tales, or Winnie The Pooh; or we'll go with my favorite genre, which would be action movies. I will confess that I was watching Star Wars III a couple days ago... I had never seen the whole thing, so I was told to 'sit and stay', and that's what we watched. LOL. 

11p.m. - Bed time! I don't know why I can't seem to get to bed earlier... But that marks the end of my day; it all starts over in eight hours!


Anonymous said...

Your day sounds so satisfying, hard work outside with people you like is awesome. =) I thought they had more than two cows though.
P.S. Sorry to bother but when will you have pics???

Goat Song said...

They only have two lactating cows. :) Besides that, we just slaughtered a steer, there are two 6-month old bull calves, and we're looking at buying a heifer calf soon.

Picture wise... No clue. Still no camera. :-/ Sorry! They're expensive!

Illinois Lori said...

Sounds like a great experience...happy for you!