the not so bright and shiny life

We used to joke about a reality tv show we’d make someday called “Glamour Farm.” It would basically follow us around showing every not so awesome part of our new-farmer life; the stupid decisions and actions, the heavy lifting and struggles, the mucky messes, the fails, the injuries, the tragedies. I think it would be a hit. But I sure don’t want to even think about that idea now, and in fact this blog chronicles many of these ridiculous events over the past 4 years.

The Farmer Barn, our little cabin home to-be, is getting there, and it can’t come soon enough. 2 weeks back Andrew had a fall off of the scaffolding. He’s been working so hard, and was exhausted and lost his balance. Thankfully he didn’t fall from the top tier, but his fall did really hurt him a lot, so he’s been healing and not able to work much since. This means I’ve got all the chores and projects and day to day tasks on my plate. I have been stern in not letting him work, he has a tendency to keep working through injuries- sometimes out of necessity, like last year with finishing the 2nd half of the duck barn and then the harvesting of 50 turkeys and 90 heritage cockerels. But sometimes he’s just stubborn and wanting to get going again, and then it’s to soon. Healing is important! But I won’t lie, I’m a bit jealous of all the books he’s read while I lug feed buckets around.

Thankfully, my youngest sister Melanie’s visit correlated perfectly when this happened. In fact, it was her second day at our place, and we were returning from taking my goat May May for her conjugal visit with Coltrane. As we came back home, we saw Andrew and his Dad walking along the road as we came cruising over the hill. As I pulled over next to where they were, Andrew said he’d fallen and he couldn’t see us very well. That’s a scare alright. His parents were talking to their chiropractor, I contacted ours, while looking up his symptoms online. Was it a concussion? Brain damage? Our chiro said that the vision part of the brain can easily be jostled with nearly any fall, but he needed his neck realingned for sure. She gave me a list of things to watch for but said his fall and his symptoms indicated that his situation was not life threatening. See, we don’t have insurance, so we couldn’t just run to the ER if it wasn’t a really serious emergency. Andrew’s vision returned to normal, but he’d had the beejeez scared out of him and he hurt a lot.

For the past 2 weeks, my sister and I spent most of every day together, after I did chores and cleaned eggs (things I don’t want to saddle on anyone else.) She was an expert at just tackling any project I mentioned, and diving into the very helpful maintenance-type tasks like washing dishes, without me asking her to do that. She broke up hundreds of garlic heads into cloves for planting, she cleared all the tomato vines in the hoophouse, she did daytime feeding and watering of the chicks and turkeys, she dug up the lavendar and rosemary plants and potted them for overwintering indoors, dug baby carrots, set me up with a huge itunes account, and made us tons of delicious and unique vegan food. Together she and I rolled huge and heavy fencing up the hill to a spot north of the berms and swales and south of the hayfield. We carried up fence posts and set up a spring calf paddock, after analyzing the lay of the land and the quantity of equipment we had to work with.

Mel just returned from a year of WWOOF-ing, spending time in 13 different countries on all sorts of farms. You can check out her blog and absorb some of her contagious enthusiasm for life and experiences. I’m so proud of her for going for it, and it was really wonderful to get the opportunity to go through her photo archive with her and hear her stories from life out and about. She’s heading back out into the world, living and working on a coffee farm in Columbia next month.

Now that Mel’s left, here’s what my days consist of:

In the early morning I feed and water the ducks- that’s about 250 lbs of feed to truck over in buckets from the gravity box, and 40 gallons of water to fill into their tubs (luckily we have a hydrant in the barn with some snazzy hose and PVC pipe arrangements so water doesn’t have to be carried at all for them anymore.) The ducks are extremely wary of me, even though I have tended to them every single day of their life. I notice eggs around the water tubs and hope none break under chaotic webbed feet before I can come back to collect them. Also noted that I need to haul some hay bales in from the haystack to spread for bedding.

Next I open the chicks’ brooder, which needs to be enlarged (I need to get on that) and let the gorgeous Bubbies out into the hoophouse, then feed and water them. The 73 of them are voraciously hungry and thirsty and are suddenly needing 10 gallons of water in the morning. They then ramble about in the hoophouse eating their organic grain breakfast, scratching in the dirt and snacking on the leaves of the still strangely frost-untouched pepper and eggplant plants.

Then I head down to open up the turkey and goose night shelter, the old horse trailer. Rambunctiously, they pour down the ramp out into the old goat paddock, the geese honking, running and flapping their wings in ecstasy, the turkeys stand tall as soon as they emerge for a brief wing flap/stretch, but then get down to eating immediately. Good, because the more they eat, the more weight they put on, and the bigger payoff in a month when Thanksgiving harvest comes. We’re gonna have some big turkeys!

Now I go to tend to the pigs. I scrape and hoist immensely heavy soaked organic grains (buckwheat is their favorite) out of the soaking barrels- about 100 lbs or so, and heft the buckets over the fence into the 10 pigs’ troughs. 6 of the pigs are coming soon to harvest, actually tomorrow, so I give them extra treats of a slurry of cracked duck eggs, clover I pull from lush patches, vegetable trimmings and bottom of the jug homebrew glugs.

After all this, I go strain my coffee and drink it rapidly while I catch up on email and do a farm Facebook post. Sunday/Monday I have duck egg orders to organize with the buyers at the stores we sell to. Monday also involves harvesting what little vegetables we have, cleaning them and packing up the CSA boxes, and emailing members with a reminder and what they can expect. After the caffeine hits, I go back outdoors to get the first round of eggs. Cleaning and candling eggs takes about 3 hours of my time each day, and I really enjoy it. I’ve been a egg handling podcast addict since my friend gifted me her MIL’s used iphone. Judge John Hodgman, RISK and Put Your Hands Together are some favorites. Check ’em out! Lately I’ve also been getting books on CD from the library to listen to while I’m working in the egg room.

Once I complete the first bucket of eggs, its time to let the ducks out for the day, at about 9:15. I let them out, and then check on the various other animals and make sure they are doing well, before collecting the second round of eggs.

All these tending tasks are on repeat at 3:30pm, and then another round of chores happens right at dusk, when all the animals are put into their safe night houses. Tuesdays I spend delivering CSA shares and egg orders, and then Thursdays or Fridays, I drive into town again to drop off the Madison co-op order, which is delivered via Co-op Partners Warehouse in St. Paul On my way back home, I pick up the 500-700lb organic grain order in Stillwater.

I work about 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s WAY more than a fulltime job. Glamour Farm, people, Glamour Farm. This is not an easy life, but you know what? I don’t have a boss, don’t punch a time clock, and I love it.




13 thoughts on “the not so bright and shiny life

  1. I’d laugh if this wasn’t exactly how it is. It’s so hard to fit an extra project like building something into the already full routine of chores, chores, chores. You’ve got so much going on, and winter coming, I know you’re both feeling the pressure. Poor Andrew with the fall. Scary stuff. I hate ladder work for fear of just such a thing happening, and I’m Canadian with full medicare. Because even if it’s not life threatening and will heal, it still takes time. Here’s hoping you can keep on holding the line till the troops are back with you.

    1. I had to laugh at your first line, it is true, and I guess I’m just starting to see this is the pattern I need to get used to it! Andrew’s doing a lot better and starting to work on the Farmer Barn again, we’re really looking forward to being able to actually move over there I’m already looking at Craigslist used couches to set up by the woodstove! Thank you for your dear support, and….hey, I’m going to be on the Island in march, my little sister demanded I have a vacation! Are you near Victoria? Wouldn’t it be so cool to meet!?

  2. Farming is hard and can be dangerous…but so fulfilling at times. Your stories are so evocative of the happiness, the enduring nature, the hardships and rewards of small farming. Take care and keep at it.

  3. I like listening to podcasts while I work too. Someone recently recommended Growing Farms and I’ve liked what I’ve heard so far. It’s been difficult to find good farm podcasts.

    1. Yes, the farming ones it seems are hard to find since the podcasting itself must be so time consuming. One awesome one you could check out is the Greenhorns podcast, they are interviews with new farmers in all sorts of agricultural endeavors. Very cool, the sound quality is sometimes not that great, but the content is outstanding and so inspiring!

  4. You go lady! Thanks for the shout-out. Your enthusiasm motivates many…… Why do you think I wanted to start learning about farming???!!

    1. Oh boy!!! so happy i found the post with your link 😀 your blog is just phenomenal and what you do is truly breathtaking and worrisome for me hehe all the best in all your adventures and i’ll follow along from now on 😉

      1. I think you mean Mel’s link, right? Yes, she has been having the most outstanding adventures over the past 2 year, WWOOFing around the World!!

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