Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Farmer's Work Is Never Done

We sold all our 500 bales of hay! This what we have left which we are saving for our critters.




A farmer’s work is never done,
All day long, thru dusk from dawn.
His back is sore, his hands are rough,
There never is quite time enough.

In spring he plows and tills the field,
Hoping for the biggest yield.
Makes neat rows, through aching heels,
Strings the nets and pounds in steel.


Warmer weather time to plant,
No more frost he prays and chants.
The soil is rich, his will is strong,
Together these two form a bond.

Summer brings a frantic drought,
Carry water, do not stand and shout.
The zucchini blooms but so do weeds,
Our farmer protects every seed.

Falls cool breeze brings cooler weather,
Many hands are quick to gather.
Pick and dig, peel and shuck,
Before it spoils, quick to pluck.

Even winter brings no sleep,
Time to plan and tend the sheep.
A farmer’s work is never done,
All day long, through dusk from dawn.

(



As I finally steal some time to sit down and write this blog, I am thinking about the goat fence I need to finish, the pullet brooder I need to set up for baby chicks, vet visits for kittens and puppy, hen lights, humidity levels in the incubator, owl protection plans, goat birthing supplies, greenhouse harvesting and the list goes on and on. I can only imagine the long "to do" list in Nate's head right now.  The farmer's work is never done, but every crop we pluck, chick we hatch, bale we sell makes it worthwhile.  There is something to be said about creating with your own hands and being able to provide for yourself. This is what we set out to do on SweetWater and we now are finally seeing all our hard work starting to come together.  As I said, it is hard constant work, but absolutely worth it -blisters and all. 

Speaking of hard work, I cannot go one step further in this blog without mentioning that we sold all our first batch of hay!!!! WOOHOO!!!  Big praises to Nate for bringing life back to all the used tractor and hay equipment. We were hesitant to even bale the one section that we did, but we are glad we did because it was such a great learning process.

Let's see here are few things we learned in the process.  1.We must use stronger waterproof twine next time...oy we lost a few bales to cheap twine. 2. The clothes you wear while lifting bales are important.  Smooth long sleeved and fully covered clothes are best.  The seeds from Legend Lespedeza can be a real pain to get off fabric.  Plus I paid the price of wearing shorts one day with some hay rash and poison ivy. A mistake I will not make twice! 3. We will have to build the pole barn before our next big cutting.  Tarps worked fine to cover the 500 bales from the weather, but we definitely will need better storage come Spring. 4. We need help loading and unloading the bales.  Considering we only baled one small section of fields and that yielded about 500 bales...having to load and unload over 2000 bales with our own two hands is going to be quite a task!  So we did some research and found some bale baskets that would make loading 2000 bales easier.  If you can spare a dollar or two, you can donate to our bale basket wish list on our GoFundMe page http://www.gofundme.com/4jyjj4 .  Thank so much for the donations we have received so far!!! We have received over $300 on our GoFundMe page and some generous face to face donations from our friends and families.  THANK YOU SO MUCH!  Every dollar makes a big difference for us.


Besides the joy of our first successful haying, I loved how much fun we had selling the hay.  Although most of our sales came from our Craiglists' posting, we did load up the truck once and stand with signs and sell some out of a parking lot.  Fortunately, we finished haying just in time for Halloween and Fall decorating time, so our parking lot venture was a small success due to eager decorators.  Mostly I loved all the people we met when we sold the hay.  We made some new friends along the way - a cool young couple raising Alpacas, a kind Italian gentleman growing figs, some fun couples living off the grid and wanting to do some hay bale gardening, a nice family with the cutest little girl, who had a blast meeting all our critters, and of course I was super excited to come full circle dropping off our last load of hay at the house of our new friends who got this whole farm thing underway for us by selling us 13 silly chickens.  What a great surprise!!  I knew I remembered the address and when we pulled up I knew for sure that about 8 months prior we purchased our first farming endeavor at this house.  It was great fun catching up about the chickens and seeing how their farm has grown since we last saw them.  I love how life works sometimes.  We decided to go forward with baling despite some reservations and because we did our little farm's world opened up in great ways.

 Despite the success of our first hay venture, we decided not to do one last cutting.  Granted nature helped with that decision bringing us a surprise cold spell and frost.  We probably could have squeaked out one more cutting still, but we felt it is time better spent taking the lessons we learned from our first cut and prepping for our next cut in the Spring.  A little time spent prepping and fine tuning means a whole lot less headaches come Spring.  Winter is coming, the weather is changing and a farmer's work is never done.  We have plenty of other tasks we must do before the cold weather decides to come and sit for a while. I guess it all part of the circle of life on the farm.

A circle we have come to know very well these past two months.  It is amazing how much more in tune we have become with life and death on the farm.  Sure we both have experienced those moments when we were part of the regular workforce, but it is seems so much more constant living on the farm.  Although that sounds like a bad thing, there is something powerful about being able to embrace loss and rebirth in such a natural way.  Having lost my father a little over a year ago, I appreciate how much farm life has helped in the healing process - in all its brutal and pure honesty.


October brought loss to the farm.  We lost our sweet turkey tom, who would follow me around during feeding and sneak little bites out of the bucket.  The greedy owl tried to pluck him from the tree, but of course the owl couldn't hold the turkey's weight.  I found him on the ground the next morning during feeding. The guineas and mamma turkey were lost for a few days without him. It was sad.  We lost our egg bound guinea.  We did things only farmers would do to help her get the egg out, but she still struggled to walk. We nursed her until she could wattle around and put her back with the other guineas.  She did well for a few weeks and seemed very happy to be back with her flock.  In the end the Phoenix rooster did what I had trouble doing and culled her.  He pecked her head because she was weak and sickly.  I am happy she was able to be with her flock before she died quickly at the rooster's beak. A far better death than alone in a cage.  It was sad. Finally and perhaps the one that hit the heart the most was the loss of Xander, our beloved German Shepherd.  He was 14 years old and had been all over the US with me.  I thought I would have to put him down a year ago when I was living in NH, but SweetWater brought life back into his old bones.  He ran, swam, played and followed me all over the farm for another 8 months of his life.  It was probably his favorite place he has ever been and the best way to end his days.  Although he is still missed by all of us, I love that the last thing he was doing was running with his buddies and having a good ole time.  Sometimes our bodies just are not as young as our spirits.  So now he rests in a beautiful spot overlooking the creek and sweeping farm views.  Oh and he has the sweetest turkey tom to keep him company.



"Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides." ~ Lao Tzu 

Although death is a part of farm life, we have found that life has a way of overshadowing the loss.  November seems to have been a balm for our wounded hearts as we are now bursting at the seams with baby critters!  I call them demotivators because it is hard to get out of the house with all their cute little antics. Of course, new life translates to more work for the farmer.  Our work is never done and it does not hold to a schedule.

Just ask our 12 brand new baby chicks, who decided that the best time to hatch was between 2 AM and 6 AM while my mom and Sam were visiting!  We knew they would be hatching on day 21ish, but we didn't know when.  Well Nate & I were awoken to bird chirping which is not that uncommon a sound in our household of 20 something grown chickens and game birds roaming the property. This time we were on alarm and we knew we had a brand new baby chick awaiting us in the incubator.  So the rush to get the little lady into the brooder under the heat lamp began.  I ended up having to stick some black socks in the small plastic tub in order to keep the first little girl company.  That worked for a bit until I decided to put a feather duster in the box.  The chick cuddled up to the feather duster and seemed to calm down quite a bit.  


I was desperately hoping we would have at least one more chick to keep her company. Quite honestly, I was convinced we wouldn't have any hatch because I put the eggs in upside down initially.  Fortunately for Backyardchickens.com and one of my many farming books, I came across the tidbit about how to place the eggs.  You would think there would be more specific instructions about that.  I guess I turned them over in time so I didn't ruin their air pocket.  Phew...this baby making can be stressful stuff.  Placing the eggs the right way, turning them, watching humidity & temperature...how on earth do the chickens do it without all the technology!?!?! Somehow we managed to hatch 12 out of 18 successfully. Of course I probably woke my poor mom up a million times as I trudged throughout the living room in the middle of the night moving newly hatched chicks to the brooder.  It got to the point where I would call out, "We have a black one. We have a yellow one.."  Even with the interruptions, we had a great time during the visit and I know they got a kick out of all the baby critter cuteness.  We had to make sure Sam didn't sneak Hercules (our new kitten) into his bag when they left because they hit it off so well.

So our 1st generation hatch was a success.  We love the fact that half of the chicks are black and our dominant rooster, Agatha, is black.  There is no doubt he has been busy! Of course we have to mention that with life is death though...we lost one who was positioned badly in the shell and too weak to hatch all the way.  Even with help, she did not make it in the end.  We had two that never made it to the hatching stage and three that were not fertilized. Overall, the whole process was just amazing, even with a few losses.  Now we have 12 little fluffy chicks living in our bathroom (well for a few more days and then they move to the garage) and making us laugh.


"Chicks living in the bathroom?" Well, with a cat and two playful kittens roaming the hallways, we could not leave the chicks unsupervised.  We don't have to willingly invite death to farm if we can help it.  So until they are about a week or so old the chicks will stay behind the closed doors of the bathroom.  Meanwhile, our brand new little tumbleweeds (kittens) are on the other side of the door participating in a never ending play session.


Here is the quick back story on why we ended up with our new kittens, Hercules & Hazel.  Edgar,our 14 year old cat and kingpin is in his retirement years.  The mice got word that the resident cat only hunts when he feels like it.  So the garage became a scene from a Disney movie with Simon doing his best at catching the mice. He is not quite as graceful about it though. So he also redecorated the garage while he was in hot pursuit.  With that, Nate said, "barn cats!"  A few weeks later we have two cute as can be fluff heads, who spend the majority of their day pouncing on our feet, wrestling with each other, and practicing mousing.  Of course, they are too little to be outdoors in this cold weather...so we just have to cuddle them inside for now.  Edgar is less than impressed by these two little minions invading his territory. Give it a month and I think we will see him playing with them too! (The whole time I have been writing this section of the blog Nate has been snuggling on them and laughing at their silliness).


 Oh, but we cannot escape the silliness by going outside because we have the prettiest little lady awaiting us with her sweet older brothers by her side. We had planned to wait until after Christmas to get another pup, but our pup had other plans.  We were on our way to get some more turkeys from this nice Vietnamese couple that sells us exotic and game birds.


We purchased our new turkeys, Polish (fluff heads) & Sebright chickens to add to our new Phoenix chickens in the truck when the woman mentioned they had Pyrenees puppies and did we want want one for free.  Our hearts sank a bit because Xander's loss was still so close.  We declined and went on our way with our new batch of birdies.  Well a day or two passed...Nate did some research on the Pyrenees and we just new she would be a great fit for the farm.  They were raised to protect livestock. Plus Simon needed a friend to help expend some of his energy.  Truman is a more low key buddy and Xander used to run with Simon.  The poor guy has been going stir crazy.  So we picked Ms. Ginger up 2 weeks later and she now rules the roost.  She is a smart little lady and is so sweet.  She can be stubborn, thus the name Ginger Snap, but that only means she will fit in well here.

Before I finish this post, I wanted to update you on more life we have been nurturing on the farm.  Our greenhouse has been blooming like crazy.  The temperature may be in the 50s or 60s outside, but usually holds a 90 degree temperature in the greenhouse.  We might use it as our personal sauna during the chilly temperatures.  We have some big plans for installing a water system that involves fish (Tilapia), but I will elaborate on that in our next update.

 I'll have to mention the new toys we found or heard about on Craigslist in my next post too.


Here I have been talking about new baby critters and I almost forgot to mention we may have a new baby goatie on the way.  We think Brigitta is going to be a momita sometime in December!!  So I am reading up on birthing babies.  A farmer's work is never done. We will keep you posted on this exciting news!!!  (A big thanks to Mica for being so helpful as I learn how to raise goats!!!)  Nate & I have been so lucky to have so much support from our new and old friends and of course our families.  We hope you enjoy our updates!  Thanks for dropping by and catching up with us.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  We know we have a lot to be thankful for during our first year as farmers!


Thanks for visiting us on the farm!


Nathan, Lily & Our Critter Crew

*Remember to donate on our GoFundMe page (http://www.gofundme.com/4jyjj4) if you like what we are doing and can spare a few bucks.   

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