It’s Always the Prep Work

One of the things that always keeps me extremely busy is prep work. There is always something for either next week, next month, or next season that needs to be done.

Right now, I’m working on finishing off the pork season and prepping for next season. I’m making plans, exploring new markets and alternative ways of advertising. The closure of pork season indicates the changing of seasons too.

The upcoming winter season is creating some new issues that I hadn’t expected to plan for but with some unforeseen issues earlier this year, I had to rework a timeline. It may have seemed like a waste of time and energy but the steps are sort of the same, so most of my previous work will flow through into the newest adventures.

Now that pork season is coming to a close, it’s time to think about winter housing and yard areas for the bred sows. It’s also time to start gathering up everything I need to do to finish off the beef sales for the year and into next year. I’m now booking appointments for upcoming slaughter and butcher dates in February and March of 2016.

With the winter season approaching, that also means it’s time to regear up with tank deicers, water lines set so they can be drained after use, winter heat in the water room at the back of the barn (including ensuring insulation is set). It also means it’s time to clean out bedding packs in the cattle barns, repair or purchase new hay feeders and so much more. The list seems never ending and I’m not even started on winter prep for the house.

I know it might sound a little anal but I plan everything out and generate lists of stuff that needs to get completed. Some days, there is only one thing that gets marked off and others it takes two or three days to get it checked off the list. I check and prioritize that list daily, I have too.

It’s very complicated when you are operating a farm the size of mine alone. I do get help on the random occasion for something like welding or a hand feeding winter bales. Most of the time, it’s just me. I feed the calf, check the cows, perform herd inspections, check pastures, water the cattle, take care of young turkeys, give extra attention where needed, feed the pigs, water the pigs, check their progress and still keep all the record books, book keeping, plan for any feed pickups and try to accomplish at least one thing on that “extra” list.

I also fix all dinners, make sure dishes and laundry get done, make sure the bills are paid, make all calls and set all appointments needed. I also try to keep the house clean, remember to take the garbage out, sweep and vacuum, keep beds made and take care of the needy dogs.

I don’t ever have much time left unless I’m multitasking as I am right now. It’s not an easy life and it’s full of complications. It’s stressful to keep up. I haven’t even mentioned the crafts that I’ve started now in my down time between eating my dinner and crashing in bed.

Did I mention that I actually don’t get paid to do any of this? All of the farm income goes into paying bills or into expansions for next year. I don’t buy any new clothes, instead I hit the thrift store about twice a year for seasonal clothing I might need. I never get much either, limiting myself to around a $50 or less budget.

Even with the frustrations and going without, I still get up every morning and I’m usually out in the barn or headed on the hill to water cows about the time the sun comes up over the mountains. It’s in THAT moment that I remember why I do what I do and why I go without. You might all have good jobs and earn a decent living, I pay the bills. BUT, I get to experience pure nature’s bliss. Those moments that you just can’t buy, that you just have to take a ten minute break from reality and realize that this is the reason why I live this life.

I work hard, often times working multiple jobs. I care for 43 head of cattle right now. I know their names, their birthdays, their personalities and their preferences. I work with those cattle everyday and know things I don’t even know about some of my friends. I care for 3 pigs and know when piglets are due. I know their names, their personalities and their favorite treats. I take care of chickens and turkeys too. I know where they lay their eggs, where they hide during the day and where they all roost at night. I know they wait for me in the barn every morning for their treat of a scoop of cracked corn in about 4 or 5 locations.

I know the pastures and how much grass is in each. I know how long the animals have been in each. I know where the mud holes are and the maple saplings are growing. I know where a tree is dying and which spot to find the best Christmas tree. I know where the deer hang out with their fawns at each portion of the day.

I know all the quirks, inside and out about this farm and everything on it. I know that the old saying about red sky in the morning is false because I see a beautiful red or orange sunrise 365 days a year. I can watch storm clouds roll in and the rain come up the valley. I can watch the sunsets in the evenings and watch as the rays light up the clouds on the opposite side. All of this is peace to me. It brings me great joy inside of all the frustration and planning.

Everyday provides me with one small moment, one tiny sparkle that creates a memory and a picture inside my head that will live with me forever. No matter what happens from today or tomorrow, I will always have those moments of bliss.

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Truth is Stranger than Fiction

There are days that I sit back, thinking to myself, “Did that really just happen? Am I really still alive?” About a month ago, I had one of those evenings. A post today about Arby’s service venison sandwiches got me thinking about that specific evening. The article talked about getting the venison from deer farms.

Deer farming is a unique thing to do. After a brief discussion on one of my social media groups, we were discussing how deer invade our pastures. They will jump fences, knocking them down from time to time and forage away on the lush regrowth.

Here is where the truth becomes stranger than fiction:

While waiting for the last calf of the 2016 season to arrive, I was doing checking on the first time momma multiple times a day. As she progressed along, the visits were more and more frequent including some late night trips. One of those trips in the last few days, nearly took my life.

Entering the pasture sometime around 10 pm, the majority of the cattle are laying down and starting to rest for the evening. I checked the heavily pregnant heifer and was rubbing along her back. My only light source coming from my cell phone light. That cell phone light doesn’t produce much more light that the immediate area in front of you.

As I was checking her, I wanted to see if she was tense (clenching teeth) or relaxed (chewing her cud). As I moved up along her back, I see the reddish color of what I thought was one of the bull calves that’s here on the farm. Upon reaching out to pet the little guy, I was kicked at and the most god aweful snorting huffed through the air.

It jumped up, spooking the rest of the cattle and as I starred down with the animal, it’s big ears notified me that it wasn’t my calf at all but a white tail deer and beside her were her two young twin fawns. She spun away in a huff with her tail flying. She scared the crap out of my cattle which created a stampede. As they blast through one temporary fence line, another huff set through the air, spinning the animals back toward me. Still charging in a blind rage, my tiny cell phone flashlight illuminated the crazed eyes of the stampeding herd.

I’ve never been so scared in my life as I was in that moment. I got kicked twice and luckily spun out of the way as several came charging straight toward me. Somehow as they all blasted past, I was still standing. Unfortunately, they blasted through another fence line and charging through the hard gate to get away. As I sped through the pastures in my pickup, praying that I could get in front of them to spin them away from the next gates I realized just how lucky I was.

After closing up the gates and getting them spun back toward the direction they had come, I let them run and dispel the fear pulsing through their veins. An hour later, they were situated back inside of the rebuilt fences and calmly grazing away, like nothing ever happened.

I said a lot of swear words that night, dealt with some seriously high stress but all that said….

I touched a wild white tail doe! 

and somehow lived to tell the tale.

It’s not an episode I ever want to repeat or would like to hear about from anyone else. So as a side note to those ladies operating cattle farms… beware of those jersey looking white tail deer. They can cause a hell of a commotion!

Fall on the Farm

Fall is always a favorite and worst time of year on the farm.

Starting in fall is when I actually get to start making my yearly income. There is a cycle to everything here on the farm.

In April, calving season begins. Depending on what the young one’s are going for, depends on how long I have to wait to get paid for what I do with them. If I sell them as feeders, I won’t get paid until they are six months plus. If I raise them for beef, I will be waiting until they are around 18 months old. Most of the calves from 18 months ago (that means 2015 calves) are now heading off to the butcher shop. Pay day!

It works the same with pigs. My current method is to purchase piglets in May. They get raised for six to seven months and then head off to the butcher. That means I have to wait for 6-7 months to get another pay day.

It’s difficult to invest funds into all the grains it takes to raise the pigs and the fencing materials for raising the cattle. I would be lying if I said that fall didn’t make me happy for the reason that I get paid this time of year. I also love the colored leaves, the crispness in the air and how the leaves fall off trees.

I know this is short… But after the hectic last few days of loading up pigs, processing pumpkins, handling book work and invoices, and winter prep work I think I’m going to relax a little and start on those handmade Christmas gifts I do every year.