Monday, March 19, 2012

What a Sunday!

We make it a strong rule to NOT work on sunday. We believe strongly in the wisdom of our creator in resting one day per week, spending that time concentrating on things bigger then ourselves and our own needs or pleasures. This is what sets the rhythm of life and keeps balance in all that we do. It is a foundational concept that we live by.  The only exception is true emergencies, life and death situations. This weekend was filled with a number of these.

Weather is both a blessing and a curse. Saturday it became evident that the predictions for an unseasonably cold and wet start of week were correct. Unfortunately we were not ready.  The details of getting ready for the two most important shows of this year back to back overshadowed preparations we need to make for such weather extremes. Here's a rundown of our day of rest.

Hogs: They were cold, very cold. The recent abundance of rain left the hog pen area a swamp of water and mud. If you recall, they are not allowed in the pasture yet due to replanting so the hogs are confined to the hog pen area.  The back shelter was completely flooded with water, and about half of the area was a swamp too deep to walk in. Right now there are too many hogs to fit inside the front shelter which was mostly dry. So one younger boar was pushed out and forced to try to find a place to sleep. We found him saturday evening during chores, cold and shivering half in half out of the mud by the feeders. He was already too weak to move. With the sun going down again and more cold forcast, our options were limited. We took a tote of fresh wood shavings and started covering him and the mud around him with shavings. These both soaked up some moisture from the mud and provided some insulation. After a dozen shovels of shavings he managed to get up and move around. Then we placed one entire hay bale on the feeder platform and opened it. He managed to make his way there slowly and nestled into the 2 foot thick hay. That was just enough insulation for him to recover and make it through the night.
On Sunday we attached the small flatbed and headed out to find a ton of straw. Straw is a bit hard to find around here in the winter, so we ended up at the local farm and feed. As a snow storm with blistering winds blew through the boys loaded about one and a quarter tons on the trailer. Back home we pulled the trailer next to the hog pen and went to work. First we laid out a base of the rest of the shavings from that tote  in an area about 10x10.  This provided a nice base. Then straw bales one after the other to cover the mud. We kept throwing straw until about a quarter of the pen was covered a foot or two thick.
Now let me say.. if you have never done this particular task, it is quite the workout.Walking around in mud where you sink almost to your knees, pushing around 100 lb bales of straw,  occasionally getting a boot stuck so deep you cant do anything but fall over into the mud, now that is a workout! no need for a personal trainer.. it is a full body experience!
We spread over half of the straw out and got a couple bales into the front shelter too, covering the most used areas enough to walk through and leave no mud showing.  Next we moved in one of the new turkey shelters (oh yea, forgot to post about that one). These are built  like a minimized version of  chicken hoop housed we build. IT is a frame of 4x4 and 2x4 with reinforced corners and a shell of livestock panels to create the hoop. These are 10x10 and about 6 feet high in the middle. With the tractor and a chain the shelter lifted right over the hog pen fencing and we could pull it into position in the front corner over where the shavings made a base. Then the hoop gets covered with a 10x12 tarp to make a roof over 80% of the hoop.  The final result is a very funtional covered shelter for the hogs on a nice bed of straw and shavings.


Next project, Hunter's new rare heritage chicks arrived at the main post office today. Who knew mail runs between offces on sunday? I had assured him they would not arrive on a sunday, right up to the phone call from the sunday manager letting us know he had the chicks! Ok.. so a flying run into town to retrieve them and buy a few supplies to start caring for day old chicks again.. We decided to put these into the small "nursery" brooder outside by the chicken shelters. We hooked up the lights, waterers, freshened the shavings, and in they go. My biggest fear is the extreme temps (low 20's forcast) freezing the waterer lines and creating a fountain in the morning when it warms up.

During all this, the goats continue popping out babies! With show blowing through the barn doors in a frigid blizzard we through it best to supervise and keep the babies warm. The moms can only do so much in this weather, especially with 2, 3, 4, or even 5 babies per mom.  So far this weekend has 3 moms giving birth in the blizzard. I attached a 4x8 sheet of plywood over the door to block the wind and hung a 3 way heat light inside hte stall, now filled with straw. Before we made it around to all this we did loose a few baby goats to the cold. Being wet from birth was just too much for these little guys in the weather.
It is alwasy sad to loose animals, but especially so with baby goats. Milking animals we tend to bond with more than animals used for meat, because they are more partners.With everything going on it was tough but we manged to save all the babies from the third mom. Next year we will be better prepared to provide a warm place to birth these tiny creatures.

So, all in all, not a bad day's work, there was a few hours left at the end of the day to relax before sundown. Well to make dinner actually.  Some might say this farm life is pretty crazy, but you know... even sitting here with sore muscles reflecting on the muddy, cold, hectic day of hard labor and enough chaos to stretch the best manager... I would not want it any other way! We pulled together as a family, worked hard, and got things done as a team. We worked both with and against nature, battling the elements to save lives that would not have made it without assistance. There is no better feeling than successfully caring for God's creation. Yes it is work, yes is is dirty, yes it is something often considered lowly labor, for those unable to do anything else. BUT in truth, it is the most fulfilling job in the world.. being caretaker for of this fascinating creation and creating nutritious food that keeps people healthy. We have no complaints!

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