Just to give you an idea of what daily life is like on the farm, I thought I’d write about my chore routine. Of course, depending on what animals we have, what’s going on, and what time of year it is, these chores can change. But for right now, and probably until spring, this is how my mornings generally go.
At 6 a.m., my alarm goes off. Usually, I get right up because my morning will be thrown off terribly if I don’t get up. After a time of prayer and Bible study, my kids are awake. So I feed them and then clean up the breakfast mess. (I’ve told them before if they’d quit eating all the time, we would save so much time and money. They didn’t go for that.)
After breakfast, I do a few household chores. Laundry is always on the list, and by this time, my husband is up and getting ready for work. I seldom go to the barn before he leaves, because I never know how long my chores will take, and I hate having to come back to the house and interrupt my barn work to find something for him.
By 8:30 or 9, I assemble my milker and bundle up for my outside chores. If it’s really cold, this means that I put on my insulated coveralls, Carharrt coat, gloves, insulated boots, and a warm hat. I’m going to be working outside for awhile and I’ll be more comfortable in all these clothes. This is my biggest gripe with winter time. It takes so long to get ready to go outside!
Along with carrying the milker, I haul a small pail of warm, slightly soapy water and a cleaning rag for Millie’s udder. If I have a bottle lamb in the barn, her bottle will go in the wash pail to keep it warm.
In the barn, I measure out Millie’s morning feed (about 7 pounds of grain) and check on the sheep in the barn before I do anything else. If everything is fine, I let Millie out into the stanchion. She, like any grain junkie, eagerly puts her head in the bars for her breakfast. With Millie occupied stuffing her face, I hook up the milker to the pump and turn it on to pressurize it.
Then, I wash Millie’s udder with the warm water. This helps stimulate her to let her milk down. After cleaning her, I loop the surcingle over her back, hooking it on Millie’s left side. I turn on the milker and hook the bucket to the surcingle. Then, I attach the cups to her teats. After about 7 minutes, I’ve gotten about all the milk that I can, so I turn off the milker and disconnect everything. I move Millie’s feed bucket next to the barn door, so she can finish up the grain without making a mess in the stanchion. I release her from the bars, and go about my other chores while she’s cleaning up the grain. Milking takes about 15 minutes in the barn, but it sounds longer when I write it down.
If I have a bottle lamb in the barn, she gets fed next. Usually this takes just a couple minutes.
Next, I take about half a bale of alfalfa hay and toss it into a feeder in the barn lot. Millie is feeding two calves and my family, so for her to not skinny down to nothing, she needs excellent hay. I could just up her grain, but it seems that increasing grain just increases her milk supply rather than keeping her body condition fair.
I take buckets and fill them with water for the sheep trough. In winter, hoses freeze, so I have to carry water in
buckets. The sheep are too stupid to figure out our automatic waterer, so I have to provide a tub of water for them. Thankfully, compared to cows, sheep drink relatively little water. Three or four 5 gallon buckets is enough for a whole day for them.
The sheep in the barn get some special hay and their water bucket filled. I also have to feed grain to the sheep in the corral. To do this, I have to run.
Our sheep troughs are small because when we use the big troughs, the sheep climb up in it, soiling the feed with their feces and the dirt on their feet. So we hooked small goat feeders to the fence. The trouble is that the sheep get so excited about the first few kernels of corn, they stick their fat, dumb heads in the trough so I end up spilling the grain. That’s why I have to run. I have to beat them to the feeder so the grain won’t be spilled.
By this time, Millie is almost done with her grain. I open the barn doors and put her into the corral with her babies. They eagerly greet their mama, trying to get any drops of milk I may have missed. I don’t feel bad that I took most of it for my family. The calves get free choice of all the milk they want for the whole rest of the day, and Millie’s such a good milker, that they’re fatties anyway.
Next, the chickens get fed and watered. If their nest boxes are looking bare, I’ll refill them with hay and gather any eggs that may have been laid. Unfortunately, with it being so cold, they’re not laying much at all.
Finally, if I have beef cows near the house, I haul a 50 pound bag of grain from the barn loft to the troughs for them to eat.
Before I can go back to the house, my habit is to check all the gates. I’ve never regretted double checking gates. But I have regretted NOT checking them. It’s quicker to check them than it is to gather up critters from all over the place!
And then I can go to the house. But my work’s not exactly over yet. I carry the milker and my cleaning bucket and my lamb bottle. In the house, I have to strain the milk, put it in the fridge, and wash up the milker and bottles.
It sounds like a lot, but really its only about 45 minutes in the morning. Usually when it’s really cold, I’ll do much of the work myself. Our barn’s not heated and most of my kids don’t have the insulated gear that I have. But on warmer days, I have someone else feed lambs, chickens, and sheep. And that is a big help.
After all that, I’m ready to start the day.