November 3, 2018

Saturday morning on an unapologetically autumn day.  Cold wet grass shaded by trees with every shade of yellow, orange, and red represented.  Some trees are already bare as we have had some crisp mornings and frozen nights. Getting up as the sun rises, I began to think of those I need to care for and how they fared the night.  

Molly’s gone on a trip, so I have three guests in my bed. Coconut, our twenty pound pit/chihuahua mix, is snuggled under my arm.  Next to her, Russell and Casey are wrapped in each other’s arms. I head down to the kitchen and collect the food scraps from the fridge and the night before.  Russell comes downstairs and he makes hot cocoa for himself, Casey, and Beckett. I tell him I am off to do chores and will be back in forty to make breakfast.

The rams’ fences were just moved to provide fresh pasture, so they didn’t finish all of the hay from yesterday.  I add only a few fresh flakes of our 2nd cutting to their pile. I clean their water out and make sure the automatic float refills on such a cold morning.

I usually head to the barn first, but the container of food scraps and leftover chicken tender put me on the path to pasture one.  It’s eleven acres of hilly grasses and saplings striving to become sylvopasture. Our new livestock guardian dogs, June and Cash, greet meet at the gate and are excited for company.  I’ve been giving them plenty of treats to walk with me and come to me during morning chores, so they know they are about to be spoiled. First, they split the chicken tender and watch me as I fill their dishes of food.  I put it right next to their new home, our old A-frame style chicken tractor, when we only had fifty birds. Adjacent to that, is the sheep enclosure that was a $50 craigslist find of steel framing, and we added hay and polycarbonate to it for better winter insulation.

I walk up to the chicken schooner with June and Cash in tow.  They smell the food scraps and are excited, not knowing that these are for the layers.  The 180 birds are excited as well because of the scraps and mob me at the door. Their water line is a bit thinner and will freeze quicker, so I hang it up to keep it off the cold ground.  After filling their feed, I walk out to the nearby earthen shelter. I don’t know if it can be called that yet, since we have quite a bit of work left. We have five posts of 10’-12’ timber stood up to begin the walls, which will require probably more than one hundred posts.  It’s the current farm project that keeps getting pushed back for more immediate priorities. It will house the sheep and the dogs, hopefully throughout the winter, but it’s been a struggle to find time to work on it in October. But, it’s at the top of hill of the pasture and provides a gorgeous panoramic view of the farm.  The hay fields to the east, the goat pasture and barn to the north, our home and high tunnel to the west, and more lush pasture to the south. I pause there to take it in and just breathe a little. I walk back toward the barn, flanked by June and Cash, who make me want to spend the day out there working, just so we can be close.

The turkeys get fed, though they’re roaming the barnyard and pay me little attention.  The goats are antsy because I went to the pasture first, something they don’t seem to approve of.  The five ladies and Dolly the llama get their feed without being penned up now because they don’t have to share their space with the sheep anymore.  However, they do get to roam the pigs’ two-acre woodland because they were brought to the processor this week.

Chores have seemed a little lighter this week in the absence of the energy of the pigs.  The week prior we had set up our trailer to be their feeding station, half inside the pig area.  We fed them from the outside and trained them to go up the ramp and want to be in that trailer. They learned quickly and had no problem boarding on the morning of their last day.  The alpha pig who always asked for belly rubs did so, one last time. He seemed to hesitate a little more that day, but willingly climbed up the steps for breakfast. They all were very trusting even as we loaded them into the pen at the slaughterhouse.  I know that these healthy animals lived well and will feed many families, so I don’t have any reservations about it. But it does, as my students used to vaguely but accurately say, “make you feel some type of way.”

Our male goats, Duncan and Dapple Dan, have been waiting for their feed.  I decide I don’t want to be humped or licked by a goat in rut today, so I walk around and feed them from the outside.  This way I can get in the pen and clean their water and refill their hay without feeling like I need to take a shower afterward.

The chicks next door have plenty of water, but are scarfing down their feed.  I refill three trays of New Organics layer feed and know it will pecked clean by tonight.  The barn cats need a little more food in their dish, but none are in sight. It must be a good morning for mouse hunting.  I start to think about my own babies and realize I need to make a good hearty breakfast. Popcorn at the movies last night filled us for dinner the night before, but if my own stomach was any indication, it left a void for today.

Potatoes, sausage links, eggs, and bagels fill their little bellies and I can finally have a seat with a cup of coffee on the gazebo. Everyone is set for the day, and I get to think about what I want to do that day.  I’ll probably prep for tonight’s camp out with the boys, chop some wood, and if I’m lucky, spend some time on the mower with some podcasts. The simplicity of each act of my day is undeniable, but it adds up to hours passing by and some soreness.  I wanted to write it down, to remember an ordinary autumn day, one of all types of beauty, but one that would pass and maybe be forgotten or go unnoticed. I don’t want that to happen because of the immeasurable joy that such a simple day like this can produce.