Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tied Down

Farming ties you down. Not just any kind of farming, but DAIRY farming specifically. I grew up in the Midwest, just 2 1/2 hours from my uncle's dairy farm where he earned his living milking a herd of anywhere from 40-60+ cows everyday, twice a day. I'm very familiar with how having a dairy breed of any animal will tie you down. What I am learning very quickly is that not everyone is familiar with this concept. And since we have only recently become dairy farmers (on a far smaller scale than my uncle!) it is a new concept to many. It's been quite an adjustment for us but also I'm finding it is an adjustment for our family and friends as well.
The one thing that is really important to continue getting an adequate milk supply is to milk every 12 hours. You can give or take a half hour or so and I've even gone up to an hour a few times. But if you constantly change your milking times or go 12 hours one day and 14 the next and so on you will eventually see a big decline in the quantity of milk you get.

Here is our daily farm "to-do" list. This is what ties us down, daily.

4:45AM Alarm goes off and I'm out to the barn by 5:00AM.
~Let chickens out of coop and feed and water.
~Feed grain and hay to kids.
~Get grain ready for milk goats.
~Prepare milking area.
~Milk goat, just one now and it takes about 5 minutes or so to milk her out.
~Back to the house to strain milk and chill it.
~Wash all equipment.
I'm usually done bye 5:45AM.
After the girls are up (around 6:30AM) we do:
~Fresh water to all animals ( 2 buckets to goats and 2 buckets to chickens).
~Weekly chore, we do one each day of the week except Sunday: M-Clean out stalls and lay fresh straw, T-Clean out coops and lay fresh litter, W-Scrub waterers with bleach water, Th- Scrub nests and roosts, F-Clean out stalls again if needed, S-Clean 2nd coop.
~Feed all hay scraps to chickens.
~Bottle feed baby goats.
1:30PM (we have 30minutes leeway on either side of this)We then go back to feed baby goats for their 2nd feeding. Bottle feeding only lasts for the first 8 weeks of the kids life. In our case with the spread of 3 weeks between kidding it is an 11 week adventure. As we breed more does it will probably be even longer. Once the kids are weaned our days are somewhat freer to leave the farm for much longer periods, up to 10 hours maybe.
Afternoon sometime we usually mow or trim grass for the chickens.
4:45PM-Back to barn for 2nd milking following procedure as above.
~Feed baby goats their 3rd and final bottle for the day.
~Lock up goats. Babies get a little grain and Butter gets her alfalfa hay.
~Collect eggs and lock up coops.

This is the life we have chosen. At times I wonder if I'm not in over my head but at the end of the day when I have a couple dozen eggs collected and clean, a fresh gallon (or just shy of a gallon) of milk in the fridge and sometimes a pound of mozzarella and ricotta I know this is what I want. And as we grow and learn how to be organized, disciplined and teachers to our children, it will get easier.


JamesoftheNorthwest said...

Well, you left out a bunch of details! Bottle feeding the kids involves measuring out the milk, warming it to 100, setting up bottles, feeding, and then cleaning all the stuff up afterwards.

You also said nothing about gardening????

AND, not to mention all the everyday "stay-at-home mom" chores, coupled with homeschooling even!

When I get home at 5:30 I am amazed how quickly bedtime arrives. It seems that by the time we finish dinner, do the dishes, feed the kids, do a few misc. chores, and finish the bedtime ritual...it is time for our bed. Is it any wonder we always feel behind on projects?

I know some must think us crazy...and I suppose they may be right.

Part of the tragedy of loosing Firefly is that her extra milk (a great deal of it) did not add that much work to our schedule. She would have provided plenty for our soap business...but alas, that will have to wait...expect perhaps on a small scale. Thus, I think we can grow the farm without increasing workload all that much...but it takes time.

Anyway...for all our being so busy, my only regret is sacrificing social occasions from time to time. But I wouldn't trade it for the world...especially the world in which we generally just sat and watched crappy TV shows in our spare time anyway. I try to keep in mind that we are MOSTLY redeeming time we'd have wasted.

Liz in Seattle said...

And I for one am so thrilled you've chosen this life! Not for me (although I can't get enough of the farm-fresh eggs and milk), but for you...one of the few families in this world who are following their dreams.

Sacrifices? Duh. What dreams don't involve sacrifices? And some of them can be painful, especially when those sacrifices could potentially cause friction in relationships (certainly not uncommon).

Don't worry about us, though. We may not like missing you, but we'll put up with it (as long as we can camp in the St. Brigid Farm cabin from time to time).

Matt said...

Making up for Firefly's milk: I met a dairy farmer (cow) not to longago who switched to milking three times a day and said his milk production went up dramatically. I don't remember the percentage but he said 3 milkings per day (every 8 hours) produced more milk than 2 milkings + hormones. I don't know how different cows are from goats, and maybe this wouldn't work, but it might be worth looking into.