There is only so much I can ask of my wife. She is intelligent, beautiful and strong. She cooks, cleans and cares for all 5 of her dependents (including me). She teaches the children. She washes, sorts and boxes the eggs. She runs her own business, continues her ongoing education as well as that of the children and keeps the farm running when I go sit in the A/C at a desk job. It is important that we simplify things as much as possible…that I stack the cards in her favor. She is strong but she has a hard time moving chicken tractors. She is willing to work hard but tires out long before I do. There are only so many hours in a day and I can’t expect her to be able to do everything I can do. So we have to simplify.
What do I mean by that? Recently we took possession of 6 new heifers. Now, six heifers doesn’t look like much on paper but it’s a whole new deal for us. Rotational grazing. Mob stocking. Hoping and praying that the green stuff growing in our fields is appetizing to our hooved animals. We have to learn how to move fence, how to move the water tank, how to troubleshoot shorts in our fencing, how to watch for problem weeds and to monitor how full the cows are. Again, on paper, no big deal. But in real life, learning all of that all at once is a bit daunting. Learning all of that while keeping the food cooked, the dishes washed, the laundry folded, the kids educated and the business growing is pretty rough (though she does it all while looking great).
So we simplified. We scheduled our production for the year and made sure several things were finished or on break before the heifers arrived. The broilers are in the freezer. No more chicken tractor chores. The pigs went to market. No more planning and moving pig pastures…or working pig pasture recovery into our grazing schedule. We planned ahead, knowing our spring is busy and staging things out so we could learn new skills away from the pressure of existing skills. Now, there’s no getting away from housework or even garden work but just freeing her from checking broilers 3-4x per day and liberating her from her fear of 300 pound hogs lightens her workload enough that she can afford to focus on these new heifers just when they need it without shorting the kids of the time they need.
The goats were scheduled to be sold in December. The two females finally left today. Once they are gone we’ll be down to just ducks, cows and layers. Over time we’ll work pigs back into the rotation. In the fall we’ll do another big batch of broilers. In between we’ll attend Cattle Grazing University, Chism Heritage Farm campus, and the school of hard knocks. Experience is a great teacher. I have read every grazing book I could get my hands on and I’ve learned more in the last week than ever before.
I think pigs, turkeys, goats and broilers all have a place in our lives, in our business and on our farm but we can only ask so much of ourselves. At regular intervals we plan time to review what we are doing, why we are doing it and verifying that we are making the best use of our time. Are we happy or just busy? It makes me happy to see the pigs run in the pasture. I enjoy butchering chickens with my children. I love our goats. That said, today I’m content to watch the cows eat grass. They have a lot to teach me and require my full attention.
Most importantly, I have to consider my wife. This is our dream, not simply mine. I can’t abuse her with hard labor and expect her to remain enthusiastic.
I totally hear you about simplification. Last year, the broilers were becoming a lot of work by the end of the 10 weeks. This year I retrofitted my big heavy chicken tractor with wheels on the back and now my wife can move it easily. I just sistered on some 2×4’s on the side of the tractor that extended out 2 ish feet out the back and added 6″ lawnmower wheels. That along with the dolly at the front essentially put the tractor on 4 wheels when we move them making them an easy move.
I also changed watering systems to a water nipple system that is hooked up to a bucket on the outside. Should reduce wastage and work, but it looks like you are using the kuhl waterers and they seem pretty decent also. I was using the old style galvanized ones before this, so very poopy water all the time made the work load higher.
I’m a big fan of the nipple waterers we use in the brooder but haven’t converted them for the tractors yet. The Plasson Bell waterers do a good job but can only serve so many birds at once. I would like to see some pictures of your setup.
Do anything you can to enable your helpers.
I just posted on the TSP forum. Let me know what you think.
What section? I don’t see it under Livestock, Critters and Aquaculture. May be just missing it.
Oh. I think I found it. Is this you? “One thing I could use some advice on is how to secure the bucket to the shelf so that it does not move during tractor moving. Any advice there would be welcome.”
Maybe just a lip around the edge of the platform. Maybe a lip and a bungee cord.
Your wife makes me wish I was 20-30 years old, again! And YOU deserve to be voted Husband of The Year!!
Well…thanks. We shake our heads when people say they can’t lose weight. We’re amazed that people with riding lawn mowers also own treadmills. I can’t believe people who claim they can’t grow a bit of their own food. I’m shocked by people who happily pay $8/gallon for Coke but refuse $6 for raw milk.
Got off track there. We are in some of the best shape of our lives. The farm keeps us young. Also forces us to manage stress…
I hear you brother. For several years I kept expanding our farm operations while at the same time keeping my full-time job which kept me away from home all week. I’d fly in on Friday and out on Sunday, leaving my wife to handle all the housekeeping, homeschooling, farmtending and community-serving duties. I am SO thankful that I changed my mind at the last minute and didn’t bring home the Guernsey milk cow I had decided to buy. That might have landed us in divorce court. 🙂
I’m home full time now and we have a fair division of farm responsibilities, but having been through it I strongly recommend that folks in this lifestyle carefully consider whether they are placing too much of a burden on either part of the partnership.
thanks for this great post.
That all sounds familiar. When I have a rare business trip I do everything I can to ensure success for Julie on the farm. I try to build all of the fence for rotational grazing before I go, lay out a grazing plan, a backup plan and explore the options with her.
Tell the truth…this post is Julie’s early Mother’s Day present isn’t it? 😉 Is she coming to Polyface this upcoming weekend? I’d love to meet the heroine of the farm
No. It’s worse than you know. When is Mother’s Day? lol
No trips to Polyface in our immediate future. We cornered Joel Salatin at a homeschool event in St. Louis today. That will have to do.
This rain has pointed out how important roads are! Making the roads and paths the family has to travel to care for the critters is vital. Better paths also makes the rest of the work much easier. I notice stuff like this when I come home from work with out the proper shoes and want to see the animals.