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.