We were gone. Both of us. Gone. Away from the farm. Kids were with grandparents.
Weird. 3 weird days. Lonely. I strangely missed doing chores as I studied in my hotel room.
It took a bit of planning, a bit of negotiation, a little fiddling with things to make it a success but it was a success. A complete success. Our older kids, aged 14 (almost) and 12, with help from grandpa (age withheld), ran the farm for three days while I was working and Julie was goofing off in Florida.
So what has to happen when we are gone?
Chickens need to be opened in the morning and closed in the evening. Ideally, eggs are gathered at 11 and again at 3 and the drinker is filled at those times too.
Pigs don’t need much, just top off the feeder and make sure the water is available. Bedding is always in style but they will be fine for 3 days.
Cows need to be moved. Every. Day. The forecast was calling for cooler days so I set up a long strip on the clover field, segmented it with cross fences like a long ladder and left instructions to move the cows in the afternoon when the clover was warm and dry. Unfortunately it got hot so we had to open up some back fence to allow the cows access to shade. Water is automatic, just have to check it. The water trough is much more likely to overflow than to go dry so it is important to check to see if the cows have churned the area around the water into a muddy mess. If so, move the water. That proved to be more work than can be handled at age 13. Otherwise, no big deal.
Dairy is a different thing altogether. We were only gone for three days. Three days. You with me? Three days. Tuesday Julie left the calves with the cows. All you can eat. Wednesday the kids didn’t milk. This has its drawbacks and limitations, not the least of which is the concern that the calves will overeat. But one day shouldn’t be cause for concern…especially since the calves are big enough to wean. Wednesday afternoon it was back to normal schedule. At 3, when you get the eggs and water the chickens and move the shorthorns, find the dairy calves (they ignore the fence) and lock them up at the barn. Good luck. Thursday morning they had a bit of a rodeo milking the cows but they got the job done. First they forgot the water to wash the udder. Then they forgot the rubber ring for the milker. But all went well and they got the normal amount of milk. They didn’t milk again on Friday but separated the calves so we could milk Saturday morning. No ill-effects. No big whoop.
But what if the pigs get out? Or a cow? Or the bull?!?!? What then?
I don’t know. Call the pigs and put new temporary lanes up to return the cows to their pastures. But it didn’t happen.
Not only are we proud of our kids for doing such a great job, we got some feedback from dad on how to make things better. Everything from managing the water for the birds to concentrate ration changes for the milk cows. We are pretty intentional about not feeding for increased milk production as we value the longevity of the cows and calves over the volume of (otherwise worthless) milk produced but dad wants to see a little more fat on the cows. I do too. Dad also pointed out that my new layer flock is a little heavy on roosters. Strange because I bought all pullets.
With a little planning, a little training and a couple of crossed fingers, everything worked well. The kids were tired but it was nice that Julie and I got away for a little bit together.
I should also add that it was Julie who lined most of this up. I left directly after the funeral to begin school on Sunday morning. Julie was home washing eggs and preparing the kids and grandpa for the chores until she flew out Wednesday morning. This was a total team effort. I am both proud and thankful.