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.
I am so glad to hear you and Julie got away and hope you found some time away from your course to relax and do some holiday things with Julie! Sounds like everyone back home got mostly A’s on their Farm-sitting report cards – you must be so proud! Now you know it is doable I hope you and Julie can plan some more mini-holidays!
Only at certain times of the year. Can’t leave when there are broilers or when we are calving or …
Sounds like a huge success–very good to hear. I didn’t see a post about a death but am sorry for it. God bless.
The two older kids stayed with grandpa and me, the younger ones with the other Grandparents. I don’t know about the younger ones but the older two worked a lot then we let them watch a video each day. No vacation, but they didn’t suffer either. Planning meals and getting our own stuff done had added interest and the kids were a big help. They were also a big help at Aunt M’s cleaning out the food left in her kitchen.
Way to go on getting away for a couple of days – I realize for you, a bit of a busman’s holiday, but still, a change is as good as a rest (I could add more clichés…). See? This is part of what you’ve been raising these children of yours up to do/be. And they did it. Nothing died, the cows aren’t bloated or with mastitis, none of the kids (or grandparents) had to get stitches. It went fine. How great that your parents and the kids’ other grandparents could support you in this. This was a huge step for me this year too, leaving the farm in the hands of my kids – in my case, they’re a few years older, and there are no cows in the mix, but I suspect the worry level was similar. I’ve had the experience of leaving the farm in novice house sitter hands before, when it hasn’t gone especially well, but my take away from those experiences is that I need to make sure I set the success bar fairly low, and keep chores simple. I learned from leaving the farm with my teens for a few days, that the things that an off farm sitter doesn’t necessarily take on board are practically instinct to my kids – the importance of keeping water in front of all the critters 24/7 for example. What sick vs healthy looks like. Unbelievably important, but things that non-farm people don’t always see as critical.