Winter on the farm is beautiful. Seeing everything encapsulated in sparkling white fluff creates a setting one would see in a movie or on a postcard. However, that is where the pleasantries of winter end. Wintertime on the farm is hard. As we get older, it is even more challenging. Feeding, watering, herd checks, and daily chores become more difficult and become unpleasant. The level of responsibility for the care of our farm family weighs heavy this time of year.
The Bibbed Wonder is a rock star when it comes to the care of our animals. He is the one that gets up at the crack of dawn to milk the goats, do the feeding, take care of frozen waterers, and make sure that all is well in general. He has even taken to feeding my geese and chickens for me, so I don’t have to go out in the cold. I appreciate all he does for the care and comfort of all of us. The goats’ waterers are often frozen, so he has to take a sludge hammer to break the ice. He must fill the hayrack with clean, dry hay every morning and evening because the goats are hay-eating machines during the winter. He also has the task of refreshing and rebedding the barn so everyone can stay dry and warm. Add to this hand milking the ladies in subzero temperatures, feeding his pigs, the cats, the geese, and the chickens, and he is outside in the elements for at least an hour every morning before the sun rises.
Heavy snowfall adds to The Bibbed Wonders list of chores because he then plows the driveway and often the neighbors’ driveways. He also shovels the walkways and sidewalks before tackling the regular chores. This lifestyle is not for the weak or unmotivated. There isn’t anything cushy about farm life. The personal rewards one reaps from seeing one’s animals happy, healthy, and thriving is often the only payment one receives. However, it is worthwhile, and we are grateful for this life.
Once I get The Bean off to school, my priority is writing the blog. Once that is done, I get ready for my day, and if it is well below freezing, I take a few extra measures to care for our farm family. For example, I have been making my laying hens a warm gruel of oatmeal and lentils to warm them up, add a bit of variety to their diet, and stave off the boredom of being in the coop. I think the girls and Romeo the rooster appreciate the warm meal. I also added a cracked corn ration to the geese’s diet. Fighting the freezing temperatures takes extra energy, so it’s important to provide them with the sustenance to do so. Eric gives our barn cats, Jack and Mittens, warm goat’s milk every morning. The cats are so fat; I don’t know how they hunt for mice. However, they do an excellent job because we never see any mice in the feed room. We feel that our animals work hard to provide for our family, and it is vital to take care of them and make them as comfortable as possible. We love them, and we love what we do.
Once the morning chores are taken of, we then tackle whatever needs to be done in the studio for the day. This could be soap making, labeling, boxing, making products, website maintenance, or general housekeeping. Our priority is to have our orders packed and ready for the mail pick-up before noon. Once The Bean returns home from school, it is time to begin the process all over again. It is a repeat of the morning chores, plus making sure everyone is tucked in and safe for the night. It is a busy day, and the cold makes it more challenging, but the reward is immeasurable. It’s satisfying and feels good to see everyone in the barn doing well. It makes me feel good to take a few extra steps to increase the comfort of our laying hens and geese. It is rewarding to see our kitties fat, warm and healthy. Seeing everyone healthy and comfortable makes the extra effort worthwhile.
There is no downtime on the farm. It matters not if it’s below zero, one has a fever, or doesn’t feel like going out in the cold. So many rely upon us to take care of them and make them comfortable. It would be the epitome of selfishness and cruelty to indulge in such luxuries as taking a day off or not maintaining a schedule. I have the utmost respect and admiration for my husband for taking his job and the care of our animals so seriously. He puts their needs before his own every single day. Farmers are some of the hardest working and underappreciated people I know. If you have fresh milk, food on your table, meat in your freezer, or a full pantry, take the time to thank a farmer. They work hard to put everyone’s needs before their comfort.
That is a glimpse of a day in the life of our farm in the winter. As always, dear reader, stay safe, be smart, remember to thank a farmer for their hard work and commitment, and keep washing your hands.