Monthly Archives: February 2012
At Christmas, long weekends and other holidays, farmers don’t take much time off. The animals need daily attention. Always. On Christmas Day, two men each spent about 2 ½ hours in the morning doing chores, then 3 men worked in the barn in the afternoon for a few hours too. We don’t resent it – it is just part of the rhythm of our days.
Here is a picture of the daily chores, autumn through spring.
This applies to the three main groups of sheep. (Chores become far more extensive during the breeding season, with 6 or 7 groupings).
The 3 men meet at 7 am in our home for a half hour or so to discuss weather, problems, plans, concerns, goals, finances and ideas. Each has his area of special knowledge, and they pool thoughts. Then they head out for about 4 man hours/day.
Christopher typically visits every group of sheep every day, checking for any issues or problems. If a sheep needs attention he’ll deal with it there if he can, or will mark her so she can be found readily. (The other day he found a lamb standing knee deep in a stream, with her head thoroughly stuck in the paige wire! The water was wetter on the other side?…) He’ll visit with every guard dog (8 at the moment) and will feed them. He’ll load grain into our ‘snacker’, pulled by the ATV, and will run a trail of corn out on the snow for the replacement lambs, due to birth for the first time next spring. That gives them extra energy.
Meanwhile, Don visits every group of sheep. He’ll unroll round bales of hay on the ground, spreading it out so all can eat at the same time. Then he unrolls baleage bales for the breeding flock. It has a sweetish fresh damp grass odour, and the sheep love it. Unrolling the hay and baleage feeds the land as well as the sheep. The uneaten remnants and the sheep faeces fertilize the fields (and feed the earthworms). Don also keeps an eye out for any problems with the animals; he has a special affinity with the dogs. He’ll take a tractor with a grain bin out to keep the grain feeders filled for the market lambs that need the extra protein and energy help to grow during our winters.
One of our survival secrets at Topsy Farms is that we don’t purchase new and efficient – and expensive – farm equipment.
We make do and recycle the old.
That translates to all the workers, but especially Christopher who has most machinery know-how, spending hours and hours patching and rebuilding and scavenging parts to eke out ‘just one more year’. One cost of that is occasional breakdowns during haying season, and the frantic rush for repairs and parts. (They never break in winter.)
We are now officially retiring two very-well used machines – the oldest of our old farm equipment. Every bit will be recycled. The combine was purchased from an elderly neighbour. Garnet and his father bought it new in 1950, and was state of the art at the time. We traded hay baling for it years ago. But our shallow-soil sheep pasture just isn’t good grain -growing soil, and we’ve seldom been able to harvest a decent crop. We tried to give this combine away two years ago, but its 10 foot width and the ferry limitations and distance and hauling costs meant it was too expensive as a free gift.
Our first round baler did wondrous service. Ian remembers it arrived when I showed up, over 30 years ago. (I’m not sure which was the most noteworthy event.) We kept it going at least 5 years after it was pretty much worn out. We also wanted to switch to a machine that could use net wrap (that we recycle) on our hay bales. It is well adapted for making silage bales also. The old baler has been retired for awhile now. We salvaged parts we might be able to reuse including the PTO drive train, springs, tongue, wheels, stub axles, and the hydraulic cylinders.
So, we ordered a dumpster, which has a width of 8 feet, to accommodate both – plus other metal flotsam. One form of honourable retirement: every bit will be recycled, and will generate at least a little welcome cash.
An oxyacetylene torch was used to cut parts off the combine so it could fit, and two tractors manoevered it into position then pushed it in with almost 2 inches to spare on each side. Later, Kyle positioned, pushed and lifted to somersault the baler in front of the combine. Nice fit. Ian had first salvaged the grain-storage bin from the combine with the intention of using it in his new, improved hen house (to protect the grain from scavengers).
The processes for tidying up activities on the farm are a bit different from in your home. However, as everywhere, it feels good to have storage space increased and clutter reduced.