We all do chores. It is part of keeping our lives and personal spaces organized and not overwhelmed by the detritus that results from living, eating and maintaining a healthy life. For me, chores are a way of keeping me grounded on a journey that can be at times very chaotic. Chores require a routine. If that routine is adhered to and adapted as conditions change, my life can achieve a fragile state of balance. When a chore cycle is done, I always feel better about myself. I feel as though I have made some sense of my life and the spaces I inhabit. I can stand back and see the results of my labors and know that I am a good person for having disciplined myself to address the clutter that inevitably comes from being alive. My chores are divided into two realms, the house and the barn. It is the barn chores that are the subject of this blog post.
I am a keeper of animals. Some live in the house but most live outside, either in the barn and its environs or in one of the several pastures and orchards that are part of our farm. My outdoor chore cycle begins with a trip to fetch Mocha and Sadie who sleep in a kennel overlooking the orchard. Mocha and Sadie are English Shepherds. Their job is to keep deer out of our orchard. They spend 90% of their time outside in a twenty acre area defined by an invisible fence. They are both trained to the fence and know the boundaries of their domain very well.
With the girls in tow, I head to the barn. At the barn I have two horses, a flock of sixteen geese, a rooster and six laying hens. My two horses are Cyra, a mare that is a cross between a Clydesdale and a Newfoundland Pony. My gelding is a Tennessee Walker named PJ. I begin my care of them with their grain. I then begin cleaning their stalls. When that is done, I give them their hay, refresh their water and feed the geese, hens and rooster. The sweeping of the aisle completes the barn chores. I take pride in my barn. I always feel good when it is clean and my animals are well fed and watered.
I next turn my attention to preparing to do the chores of the animals who do not live in the barn, the pigs, cows, turkeys, ducks and meat birds. I fill five 5-gallon buckets with water as well as two buckets with pig grain and cracked corn for he birds. That done, I load these buckets into my pick-up truck, call Mocha and Sadie, get them into the cab and drive up top to the orchards and pig pasture and cow pasture.
I have a breeding sow and a boar named Shuhka and Shorty. Shuhka recently gave birth to piglets. They live in a pasture adjacent to our orchard. Their piglets are eight weeks old and are quite independent. They are still nursing but are also fond of the grain that I feed Shuhka and Shorty. Mocha, the older of our two English Shepherds, is very fond of the piglets and will mingle with them and even lie down amongst them if they are settled. Sadie keeps her distance. Mocha tries at times to herd the piglets but getting a pig of any age to go in any one direction is virtually impossible if the direction is not of their choosing. I now have Shuhka and Shorty separated to give her some space from him and to manage the breeding of the next litter. The piglets move freely between Mom and Dad, depending on who has the best food and wallow. Shuhka and Shorty split twenty-five pounds of grain a day with the larger portion going to Shuhka who needs the extra protein for her milk production. At over four hundred pounds, she requires a lot of feed.
Watering the pigs comes next. My pig pasture has no water source so I transport water up to them in five gallon buckets with lids. They go through about ten gallons of water a day each. Shorty is fond of nearly immediately dumping his water to create a wallow to relax in. Shuhka’s water becomes a wading pool for her offspring as well as a source of drinking water. Depending on how rushed I am with my chores, I often pause to give Shorty a good back scratch which he enjoys immensely. I also enjoy watching the antics of the piglets and their canine buddy, Mocha.
The fowl are next. The ducks are water intensive birds and I have to give them ten gallons a day to drink and splash around in. They live in a portable coop in the orchard. The coop can be moved so that with its wire floor, new grass comes up for them to eat every time we move it. Their waste goes into the ground to enrich it. The ducks are quite shy so I have no problems working with them as they retreat to the far end of the coop when I am feeding and watering them. The turkeys and meat birds are another matter. They are very curious and friendly and frankly a pain because they always attempt to get out when I have their door open. They are not as intensive in their demands for water. They get by with five gallons a day. Mocha and Sadie are fascinated by the birds and will dance around the outside of their coop when I am doing my chores. This is not appreciated by the birds.
Last on my list for chores are the cows. We have a Red Angus bull named Wild Bill, three Black Angus heifers and a steer calf. We have nicknamed Wild Bill, Chill Bill as he is a very laid back bull. He definitely is deserving of respect as he weights over a ton but I have never felt threatened by him. I don’t ever turn my back on him or the heifers but we all seem to get along just fine. I fill their one hundred gallon water trough from a hose that originates at the Cider House. The Cider House is off the grid so delivering water to the cows requires that I turn on the generator to have access to the well. Mocha and Sadie have gone into the five acre cow pasture from time to time but recently, they have chosen to hang back. Mocha has also tried to herd the cows with slightly better results than with the piglets. The cows browse on grass and saplings in their pasture, supplemented with a round bale of hay. I do feed them grain upon occasion but they really don’t need it and it cause for great excitement for them which sets them in motion and propels me outside of the fence for my own safety.
With the cows fed and watered, I am done for the morning and can then go to work! In recounting all that I do for my animals, it seems like a lot but I would have it no other way. They keep me grounded and entertained. When they are all well cared for, I feel better about myself. Though these tasks are called “chores” it is not a chore to do them. Caring for other living beings forms the center of my life. I would have it no other way.
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