As this week draws to a close, I am struck by the sheer array of all that is encompassed in a "typical" farm day. "Typical" being in quotes, as any farmer might chuckle at the very idea of a single day being enough like the others to create a norm. On the flip side, there are things that must be done every day, without fail. There are hundreds of animals we have chosen to caretake, and there is the land itself.
Often at the end of my week, I scroll through the previous days' photos on my phone. (Here I must acknowledge the sheer luxury of being a farm's employee that gets days off, which makes me feel a little bit like a cheater but Eric and Amy assure me it's ok).
Perhaps it is because all of our hearts are extra-broken this week. Everything feels extra poignant. It struck me this evening that I could share some of what I documented this week, these "typical" day-to-day moments on the farm.
This week we began milking our Friesian sheep (in addition to our goats). There are four. Their babies were weaned, and the sheep joined our dairy goats out in the pasture. In the morning, we escort them into the dairy barn to be on hand for milking.
When trying to get sheep to head in the direction you're intending, we like to say "all it takes is one sheep with a good idea". If you can get one to go in the right direction, the rest will usually follow. I love this little walk to the barn, past the lambs, past the piglets and into the stall where the four sheep (Sufu, Patience, Meadow and Kicky McKickface) leisurely chew their cud as if waiting for the maitre-d to call them to Sunday brunch.
The sheep are a little less limber than the goats, and we need to figure out a better system for getting them to lower their heads into the milking stanchion. Once that awkward maneuver is done, they're pretty content and frankly more docile than the goats. Above, Sufu sports a little alfalfa dust mustache.
After milking, the four sheep and their 75-ish goat companions have access to the field for grazing. We rotate their grazing area, moving the electric fence every few days. The goats were not sure about the latest fencing placement, as they had to pass by some very scary piglets on their way to the field. It took a lot of convincing, and was nothing short of a slapstick comedy routine with all the balking and running.
We've finally had enough sunny days that Eric has been able to begin haying the fields. These rows were made into round bales and wrapped so as to become haylage for next season. It is Eric's happy place, making hay while the sun shines. After he baled this field's hay, we were able to move the fence to make the "alley" wider, thus enabling the goats to sidle safely past the very scary piglets.
As you can see, the piglets are very, very terrifying.
While we are on the subject, we also spent the week getting to know our newest porcine pair on the farm. Ozzie and Harriet and their five piglets moved onto the farm last week, and are getting used to their new digs (pig pun intended).
Annabelle USED to be the biggest lady on the farm, but Harriet ups the ante. And then Harriet is in turn dwarfed by boar Ozzie. Ozzie and Harriet came to us from a family homestead who grew weary of pig chores. I am frankly stunned by their size, and am also extremely grateful for their good-naturedness.
We had a fair amount of human toddlers on the farm this week too. The families of Orcas Island Children's House came and shared a morning on the farm. They got to milk Polly and Stella the goats, scramble around the goat barn with the kids, and feed whey to the piglets.
We ended the field trip in the pasture with our bottle lambs and Rosie the cow. The sun snuck behind clouds, but the rain held off as a breeze rippled the grasses. We all breathed deep and watched the kids delight in the pushiness of our bottle-fed lambs. I love how in the photo below you can see the parents, but not the lambs or preschoolers, who are hidden in the long grass of the field.
It is safe to say that our resident chickens are NOT delighted with the current climate at the farm. Avian Flu has been detected as close as Islands County, and the WSDA is asking all of us to take precautions. If just one bird is diagnosed with Avian Flu, all birds on the premises will be culled. So, we are taking all the measures we can.
The triangle pens that house our broilers are not marching across the fields as everyone would prefer. Presently, they are tucked inside our lamb barn, keeping our broilers safe from visiting wild birds who could carry the virus. Our chickens are bored, but they are as safe as possible.
The layers are also squirreled away in other isolated spots on the farm. Here, we put all our eggs in one basket:
We are washing and cartoning about 10-15 dozen eggs a day. I have never washed a batch of eggs without needing to take a moment to admire the palate. Goddesses willing and the flu don't rise, we have a batch of about 150 new hens who will start laying in July. We bought breeds with an eye for color variety, so I am actually excited for egg washing days to come!
The goal is to get eggs washed and cartoned up for when the farmstand opens in the afternoon. Today we had the help of neighbor kid Jasmine. Jasmine lives in Seattle, but comes to visit her grandpa at an adjacent farm. She loves bringing Caramel up to the farmstand to meet visitors. The two of them charmed quite a few folks today (including me, as always).
And don't worry Emmy, despite his best efforts, Caramel did not eat your beautiful flower bouquets!
After closing up the farmstand I headed back to the goat barn to retrieve a few items. Or maybe I just wanted to pass by Sidney's wisteria again. The farmhouse fence is the most glorious thing on the farm right now.
As my last act of the day, I swung down to the compost area to toss in a bunch of rhubarb leaves. Ozzie and Harriett beckoned like porcine sirens -- I could not help but spend some more time showering them with praise for their sheer behemoth-ness.
My adulations clearly were received, as Ozzie even smiled for the camera. That was the cherry on top of another beautiful, exhausting, fulfilling and inspiring week on the farm.
May we all find the purpose, care, humor and dedication in carrying each other through the days!
With Gratitude - Mandy (for the Lum Farm Crew)