Farm days

This morning early, I took the dogs for a walk (the two cats who come along think they are taking us for a walk) and checked the fences. In the barn, I fed Daisy( dairy cow, who I really hope is pregnant) some of the new grass hay, she looked at  me scathingly and said I wouldn’t even waste spit on that, where is the good stuff. And then watched longingly as I fed the sheep the same hay.  Mama and Hairy (mama and papa sheep) were not having any of it either. Then they all turned to watch the Baby Bobby as he (not aware of the mutiny in the making) munched into his hay and stood looking back at them chewing and blinking benignly.  He will eat anything which is a good thing as he is the beef steer.

The barn doors have been opened so they can come into the barn from the fields to get some extra feed. Also  you cannot take grass fed animals from summer green grass straight to winter dry hay all in one nasty hit. It is not good for the digestion. The change needs to be gradual so that they keep the weight on and with the cold coming I have to slowly get them used to dry grass as opposed to green grass. But my dry grass hay sits in their mangers- studiously ignored.  The good stuff Daisy is waiting for, and she knows it is somewhere in the barn because she can smell it, (it is in the loft)  is the afalfa hay and that does not come out until it is really cold, and the world is frozen. Alfalfa is a legume, very high in protein. So now we commence the battle of wills.  If all else fails I pour a little molasses on the hay. I use the spoonful of sugar theory!! They are very susceptible to sweet bribes.

I put the leash on Queenie,  (5 month old Hereford cow) she trots along beside me like a large red dog. This morning she is clipped to a dog chain that is clipped to  a long wire, she is grazing some old clover that I grew for flowers for the bees. She will not need hay today.  Little fattie.

The chickens only laid SIX eggs yesterday, instead of their usual 18.  You see we cleaned out the chook house to make the first big pile of winter compost. The chickens get their knickers in a knot if I change anything in there and new straw counts as change.  You would think they would like smelling sweet like that.  Such a delicate bunch.

The compost  recipe is green grass clippings by the tractor scoop full (2 scoops),  chook house litter (6 scoops) and dirty straw from the barn (2 scoops). Wet every scoop on the way past the hose. Turn every weekend. Cook, then freeze for a winter.  We only do the chook house twice a year. I let the straw get quite deep in there over the winter for warmth.  I HATE cleaning out the chook house, hate it!.

Tonton (border collie)  is in serious trouble for digging up Our Johns fall lettuce bed. So he is grounded to Close and Busy. When my tweenage children were naughty  they were put on close and busy for a few days which means they had to be with me all the time. And do whatever I was doing. No time off except class time at school.  Cook if I am cooking, clean if I am cleaning , walk the dog when I walked, write when I write, garden when I gardened, read if I read. The offense is never mentioned after the initial haranguing (which was usually long and arduous until they begged me to stop.. I got, I got it!) Usually naughtiness is a symptom anyway- no point treating a symptom.  The sheer drudgery opens them up in the end.  And we might begin to get the bottom of the problem.  Plus I  never watched TV or talked on the phone to their friends or played in the ditch so neither did they. Once things settled down we always ended up having good discussions usually family wide.   I did this with kids in my classroom too (High School)  and I remember days when I would have three or four of the naughtiest kids trailing after me all over the school, carrying my books.  So presently TonTon is lying at the French doors looking out longingly as I write. Occasionally I drop a pencil so he can trot over and pick it up and give it back to me to relieve the boredom. Close and not so Busy.

The grapes are still sweetening, I nag at the grapes every morning. In their fishnet dress. 

I digress.  Today I shall order 12 more Rhode Island Red chicks. They are great for this environment as they will lay all through the year even when it is so cold that the eggs freeze solid shortly after being laid. If I order them now they will be ready to lay in the spring. The tiny chicks come in the mail. I still want a peacock (sigh).

I fed the two Murphys (sheep for the freezer) in their field a bucket of beet shreds and eggs. They are on a serious get-fat diet now, Mia (girl sheep who will stay) is still with them so she is thrilled to be getting all the good stuff  too and being in the special get-fat paddock.

Soon I will set up the last hive for harvesting the honey. I put a board outfitted with a kind of maze on one side, between the supers. In the cold evenings the bees move down the maze to cuddle together and keep warm. Then they cannot get back up again in the morning. So I can steal that honey unmolested.

I fed the dogs and the cats and fed my ginger beer bug, then fed my sourdough starters.  And began a loaf of bread and put the beef on for a steak and onion pie for dinner. 

Lovely. Good morning.


57 Comments on “Farm days

  1. Good morning, what a satisfyingly busy life. I do like the idea of close and busy, should have implemented it years ago, though. Would love to have a hen, keep begging but hubby says no …

  2. Truly lovely storytelling. I’m afraid you make farming sound so lyrical and romantic that I could be fooled into believing that’s all there is to it, if it weren’t that (a) there have been farmers in my family and I know there’s so much more to it than the poetic-sounding part, and (b) you do at least include a small reminder or two of the less-savory elements (who WOULDN’T hate dredging out the chook house!), in fairness.
    Given my huge lazy streak, however, I am content to let those who are gifted with the farming arts do that sort of work and stick with my pusillanimous efforts in a more suburban vein. Always with GREAT appreciation and admiration of what you farmers do, though.
    PS–I did get out of the house yesterday to relieve the bad case of inertia–went with R to his Wed evening rehearsal and enjoyed being enveloped in choral sounds so much that I wrote for pages and made a drawing for today’s blog. I’m not completely irredeemable, it would seem. 🙂

    • That is great that you had an inspiring night out. And farming is romantic. i just swan about in blowsy dresses with delicate sandals on my manicured feet, open and close gates as my animals call sweet greetings to me. see? c

  3. Good evening (from the other side of the big pond).
    “Farm day” makes you believe that this is a special day, but I would assume that this a typical day, 7 days a week. No?
    PS: Still have to look up a few words. You don’t get much farming vocabulary in English class, so thanks for giving me the chance to learn something new. It’s nver too late for that.

  4. Do you do your own milk and cheese too? Fresh eggs……happy sigh. I’d love to get my hands on some, I never get to the farmer’s market here in time for them. They fly out. And your own honey??? I want to come visit you! LOL BTW – husband has some cousins that live in NZ.

    • Oh T, If daisy is pregnant (please cross your fingers) I will be milking her by next spring, and yes i make my own cheese and butter and yoghurt with milk from a neighbours cow. Though i am not sure whether to be thrilled or terrified that i will be milking my own cow! c

  5. TSK TSK TSK Tonton! naughty pup! those grapes still look so tempting lol! 😉 how i super envy your peaceful life compared to the concrete jungle i’m at 😦

  6. Ohh, new chicken! So you’ll try out egg shell art work yourself? 🙂
    Is that a turkey on the last pic? Does it have a name, too or is it just for Thanksgiving?

    • Hi Nikkie, no that is a guinea fowl. Very noisy, very useless, and so ugly they are sweet! I like that shot too actually.. now that you mention it maybe I should have grown a few turkeys.. hmm c

  7. I can’t believe how much work a farm must involve! I am such a city girl and really can comprehend the day-to-day chores of a farm. The animals would be the reward for me but I would just keep them as pets and then my farm would go under I’m afraid.

    • Well Geni, I thought I would be like that too, but there is something about feeding the family food I have grown. That I know is good. There are a number of animals that we will keep. Like Daisy and Mia and Queenie the others so it is not all too difficult.. c

    • I know yummy, I pull gently at one as I pass (about twenty times a day) to see if they are close to ready but they are not coming off easily yet.. c

  8. I love your “Close and Busy” punishment. Very inventive and, I imagine, effective. I love your writing, Cecilia. You’ve painted a lovely picture of life on your farm — well, except for the chook house cleaning. I did’t want to do it and that was even before I googled “chook”!

    • Oh John, you googled chook!. i am impressed., i am going to google it now to see what it said. maybe i need to make a wee glossary of odd NZ words, terms and phrases. see ya c

  9. Oh those grapes look amazing. I couldn’t see anything passed those grapes for a second LOL. I fully enjoyed this post but those grapes are making me want to go to the farmers market tomorrow lol.

  10. I loved how you punished your dog, keeping him Close and Busy…. the poor dear couldn’t write letters with you! I’m sure he would have much to say if he could… 😀

    And who would eat dry hay if there were fresh grass available? My cats are the same after feeding them… they eye my refrigerator door knowingly. Mom is keeping the good stuff inside that cold box! I’m sure one day they will figure out how the logistics of opening it, even without thumbs.

    • Hullo Tara, lovely to see you, I loved the photo of your cat on your page, He certainly looks like he could open a fridge door without too much trouble! c

  11. And this was all before breakfast? It sounds a mixture between idyllic, walks with dogs and cows and incredibly well organized, I thought you said you were a butterfly like me? A very busy butterfly that’s for sure. I’m guessing you have to prioritise on a farm, living beings first, food next, ironing last/never….

    Very interested in Close and Busy. Might tell my sister about it, how old were your kids when you started doing this. I do something similar when I have a naughty poodle issue, give them lots to think about, tire them out and improved the bond but never thought about much. I think I read somewhere that a dog ‘needs a job’. I guess the same applies to children too. 😉

    • You are so right Zeb, (about the ironing!!), The animals are all attended to on my first walk. Close and Busy is my version of grounded which seems a complete waste of time to me.. Isolating a 3 year old is torture to him, isolating a 12 year old is lay about bliss for her.. so really it is the 5 – 12 kind of age group. And yes, I do agree, kids need a job too. They need plenty of chances to get stuff right and be told how well they have done. Don’t get me started.c

  12. I would post you a peacock if I could! I would love some egg layers but my Jack Russell would think they are her special feed! Have a great weekend C 🙂

    • Love your stories, I found you via Life at the end of the road. I was looking forward to the recipe for the sour dough starter today, have looked everywhere for one. By the by, we have a village near here called Scone (Perthshire, Scotland), it rhymes with moon.

      • I will make a post about my sourdough adventures very soon with some links for you so you can chat to the experts.. lovely to see you frances.. c

    • Hi Tandy, yes a Jack Russell would make short work of a chicken that is for sure.. Now all we have to do is work out how to fit a peacock in a box for the post! c

  13. What a full and satisfying days you have C. Farm life is permanently on the go! Oh I wish I could send you a peacock, oh what the heck if I could, I would throw in a peahen too – we have quite a few living in our village as well as loads guinea fowl.
    Have a happy weekend.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • Oh Mandy, i can just see you out with your net, trying to grab me one of those peacocks.. box at the ready, postman waiting.. what a great shot!! You have a great weekend too.. c

  14. That is a really cool farm! And now I’m hungry just by looking at those grapes 😀

  15. Good Morning dear Cecilia! In here, it is afternoon… And I can hear the birds while I am reading you and watching your photographs… You made me to travel again, as if I am there too. Maybe I can knock your door for dinner tonight! Thank you, Have a nice weekend, with my love, nia

    • Well country wife, if Iwere walking one of your cows I would be terrified. ! Queenie is a wee hereford, so sweet. Daisy who is a very big cow has been retired from the leash, since The Great Escape! c

  16. Aah – another lovely post. We cleaned our chook house (!) out doay – we only have 10 hens and 2 cockerels (soon to be one) plus a dozen “fat boys” we are rearing for eating so it´s not toooo bad. We put our fertiliser on the olive trees and they love it. An dI love the idea of the fat paddock – do you do holidays there?!

    • Oh you have a chook house too? Wonderful. I love the eggs and so do a small selection of dear old ladies who get them delivered every week. I don’t do holidays though i have seriously thought of building a tiny summer house for visitors.. c

  17. Cecilia, I really love the form of discipline you had for your kids. That sounds both rather firm and caring.

    If you get peacocks you would be in the company another great writer, Flannery O’Connor. I also recently watched “Days of Heaven” by Terrence Malick (beautiful and troubling) set on a wheat farm in Texas and there are some cool shots of peacocks on the farm.

    • I send the animals to a little boutique abattoir that is in the next town. John takes them but he says they are very quick and calm and very efficient. We start off knowing who is staying and who is not so it is not too bad. The benefits of home grown meat pretty much balance it out.. c

  18. Having grown up on a farm myself I rather enjoyed this post. Plus I’m always a sucker for cows and the first picture made me smile. thx!

    • Isn’t Daisy such a special and extremely spoiled cow? It must have been great to grow up on a farm, about as good as growing up on a beach i would think . hope your teams win this weekend! c

  19. Another great read. You do have a lovely way of writing. I can imagine every detail. Interested to read about the chickens. I think I have been cleaning out ours far to often.
    Regards Florence.

    • I like a really deep litter for the chooks in the winter because it gets really cold here, so we clean the whole thing out in the spring and then in the autumn. Aren’t the fresh eggs great though.. c

  20. Ok I think I am back to wanting to visit. I’ll bring the young’ens and you can tell us what to do. Kinda like a working field trip! They would love your animals and the surroundings I am sure. The grapes are looking good.

  21. What a lovely day, so much better than sitting at a desk – even the chook house cleaning! I’m trying to get my head around gearing up for weather so cold that eggs freeze shortly after being laid, brr. So very different from farming in Africa. I grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe – sometimes I miss farm life 🙂

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