So, last summer someone suggested I start blogging about life on the farm. I said I would, but knowing I am not very good at keeping up with most things, I wasn’t sure I’d keep that up either. Obviously, I didn’t. But, our guests often ask what we do on a regular basis here and sometimes want to tag along with chores, so I thought I’d share my mornings. I usually get up around 5:30 and since the sun isn’t up until 7, I have my coffee and listen to the news after feeding the dog and cats breakfast.
I’ll also get breakfast going if we have campers. This usually means popping some fresh eggs in the Instant Pot to boil, making goat cheese (if I haven’t done it the night before), and baking the bread that rose overnight. Sometimes I’ll just do a quiche the night before.
The second the sun begins to light the morning, the ducks sound the alarm! A morning cacophony of quacks eager to get out of the pen! This is one of the last mornings I have duck chores because they are packing up and heading to their new home in a couple of days. One of the things I’ve learned in the last year since adding ducks to the farm is that they simply aren’t for me. They are loud and messy and eat a lot.
Egg sales are sporadic and I’ve fed more to the pig than I’ve sold. I don’t like them. They are just too earthy tasting – hard to describe, but just yick.
Blurry photo because they’re in a rush for fresh water and a little cracked corn to warm up on this cold morning. Did I mention how messy they are?
Ducks need water to eat, so they are always dipping their dirty bills in the bucket! Buckets are scrubbed and filled with fresh water and a dollop of apple cider vinegar.
Eggs are collected – yeah, they’ll go to the pig later! Maybe, I’ll bake some bread. Duck eggs are great for baking. I always have to tell folks that I do not process birds in the backyard. The ducks lose a lot of feathers so they are all over the place!
Now they get a scoop of cracked corn since it is so cold this morning. They really love it. High fat treats are great for cold mornings and evenings. It also keeps them occupied so I can slip past them and get to the chickens.
And, they’re off!! I really love my run door. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it is an old highway sign. You can just see the writing underneath the old white paint. It is just cut it into the fence with an added a latch. I let them out into the run and also toss them some scratch for breakfast. Between gardens, I let them free range, but in the winter the hawks are often seeking breakfast too so they spend their day in a large run. We fill their waters when we put them in at night, also with a dollop of ACV, so we don’t have to do that in the mornings unless the waters in the coop are dirty. The most important thing around here is clean water and clean troughs!
This is Racer, the neighbor’s rooster. He is actually on the outside of the run, but, like clockwork (it is a rooster thing), he knows when to come visit for breakfast too. Sometimes he is here and other times he is actually on the front porch waiting! He is a beautiful and sweet bird! However, my roosters, Cogburn, Tails, and VJ, say he is not at all allowed in the run.
A couple of the girls stay behind so they can eat from the feeder without anyone else around! Morning and night we check the feeder (it is a modified deer feeder) to be sure there is layer feed in there. The little green hanging box is for suet cakes. They go through those pretty quickly! This is also the time to do a wellness check and just make sure everyone looks happy and healthy! In the coops, run, and the pastures we wander around and look at shit. Fun stuff! It is, though, one of the best indicators of health! Click here to get the scoop on chicken poop!
I usually make a stop back at the house to refill my coffee before I head out to the pasture, but Houdini sees me at the coop and waits for his morning egg. The bucket is filled with grains fermenting in water and – you guessed it – a dollop of ACV. Though the benefits of ACV is largely anecdotal, there are some scientific, peer reviewed studies with results that are positive enough to convince me that not only are there some benefits, but it doesn’t cause any harm. So, all the animals get ACV in their water every single day.
You’ll no doubt see folks raving about ACV on homesteading and livestock forums.
I’m a girl that falls for the science though, so I always turn to veterinary journals or other scientific publications to see if there is any evidence to support the claims. Here is a study that shows pigs supplemented with apple cider vinegar were observed to have a sleeker coat, improved vitality and looked healthier than those not receiving apple cider vinegar. Pigs supplemented with apple cider vinegar tended towards increased feed intake and average daily gains, higher carcass yields, better feed efficiency, and higher profits. Though there are some limitations in this study (mainly with sample size of poultry), it showed that that medicinal herbal alternatives like natural apple cider vinegar, can be used to prevent and treat infectious diseases in broiler chicken like coccidiosis. In general, there aren’t a lot of studies done on goats and I’ve not found anything peer-reviewed that touts the good stuff in ACV for them. Lay folks rave about it as a dewormer, but I don’t particularly believe it serves that purpose. It is too diluted by the time it reaches the rumen. It does, however, reduce algae in water and improves the taste of water, which makes them drink more. We use natural “dewormers” as a preventative (another post on that one day), but when fecals show a high count of parasites, we deworm. Period.
Speaking of fecals – I’ll usually grab some in the mornings every few days to test, especially when I catch one of the goats leaving me fresh berries! I keep baggies and a marker in the milkroom and in my pocket. I do my own fecals, but will also send off to the lab every few months just to double check! It is really easy to learn without massive cost by getting a student microscope. Another post for another day!
Ok, coffee is filled and the moon is still here, so let’s finish chores! At this point, the goats know I am up, out, and around and they are yelling for breakfast – even though it is right under their little noses because they have lots of hay left over from the night before when we fill all the hay feeders. They just think a few new flakes makes all the difference in their worlds!
First things first, the Faverolles want out and Bam Bam’s crow is a very loud reminder of that! The Favs, or the Rubbles as Jess and Mavis call them (the first two were Pebbles and Bam Bam) have their own coop and run in the pasture. We fill the Favs food and water at night and they are afternoon layers, so I usually just have to let them out in the mornings. Once they are out, it is time to pass out some hay so I can get the barn and nursery cleaned!
Despite how large he is, Bam Bam will lose a fight to even our smallest bantam roo. Faverolles are gentle and kind; they are lovers not fighters. Not long off the endangered list, and still listed as threatened, Faverolles are my favorite breed.
Even though they have plenty of hay in the big troughs (filled up the night before), morning hay is somehow different – magical maybe, because they think it is so different from the hay in the bins! Some goats, like tiny Bootsy, have secret hiding places for hay that the others don’t know about!
These hay bags are absolutely fantastic! I have about 12 of them around the pasture. They make less waste, are slow feeders, and they don’t get their horns stuck in them. They also come in a variety of colors and have recently been on sale at Jeffers. Every morning I pick up any hay on the ground under the bags and toss it in the compost. I never want any of the goats to eat off the ground.
Well, not everyone hangs out around the wagon!
I sweep out the entire barn and on top of all the spools and wooden sleep shelves. No shortcuts here. I’ve had helpers in the past who sweep all the goat berries behind things and off to the sides and it makes the work so much harder for the next person to come along (usually me!). Every corner, every cranny should be swept up, getting as much poop as possible out of the barn. We do this again in the evening with a touch up at noon check.
Next, I fill all the water buckets and troughs and add a splash of ACV. I only add ACV in the morning.
I almost always have help sweeping in the morning.
The nursery and ground just outside the barn is all dirt and it has taken three years to pack it down hard enough to be able to sweep it like a hard floor. Sweeping the ground may seem unorthodox, but I’ve found it is the best way to keep the areas where they sleep and eat clean. This is super important because it the first rule in preventing parasites is to keep everything clean.
Lilly reminds me that I haven’t filled the mineral bins yet! I’ve also started spraying the area with a lemongrass, tea tree, and clove essential oil mix to combat pasteurella. This is something I learned from Bellemeadow Farm and studies have shown it actually works! Last step in the barn is to grab the pitchfork and fluff up the hay bin! This keeps it from packing down and also often reveals where the hens are trying to hide eggs!
In the nursery, it is again sweeping everything up and putting it in the compost, not sweeping it to the sides because the point is to get all the poop away from the goats so they have a nice clean home! Of course I also have to spend a few minutes telling everyone how beautiful or handsome they are!
I mean, really, who could pass up kissing that face?!
So Midge is finally up and checking in on morning chores. Now it is time to walk the fence line and make sure the fence is in good shape. It takes me an hour and a half every morning to do chores. It doesn’t matter if I am dilly dallying along or trying to rush through, it is always an hour and a half!
Half the photos I take of my goats make them look like they are drunk! I guess Samson is a bit drunk on hay! Getting the wagon back is never easy. I usually just leave it and pick it back up at noon check when we check the waters and sweep up a bit here and there. Oh, and I am on a milking brak right now, but normally I milk in the morning too!
We do almost the same in the evenings with the addition of graining and the barn is less messy since they’ve been in the pasture most of the day. Evening chores begin around 4:30 and also take about an hour and a half. One last trip out at dusk for night check and to close the doors to the coops after the chickens have gone to bed.
Every morning, every noon, every evening, every dusk. No days off on a farm!
And everything must meet the standards of Ma, the herd queen!
Until next time,
Melissa & The Herd