Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A good day on the farm

We got a lot done today. One would not think that moving cattle and chickens would make one feel like a success in life, but if you haven't done it before, you find yourself feeling rather self-satisfied.

The shed, while not quite finished, was declared to be chicken-ready after sunset the night before last. It did not yet have a door, but had plastic sheeting firmly in place. At least firm on the top and side, but open enough for us to get in and out. Us, and our dog and cat, not to mention the coyotes and bobcat that have been spotted in these parts. In addition we needed to hang the brooder lamp, and put plastic on the window opening. I needed to buy the chain for hanging the lamp, so we weren't ready to actually do the work until today.

First I had to move the cattle. The sound of the plastic shed "door" reminds them of the sound of a bag of delectable cubes being opened for their dining pleasure, and they had been rather cozy yesterday when I had gone into the shed to see how much chain I needed. Molly had been with me, and she spent the whole time I was in there barking and herding them away. They still were right outside the door when I came out. So I knew we could not be going in and out moving chickens, with cattle hovering, and little kids on the loose.

So I drove the truck - pulling the trailer filled with cubes, stuff to go the barn and the chicken feed - down to the barn courtyard. I poured a bag of cubes into the grass, and let the eager cattle through the gate. The horses were standing there wanting to get in on the action as well, so I had to close the gate before all the cattle got through, in order to keep the horses in. I drove in quickly, fed the horses, then tried to round up the other cattle. I got a cow through, but the remaining three calves just wouldn't go, so I gave up. Then, realizing it was going to be too much to try to maneuver a truck and 16' trailer backwards (my only option to get the chicken feed back to the shed), the kids and I grabbed a few of the small things we needed to do our work and walked up to the shed. The calves mostly stayed away, except the bigger one whom Molly bullied a few times.

I was in the shed trying to figure out how to attach screen to the window opening that was 1/2" wider than the screening, when I got a funny feeling. I looked out and it seemed the horses were mighty interested in our trailer. Most of it was hidden from view by the barn... aack! The chicken feed! The other bag of cubes! Sure enough, they had gotten into both. And this after I had fed them a generous portion of sweet feed!

I'm embarassed to say I think I have cursed more since moving here than during Farmer Boy's entire life (the point at which I really upped my efforts to speak like a lady).

So I ran back to the barn, shooed the horses away, moved the broken bag of cubes to the barn, and dragged the VERY heavy metal can of chick feed up to the shed, then through the gate into our back yard, where the lid can not be reached by any large mammals other than humans. I hope.

Back to work in the shed... attached the lamp, pulled in and configured the extension cord set-up, spread around the wood shavings, constructed a make-shift wooden door. I also popped the window into the frame, which was easier than stapling screening and plastic, and is a real window with a real screen. Stephen will have to eventually get it in right, but for now it works great.

At last we really were ready! The boy and I grabbed some gloves and emptied a Rubbermaid tub of outside toys, then started loading up birds. We did it by breed so we could finally get a definite count of how many we have of each. When we had put them in the brooder the first day, we'd had a really hard time keeping track of the count as we were unloading, and it is darn near impossible to count moving chickens.

In relatively little time we were done. The 25 Australorps, 26 Buff Orpingtons and 26 Rhode Island Reds are now safely in their new shed, and the Cornish Rocks have the whole brooder to themselves. It was dark when we were finishing up. Everything takes so much longer than you expect! I think it took about 4 hours to do all this.

I feel so accomplished!

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