Saturday, August 07, 2010

On Owning a Hobby Farm

Well it is almost vacation time for me and time to cleanse myself in the magical healing waters of Lake Michigan for a week. This is something the family and I have done for the past decade or so. I leave behind my farm chores this year, which is something different. Never had those before.

My farm chores aren't really chores per se. Chores, to me, means daily tasks. Lets see what Webster says:
the regular or daily light work of a household or farm
Ah, I was right. What I do at my hobby farm is not in fact chores, but rather could be described eloquently as the following:
a sh1t-ton of extraordinarily hard, fu*cking backbreaking labor
Yes, that is a much better description of what I do at my hobby farm.

I have to admit, as much work as it is, I enjoy the work. As most of you know, I have been upping my exercise and the farm labor is a practical, easy way to get extra boot camp type workouts in. All of the lifting, walking, wheelbarrowing, shoveling, and moving create practical and useful sessions of exercise.

We have to contract with a local farmer to harvest the 15 or so acres of hayfield we have. The first crop was harvested too late (way too much rain) so the farmer received all of that. The second crop was cut a few days ago, and I believe they will be out today to bale. It is a beautiful crop. The alfalfa was very thick - my cattle love it. We will probably receive about 300 bales of that to get us through the winter (we already have 150 or so stacked from last year) and the farmer will get the rest. There will most likely be a third crop and the farmer will receive all of that. I actually looked into buying a tractor and a cutter, rake and baler - no way. Everyone I talked to says you not only have to buy good stuff, you still have to know how to fix it. It is cost prohibitive, and I am not up on the mechanical end of tractors and such. So I am at the mercy of cutting a deal with the farmer.

Fortunately for me, the farmer that we deal with is a good guy. They send an army of kids to help us stack hay, and they brought us a huge load of grass hay to get our horses through the winter. We have three horses now. I don't care about the horses though - those are my wife and kids pets.

Today I will clean out the cowsh1t from our lean-to. Here is something I learned about cattle - they stand under shade when it is hot. This may sound stupid to you, but you are dealing with a guy who has never raised cattle before. There are zero trees on the pasture that we have our cows on - so when it is hot, they stand/lay under the lean to, and sh1t and piss all over the place and themselves. That is their job. But the crap does pile up. I don't have a bobcat so I have to clean that stuff out of there the old fashioned way, with a shovel and wheelbarrow - then put down barnlime and then straw bedding on top. Good exercise - real good exercise. The straw soaks up the urine pretty well. The automatic cow waterer is down there also and it was interesting when that malfunctioned and I enjoyed shoveling the crap in about two inches of water. Oh yea, that was nice. As an added bonus that day, the cattle sh1t all over the waterer so I got to clean that out as well.

We have six chickens now, and they live in an old pig barn that we fixed up and now call the "chicken mahal". I could watch them for hours, endless entertainment. I don't know why, but they just amuse me. Free eggs.

Oh, by the way, there is absolutely no money in this. BUT I am now out from under the monthly boarding payment that I had when we had one of the horses at someone else's place. So that is money saved. And this was FAR cheaper than purchasing some lake front property and my family (and admittedly myself) are getting a lot more enjoyment out of it than I thought we would. And the property taxes are very low since we are zoned ag. The farm is close by our house so we enjoy the place a lot. My wife and kids have been there pretty much all summer. Eventually we will build a house out there, sell the one we have and live there full time.

I have learned a bunch about farming, and I will have more of these stories to entertain you in the years to come.

I need a scythe to cut down weeds that are grounding my electric fence. Sure, I could use a weedeater, but I want to work on my obliques. And go back in time a bit. Time to go to a farm auction.


Gerry from Valpo said...

Sure wish our farm was closer, I would spend much more time there. Do you have a garden patch?

Jonathan said...

Sounds like fun, except for cleaning up after the cows. I always thought you could housebreak them and train them to milk themselves, but maybe I was misinformed.

Dan from Madison said...

Gerry - yes we do have a garden, which was my wifes responsibility. It was quickly overgrown with weeds but is producing remarkably well. We have tons of tomatoes, squash, and the rest looks pretty good. There are even some jalopenos in there and MAN are they hot. I will be in charge of it next year and we will do even better.

Jonathan - thank god we don't have dairy cattle, that is REAL work.

Dan from Madison said...

Also - helped put up 924 bales of hay today. Today was not a fun day, but it is overwith and I am done for hay for the year. The farmer gets the entire third cut and the fourth if we have one.

Mark said...

Sounds like fun. We're looking to move back into the country in a couple years - I don't know if I can handle my tiny yard another summer. Mowing (sp?) square bales is the worst. Are your arms nice and itchy? Get a tractor and have the farmer put up a few round bales instead.

Dan from Madison said...

Mark - I think the spelling was correct on mowing and yes, it is the worst and yes I am itchy but not too bad. Anyways, I am glad we got it all done yesterday because today it is raining like hell and will be hotter all this week. We are all set for two winters I am thinking, it is a pretty impressive mountain of grass and alfalfa - grass for the horses and alfalfa for the cattle. Good idea on the round bales and the tractor, and they also use giant square bales now. We are still thinking out all of our options. Mercifully I only have to do this once a year.

dallas flooring said...

Dairy cows are an absolute headache for as long as you own them. Better off putting longhorns and just admire them!