Our routine has evolved, so to speak, over the years. New critters certainly requires change, but we've adapted to our animals and their natures, learning to accommodate them, rather than trying to get them to accommodate us. When Dan is home we work as a team. When he's not, I stagger the chores a bit differently.
|The girls, ready and waiting to be fed.|
Chores start at the crack of dawn. We don't have electricity in our outbuildings so we try to begin as soon as we can get see outside without a flashlight. We've been up since 4 or 5, taking the time for that first cup of coffee, Bible reading, and for me, writing.
The chicken coop is opened first thing to let the chickens out. We do this mostly to keep our too-many roosters from squabbling inside the coop. The chickens are fed their scratch and then I go get the goat feed ready.
In winter time everyone is more demanding. If the girls aren't hollering for their breakfast I'll take the bucks a load of hay. The gate which separates the pigs from the billy boys is left closed until they've had their fill. If the gate is open, the pigs rush in and push the boys out of the way. However, it's not the hay they're looking to eat, it's the pile of dropped hay in front of the feeder. For some reason they love to burrow under this for an early morning nap. I figure they can have their nap later because the bucks need breakfast first.
|This time of year all critters come running when they see me. Not that they|
are particularly interested in me, they're just hoping I have something to eat.
Surprise and Lily are taken to be milked in the morning. I let Surprise out first, because she knows to go right to the milking room. I give her a head start before taking Lily on a lead. If I don't, Lily will take off at a gallop to try and beat Surprise to the milking stand. I let her do this a couple of times, but it created a problem after they were milked. Lily expects Surprise to be in the pasture when she gets there. She never figured out that if she gets milked before Surprise, then she goes back to the pasture before Surprise. She then starts hollering and looking frantically for her. So much easier (and quieter) to do Surprise first, so that she's already in the pasture by the time Lily gets there.
Morning milking is a lovely time of day. I can catch the sunrise if it isn't overcast and enjoy the peaceful, early morning sounds. It's one of my favorite times of the day. Lily is on the lead when I take her back to the pasture. If she isn't, she'll take off running just to see if she can steal a few bites from somewhere she's not supposed to be. As I return to the milking room I open the chicken gate into the pasture. If I open it too early, the chickens rush the goats' breakfast and I don't want them to do that. Funny how goats will rarely share their food with another goat, but will allow the chickens to help themselves. This is when I try to remember to open the gate between the bucks and pigs too.
|Chickens waiting for their scratch|
The others does are fed in the pasture. If Dan is home he's already done that, filled water buckets, and done manure duty. If he's not, I'll do a quick check of water buckets and fill those in need, or if frozen, get hot water into them as quickly as possible. After that, I take the milk into the house to strain and refrigerate.
Mid-morning I go out to make rounds, check water buckets again, and fill the girls' hay feeder.
Early afternoon I do a hay check and, in winter, fill hay feeders if needed. I take a quart of grain to the pigs and sprinkle it over the field they're working on. This is the field in which we plan to plant in corn and cowpeas next summer. Rather than give it to them in a feeding pan I make them work for it. That may sound tough, but the pigs love to root and hunt for food. I also figure they each get a fairer share that way, plus it keeps them busy for a long while, because after that I may go foraging for still-leafy tree branches for the goats to eat. If the pigs are around they rush the branches pushing the goats out of the way. They may eat some of the leaves, but mostly they trample them down, so it's better to occupy the pigs elsewhere.
|One thing I'm hoping is that grain hunting will encourage more rooting.|
In the late afternoon I get ready for evening feeding. All my critters think this should be at 2 p.m., but I think it should be closer to 4 (later in summer). I chop sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, greens or herbs if available, and any fruit rinds, cores, or other scraps I've saved from our meals. The pigs and chickens also get dairy and meat scraps. The pigs each get their pans topped off with a cup or two of whey, milk, and/or cooking or canning jar water I've saved. The pigs are one reason I plan to always keep a goat or two in milk all winter. Now that the hens are laying again, I beat a couple of eggs into this mixture too.
|"Feed Us! We're STAAAARRRVIIINNNG!!!"|
When Dan's home he tosses the chickens their afternoon scratch while I feed the pigs. They know it's feeding time and have been squealing non-stop to let me know they're hungry (as if I could forget). By this time all the goats are
Lastly the girls. They don't think it's fair they should have to wait until last, but I remind them they get fed in the morning too. They don't care about that, but I sympathize because I know that being pregnant and making milk is work. I'm milking once a day now, so Lily and Surprise are tied outside of the pasture at their feeders, while Helen, Daphne, and Bunny get theirs in the pasture. While I'm waiting on them I check and fill the chicken feeder, also water buckets are tended to once again.
|Daphne & Helen are half-sisters. Even though they try to push the|
other away, they eat pretty well from the same pan. When I tried to
feed them separately, they'd both finish off one pan & then the other.
Last rounds are made at dusk after the chickens have gone to roost. The doors to the coop are shut, as are all gates. If it's going to be very cold I'll top off hay feeders, because I know that roughage is how the goats will stay warm. This is another peaceful time of day. All the critters are settling down and I can catch a glimpse of the sunset if it's not too cloudy.
The time between morning and evening chores is filled with projects. We have indoor projects and outdoor projects. We have seasonal projects. For a list of what we hope to accomplish this year, click here.
|Theoretically, that hay feeder design works well and should be able to|
accommodate three goats on either side. I say theoretically because
the Nubians tend to each take a side and chase the Kinders else away.
The beauty of a routine is that once I walk out the door, the rest is set in motion. There's no pondering what to do next, decisions to make along the way, or trying to remember if I forgot anything. I make mental notes of things that will need tending to later, but by the time I'm done, I know the essentials of the day are taken care of.
How about you? Do you have a well-established routine or are you more spontaneous in your approach? Still experimenting? What are your favorite chores? Any tips and advice for the rest of us?