“Where do you find the time?” This is the most common question I get regarding our move to a 24-acre farm 6 months ago. Since I mostly stay put these days I don’t burn a bunch of time in travel or simply the stress of not being home. That gives me quite a lot of time I didn’t have previously. I think the other part of it must be that if people haven’t cared for livestock before then it seems like they must be way more work than they actually are. That isn’t to say they don’t require daily care, currently multiple times a day. The amount of work is similar to the amount of work taking care of a dog or cat. Though with each species it adds the equivalent amount of work to care for a dog or cat. There are also different types of projects, from the daily pulse to keep everyone alive, things that need to be down every few days and the one time or infrequent projects.
Our daily absolutely required chores take about 40 minutes per day for one person to do. It is roughly 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. I also spent about 40 minutes working with Ada Floofington our livestock guardian dog. She is 7 months old and still very much training for her future job protecting our livestock.
- Release chickens and ducks from their houses, check if they need feed.
- Feed the goats, we feed a pelted goat feed so it is simply a matter of scooping it into their bowls.
- Feed the pigs, at the moment we are giving them pumpkins. We break up a pumpkin with a shovel and throw it in there with them.
- Put the goats and pigs outside if the weather isn’t too bad. They have shelters in their pen but on really rainy days we leave them inside.
- Feed the cow. We call her in from the pasture and she gets a specific cow feed which we scoop into the bowl. Once she is done we let her back outside.
- Feed and walk the dog. Ada and I go for a 40-minute walk. This is exercise for us both, but I’m also still doing obedience training with her and she is learning the property so she knows her territory to protect. Once we are done she goes into her pen next to the pigs and goats.
Evening chores are the same as morning chores except in reverse. We lock the chickens, ducks, goats, and pigs back in their pens for the night. I don’t walk the dog at night, she does get put into the barn with everyone else. Part of these chores is also checking on the welfare of the animals. Occasionally that means taking their temperatures or otherwise checking on their health. We have been fortunate so far to have not had too many major problems.
There are the chores that need to be done semi-regularly. They are mostly about keeping all the poop these creatures create at bay. I tend to have a “poop day” every few days which takes about 30 or 40 minutes. With many of the animals, I use deep bedding techniques which means the bedding and manure are composted in place. So it is a matter of adding additional bedding on top. With the pigs, I muck their stall, though they are neat and always go in the same place so it is pretty easy.
Somewhat related to manure management I also move our electric fences. I usually don’t move the entire fence, I just move part of it to give the goats and pigs something new to eat. This can take anywhere from a few minutes, to an hour depending on if the fence has a short or more recently if I get tangled in blackberry vines.
I also garden so outside of the livestock, so I’ve also done weeding, planting, mulching and other activities. Though at the moment it is November so this is pretty minimal.
In addition to the regular pulse, we have projects. If you read most people’s advice on beginning to farm it is to not take on too many projects at once. We’ve tried not to do that though, but who knows if we are succeeding. These are items that we won’t need to work on forever, or they are much upfront work but will be less in the long run.
The biggest project such as this that comes to mind is livestock guardian dogs (LGD). Currently, we have Ada who I’m training, but in a month we are getting a second puppy. With Ada, she actually is slowly requiring less attention over time. We went to obedience school and did daily homework for it. I’ll do this again for the new puppy. Both dogs will require a lot of attention of the first year, but then hopefully they will actually help reduce some of the work with our other livestock. You see we have many coyotes away, so we lock all our animals up to keep them safe at night. With two giant dogs, this becomes less necessary. Then the pigs and goats can stay out at night, at least when the weather is okay.
Another project which will change in scope, though still be much work is our milk cow, Rosie. Did you know you have to train a family milk cow? I work with her a few times a week to make sure she knows how to pick up her feet, walk on a lead and let me touch her everywhere. Though in two years when she actually is producing milk she’ll be just as much work, if not more since we’ll be milking her daily.
We’ve also built a greenhouse, cleaned up the barn and built housing for various animals. These are all onetime projects, which other than repairs we won’t have to do for quite some time.
Besides its a Hobby!
The other thing about the work is it is a hobby. Where do people find time to cycle, hike, knit, sail or any of their other hobbies? If I didn’t enjoy it I’d do something else with my time. Maybe my feelings will change later, but at the moment I’m loving farm life.