Snow, snow, snow.

As I write we have 8 inches of snow on the ground, and the snow isn’t supposed to stop for another day and a half.
This is the second time it has snowed and stuck for several days since I moved to Oregon just over 5 months ago.

These periods make me realize that I actually miss snow. Yes it makes some things more difficult. Walking and pulling carts takes way more effort than if the ground were dry. Getting water to animals takes at least 2 times as long as it would if it were above freezing. Washing eggs takes almost 3 times as long because all of the pipes are frozen going to the egg washing machine so we have to wash 65 dozen (collected over 3 days) by hand in the house. Milking takes longer because suction hoses are freezing. The hot wires have to be watched to make sure they don’t sag and sink into the snow and ground. Unlucky lambs born out in the field are more than likely to die because their Mom’s just can’t get them dry fast enough. Yet I miss it, and here is why.

Snow makes everything feel clean and pristine. When it first falls it is so pure and light-filled. It makes the whole world glow.


It isn’t as wet as rain. I can be out for hours with snow falling on me, and will be less wet than 5 minutes in a heavy downpour. Especially here in Oregon I have been in more COLD rainy days than I can remember. Rain being in the spring (early spring) is weird for me. I am used to summer rains, which usually feel nice compared to the heat that usually predates them. Here in Oregon, the rain is just cold. It is cold, wet, dark and miserable. Snow is bright, drier, and yes cold, but less bitingly cold.


Rain makes thing wet, and muddy, and slippery. I find it much easier to walk on snow and not slip than mud. I slip so often on mud. Not only that, but mud makes things dirty, I go through a ridiculous number or pants when it is muddy, but while it has been snowing I have been able to wear the same pair for the last 3 days, and they are clean. Not only is the ground and mud frozen, but all of the poop is as well! It smells less, and it just feels so much cleaner and safer!


What is really important becomes clear. Extra side projects become a thing of the past when there is snow, so that there is enough time to focus on what really needs to be done. The essentials become clear, both for work and for my body/mind. I realize I need more down time. More time to myself to just sit down and read, or write. I need to stop for a while and get thoughts out of my head. Right now, I feel more relaxed than I have in days, and I worked from 5:45 until 3:30. But as I sit here, and allow myself time to just process the day, I know this is what I need. I often lose sight of spending time on myself when the weather is “nicer.” I think, “oh I should be outside doing something! I can’t just sit here and do nothing!” Often times I will just sit and check Facebook or whatever, but I will feel guilty about it in the long run. But right now with all of the snow coming down, I know there is nothing better I could be doing for myself than sitting right here, relaxing, and tending to the fire. Other things can wait, right now, I need time for me, and I need to make time for me even when it ISN’T snowing.


Snow is revitalizing for the earth. It kills pest and bad bacteria, and most importantly, it adds water to the soil and aquifers. Especially in Illinois most of water in our aquifers is snow melt, and the summer after we didn’t have much snow was the most draught filled summer in almost 50 years. The drought was combined with the fact that it didn’t rain all summer long, but the wells were being sucked dry because there hadn’t been enough snow to properly replenish them.


As much as I thought I was going to say “see ya later cold snowy winters, I hope to never see you again!” It has happened very differently, I miss snow, I miss the clean, I miss the hard frozen wonderland.Image


That’s my car out there.
Now I head out to go dig the woodpile out of the snow so I can actually keep the wood stove going.

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Tuesday December 10th 2013.

I woke up feeling more tired than usual, despite having gone to bed at a decent hour. I had been having nightmares almost all night. Some involved chicken with teeth killing me (this one was inspired by the book I just started in which all of their birds have teeth). Some falling off of haystacks or cliffs. Some pigs or cows stomping me to death. All involved death in one way or another. So I was more tired than I had been in days.

AG and I started on chores by mucking out the dairy barn, we soon realized we didn’t have any new straw to put down, so we went down to the mill barn to get some, and fed the piglets and sows while we were at it. We took the truck down to the barn and walked in to almost dead silence, being before the sun came up all the pigs were still asleep. All of a sudden all the sows woke up and screamed, in my head it sounded like “DIE!!!!” when in reality they were just excited to be fed. But I nearly peed my pants. We finished feeding and getting the straw as fast as we could and went to finish the dairy barn.

We then went to go work with the finishers (pigs) out in the field. They went very quickly, though we could hear the sows still.

Normally when we start at 6 am we get a break after our 8 am meeting to get some more to eat, but this morning Chris asked AG and I to go walk the sheep to look for new lambs so we could bring momma and baby up to the barn to make sure momma gets enough food and baby is healthy. So at around 8:15 we walked out to the sheep expecting maybe a couple new lambs. What we found were 5, all singles, with reluctant mommas who did not want to follow us even though we were carrying their crying babies. We finally got all mommas and babies up, plus one ewe who looked close to giving birth, and another momma who had lost both her twin lambs that Chris is going to try to get her to accept one of the twin lambs born a few days earlier. This would help the mom who lost both stop grieving, and make sure all of the ewes can produce enough milk for their offspring. By the time we got everyone where they needed to be, fed and watered everyone, and cleaned up, it was 10:30

We finally headed inside for breakfast and a shortish break. We were going to wait until around 12-1 to go collect eggs in the hopes that we would be able to collect more so they wouldn’t have a chance to freeze over night.

At 1 we went out to collect and wash the eggs. This all went fine, except that the soy free eggs are finally starting to venture across the snow to try and steal the organic chickens food. So I had to make a bit of a mad dash to feed the soy free girls so they would stay by their trailer. Everything went smoothly and we were done washing by 2:45.

We went inside for a quick bathroom break and back out we went to begin milking and closing (making sure all animals in the barn have water and feeding the calves). Shanti and AG did the actual milking and I worked on other things. When I came back to check if bottles were ready 299 (that is a cows name) had pulled her head out of the stanchion. Most of the cows cannot do this, but some cows just have really small heads. They have had this problem before and so had a trick of adding a 2X4 into the slot to make it smaller. LW (another intern who has done it before) had showed me this trick, she had said she tried to do it in the end farthest stanchion, but didn’t really say why. So when 299 was in the first stanchion I thought it should still work, and since AG had never done it before I offered to help. It was tight, but it had been tight in the last stanchion, and since it was at an angle I figured she still had enough room. She didn’t seem to like it though and tried to go FORWARD into the stanchion, her front feet slipped out from under her (partially because of how icy the floor of the dairy has gotten, despite salt and gravel being put down every time we milk) and she landed on her front knees. Not a big deal, awkward, but she was in no danger. AG and I tried to encourage her to stand back up and she twister her back end sideways and fell onto her side all of her legs sticking straight(ish) out practically parallel to the stanchions, her neck at a practically 90 degree angle to her body. The floor of the dairy is slanted down to make it easy to clean, so not only was her neck at a strange angle, her body was now going down hill. I don’t think that she could breath. As AG worked to try to push her butt back in line so she could stand, we told Shanti to go get Chris, and I tried to get the 2X4 out. Her whole body weight was now on the 2X4, 800 pounds at least. I pulled and pulled and pulled. We began to call for Raul, and prayed Chris would get there soon. I pushed so hard that the 2×4 cracked, and finally I was able to pull the 2X4 free, and I ran around and to AG’s side and we pushed 299 back to her feet and she stood up and pulled her head out of the stanchion. Right then Raul walked in, asked what happened, and AG began to explain. At this point I was out of breath, coming off a major adrenaline rush, shaking, and about to burst into tears. I stood leaning against the gate trying to calm down when Chris came in and again AG explained. They talked about whether or not we should still milk 299 and the decision came that since she wasn’t shaking (the sign that she had been really traumatized) we should. At that point Chris turned to me, saw I was upset and asked if I was okay and I broke. I bawled that I felt responsible for 299 nearly dying because it was my decision to put the 2×4 in and I had been so scared she would die. Chris hugged me and reassured me that I had made the right call right from the start, and that if anything had happened it would have been a very sad accident. No blame was placed, in fact it was the opposite. I began to calm down, but I was still shaking. We finished everything that needed to be done for the night, and I thought about what had happened. Once I was done I called my Mom and replayed the story for her, and broke down once more.

I am doing better today, and 299 is fine, but that was one of the scariest moments, minutes, of my life. Having this animals life hanging in the balance, in my hands, was terrifying. It is all a learning experience, and I will take a lot from it for sure, because I NEVER want to have that happen again.

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Long Week.

It has been a while since I last wrote a post (I was doing so well for a while!), but things have been really crazy the last few weeks, and I was just too mentally tired to write.
Several things have changed to make this time harder on me physically and mentally.

1, we got a new intern AF. Training takes time, and a lot of mental effort to make sure I am explaining things clearly and fully. But the hardest part about this for me has not been working with my coworker AG as much. She and I bonded quickly when I first moved in, partially because we worked together 4 out of our 5 days working a week from the beginning. Often we would work together through the full day, milking through closing. Now this could have also turned out trying, but our personalities fit together so well, we became fast friends and we worked really well together. Often we have found we do not have to say full sentences to get each other to understand what we are trying to ask, and we laugh, all through the day, we enjoy working together and we’re fast. Then AF came, and we now rarely milk together, and never close together, and often are split doing things on opposite sides of the farm during the day. The new intern is learning, AF tries as best she can, and is making great improvements it is true, but the personalities don’t quite fit, and communication is often strained. I have found myself comparing AF to AG, which is not fair and I know it, but there are days that I have been tired and just wanted to be done that my brain has said “Oh come on AG would have been done already.” It is not fair, I know it isn’t, and I am trying to fix that part of my brain, and enjoy the differences. But I really miss working with AG, I miss everything going smoothly without having to comment, and when they didn’t, I miss joking and laughing.
2, we have started milking twice a day. Which means we are milking at 6 am and 3:30 pm, rather than just at 7 am like we were. Having to be up a full hour earlier is definitely much harder than I expected. There is absolutely no light out yet, it is really cold, and the cows are not waiting at the gate for you. This last one may seem silly, but their pasture right now is pretty big, and when you have to walk around in the dark (with a flashlight if you remember) trying to see them, get them motivated, and then actually get them moving in the right direction, before it is even pretending to get light, it can be a tiring first chore. I milk at 4 pm 3-4 times a week, which means my day doesn’t end until at  least 5:30 pm. Which again doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it had been really nice being done at 3 (most days) for the day, and then just being able to relax. Even when days went late I wasn’t working past 5. Now when things run late I am not finished until 6:30 or 7, and have been likely working ALL day. I had my first 12 hour day the other day, and it was not my best day. Yes when I milk in the evening I get part of the afternoon off, but it just doesn’t feel the same and just being done by mid afternoon. We have only been twice a day milking for a week, so hopefully I will get used to the schedule soon.

3, it has gotten cold. Several mornings this last week when we went out for that 6 am milking it was under 20 degrees outside. Now this may not seem like a big deal me growing up in Illinois, but our dairy on Deck is outside. Completely outside. This has meant that while we are spraying all of the poop and cleaning off the cows, we are sticking to every metal thing we touch because it is so cold and our hands get wet. Two of my coworkers have asked me how I did it in Illinois, and I told them simply that we don’t build dairies outside in places where it snows. Milking is the worst, all of the other chores are very physical and get you moving and your blood gets pumping and you warm up pretty quick. But while milking you stand around a lot, or at least aren’t moving very far, and so you don’t really have a chance to warm up. This combined with how early we are milking, and how dark it still is, has made me begin to dislike mornings. Yes it is great to watch the sunrise, but it is so cold.

It has been a really hard last week, a lot of long really cold days. But in the end it is worth it. The experience I am gaining is priceless. It is just hard to remember that at 6 am when it is 19 degrees out and the components of the dairy are frozen and you have to brainstorm how to get them unfrozen before you are really awake.

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Aversion to Trying New Things

It has been being brought to my attention more and more that I have an aversion to trying new things. Specifically cooking and baking new things. Even more so with experimenting and not just following a recipe.
My coworkers here are very supportive of the fact that I cannot have wheat, and are encouraging me to try using different flours to bake etc. I want to take them up on the offer of baking together, and trying, but I am so scared that I often agree at the time but never follow through. It is because I am scared.

I do not want to make a fool of myself, and I especially do not want to use up expensive (often) ingredients on something that fails. I would feel terrible.

I grew up buying mixes, making them to the t, and ending up with awesome things. Or following old (or new) family recipes, to the t, and ending up with delicious treats. Trusting my instincts, especially with baking, is something I haven’t learned to do yet, and I am uncomfortable pushing myself to become comfortable with it.

My first instinct is always to buy things I am craving. Or asking someone (mostly my Mom) to buy it for me. I am beyond appreciative I grew up in a family that this was okay, and we have enough income to be able to afford it. So when someone asks me to bake with them, I have so much fear I cannot even describe it.

It is funny that I have so much apprehension about baking. When I used to love it so much. But wheat free baking is a whole new territory for me, that I am scared to explore.

I am so confident in my ability to work, I KNOW I can do all of the farm work, and do it well. But cooking, and baking, are totally foreign to me.

Most of the time I do a good job at disguising my fear. But the offer/invitation to bake with me has been coming up more and more, and eventually I will have to face my fear.

I currently have bread (and some other things) coming to me via UPS because my Mom is awesome. I cannot wait for those to arrive, and will treasure them slowly. I am beyond thankful I grew up in a family who is willing to support me in this way.

It is ironic that the reason I went into farming is because I want to be able to feed people, but often I do not know how to make things to feed myself. No breads are not something I need, but sometimes the mind has to be taken into account, and my mind wants bread. Do I know how to make it? No. Maybe these are the skills I should be focusing on. But again, what happens when I inevitably fail? I don’t know.

If this doesn’t make sense I am not surprised. My thoughts are all currently jumbled, and yet I still felt the need to share. Ah the joys of living in the social media age!

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Been Here a Month Already

It is crazy, I have been here a month already! I moved in September 1st, and here it is October 3rd already. It is hard to believe how fast this first month has gone. I have learned so much, and yet I know there is still much more learning ahead of me.

It hit me today that the things it is taking me a while to get used to have little to do with the actual work. I can do the hours (though getting up before the sun is getting really hard). I can remember who gets how much feed. Cleaning procedures. Heavy lifting. Those I have no problem with. The things it is taking a while to adjust to are not having a microwave, heating from a wood stove, and having around 3 spots on the farm I get decent cell signal.

It really took me off guard when I found out they didn’t have a microwave. I know it is not terribly uncommon for people not to, but I have grown up with a microwave, and so it seemed just normal. I have since learned how to reheat leftovers in a pan, which is a challenge in itself trying to get it warm all the way through without burning it. I have also learned how to make a quesadilla in a pan, and let me tell you I am so glad I was put in the position where I had to learn because I have fallen in love with the crunchy texture the tortilla gets that way! I have also continued to fall more in love with cast iron pans. They are so easy to use! It is a good push for me, and I am glad to be put in the position where I am having to learn to cook and make things work.

I still haven’t gotten used to having a wood stove for heat in the intern bedroom though. This morning I was really excited that it only took me 2 matches to get the wood to light. It will for sure make me good at starting fires. But because of it’s size it is hard to keep going overnight. Both myself and another intern tried to restart it in the middle of the night last night with little luck, and so the cabin was really cold when I got up this morning. As it is just the beginning of winter, I have no doubt I will have plenty of time and opportunities to learn a good system for lighting and keeping the wood stove going, but I haven’t gotten to the point where I am comfortable with it just yet.

I became so used to not having signal on my cell phone being the oddity, and not my phone having signal in the oddity. It is something I am still struggling to get used to. Being away from home I want to contact people as much as I can, see how they are doing, and tell them the exciting things that have happened, and this is difficult at times. I do not always have time to sit down and write a message to someone on my computer, and my cell doesn’t work well enough for me to be able to send things while walking to and from jobs or during lunch. Most of the time I am able to make something work, and I am glad I have finally found another spot that is NOT right outside the intern room windows that has signal so that I am not disturbing people if I call someone from home in the evenings.

Sometimes these things seem trivial to be struggling to get used to. I think the reason the workload isn’t bothering me though is because of just how passionate I am about farming. I can wake up with a head ache, after having nightmares all night, and at the end of a long day still end up happy and in a great mood. Working, farming, being involved with the land and animals, makes me happy, so I have no trouble dealing with those things on an every day basis. I am sure I will get used to this type of living soon enough, but for the moment it seems the little things are what throw me off.

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Close to a Month Already

Wow did the end of September really creep up on me. I am going to try to continue to blog once a week on my days off. If I manage to get more in that is a bonus, but once a week is a pretty good goal.

This last month has gone by faster than I expected. Single days have felt so long, weeks have felt long, but in the end the month has flown by. Every day I am still learning more and more.

In the last week I have given 4 calves 2 pills each at different times. Learning how far you have to stick the syringe down their throat was a bit of a learning curve, but I know it will make them healthier in the end so it is worth their discomfort.

I am learning what signs point to whether cows need more hay, less hay, less time in the barn, more time in the barn, more minerals, more gain, less grain, etc. It is a lot to try and remember, but hopefully at the end of 6 months it will become like second nature. There are so many factors and variables, so many nuances. But through living with them every day I am beginning to learn and understand the signs.

I learned how to gut chickens this last week. I had watched Mike back on Antiquity Oaks do it, but I got to do it this time, and do it a lot. We butchered 300 chickens on farm on Tuesday, and it was an incredible endeavor to be a part of. WE did it cleanly, and efficiently. It was an experience I am sure I will never forget. After having my hands inside more chickens than I counted and got very comfortable with it by the end.

I think one of the most important things I am learning is just how important communication is within a farm if things are to go smoothly. There are a lot of gears all working at the same time, and communication between those parts is critical for every day functioning.

In general life has been moving pretty smoothly and without too many bumps.

I am missing friends from back home, and realizing I do not know when I will see them again, but this is an important part of my life and I know it will all be worth it.

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Another Amazing Week on the Farm

It has been another amazing week on the farm. A long, tiring, exciting, nauseating, new experience filled, week on the farm. 

First I should probably explain that my weeks (in my head) start on Thursday, because that is my first day back to work after having two days off.

The beginning of the week was nothing out of the ordinary, chores, feeding the beef hear, nothing too bad. Except the breeding pigs kept tearing down their water, and we could not figure out why, though we suspected it was because they are on the end of the line of several pig paddocks and so might not have as much pressure. The last straw came on Saturday when they broke their waterer and part of the hose attached. That was when it really hit home that we needed to do something about the water pressure. John (the farm owner) helped me fix the fountain and hose, and I went and attached it, and he turned up the pressure. Since then all has been well with the breeding stock, and the boar has stopped following me around whenever I go in to feed them.

The next exciting thing happened on Saturday. Recently the sheep herd had been moved to a back pasture, but this pasture is prone to predation, so they are brought out every morning, and back in to a closer safer pasture at night. This is achieved by several people herding on horse back. Saturday night Chris (the other farm own) asked if I would like to help, and I excitedly accepted. They put me on Colby (Chris’s horse) with Chris leading on the way out there, and on the way back I rode Dude the draft pony on my own. All done bare back with bridles. It was beyond exciting. The next night I rode Dude all on my own and actually helped with the herding, and through Shanty’s (youngest daughter) encouragement even successfully cantered. It is a pretty incredible feeling. Though I still have no idea how to turn a horse and not fall off while they are cantering, but I suspect there will be plenty of time to learn. After the first night I offered and asked if I could help every night, and I fully intend to do so.

During normal weeks I have Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, but this week I was asked to stay on Tuesday to help with chicken processing and instead have Wednesday and Thursday off. I milked in the morning, and it began to mist, and then poured, so I was slightly went by the time I got to helping process the chickens. With a pair of tweezers in my hands for the next 6 hours or so I helped pluck feathers from the birds. I couldn’t imagine how some of them had been doing similar tasks since 6 in the morning, when we finally finished around 5. It was a crazy day, but I learned a lot. Like chickens are way easier to catch when it is dusk/dark because they are calm and starting to sleep, than in the middle of the day when they are fully awake and prone to flapping their wings in your face. 

I really need to try to get out and take pictures sometime in the next week, but I promise they are coming!

Overall everything has been going wonderfully, and I am really happy. There are things I wish I had done before I left Illinois, but I have a lot of life ahead of me, and plenty of time. I am really missing everyone from home, but having been so quickly accepted into the farm family helps ease some of that. Feel free to text (though my phone doesn’t get great signal) or message me, I will reply when I can and would love to hear how everyone is doing!

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