The view from just outside the window of the intern room. Not even the most impressive view on the farm.
At Deck Family Farm I have two days off every week, Tuesday and Wednesday, and I arrived on a Monday, so was offered the next two days off to settle in and adjust, or I could work. I knew I would go stir crazy sitting around, so I decided to work. I worked a full 7 days in a row, and boy am I glad for a couple of days off now. It is not that I didn’t love what I was doing, I do! But waking up at 6 every day, working a full day hauling heavy feed and such around the farm gets tiring, physically and mentally. But I love it.
So far I have mostly helped with chores, with a few odd jobs here and there, and while they get monotonous at times, I love it.
The first thing we do in the morning is get the dairy ready for milking, which involves cleaning, sanitizing, and assembling all of the milking equipment. Then we bring the dairy herd up and get to work. We put feed in the stanchions and bring in 4 at a time. We clean them off, get their milk flowing, and hook them up to the machine. It is amazing how some of them milk out super quick, and others take a little longer. We take them off the machine when they are done, weigh the milk, and either put it in the bulk tank, or save it for the calves. We let them back in with the heard and into the barn to eat when they are done. This process goes on until all the cows are finished. Then we clean again. Everything in the dairy, as well as the dairy run (where the cows wait until they are milked). I am amazed at how fast I have begun to recognize the cows by name, and can tell you who is who. There are still a few I have to check their ear tags on, but their coloring and personalities have become a dead give away of who they are.
Once everyone is eating in the barn and while one person cleans the dairy, the other goes and feeds Papaya (the youngest calf) and the brooders (meat bird chicks). Simple straight forward, easy to remember. Papaya is such a cute little girl, around 2 weeks old now, with a feisty personality.
Then we go to feed all of the older calves, who each get two bottles morning and evening. Even with those 4 it is incredible how different their personalities are. Bella is in your face and wants her milk and wants it now. Kokito is afraid and very tentative. Y will bop you like no bodies business if he has a nipple on his bottle that is too small and he can’t get milk fast enough. Bob is actually pretty calm.
Once they are fed we head to either the pigs of the chickens, depending on the day.
The pigs get fed grain in different proportions, the Momma’s get more than the breeding pigs because if the breeding pigs get too fat they won’t breed. But the meat pigs get free choice as much as they want so they can get fat. We clean out the excrement from momma’s in the barn pen, and lay down new straw. The pigs in the fields if their pen gets too muddies up we just move the electric fence so they can’t tear up the ground even more. Each of the pigs has a water that is kind of like a water fountain and ingenious! It only sprays with pressure, and they just put their mouth around it and suck. They get moved almost every day when the area around them gets muddy because they do spill. The little ones get slop as well. The biggest get hazelnuts on top of their grain.
We have 2 types of chickens, our laying hens (and a few roosters), and the meat birds. Our meat birds are kept in pens that are moved onto new pasture every day, and our laying hens have free range during the day. We usually move and feed the meat birds first, and then go onto collecting eggs and feeding the layers. Back home in IL we had several chickens who were SO broody and loved to peck, and sure enough we have some on this farm as well, but I am learning more tricks to be able to deal with them. We have many different breeds of chickens, most of whom I do not know the names of, and se we have a rainbow of different colors of eggs, which I absolutely love.
We feed the turkeys (which came to the farm Thursday!) and make sure everyone is doing okay. The turkeys haven’t learned to go inside at night yet, so as of right now feeding is all we have to do with them.
We then bring the eggs back up, wash, carton, and count them. The number of eggs gotten every day is crazy! With over 60 dozen clean and perfect eggs every day, usually more than that.
The last things we do before lunch are feed Papaya her second bottle of the day, move the dairy herd back outside to their pasture, and clean out the barn, laying down more straw on the floor and putting down more alfalfa hay for them to eat the next morning.
Those are chores, and sometimes that is the end of the day, and sometimes we have other odd jobs to do in the afternoons.
Like Sunday I helped feed the beef heard with 2 of the other interns. We stacked hay on the wagon pulled by the tractor, and after we entered the field with the beef heard, but open the bales and threw the pieces off the side. I love how they feed their beef heard, it spreads them out so there isn’t competition, and it still makes them work for their food.
Washing the inside of coolers was another odd job I did this week, not the most enjoyable, but had to be done. The coolers get sent to markets every weekend, and when they come back need to be cleaned and prepared for the next weekend. I washed coolers for probably 2 or 3 hours my first working day on the farm, and it was a slight reality check about what all actually goes into making a farm run.
I had some ups and downs this week. I went from feeling good, to feeling way in over my head, to feeling amazing and feeling like I fit in and could do this. It is incredible to me feeling like part of the family, interns and all included, feeling trusted to do things on my own, and feeling confident enough that I had no problem doing it on my own. The next 6 months will be an adventure for sure, and I cannot wait to see what else this beautiful place and wonderful people has in store for me.