Okay! I'm back. I figured I needed to get a few more answered before all five kids invade this weekend!! I pick the girls up this afternoon after school and B's kids arrive tomorrow evening.
So... on to Jaime's question.
"What does your average 'ranch life' day look like?"
Well, it's really not all that exciting most days...even though I love it and wish I could spend more of my time raising animals. The winter is completely different than the summer, so I will give you both versions.
Winter: Right now the main work is the chickens and maintaining firewood prep. The chickens have a coop and a closed in pen, but we let them out most days to roam the majority of the yard. We currently have 37. So every morning I let them out, check their grain, water, and see if they have laid any eggs yet. This morning I picked up 5 before 9 a.m. In the afternoons we spoil the birds completely. Every day they get a pot of freshly cooked white rice and a head of lettuce plus any leftovers/scraps that they enjoy. Once that's all cooked and prepped, I take it out and feed them. If we haven't fed them by 3 p.m. they all start lining up at the fence line waiting. They know the chow is coming. Chickens aren't smart but their stomachs definitely can tell time. On my way out to feed, I usually restock our firewood basket in the house and empty the wheelbarrow so I can refill it from the barn. We have to do a head count on the chickens every day to make sure we got them all locked up. I missed one day and we had one of our Rhode Island reds hiding. Kai promptly found her and killed her. :( After making sure the grain buckets are filled, I usually check their straw in the coop and pull out the stuff that is really coated in poop. Twice a week we shovel the poop and straw off the floor and clean out the bins and give them fresh straw. This makes them almost as happy as seeing the bucket o' chow coming their way. I collect the eggs that have been laid up until that point...which if they are going to lay, the majority have done it by 3 p.m. Then it's off to refill the wheelbarrow. After the birds are locked up, I let the dogs run through the whole yard. Now I have little Thalia under foot as I'm trying to wheel the wheelbarrow. She's still so little I worry about running her over.
We had three huge cottonwood trees in the front yard that were half dead. This week we cut them down and just finished hauling the wood into the back yard so it can finish drying and be split. It made me extremely happy to have all that free wood that is starting us off for next winter.
Summer: Summer is so much busier. In addition to the normal chicken routine, we have a garden in front and a garden in back. They are on sprinklers but we manually turn them on. So there is weeding and watering and harvesting. Harvesting leads to canning tomatoes and squash. Since we usually have a late freeze in late May early June and again get an early freeze usually in mid September, our growing season is fairly short. So when the tomato plants get hit with the freeze or we see it coming, we pick every last green tomato and ripen them in our kitchen window. We figured out last year that both shelves in the window hold about 14 quarts of canned tomatoes. That cycle is usually a crazy afternoon of blanching tomatoes, peeling the skins, filling jars, and sealing the jars.
Last year we raised two pigs. We will do that again this year. We are also hoping to get a steer as well. The pigs were a TON of work. They needed to be feed their hard chow a couple of times a day. Last year I was making daily trips to the local grocery store that would give us their old trimmings from the produce department. Then I would come home and sort out what I knew they liked from the stuff that would just go into the compost. I would also rotate all this food. It was anywhere between 2 and 10 boxes. And I didn't want to waste any by not finding the bottom of a box. The pigs also needed to be watered and their pen shoveled from all the poop they create. They also love fresh dirt, so every couple of days after shoveling the poop out, we would refill the missing dirt with 3-4+ wheelbarrowfuls of fresh dirt. We also get wood cutting permits and head up to the mountains for many truckloads of wood that then needs to be unloaded, cut, split, and stacked. The wood stove is our heater during the winter, so we don't want to run out...especially with five kids here half the time.
This spring we will get another dozen chicks to raise so they can start laying by fall. Have to keep the rotation up as when the birds get to be between 2 and 3 their production starts to taper off. Right now we get anywhere between 18 and 26 eggs a day. Raising the chicks is a whole other amount of work. They have to be monitored so they stay warm and fed and not beating up each other. There is definitely a *pecking order* when it comes to chickens.
Now, you add in the fact that I have little Thalia who is going to learn to hunt with me next year, and she and I have a lot of learn and practice. Then throw in the fact that in order to actually have a productive hunt given the opportunity, I need to practice my shooting as well. :)
It's a busy life and one that I absolutely love.
"Do you plan on doing another Insane Road Trip?"
Oh, Thea. I so wish I was. I had so much fun that summer. I wish I had the money to just take off for 6 weeks and go. But as you can see from my description of my daily life...my current life isn't really conducive to that. But know you can always road trip (or plane trip) to come see us! We can always use the extra hands to help!!
I'll be back soon to answer the next two. Another by Brooke and a couple by Jessica!
And to keep me talking if you think of anything else...ask away!!