Alone for a Week

img_9752Well. It’s been a while since I posted anything here. Mostly because taking over a fully functional farm is a hell of a lot of work. And when I’ve had time at the computer, it’s been to do farm related things… and when I’ve had a down moment, I’ve just wanted to turn my brain off. or. teach scuba. or. volunteer. or. do the organizing I get paid for. or. sleep.


Care package from neighbours

But. I’ve been (mostly) alone on the farm for a week now. My apprentice went home at the end of October and my parents are in Ottawa for committee meetings and Documentary showings. Which has in reality, left me with even less time to myself and to do anything for me. But it has also provided me with ample material to write about. Oh. And did I mention, that I’m sick. Sick. sick. sick.

We’ll start with the beginning of the week, before my folks left. I was so sick on Monday that I slept for 24 hours straight (with a small break in there to ship 5 pigs). Tuesday we made sure to do the cattle preg check (12/13 knocked up), move in the 7 pigs and the 3 steers to ship Monday so that I would have an “easy” go of it. Tony and Fran left Wednesday morning after we got the apple cider pressed. I got all of the cider bottled off in between phone calls, managed to move the cattle and do the chores. I was blissfully walking up from the chores when I realized that I had completely forgotten a presentation I was to do that evening… for a wonderful group of church women on my eXXpedition trip. Relaxation out the window, and into high gear.

Thursday morning I did the chores super early, swung by our delightful abattoir to pick up meat and headed into Toronto to pick up  my friend Ellie (who’ll be a senior apprentice summer 2017) and then delivered meat to a bunch of our customers. We stopped for a 3 person birthday dinner celebration with our friend Ben since we were all celebrating birthdays this week and then got back to the farm to do late chores and get ready for the impending guests. The first of whom arrived at 3am Friday morning having driven from Vermont!

img_9415I might add in here that the weather was STUNNING this whole time. A very mild and sunny November. Friday we let the late (early?) arrivals sleep in while we did chores and delivered some meat locally. Then Ellie and the crew headed down to the garden to do final clean up of the hoop house and pull up any ground cover so that we can plow. I holed up inside doing computer work and trying not to get sicker… Friday evening the rest of the birthday weekend guests arrived and we had a low key evening. Between my being sick and having the Maker’s Market the next day, I was in bed by 11:30pm. Unheard of!

img_9446Saturday Ellie and I got up to do the chores, discovered that the cattle were out of water… had to make the decision about whether to go to the market regardless or stay home to find and then fix the water issue. With some consultation with the famed Tony McQuail, we decided to head into market and then fix it as soon as we were back. Owen, Ellie and I headed into Goderich. The market was good. An adventure in what and how much of it to bring. Lots of fresh apple cider! And I think they managed to sing me Happy Birthday around 3 embarrassing times. img_9454We got back to the farm, where the rest of the crew had made the bonfire big and managed to have lunch. Then it was off to solve the water issue. Turns out… one of the water lines we’d opened when we moved the cattle didn’t have a stop at the end, so we’d run all the water out of the tank. A decently easy fix. We got the pump up and running, and then watched the cattle for a while to make sure they weren’t fighting over the waterer. They seemed fine, so we left them and headed up to be part of the firewood cadena, moving wood into the mudroom of the house. An annual tradition.

img_9459Part way into the later afternoon, one of the friends came back from a walk, saying she thought the cattle were not where they were supposed to. We poo-pooed her, but she was convinced enough that she went back and took a photo of them. Sure enough, they were NOT where they belonged. So… 3 of us ladies went back to corral them. They were rambunctious and we were losing the light, so we called in reinforcements and managed to get them back into the larger paddock that we’ve been subdividing. Deciding that we’d leave it til sunlight to really deal with them. Insert wonderful, epic birthday party with bonfire, living room dance party and lots of temporary tattoos…

Sunday, everyone was up and gone by 10:30am, having given the Lodge a good cleaning before heading off. This is how I know I’m getting old. Ellie, still here til evening and I did a bare minimum of things, and spent most of the morning visiting with a lovely farm friend who came by for the promise of brunch but got tea instead. Then, early chores, a quick meat delivery and Ellie dropped at the Toronto bus station. Home late.

img_9755Monday morning I did the chores and got ready to ship the pigs. I was expecting our trucker at 9am, so at 9:45am called him to see if he’d forgotten me. Nope. He was right on time for his 10am arrival. Crossed lines of communication. While I was waiting for him I thought I’d move the horses into the last part of the strip they were in. So, I blythly took down the fence, only to discover that the end gates that kept the strip from the ones next to it were open… so obvious. so simple. so… silly. The horses of course took the opportunity to go further a-field than planned, but I did manage to fence them into a manageable area. Then Keith arrived, so, we got the pigs loaded, slap tattooed and off to market. Easy-peasy lemon breezy. Maybe I can make it as a farmer…

I worked on the cutting instructions and other things and then got the barn ready to ship the cattle, which Keith was coming back for at 4:30pm.

P1030492Keith arrived for the cattle at 4:30pm and we got the first one loaded (she’d been penned separately because she was a bully to the others) no problem. Keith got her partitioned off in the truck and then we moved the 2 others into the the pen that led to the chute. We got them headed in the right direction and they were heading down the chute one after the other, when suddenly the second one decided to push its way up next to the first one, which widened the chute (though I had tied the chute gate to the door, I had not secured the gate also to the wall, which would have prevented this) and meant that suddenly the 2 cattle had 2 options. Walk onto the trailer (preferred by me) or escape into the outside and grass (preferred by them).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was no way for Keith or myself to get ahead of them, and we couldn’t go around them because when the barn door widened, it went over the person door effectively leaving only one way out of the barn. So… we watched them escaped into the orchard. No problem. We got some electric fence and rounded them up and got them into a small area by the trailer. They just needed to walk back into the barn. Did they. NO!

They busted through the electric fence and went back to grazing in the orchard. Ok. No problem. Obviously the issue was that I hadn’t electrified the fence. So, we did it all again, this time stopping to put power on the fence so that the cattle would respect it. Nope. Broke straight through it again. Now, we’re starting to lose light and are going to be late arriving at the abattoir. This time though, they are riled up, so don’t stop to graze in the pasture but lead us on quite the chase up into the front lawn of the house before we get them turned back towards the barn area, where they stop to graze between the barn and shed next to the bull.

img_9418At this point, we decide we need some help, so I head over to the neighbours and get Jake and his eldest son Andy to come help us. I get back and Keith has built a fort to contain them if we get them back towards the barn and trailer. So, we give it one shot and get them back in the direction we want, only to have them jump a fence and climb the feed bin hill to escape back towards the bull. Ok. We modify. And try again.

The one steer goes around the trailer (not to plan), but then is corralled by the yard fence and heads back into the barn. Surprise success. Why not replicate it with steer number 2. So we do the same thing. Get him into the same spot, where his only option is to go into the barn. WRONG. He busts through the 4 strands of live electric fence on the yard gate and literally gallops off down the hill into the pasture, bellowing his heart out, INTO THE SUNSET. Keith looked at me, completely dead pan and asked if we wanted to keep trying?

At this point, I’ve decided to cut my loses, release my neighbours and kind trucker to the rest of their days and go wallow in my bruised ego. So, I say “No”. That we’ll just ship the two cattle and I’ll apologize to the abattoir for screwing everything up. Keith tells me that if the steer shows back up before 7am to give him a call and we’ll load him and get him there. But I know that there is no way that steer is going to be back in the barn by 7am because if he shows up ANYWHERE it will be with the rest of the herd, in the pasture by the garden. Which is exactly where he shows up.img_9790

There is so much more to this story. But time is short and surely by now, you’ve stopped reading anyways. Thanks for checking in on the rants of a small journal farmer.


~ by mcquaka on November 16, 2016.

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