Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Moving the Cows

Today we moved the cows at one of the rental farms, Greenmont.  

Matt and I left after chores and breakfast and drove over in his truck with some fence and a few re-bar stakes.  After we drove in the pasture Matt showed me the map Daniel had drawn us that illustrated where the cows were and where they were to be moved.  It was quite a distance and over some really nice grass.  Needless to say I was a little anxious.  Either way we went to work moving fences and preparing the future paddock for the cows and their calves.

You may be asking yourself why was I anxious?  Maybe not.  Either way, I was.  Yes, I grew up on a ranch and, yes, we drove lots of cattle over lots of obstacles, but this was different.  It was different mainly because I had never driven these particular cattle on this kind of pasture.  Since there was just the two of us Matt decided that he would go ahead of the cattle with his truck and call them and I would help steer them(no pun intended) in the right direction.  He left me at what he figured would be a troublesome spot and went over the hill and out of sight to get the cows.

He left me by a large stack of hay.  Being curious and adventurous by nature, I wanted to see the view from the top of the stack, so I climbed.  What a view!  From the top of the hay I could see almost the entire lay of land, but I still couldn't see Matt.  After what seemed like a long time I began to think something wasn't going as smoothly as we had hoped.  I had almost convinced myself that I needed to go and check on him when I saw his truck headed my way over the hill.  He was booking it and the cattle were right on his tail... gate.  I've never seen momma cows run so fast toward something (maybe away from something but never toward).  

They were running along just fine till they got to the top of the hill where they began to slow down.  I knew we needed them to keep going and not put their heads down so I trotted up to them and gave what turned out to be a final push toward the gate.  They once again ran down the hill toward Matt (no out of his truck and on foot) and into the gate.  Happy Cows!

Matt walked up with a big smile, and I'm sure I was his mirror image of happiness and relief.  We drove into the paddock, hooked up the charger to electrify the fence, put out mineral, and headed to town.  Task complete.  Check.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Broiler Butchering Bonanza

This week was a BUSY WEEK...

We butchered birds four out of the last six days.

Wednesday = ~500 broilers
Friday = ~230 broilers and ~100 turkeys
Saturday = ~450 broilers
Monday (today) = ~620 broilers

On Wednesday of this week we will butcher the last batch of broilers for the year which will be about 500 birds.  All turkeys have been butchered for the year, so after Wednesday we will only be left with cows, rabbits, layers, and pigs.  Needless to say the chore list has been shortening dramatically on a daily basis.

My thoughts on butchering broilers.

I haven't butchered many birds yet and since the season for butchering is ending in a mere two days I guess I'll have to wait till next year to get the full effect.  But, I do have some tips for those of you who are butchering poultry.

Tip #1:  Use a sharp knife

Using a sharp knife is essential for butchering a bird properly.  I picked up a dull knife during one of the butcher sessions and it wasn't pretty.  A good sharp knife allows you to make the necessary cuts and do it quickly.

Tip #2:  Crate the birds the night before if at all possible

Two of the days we butchered we gathered the birds the night before and had them ready to go the next morning at the processing shed.  This allowed the birds to rid themselves of all fecal matter which makes butchering cleaner and user friendly.

That's all for now.  The days are getting shorter so I'll try and get to blogging more.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Week 1: The Beginning

I arrived at Polyface at 2:00PM on October 1st and the feeling of intensity was enormous. That morning the summer crew and family had butchered several hundred chickens and were milling around getting chickens into bins and bags to be cooled so they could be sold. That afternoon chores consisted of feeding lots of chickens and collecting, cleaning, and sorting eggs. When we sat down to dinner I looked around to see faces that spelled relief and accomplishment. I knew I was surrounded by a group of hard-working, self-motivated, optimistic people. What an environment. What a place. What a group of people.

So, I've been here less than five days and today my body let me know that my current routine was out of the ordinary. It keeps asking: What happened to that recliner? Where is the Mountain Dew and other various soda pop? Why do you walk so far and carry all those heavy buckets of feed and water? Fast Food? Beer? Are we on some sort of diet or at boot camp? I guess I forgot to tell my body that we were headed for an experience that might equal an farm business fat camp. The second of third night at dinner I commented to Matt and Andy how much food the both of them could and did consume. Endless bowls of tomato one night, chili the next. Trays of no-bake cookies. It was incredible. Matt made a great comment.

He said, "Grady, here in about a week or two your going to sit down for dinner and begin to eat. You're going to wonder why you're not getting full and how it appears that your stomach is a bottomless pit. Don't worry, that's normal." I got a kick out of that. We'll see if he's right, and if the way he and Andy eat is any indication then I'll probably join them bowl for bowl, plate for plate.

Where I sleep is cozy and efficient. Large and drafty are not proper words that would ever describe "The Cottage." I share this one and a half-ish room with Andy. We have a kitchen area, bathroom area (This is the half I mentioned. I call it a half because there is no door, only a curtain which works quite effective.) and a sleeping area which consists of bunk beds. You guessed it, I'm on the top bunk. I'm working on making a writing desk area and getting a cushy chair so to have an office area. There isn't much more room to make any more areas, but we'll see what we can do.  I made a shelf today that doubles as a hanging rod for Andy and I's nice clothing.  It worked out really well so I guess we also have a closet type area also.

My goal is to post every sunday at least and maybe more... We'll see what happens.  Polyface is starting to slow down so I'm sure I'll be able to keep up.  Hopefully I'll be able to expand some philosophy and tell stories.  Stay tuned.