This is a follow-up to @shmeedie’s questions from Twitter a couple weeks ago. The question was this:
I would love to see a post about how you're adjusting to the long hours, hard work, and general transition to farm life.
The first post addressed Social Isolation on the farm. This post is about adjusting to the labor intensity and the long hours. Same as the last post, I can’t comment for Sweetbreads since we have our own roles and responsibilities on the farm.
The hard work is something I looked forward to, so it hasn’t been too much of a surprise for me. I got restless in the city. I continue to work a day-job, so yes the hours are tough sometimes. I do an hour or two’s worth of work in the morning and at least two hours at night. That means waking up around 5:30am, working til around 7am and then working again from 6pm til 8pm or later. I don’t know what will happen when it starts getting dark closer to 6pm, but we’ll figure it out.
My responsibilities are feeding, watering and managing the bucks, moving and watering the cows, feeding and watering the pigs, watering the garden when needed, general upkeep of the grounds, moving the doe goats, managing the ‘house’ guineas and chickens and all sorts of other things (such as monitoring the batteries for the fence chargers, managing finances, etc). My perception is that it seems like a lot (although maybe not, it's all relative), but I look forward to those times immensely and don’t mind the work. Anytime I feel tired or like I've had a long day I think of the people out picking fruit and vegetables from dawn 'til dusk and I realize my day was pretty good.
We help each other out as needed. Sweetbreads will lend a hand with fencing and I'll milk a few times per week. On the weekends it’s much longer days and harder work, but that’s when we can work together and get bigger projects done, so the time flies. If you're planning to work with your significant other you better prepare for a lot of teamwork, it's no joke. We couldn't do any of this without each other.
It also helps to take some time off to recover. I’m constantly at fault for going a million miles an hour and not taking time to relax and recuperate, which actually makes the other days more productive and will keep you out of a rut. A quick nap on a hot afternoon helps a lot.
Get accustomed to being sore all the time. Stretching every morning and before bed helps. I remember a year or two ago I saw a post on The Greenhorns website about farmers trading products to masseuses for massages. Great idea, raw milk for a massage anyone?
The most difficult part of the adjustment for a new farmer, in my opinion, is that everything comes all at once. You have to build the infrastructure, learn how to care for animals, adjust to your new life away from the city, etc, etc, and it all occurs at once. After you have systems in place and your feet on the ground in terms of caring for the animals I think it becomes a little bit easier (and perhaps repetitive/monotonous). At least that’s my sense from reading other blogs and talking to long-time farmers. They’ve got it down and they spend most of their time business planning, marketing, selling, etc. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there. It seems that about 3-5 years is the approximate time it takes to get to that point, sometimes longer.
When we first moved out here the plan was to start construction on the creamery right away and hopefully be making small batches of saleable cheese by 2013’s milking season (i.e. Feb/Mar 2013). Since we’ve been out here we decided to take it slower, so it’s actually been less work than I first imagined, if you can imagine.
There’s been a number of changes in our lives that precipitated that decision, which perhaps we'll discuss, but in general it will be good to spend our first set of seasons getting to know the land, getting to know the animals, and acclimating to the new life. In the meantime we’re evaluating other sources of income that can be generated from the farm, so stay tuned for new stuff and hopefully our first product(s) will be available soon(ish).