Polyface Week 2

Pullets at Polyface

Wow! How has another week flown by already?

This was my first full week of work and now I feel like I’m starting to understand the daily rhythm of the farm.

We meet for chores at 6:00am every day. There are a wide variety of morning chores (feeding/moving broilers, caring for pullets, moving the laying hens, etc.), but each intern is assigned to a specific chore for the week. Throughout the summer, we’ll rotate through the various chores so we get experience with all the jobs.

This week, I was in charge of moving the pullet shelters (fun fact: pullets are young hens who have not yet begun to lay eggs). My pullets are kept in the same structures that we use for broiler shelters, so each morning I’d head out, pull the 10 pullet shelters to fresh pasture and feed and water them.

After chores we head to breakfast, which most of the time consists of sausage and eggs. Then it’s out to start projects for the day. We take a lunch break sometime around noon and are done for the day by 6:15. Then we all eat dinner together. I love gathering for the evening meal, it’s the perfect way to wrap-up a full and productive day!

Before I continue, I’d like to introduce you to a few important people who’ll be popping up frequently in future posts. First off, Daniel Salatin is the farm manager at Polyface. Then there’s Eric, the apprentice manager. Ashleigh and Marit are the apprentices. They went through the internship last year and it’s been fun to learn from both of them over the past couple of weeks. There are many more Polyface team members that I’ll be introducing in the future, but that’s a good start for now!

I worked on a variety of projects this week. On Monday, I helped finish up the broiler shelter construction. I spent a lot of time building doors for the shelters and became much more proficient at using a drill.

Tuesday was my favorite day this week. Daniel took John, Adam (two of the other interns) and I to sort cattle at one of the rental farms. It was so much fun! First, we had to get few hundred cattle into the corral, which was easier said than done. Then we sorted out the heifers that we want to keep for breeding. How do you sort cattle? Body language and timing. To be honest, it reminded me a lot of working with horses. How you approach them, where you are in relation to them and how you move or freeze dictates what the cattle do. As we worked, Daniel explained what traits he looks for in the heifers he keeps. After separating the heifers, we loaded the cattle onto trailers to bring them to a new farm and fresh grass. Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to continue to improve my sorting skills this summer! When we finished sorting, we headed back to Polyface and I learned how to drive a tractor. There’s a lot to keep in mind (clutch, brakes, shifting, etc.), but it was a great first experience and I’m looking forward to practicing more.

Then Wednesday morning arrived, and my alarm went off at 4:45am. I was up early to load up coolers in the truck for the buying clubs. Then it was time to process chickens. This week I was in charge of gutting the birds. I’ve wanted to learn how to efficiently gut a chicken for a long time now, so I was very excited. However, my first few birds were really rough. I accidently burst the gall bladder a couple of times, I didn’t scoop far enough in to get the heart…I was struggling and a little frustrated. Thankfully, Daniel came over and gave me a few pointers. As I kept practicing, I slowly improved. I’ve got a long, long way to go to become the chicken eviscerating master that I want to be, but Wednesday was a start.

On Thursday I worked with Ashleigh, Marit and Tim (another intern) to prepare a pig paddock. We walked the fence line, tightened wire, and cleared fallen branches and overgrowth from under the fence. I also learned how to move and set up pig waterers, set up the electric fence charger and fix pig fences in the woods. Once everything was set-up, it was time to move the pigs. I’ve never worked with pigs before, and I still haven’t quite figured them out. Everyone keeps saying “when you work with pigs you have to make it their idea, you can’t force things on them.” And I’ve found that to be quite true. Hopefully throughout the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to get a little better at working with them!

Then Friday came and I helped move more pigs. I was thankful for the opportunity to practice some of the things I had learned on Thursday. I also helped fix some of the shelters that we’ll be putting turkeys in next week. My job was hammering in loose staples and using the staple gun if the chicken wire needed more support.

This weekend I worked, so on Saturday I got up and headed to chores. Overall, the day was pretty low-key. I helped re-stock the store, weeded the garden and started prepping one of the hoop-houses so that it could be cleaned out with the tractor. By the end of the day, it was raining hard, so evening chores were pretty wet and cold. At the end of the day, I was really tired and after taking a hot shower, consuming an entire batch of popcorn and reading for 45 minutes, I headed to bed and turned off the lights at 7:30pm. It felt amazing to have a full 10 hours of sleep!

On Sundays we do chores only, so it’s just a couple hours of work. I’m thankful for this time to catch up on sleep, clean the cottage, and write.

And that’s pretty much it! I am loving my time here so far and cannot wait to continue to learn new things. I’m going to try to catch a quick nap before evening chores, so that’s all for now! See you next week!

P.S. I LOVE staying in touch with you and seeing your comments! Right now, I only have access to wifi/cell reception on the weekends, so if you don’t hear from me right away, that’s why 😊

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  1. I just started reading your blogs. This is wonderful to hear what you are doing. Reading about your adventures is especially fun because I read about Daniël Salatin in the Omnivore’s Dilemma.

    1. Hi Debbie! So glad you enjoy following along. It’s been an amazing experience thus far! I am so excited to continue learning throughout the summer!

  2. Hi Ashley! Can’t remember exactly how I came across you, but so glad I did. I am living through your amazing experience because I am not able to do something at this point in my life. I live in Oregon with my amazing husband and two young children. Thank you for allowing me to see inside your journey! I have always admired the Salatin.

  3. Sounds like an amazing week!!! Love hearing these updates!! I’ve gotten some extra drill practice in with our chicken tractors – I could definitely get a lot better but I do really enjoy it…. 😉

  4. Hi Ashley! I love reading about your farm adventures! I grew up on a full time farm, and started driving tractors at age 7. We had beef cattle and hogs. We also raised corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. So there was always work to do and chores enough for all. Thinking of you and hoping that you have another great week!

    1. Thanks Brenda! There’s always work to do and it’s so rewarding to see what you accomplish in a day!

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