The days are becoming harder and harder to tell apart. I started this week with the plan of being intentional about taking daily notes so that I had something to refer to when writing this blog. However, I ended the week without jotting down anything – whoops!
This week during chore time, I was the “Project Person.” Basically, I’d help Eric with any random projects he was working on. On Monday, I helped set up pig training fences in the barn. Polyface uses pigs to aerate the composting bedding in the barn where the cows were over the winter. As they added winter bedding to the barn, they’d also add whole corn. When the cows move to pasture in the spring, the pigs move into the barn. The pigs dig through all the bedding to reach the fermenting corn underneath. They call this “pigerating.” The pigerating is almost done for the year, so the pigs need to move out onto pig pastures. However, they first need to be trained to electric fencing. This is accomplished by setting up a short section of electric fence in the barn. Pigs are very curious and over a few days, they quickly learn not to touch the wire 🙂
On Tuesday, we had to prepare the brooder for new chicks. I helped load the 3-week-old broilers into crates and haul them to the field. It’s so fun watching the young birds peck at grass and explore the outdoors for the first time! Then I spent time turning the brooder bedding and spreading fresh shavings for the new chicks.
Wednesday is processing day. I was on gutting this week (yay!). After processing a couple hundred broilers, we dressed 100 laying hens. I’ve never processed stewing hens before. It was much harder than broilers. They are extremely fatty, smaller and tougher. However, it was cool to find eggs inside the birds. Then I helped with more cut-ups (another yay!). I am definitely getting much faster and more confident at this task and am very thankful for all of the practice I’m getting.
On Thursday, it was my turn to go to Greenmont. Greenmont is one of the farms Polyface rents. It is managed by one of their previous interns/apprentices, Heather. I was eager to spend the day working alongside a female farmer who’s managing over 300 acres! I left Polyface around 6:15am with 7 boxes of turkey poults (baby turkey’s) in the back of my car – that’s over 500 turkeys! During the 30-minute drive, my vehicle become an auditorium for a chirping turkey poult choir. After arriving at Greenmont, I helped Heather unload the turkeys. Then we made our way to the Eggmobile.
An eggmobile is a portable structure for laying hens. It differs from the Feathernet (the laying hen system we discussed last week) in that it is not surrounded by netting (the birds free-range) and it’s designed so the birds can be locked in at night. Heather and I moved the Eggmobile so it was positioned right behind the cows. That way the chickens can scratch through the cow patties in search of scrumptious fly larvae.
Then we checked the cows. It was so fun winding our way through the adorable young calves laying in the pasture, their mamas contentedly grazing the lush spring grass. After parking the 4-wheeler, we hopped on the tractor and drove out to the turkeys. Heather is raising her turkeys in a large, portable, hoop-house style structure – the pasture schooner. It has about 400 turkeys in it and it’s pulled forward to new pasture every day using the tractor. Then it was time for breakfast, so we headed to Heather’s home, enjoyed eggs and bacon and started on our next project – cleaning the incubator trays. Heather oversees hatching chicks for Polyface and between each hatch, the incubators and their trays need to be scrubbed. The relaxing work was conducive to conversation and it was so fun to hear Heather’s story.
Polyface’s bulls were being kept at a neighbor’s house not far from Greenmont. However, after encountering some problems with their water trough, Eric and Heather decided to move the bulls to Greenmont. Thankfully, Polyface’s bulls are docile and there are only 9 of them. Everything went as smooth as butter. Even so, as I jogged behind the bulls down the driveway and into the corral, I couldn’t help thinking of Spain’s running of the bulls. Ha! After a satisfying day of work, I headed back to Polyface in time for dinner.
The week ended with Joel arriving home from his 3+ weeks of world travel. He left on a speaking tour around Europe and Australia in the end of April before most of the interns arrived. It was fun having him at dinner on Friday night and I’m looking forward to having him on the farm.
On Saturday, Polyface hosted a Lunatic Tour – a two-hour tour of the farm. Any interns not working were invited to attend. Since I had this weekend off, I joined a few of the other interns (Mariah, Sadie, John and Hunter) on the tour. I am very interested in agritourism/edutainment, so it was wonderful to see how Joel organized the tour and covered various topics. Listening to Joel is always inspiring and hearing him speak helped remind me why I’m here and why our work is vitally important.
This encouragement couldn’t have come at a better time. To be bluntly honest, this week has been the most challenging yet for me. I’ve missed home, friends, family and “normal life” more over the past few days than I have since coming here. I absolutely love the people I’m with and the work I’m doing. And I deeply know this is where God has called me this summer. I just think all the newness and differentness finally hit me this week and caused a wave of exhaustion to slam me. Last night (Saturday). I fell asleep at 5:15pm woke up at 8:15pm to eat dinner and was back in bed again from 10:15pm-8:15am. I knew I needed some time alone to recharge, so I’m spending this beautiful Sunday at a coffee shop, studying the Bible, writing and catching up with people back in MN. I already feel so much better and am excited to jump into the upcoming week with enthusiasm and energy!
I am so thankful for this opportunity to work alongside these amazing people and learn from some of the best farmers in the world. What an amazing experience! Week 5 here we come!