Polyface Week 8

This week I had my first few opportunities to work with Joel. My official chore title was “Joel Helper.” What does that mean? Well, every morning during chores, I’d head out with Joel as his assistant. Normally, that involves taking care of the Eggmobile (moving it every other day, feeding it every few days and opening the nest boxes every day) and something to do with cows. I helped move cattle, set up cross fences and take down old fencing. I haven’t done much with the cows since coming here, so I gobbled up every opportunity to work with them this week.

I enjoyed spending time with Joel, learning as much as I can from him, and observing how he works smoothly and efficiently. He does everything with purpose. The way he puts in fence stakes, carries wire spools and winds up fence is all done with thoughtful care. All the little tricks of the trade have become completely natural to him, he no longer has to think about it. He makes everything look so easy. I, on the other hand, feel like a dying duck staggering through tasks. Ha!

Anyways, after chores on Monday, I headed to Greenmont (one of the rental farms) to work on some hay related projects. My job was to drive the tuck and flatbed trailer through the field. Marit stacked large square bales onto my trailer and then I drove them over to the stack. There, Daniel unloaded them with the tractor into a neat, tarp-covered stack. At the end of the day, Daniel let me try stacking a couple of the bales. Wow! He makes it look smooth and effortless, but let me tell you – it’s not. Maneuvering the tractor, adjusting the forks, approaching the bale, backing up and placing the bale are all part of an intricate process. After many tries and slow progress, I managed to stack only two bales. Uff da!

I started out Tuesday morning getting stumped by a math problem. During chores, Joel decided to quiz me on my cow day calculations. I willed my mind to calculate quickly and accurately, but it stubbornly refused to cooperate. He ended up helping me find the answer and I understood the concept a smidgen better at the end of the little lesson. Beyond that, I have absolutely no recollection of Tuesday. None. So I guess I shall move on…haha!

Wednesday was a monumental day for the 2019 intern team – the first time we processed birds on our own (no help from any management). I am proud to say everything went smoothly. It showed me how much we’ve all learned in the last couple months. I also had the opportunity to sort pigs on Wednesday. We “yeehawed” (that’s what we call herding pigs) 45 hogs down to the corral and sorted out 17 for butcher. It reminded me again of how much I love sorting/working with animals. After dinner, Joel taught the team how to tie a couple different knots and we spent a fair amount of time working on our new skills.

On Thursday, I spent most of the day at Greenmont helping Emma put turkeys out on pasture. We caught the young turkeys from the brooder, put them in crates and hauled them out to the pasture schooner (a giant portable hoop structure that gets moved daily). It was different than most days since Emma and I were on the rental farm alone, working from a list without supervision. I loved the extra bit of responsibility, it felt more like working for myself at home. Being here has shown me that I really enjoy being around people with similar passions, but that I also appreciate the responsibility and ownership that comes from being an entrepreneur.

On Friday morning, Joel started quizzing me on cow day math again. This time, I was ready. I actually solved the equation correctly and relatively quickly! Hooray! The rest of Friday was low-key. Most of us interns spent all day completing various garden tasks. I planted sunflowers, cucumbers, corn and pumpkins, helped set up irrigation, mulched beans and weeded beets. Since our list was short, we hurried through our tasks for the day in an attempt to get some free time in the afternoon. Most of the interns decided to use their extra time to go swimming in the mountain pond, but I decided to head to one of the rental properties with Ryan (another intern) to move cows. We took our time moving the cows, admiring the beauty of the herd and pausing to enjoy the perfect weather. It was thoroughly relaxing. We made it back to the farm with time to spare before dinner, so I held little chicks and cuddled baby bunnies. It was the perfect way to end the night.

No time for sleeping in on Saturday. This weekend was the annual South Poll Field Day (South Poll is a breed of cattle) and Joel and Daniel were speakers at the event. Since Joel started at 8:15, chores had to be done early. The entire team pitched in (not just the weekend workers). By starting chores extra early (5:20am), we could all make it to the conference on time. It was great to spend the day learning about farming and cattle. By 3:00, a group of us left and spent the rest of the afternoon drinking milkshakes, exploring an old bookshop and eating pizza.

Sunday morning I got to sleep in – yay! Then it was off to church to hear Joel preach the sermon. It was fun to see him up in front of the congregation. He preached on the book of Esther, specifically the phrase “for such a time as this.” I’ll end with the same question he challenged us with – what “for such a time” is God preparing you for?

P.S. I cannot remember what day this happened, so I’ll put here at the end. Super exciting life milestone: I backed the manure spreader into the barn on my first try. No forward and backward, forward and backward. Just one smooth motion. Happiness.

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  1. Love following along with your adventures! Do all the interns get to rotate their weekends free, or do some of you get to have free days during the week?

    1. Yes, we all rotate the weekends we work. Three interns have to work each weekend. We work out the schedule amongst ourselves. It works out to each of us working 1 out of every 3 weekends over the summer. Monday – Friday is all hands on deck. Thanks for following along! Glad you are enjoying it!

  2. So fun!!! I’m still scratching my head on cow days. Can you explain it? I also didn’t know Joel preached. How cool!

    1. To be honest, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it too! Basically, a cow day is how much 1 cow will eat in 1 day. So if you have a 1 acre paddock that has 80 cow day grass, that acre will feed 1 cow for 80 days or 80 cows for 1 day. If the grass is thicker, maybe it’s 100 cow day grass. Then that acre will feed 1 cow for 100 days or 100 cows for 1 day. Does that make sense? When I asked Joel what to read to gain a better understanding of cow days, he recommended his book Salad Bar Beef. As I continue to learn and understand more this summer, I’ll be sharing more!

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