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Trying to avoid chore time burnout

June 26, 2008

Chores on the farm can seem never ending.  Trying to decide where to take shortcuts involves many factors, depending on what the task is.  Joel Salatin says to try to keep daily chores per person to less than 4 hours.  That is hard to do – but that 4 hours does seem like the magic number.  Chores I like, don’t seem like chores.  Tasks I tire of easily do seem like drudgework.  Each farmer and person on the farm has to sort out what they like, if you don’t, resentment builds towards your family, your animals and your crops.  Personally, I don’t like housewife type stuff.  Coming up with satisfying meals is always on my mind.  Dishes and laundry come a close second.  Housework – forget it.  I would much rather clean a stall and work on my compost pile than scrub a toilet.  Luckily DH, coming from a clean upbringing, cleans up stuff for me.  I in turn, don’t ask him to do things like till, weed, or cut the grass.

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I like milking, this is my quiet time.  No one bothers me except to sneak up behind me and take pictures.  Since I enjoy milking I don’t count this as a chore, even though it really is.

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I also enjoy weeding, if it is easy… .  Here I’m thinning the parsnips for the milk cow.  It was last evening and my daughter and I took the windup radio to the garden and listened to music and visited while we worked.  We were treated to swallows dipping overhead, the the sound of the milk cows grazing nearby, and watching the dogs play in the field.  Here they are sticking close, since it getting close to their dinner time.  This didn’t seem like a chore either.

When we can save time and wear and tear on our bodies, we do it.  With livestock in mind, we have to decide if cutting something out or not will make a difference.  Do the pigs care if I give them a dish of food everyday?  I think they actually prefer eating when they want, instead of when I determine mealtime.   With the pigs, they have a self feeder and waterer.  The pigs are on full feed with supplements from our larder/garden that we aren’t going to eat.  This year, we cleaned out the feeding sheds and are raising less pigs, so they won’t be turning the compost.  However, cleaning out the barn with a tractor means some gets left behind.  We fenced in one shed for them, and will let them sort through the remaining bedding and manure.  This will help break up any cow parasites, by running through a different species.  A different sort of rest.  It also gives the pigs shade, and a secure area and peace of mind for us.  With only three, these guys will probably not go to pasture, I can easily keep them supplied with greens and herbs and thus lessening my worries about pigs getting out, etc.  I think they won’t mind, and if I’m not crabby taking care of them, it is a win win situation.  I fill this feeder once a week, when they get larger, I can put in another feeder, which will allow me to only feed once a week.  My brother raised Tamworth hogs for 4-H, and it seemed to me that they were frequently getting out, or wanting more feed.  I don’t like chasing pigs.

Watering is another chore that we deal with several times a day, daily, or weekly, depending on the species of animal we are watering, and their needs.  We also have to keep the water sanitary for them and our water supply must be kept clean.  That means no filthy hoses connected to hose bibbs running to the chicken pen or pig nipple.  By law, if you’re hooked up to a municipal water supply you need to have a back flow device installed at the meter, to prevent contamination of the entire system.  Contamination isn’t confined to farms with livestock either.  Other sources include greenhouses, vegetable farms, hot tubs, and in-ground lawn sprinkler systems.   While I hate laws in general, (might have something to do with my big sister being a lawmaker) this one is a good one, and it is a sensible thing for a home water supply too.

Things we consider before we decide how/when we are going to “deliver” water to our livestock:
♣  Can we keep the container(s) clean?
♣  Is the container going to be indestructible?  We want to reduce buying more, and disposing of broken and damaged containers, which are usually plastic.
♣  If the supply will last a week, will it still be fresh/cool enough?
♣  Can we position the supply container, so we can service it from outside the pen/fence?
♣  Can anybody (child, husband, friends) water the animals, in case of illness or injury?
♣  Can we lighten our load in these ways so we aren’t experiencing too much wear and tear on our bodies?
♣  Can we tend something else while we are watering?
♣  Can we keep the water supply from freezing, by building in features for cold weather?
♣  Is it lightweight and portable, so we can use it wherever we decide to graze/house animals?

Each animal is different, some requiring substantial amounts of water, and here we use many different watering tools.

A food grade plastic barrel, placed high for adequate gravity flow to the hog nipple.  This will keep the pigs in water for at least a week.  A small stick lashed to the end of the hose keeps the hose from slipping out so we can do something else while the barrel is filling.  Since this is plumbed directly to the hog nipple, the stick lashed to the hose gives the required distance between the water in the barrel and the end of the hose.  It should be at least an inch or twice the measurement of the delivery pipe/hose for safety.  It’s shady in the feeding shed, so the water stays cool enough for a week.  It is also on the personnel side – we don’t have to go in with the pigs and they can’t get to the plumbing to tear it up.  I don’t have a lot of extra hoses, so the stick comes off and this hose which has stayed clean on my side of the fence, goes back to the greenhouse.

This shows the plumbing side of the barrel.  It is plumbed for 2 separate hog nipples for two pens.  We are only using one, so the one not in use is just tied up out the way so it won’t drain the barrel.  DH is a plumbing-liking guy, and because we are conscious of wasting water, he puts valves on everything, just in case repairs need to be made.  This enables him to shut off the barrel and work on the plumbing if the need arises.

Hog nipple lashed to the panel, (love that plastic twine).  The pigs can get water when they need and, since this is not permanent, we can raise and lower as needed depending on the size of the pig.
The initial cost was minimal and our chore time for watering pigs is next to nothing, making what could be an unpleasant task OK.  My experience with pigs, is that if they have access to any kind of feeding/watering tub that they can move and play with, sooner or later it will be in their bathroom area.  And while they put it there, they will not retrieve it for you.

With baby chicks, we use the small hand filled waterers shown at right for about the first week or so.  They are hard to fill, and keep clean, so we have the bell waterer there so they get used to it, and we start moving the smaller waterers close to the bell waterer to wean them off of the labor intensive small ones.  The bell waterer is gravity fed from a bucket placed on a barrel outside the brooder.  It needs filling about every other day or so.  We keep lids on the chicken water buckets outside to keep out debris that might clog up the waterer, and to keep wild birds from bathing and crapping in them.

Outside in the field pen, the chickens have a gravity fed bell waterer.  Broiler chickens require a lot of water.  So this 5 gallon bucket gets filled twice a day, while I’m feeding them.  This is one of those scenarios that to save wear and tear on my delicate self, I have to go with frequent watering.  If we used more storage capacity, I couldn’t move the pen.  So it is easier to deliver this water in small amounts.  BTW, did you know that if the animal knows that you’re packing water to them, they will drink and waste more?  It seems like it anyway.  These guys are only here for eight weeks and they sure taste good, so I don’t mind their water needs.

This is another outside barrel for hens or turkeys for winter housing.  It is outside where the sun will warm it, and it is insulated for around  the valve for freeze protection.  We attach these to drinks cups inside the greenhouse.  Winter chores aren’t too time consuming, so this could just be topped off every day, or less often depending how many birds you are keeping over winter.  This supplied 700 hens for a day.  The tubing comes off easily for draining at night to prevent freezing.
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These are the drink cups inside the greenhouse.  They stay clean and are pretty trouble free.  The chickens and turkeys learn how to use these very fast, and the assembly can be raised and lowered depending on the height of the bird.  DH installed valves on these for draining also during freezing weather.  We also used these on our outdoor skid.

Our outdoor chicken set-up, with three barrels, and drink cups.  We filled these barrels every three days when we moved the skid.
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For the cows during the grazing season, I use this 100 gallon tank the most.  I usually place this where I can use one spot for 2 days or more.  You can barely make it out in the picture, but the electric fence is dividing this in half, giving me two days.  The hose is tied to a post so it won’t collapse and stop delivering water.  With cows, you can use a small trough if you have a constant supply of water, if you have to haul water you need a large trough.  We move the water with every paddock shift to lessen the impact on the pasture and to distribute the manure that will collect with a permanent placement.  But most of this watering philosophy belongs in a grazing post.

This is our hydrant for filling our water tank if we have to haul water.  The two inch delivery pipe will fill our 300 gallon tank fast.  We only have a few paddocks that we have to use a large 300 gallon water trough in, when that happens we have to do this twice a day.  This is plumbed for draining in the winter and swings out of the way when not in use.

Water is in constant need on the farm, anyway we can make our job easier, also makes it enjoyable.  Farming is hard work, and we (everyone) needs to make it as light as possible in the areas that allow for time and labor saving.

Blue elder flower Sambucus cerulea  good for wine, cordials or medicinal uses.

The end to a glorious evening with my daughter in the garden!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2008 6:28 pm

    I’m finding that as I get older I like the regularity of chores more, even if it’s drudge work. There was a time when I procrastinated and now I just embrace them and get at what has to be done. Maturity I think, took me long enough:(

  2. June 26, 2008 8:34 pm

    Hello! I’ve been enjoying browsing through your blog tonight! I found you while searching the internet on what to do when our new milk cow (Jersey) freshens in another week or so. She’s our first cow and it will be her first calf. My total experience with cows has been cow-sitting and milking a cow for about 3 months…but she was an old pro…didn’t need a kick-guard…came to the stanchion as soon as she saw me…stood still the whole time. Our cow is her daughter and seems a tad fiesty to me.

    My question is (or one of my thousand questions)…when do we start milking her after the calf is born?…and how do we “share the milk” with the calf? Do we have to separate them and “bottle-feed” the calf or can we just get what’s left over? I’ve found very little info online and the one book I have only talks about bucket feeding the calf immediately. I’d like to be able to leave them together and still have milk for us…is that even possible?

    …and I guess I just assumed the cow would come to the stanchion easily to be milked…apparently, I’m going to have to train her???…ugh! How do I do that?

    Thanks so much for any help you can give me…I’m really so clueless…we’ve just been flying by the seat of our pants thus far and that has been easy enough with chickens and a pregnant heifer, but as her freshening date approaches, I’m starting to be overwhelmed by what I don’t have a clue about!!

    Thank you!

    Michelle B
    http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/mlbainbridge
    mbainbridge@bellsouth.net

  3. Kristen permalink
    June 27, 2008 5:37 am

    I wold say watering is one of my least favorite chores….maybe it’s because we never have any water..lol. I have to water one type of animal in the morning and another at lunch and the another at dinner to space the water out and let the well catch back up. Some days city water doesn’t look too bad 🙂

  4. June 27, 2008 6:50 am

    wow. lots of great watering ideas in this post. right now, we haul water to everything using 2 gallon buckets. we are a much smaller scale than you but still, 60+ laying hens, 25 broilers, 11 goats, 5 cats and 1 dog (and soon adding 7 sheep and 2 pyrs) adds up quickly. but, actually, i’m like you. i don’t mind the outdoor ‘chores’ at all. i’d rather spend the day feeding and watering and tethering and moving animals than i would indoors ironing shirts, cleaning house and doing dishes.

    i do not care for the drudgery of housework at all. ironing is an absolute nightmare (greg is an architect and needs them daily). surprisingly, i don’t mind hanging laundry on the line (perhaps because it is outdoors?). cooking is ok, i like creating new things, i mostly mind the clean up (which the older kids are usually required to do) and the time away from other stuff.

    but yeah, milking is nice. and weeding, i could spend the day doing it if it weren’t for the hot sun beating down on me. those ‘chores’ put me in the zone and clear my mind.

    one other chore i dislike is grocery shopping and errand running. i’d rather stay home and do anything (but iron), especially when i have to haul the little ones with me.

  5. June 27, 2008 10:32 am

    Another fascinating post…I love your watering systems!
    And the photos are lovely

  6. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 28, 2008 10:03 am

    Linda, I know what you mean, chores are chores. Some I like more than others. But, they still all have to get done.

    Michelle, I’ll answer you by email, instead of going on and on here in the comment section.

    Kristen, the water situation gets tight here too, but not as tight as yours. If I use too much in one place, it just makes more work for me in another. It was so expensive to hook up to municipal water, but we did it after 3 low water years. I’m glad we did now, even though we rarely use it, it still brings us peace of mind.

    Kristine, that’s still alot of animals, I swear they drink more when they see me with a bucket! I like to cook too, but day in and day out gets tiring. Most of the time, if someone would just suggest what they want to eat I would be happy to cook it. My pantry is pretty well stocked, so supplies aren’t the problem. Canning I could do for days on end, but putting it away, makes me procrastinate.

    I lucked out on the ironing thing, DH’s work get-up is all cotton – chambray and denim do reeealll good in the dryer. If I line dry his shirts then I do have to iron them. Me I like scratchy towels and wrinkly shirts. But, if I start sewing, or quilting the iron is at the ready, I hate to admit how many irons I have worn out with my quilting.

    Grocery shopping- forget it, I can get my staples like olive oil, and salt, and spices from my food co-op, which is once a month and the drop is right next to hubbies work. The rest he can pick up while he is in town. I lucked out on that one. I had to laugh last week, after we had grueling day loading butcher steers, and some choice words were said – he came home the next day with a candy bar, canning lids, quick links and some ammo – after 30 years I know he’s trying to apologize when he buys something I always want and he does it without asking! Kind of like flowers for a redneck! Plus, my “little” one who isn’t so little, whines the whole time if we have to go to town. I either go by myself or give someone a list.

    threecollie, thanks, I can’t even imagine the water system you must have with a dairy. Your sunrise and sunset pics have inspired my daughter to take more pictures at those times.

  7. July 3, 2008 5:55 pm

    I like to cook and do laundry, but I don’t like to do the house cleaning. I like to garden and do yard work. My daughter does it for the most part. She is 17 and does the lawn mowing as well. My son does the construction stuff around the place and clean up and landscaping. He is 15. Our 13 year old likes the animals and cares for the donkeys and works with them and has tamed the laying hens very well. She wants to be a vet and will disappear for hours working with the animals. The 11 year old doesn’t like to do any chores unless she made it up herself. She is one of my bigger chores, but she will eventually work hard too. Hubby does the wood and maintenance and goes to work. We seem to have found things we like, but we also all know a lot about the other jobs and many of the daily chores are rotated.

    Great ideas for water conservation. I am always looking for better ways to do the water.

  8. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    July 3, 2008 10:34 pm

    Dawn, your family sounds almost exactly like mine. Our chores are divided up almost the same.
    We can rotate our jobs, but usually don’t unless we’re in a pinch. The only thing DH doesn’t like is milking, but he would if he had to.

  9. Joan permalink
    July 12, 2008 1:33 pm

    Howdy! Do you have a link or directions on how to make a gravity water system? I have a small flock of broilers and would love to make my own. Thanks!

  10. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    July 15, 2008 10:00 pm

    Joan, we’ve been happy with the bell waterers for the broilers. We paid $25.00 for the whole assembly, which is about what a galvanized chicken waterer costs at the feed store, and the original metal waterers we bought are long gone, but we’ve had these plastic ones for 8 years and they are still holding up and working well. We purchased them mail order from STRAND AG SUPPLY in California 209-538-1771.

    All you need is the bucket with hole drilled for the tubing. Place the bottom of the bucket higher than the waterer and the water will flow. There is a spring in the waterer that automatically shuts off the flow of water. If your broilers were housed in a shelter that wasn’t moveable, you could even use a barrel for the water supply and cut down your watering chore time.

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