A day in the life

6:00 AM – As always, MPR’s Cathy Wurzer’s bright voice from the bedside radio let’s me know the world has survived another night and Minnesota is involved in all kinds of activity. Although I now farm in Western Wisconsin, I pulled many of my Minnesota habits with me when I crossed the river. In an hour the radio will automatically switch to Wisconsin Public Radio – new alliances.
6:45 AM – Doing some laundry. In the heat of summer, and when you’re dealing with livestock, sweat, dirt and manure build up on everything. Dave and I often go through two and three changes of clothes in a day. And if we go into town, we’ll clean up and change again into cleaner and tidier jeans and shirts out of respect for the people we’ll meet as we complete errands.
7:45 AM – Moved the herd to a new, small paddock, and set up the fencing for another shift early this afternoon. I wonder how many miles of electric rope I’ve reeled and unreeled in the last four years. Some days, my upper arms ache from winding up rope and pulling up step-in posts.
Filled the water trough. The grass is outstanding this spring thanks the the heavy rains. It’s a pleasure to practice – and continue learning – rotational grazing when conditions are so favorable.
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Experienced ranchers can get up to a 3-pound gain per adult animal per day. It takes lots of know-how to make that target: having the right mix of grasses, herbs and legumes; and, building soil conditions so they deliver the right balance of nutrients to the grass. It means moving the cattle so that they’re eating the grasses when they’re most nutritious – not too young, not to old and woody, and at the time of day when sugars are at the tops of the plants. Managing the grazing so that the cows don’t crop the forage too short, and so that they stomp down the residual grasses well.
So much to learn.
12:30 PM – Just refilled the waterer for the chicks. Third time so far today. At nearly a week old, the 30 Freedom Rangers are nearly twice as big as they were when I picked them up from the Post Office in Clear Lake.
That was a milestone experience: The postal clerk slid the cardboard box across the counter. It was low and wide and filled with lots of air holes. When I picked it up, I could feel the little birds jostling, and I could hear their tiny feet scratching. They peeped as the box rested safely on the seat beside me as I made the 10 minute drive home.
1:15 PM – Time to move the cows and steers to a fresh paddock of grasses, herbs and clovers. Grass is so tall, I’ve got to high-step through it. It feels a bit like snow-shoeing.
1:25 PM – Cows moved. Rain clouds building in the south.
2:00 PM – Time to work on the website and email. Still moving files and lists from my old website to new one. Agony. Makes my brain boil and my neck and shoulders stiff. This work consumers hours and days, and makes me anxious. I’m spending so much time fixing things on the website that I haven’t had time to let customers know there’s beef for sale. But, yes, I’ve got to get the site finished first. One step at at time.
3:00 PM – Time for afternoon tea – sweet tea with 1/2-and-1/2 and sugar. A friend recently shared his recipe for fresh strawberry scones. I feel a daily ritual coming on.
4:29 PM – Quick trip to the bank. Amazing how quickly transactions are accomplished in a small-town bank. Checked the chicks again when I got home – refilled waterer and feeder. Rain coming down hard, again. When will we get the four days of sun needed to cut and bale hay??

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