Today is market day, so I’m up at the crack of dawn to get the outside stuff done before we leave for the farmers market. I want to get the hay rings topped off today so I won’t need to do anything major on Sunday. Should be easy.
The steers need a bale—maybe that’s why the sheep left their pen? So when I give the steers their grain I shut the gate to the little pen where they eat. That way I can come and go from their pasture and leave that main gate open. That chore is quickly done, and I go reload the tractor with the first two bales for the main herd. The whole time I’m doing chores that morning I keep worrying that I will forget to re-open the gate to let the steers back in their pasture.
I arrive in the main pasture with two fresh bales and hop down to cut the first one. I can’t find my knife. Anywhere. It has to be back where I cut the twine for the bale in the steers’ pasture. Ugh. I drop my bales, chug back to the four wheeler, race around the working pens to where I cut my first bale this morning, and drive back and forth until I find it in the grass. Back around the working pens, back on the tractor, race at tractor speed back to the back pasture, and begin the process of cutting twine and dropping the bales in the rings.
It is very hard to cut the twine when it is frozen to the bales. Even after it is cut it doesn’t want to be pulled away. A small thing, but it was costing me precious time. And my last bale to be dropped was a problem bale. Every once in a while the baler will malfunction and be a little too generous with the way it ties a bale. Instead of being able to cut and lift all the twine off the outside of the bale, the only place the twine is supposed to be, I found myself pulling and pulling twine away from this bale. I don’t understand at all how it happened, but I ended up at the front of the bale, pulling twine around and around, a strand in EACH hand! Both arms were flailing in circles like I was playing double jump rope, me and the bale of hay. It took forever to get to the end of the twine. It just kept emerging from the hay while my arms made the endless circles and two twine piles kept growing at my feet. I felt like I was manufacturing something. The cows were politely attentive but not impressed.
Once the show was over and I climbed back on the tractor, with lots of twine in tow, the cows lazily strolled toward the rings to sample the new hay bales. Steam was rising from them, and as the cows contentedly ate I felt just like I do when I serve my little son a steaming bowl of oatmeal on a cold day.
With everything done I ran to open the steers’ gate to let them back in their pasture. I noticed the sheep in a nearby rectangular pasture that was recovering from recent grazing. Why were they in there? I didn’t think about it for long, but got back on the tractor and fetched a bale for them. Unlike the field they’d been in all week, the fencing here was made to hold sheep in, so once I shut their gate, they couldn’t get out. Also, because of recent rains there were three watering troughs completely full—more than enough to last them through the next couple of days when it would be time to load some onto a trailer.
Oh, me of little faith. I didn’t ask questions, I just gave them some fresh hay and shut them in, once again with a thankful heart.
Off to the farmers market. Our only winter market is West End Farmers Market, almost an hour away. Our customers are a huge part of why we do what we do, and it’s good to get away from the farm every once in an while and come face to face with the folks we hope to serve by providing a safe, clean, healthy source of great tasting meat. OK, end of commercial.
Since all the chores were done, after market my daughter and I treated ourselves to some lazy browsing at a second hand bookstore. After we unloaded all the coolers back home, I ran out real quick to check the contents in the mineral feeder. Looked like there was plenty, affirmed by the two cows at the feeder licking it off their noses.