Farming on the Side

As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, Shannon and I both work full-time off-farm jobs. I spend my days running my own business and doing physical labor outside from March – December, while Shannon spends her days inside laboring mentally. Coming from the corporate world, I understand just how taxing mental labor can be, so like most working people, we are pretty tired at the end of the day. Unlike a lot of people, our work starts beforework and ends around sundown. These days Shannon gets up before anyone else in the house and makes her way down to open up the chicken coop and make sure all of the chickens, ducks, and pups have food and fresh water. She typically takes the Pyrenees on a perimeter walk around the front pastures and works with them around the chickens.

When I get home, usually between 4-5, I stop and freshen all of the waterers again since the temps have been 90+ pretty consistently since late Spring here. I make sure feeders are topped off, and I gather eggs. Sometimes we all go down to visit all of the animals again after dinner, but that doesn’t happen on nights the children decide to spend way too long at the table not eating their food. We alternate nights putting the kids to bed, so whoever is not conducting bedtime heads back down to check on the garden and close up the coop. Most of the time in the garden these days is harvesting okra, squash, and tomatoes and gathering tomato hornworms and squash bugs to toss to the chickens. In the height of summer, we have enough sunlight to allow for a good deal of leisure time to snuggle on the puppies before the sun sets. It’s really amazing how mentally refreshing it is to just go sit in the pasture with the pups for 30 minutes or so.

Right now chores are pretty easy. Back in Spring (and coming up again later this summer) we had the pastured meat birds to deal with a couple times a day as well. I would go down to the pasture every morning and move their pasture pen forward to new grass, topping of the feeder, and making sure their water was full. Every night about 12 hours later, we would have to go back to the pens to remove any feed that was left to prevent them from overeating and suffering heart attacks and leg problems. We have a batch of 50 meat chickens coming at the beginning of September and we might try to do some starting in August, too, but we are still trying to decide on that. So, if you are interested in buying some whole chickens, we should have some available after November 1st. The labor of moving the chicken tractor is pretty easy the way we have it set up, but we’re planning to modify how we raise them a bit next Spring (or whenever our pasture is fully fenced). We like the pasture pen method for security, but we want to create something closer to a day-range model since the dogs and fencing will be available to protect them from predators. If we are successful with our range model, it should cut our labor significantly when we increase our meat bird production.

A lot of these chores aren’t terribly taxing, but they have to be done every single day of the year. You can’t just skip a day or two. Obviously we enjoy doing this, so it doesn’t seem so bad to us. We were just talking the other day about how we don’t even know what we would be doing with our time if we didn’t have the farm. We might watch a show or two on tv at night before bed, but we’re not the type of people to just sit and watch tv for long stretches at a time. I’m sure we would find other hobbies to fill our time, but I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling than raising our own food and teaching our kids the importance of caring for the land and our food system. A lot of people think we’re nuts, and we probably are, but hopefully we can keep improving and growing our farm while transitioning it away from being just a side-hustle. Thanks for joining us on this journey!

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