Join me one recent morning as the farm woke up:
Mary Todd is looking for a handout
Good Morning! The sound of Reveille is bleated by the sheep. As soon as the sun rises, they stare intently at the front door, looking for the first signs of life inside. I don’t dare turn on the lights in the studio when I go in for morning meditation- even the lighting of a candle can trip off a loud ‘MAAAA” “MAAAA” alarm from begging sheep. I laugh because if we forget, and open the front door too early to get something , it sounds like a car alarm- door opens and MAAA, MAAA! from the field. Happens everytime.
Okay, I’m coming. ..
Boots on, hot tea and egg basket in hand, the first stop, has to be the sheep barn (they insist!). The first ladies (Eleanor, Jackie and Mary Todd) greet you at the gate to escort you to the sweet feed can under lock and key. On the way we open up the brown coop full of our cackling Wellsummer and Golden Buff laying chickens.
Sweet feed and hay are safely stored in a closet Tim built on the little barn. Sheep would literally eat themselves to death if allowed free access to their high calorie grain. We only give 1/2 c. sweet feed twice a day. Like gifting children with M & M’s- a little goes a long way.
On to the second coop- a mobile “chicken tractor” that we can move anywhere the pasture. The older chickens wait, peering out their window for us to slide open the door.
We check the laying boxes here too, expecting much fewer eggs from these girls. This flock has diminished in size since a summer fox attack plus they are a year older, no longer in their prime laying stage (fyi- the first year is their egg laying peak, diminishing with each year. Summer is the prime laying season). When needed, we refill their grain feeder and refresh the water trough. Cooler weather means less water consumption but more grain feeding as the free-range insect and seed source disappears.
Next stop, the pig pen! (since this blog was written, the pigs were taken to the butcher, but I wanted to include their photos in the morning lineup because they were such important members of our farm).
As hogs grow, you increase the quantity of their mash. There is a tool you can buy that measures and predicts their weight from girth size, but we prefer a more low-tech method, which is to feed them an amount that they gobble up in no less than 10 minutes and no more than 30 minutes. That works for us since our walk with the dogs leads us back to the pigs in about 25 minutes and we can check their bowl. As predicted, it is licked clean every time! Throughout the day we supplement with goodies from the kitchen compost bin and any veggie leftovers from the garden. They are fat and seem very content in their playpen of slushy mud under the big, wide, West Virginia sky.
After feeding and watering the pigs, we rinse and drop the eggs off in our “Honesty Store” refrigerator where our egg customers can pick them up anytime and leave cash in the jar.
Banjo is the nose-to-ground hunter, picking up scents of tiny furry things like voles and mice. Pick, on the other hand, likes to keep his eye on the horizon and sky- bolting after deer or birds. They are a balanced team. Luckily their batting record is low, so most creatures great and small are safe at Taproot.
Last stop, the garden. This time we pick lettuce for lunch, but each season offers up its own basket of goodies. The dogs take this as serious hunting time ever since they flush out and caught a rabbit in the carrots.
Once we get to the house, our faithful farm dogs get breakfast on the front porch.
Sitting on the front steps, looking back over the farm, you can sense the wide-awake energy not present an hour ago. Bug-chasing chickens, grazing sheep , and playful, muddy pigs all now in motion!
While we think about those family members ready to close their eyes for the night on the other side of the world, this farm is ready for a new day!