Saturday
Jul262014

A day in the life 

We have four amazing apprentices this summer. I have asked each of them to write a short reflection of their time here on the farm, and here is the first. Written by Caroline Summa. Photos by Caroline Summa. 

I have never had a blog, nor been asked to write a blog post before. I much prefer letter writing as a means of keeping in touch with friends and family, and in so, do my best to support the growingly obscure United States Postal Service. But today, I was tasked with writing an apprentice blog entry, in hopes of sharing my summer experience at Winter Hill with all of you curious readers. So, without further ado…

My name is Caroline. If you haven't yet met me, I'm the only female apprentice; the one who (by far) eats the most on the farm; the one who has trouble doing math at the farmer's market; the one who relishes a mid-day power-nap; and the one who grew up on Chebeague Island here in Maine. I started my apprenticeship in the beginning of June, and will continue to milk, weed, feed, plant, and eat cheese up here until the end of August. At this point in my life, I fit in the "student" category and am a rising junior at Oberlin College in Ohio. My Environmental Studies major with a focus in 'Food Systems and Agriculture' pairs nicely with the work here at Winter Hill. I still don't know what I want "to be" when I grow up, but I do hope that farming will always play a role in my life. 

For those of you who don't know, a life of farming is not a leisurely one. The fantasy farm romance wears off as quickly as the witch grass grows in the asparagus (which is really gosh darn quick. I've already weeded it twice this summer). This isn't to say I don't love mucking stalls, handling afterbirth or being smeared by a pig with mud, for these experiences can all be quite zen if one is in the proper mindset. Instead, the novelty of it all fades, allowing you to see beyond how cute the animals are and understand how they function as a part of the larger farm system and business plan. All aspects are carefully intertwined to support one another. A full understanding of the in's and out's a diversified farm requires direct engagement on a daily, seasonal, yearly and even lifetime basis. My apprenticeship will only bear witness to the summer season. Most of what I learn in these fleeting months will have no application come winter.

That all being said, I am the most guilty of ogling farm critters on a daily basis. There are few others who opt to romp with the Jersey bull calf, destined for veal, after a long day's work. I simply can't help help havingone favorite chicken out of a flock of 150. At the sight of wriggling piglets, I heave sighs of excitement, and I know for a fact Steve doesn't approve of how I coddle the barn cats.

While there are set tasks that must be seen to on a daily basis, I would argue there is no such thing as an "average day". I'll do my best to list the weekly consistencies, along with some of the unexpected occurrences I've had the pleasure of being involved in.

 

Consistent:

-5:30 am: Morning milking. The morning milker must prep the milking system, feed out grain and hay for the cows, retrieve the cows from the pasture, milk the cows, clean the milking system, bring the cows back to the pasture and then clean the barn. A lengthy task.

-6:30 am: Morning chores. This entails feeding all farm critters besides the milk cows. 36 pigs (sows, piglets, growing pigs), 6 calves, 3 heifers and 200 chickens (pullets and layers). The person on chores is also responsible for opening the two greenhouses before it gets too hot.

-Mid-morning: Bottle milk for the day. This includes on-farm customers, wholesale accounts, CSA members or farmer's markets.

-Mid-day: Cheese and yogurt making, depending on the day of the week. These are both day long processes that take place in the very steamy creamery.

-Mid-day: Moving and fencing for animals. Nearly all 258 of our animals are out on pasture during the summer, and need to be moved periodically to fresh grass. Electric fencing is a fine art form in which I am inept.

-Mid-day: Wholesale deliveries. Portland on Tuesday, Freeport and Yarmouth on Friday.

-Mid-day: Farmer's Market. Yarmouth on Thursday, Lewiston on Sunday.

-Entire day: Garden work. No matter how persistent your effort, there will always be steady supply of weeds.

-Late afternoon: Evening chores, identical to morning chores.

-4:30 pm: Evening milking, identical to morning milking.

Unexpected:

-Septic System Malfunction: It was a pungent and frustrating day when the dairy septic backed up. Steve headed the problem, while the rest of us observed from as far away as possible.

-Midnight escapades: One night Sweet Pea (milk cow) escaped the pasture around 1:00am. The same night, coincidently, my dreams were infiltrated with broken fence lines and cows in the forest. Negligible damage was suffered by the garden.

-Pig trailer parking lot: Just the other day, Steve and company were loading Clover the sow onto the pig trailer for her transport to the slaughterhouse. The trailer lives in the parking lot alongside the apprentice cars, and my (mother's) van was unlucky enough to be parked in the line of the large metal swinging door. Steve currently owes me a side view mirror.

-Tractor practice: The day after the pig trailer incident Gabriel (the other summer apprentice) and I were mucking out a stall in the barn, a perfect opportunity to practice using the bucket on the tractor. I earned my official nickname that day, and was henceforth known as Barn Breaker for clipping the edge of the doorway with the bucket. A couple boards were lost and others crunched, but we all agreed it was a fair trade for what Steve had done to my car.

 

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Reader Comments (4)

That is just precious.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Demers

Great glimpse into what an apprentice does, thinks and feels!

July 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Knight

Great glimpse into what an apprentice does, thinks and feels!

July 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Knight

Lovely piece by a talented writer and keen observer... thank you :)

July 28, 2014 | Registered CommenterStacey

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