So. I have just finished my second workday at the farm. I started here exactly 8 months after my first day at Skunk Hollow, and in the intervening time I had nearly forgotten how it felt to be new at things—the first few days are such a flood of information that I feel like I will never retain it all. There are new tasks, new tools, new terminology. In addition to all the new work-related things, I’m in a completely unfamiliar place, with about a million faces and names (of both humans and cows) that I can never hope to remember, and I have a new home and new roommates, and definitely a new routine.
It will change day to day, depending which tasks I am assigned, but so far, I have been starting work before the sun, at 6:30am, on silage duty, which involves taking two enormous bales of hay and spreading them out in the yard for the cows to eat.
The bales are heavy and can be pretty frozen on cold mornings, and my body has not yet learned to wield the tools we use without some awkwardness, but I know this will come with time. After we finish with silage, I come inside and help with barn chores or milking—I haven’t done any milking by myself yet, but today I learned how to clean the teats and attach the machine. I also learned to “strip” the cows, which involves taking some milk from each teat to check that it is the proper consistency, which is an indicator of the health of the cow. It took me a while to get the technique down, though, and the first poor cow that I practiced on got fed up with me tugging on her and gave me a good kick in the kneecap. The cows really are very gentle and sweet, but boy, are they big!
They make me the slightest bit nervous, but I am sure that this sentiment will fade with time, too.
Around 9am, we finish up with milking and let the cows into the yard to eat, and then we eat breakfast ourselves. At 9:30 we are back in the barn, cleaning out the stalls (lots of poop) and replenishing the hay for bedding and feed. I have also been on animal feeding duty, because in addition to the dairy herd, we have a bunch of animals that live outside all winter, in a semi-enclosed space to break the wind.
These animals include calves who have been weaned, cows whose udders are dry, a boar, three sows, two litters of piglets,
and three adorable angora goats.
We have a couple of hours for lunch, and in the afternoons, I have been doing various different things—more chores and feeding animals, and today for the first time I did some work in the greenhouse, harvesting mizuna for the market in Union Square in New York City, prepping beds, and planting mache seedlings. I have been enjoying all this new learning immensely, but I must admit that it felt nice to return to some tasks with which I had some familiarity and comfort.