Farm

Winter on the Farm

Have you ever sorted through cow pies and wood chips with your bare hands?  Well I have! Every day this week, and the week before that, and the week before that, and….you get the idea.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that doing so is the least fun I’ve ever had, but it’s in my top 10.

Just to be clear, I quickly learned my lesson and now wear gloves for this chore.  But I think I should still get credit for bare-handing it at least once.  Right?

Why on earth would I do such a thing you ask?  Good question, and one I ask myself many times as I pick up a “piece” by hand.

No, I’m not joking.  This is what it’s come to.

When we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of winter, which where we live means the flood-gates open and nothing dries out for months, what was once a picturesque scene of green grass quickly became a muddy, swampy, mess of a farm.  Not only does this make our everyday activities much more difficult, but seeing our animals living in such conditions weighs heavy on our hearts.

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Enter wood chips.  AKA hog fuel.

Why is it called hog fuel?  One explanation, from Wiktionary, is this: “The word for chopped (hacked) in Norwegian is hogge (hogde past tense); chopped wood has been hogde. Hogde fuel likely morphed into hogged fuel.”

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In order to make a noticeable difference, we needed to bring in a LOT of the stuff (approximately 100 cubic yards) and those truck loads don’t come cheap.  We bit the bullet and spent a pretty penny shaping things up around here, because we couldn’t stand to see cows standing ankle deep in mud and having nowhere clean/dry to lay.

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But here’s the rub: a small herd of cows produces enough poop to cover the entire surface of wood chips in a matter of days.  And since we don’t have a hidden stash of pretty pennies lying around to just buy more loads of wood chips, we scoop the poop.

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This leads me back to where I began–the sorting.

The wood chips we got are on the larger side, so when a pitchfork is used to pick up a cow pie, along with it comes a layer of wood chips.  If we continue that for very long, we will be back down to mud before we know it.

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Our solution?  Pick the wood chips (that aren’t completely soiled) out and throw them back on the ground.  This is a bit of a tedious process, but seeing our animals staying clean and having a comfortable place to live makes it all worth it.

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