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.


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.”


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.


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.


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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