Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Get your priorities straight.

Posted on | October 11, 2009 | No Comments

Sometimes you can really do it all.  Calm down, men.  I am not about to tell you how to multitask.  I’ve been married for 10 years.  I concede that men cannot multitask.  Even if they wanted to (which they don’t).   I’m talking about prioritizing.  A farm may be  plagued by disasters, overpopulated, out resourced, and have occupants alternating between panic and apathy.  All before 7am.   But it can be beaten into orderly and productive  submission with a Type A bludgeoning.  I am just the Type A person to do it.  So you don’t have to choose between replacing that piece of tin over the brooder room before the forecasted downpour or finding the hole in the fence where the livestock guardian dog keeps sliding out to “protect” the goats from the neighbor’s tabby cat.  Get it all done with this simple prioritization guideline:

1.  Emergencies first.  This may seem obvious.  But on a farm, emergencies can be so commonplace that one tends to get jaded.  For example last month I was working on a chicken coop when Little ran onto the deck screaming, “Mom, hurry, Middle cut his finger off!!!!!!”  I finished my last poultry staple, gathered my tools, put away my work gloves, and ambled to the house.  I eventually opened the door to find Middle with a very bloody towel wrapped around his entire hand.  My first thought was:  Oh good, they didn’t use the nice dishcloths.  My second thought was:  Jeez, there’s a lot of blood on the floor.  Someone should wipe that up while it’s still wet.  See, I have trouble distinguishing an emergency on occasion.  So be sure to first ask yourself if anything happening could require emergency attention.  If so, deal with it immediately. (Just FYI– a child can cut the tip of his finger off with children’s safety scissors.  Go figure.)

2.  Start small. Knock out those annoying small to-do’s that are always cluttering up your limited mind space.  Did you know that psychologist George Miller discovered the average short term memory can only hold seven items, plus or minus two?  Therefore, it pays to do the quick, easy tasks first so that you can concentrate on the larger jobs without distraction.  For example if you need to bleach the water trough, refill the oyster shell,  find the hoof pick, replace the u-pin in the trailer hitch, muck the kidding stall, and……wait, what was I talking about?  Oh yeah, the Steve Miller band.  No, that doesn’t seem right……

3.  Never give up.  At some point during the construction of a do-it-yourself  $50 hoop house with plans printed off the internet, you will realize that it cannot actually be done.  That the internet posting was just a cruel joke by some sick city slicker with garden envy.  Or an ambitious home improvement store employee seeking a promotion by driving up profits on the backs of poor, defenseless, do-it-yourselfers.  Don’t despair.  It can be done—it will just cost way more than $50 and sure as hell won’t be pretty.  The last time I built a hoop house my neighbor stopped by and smiled.  “Oh, did you build an obstacle course for the kids?”  I had to concede the long tunnel made of garden stakes, 2X4’s, plastic, old window panes, and bungee cords did resemble an obstacle course.  If a mother wanted to test her kids’ agility by having them climb over shattered glass, avoid rusted nails sticking out of wood, and suffocate under a plastic covering.  Whatever,  moron.

4.  Trust in a higher power. This is so often overlooked.  As a Type A I can empathize with the desire to grab everything in a steel grip and force it to your bidding.  But feel free to turn over some jobs to God, the Universe, or whoever you suspect is  pulling the strings on this grand puppet show.  When I transplant bushes in July because I forgot to move them in the fall, I like to stomp down the root ball, give them a dose of water, and say “God be with you.”  Because they’re too far from the spigot for the soaker hose and that’s the last time I’m hauling the watering can all the way down here.  You’d be surprised at how many bushes have survived this treatment.  Ditto with the duck who refused to come into the barn at night and was eventually found missing a leg but still paddling on the pond out of reach.  I considered a friend’s canoe, a net, and a round of isolation with antibiotics.  But I yielded and, instead, tossed her some grain and called “Go with God, friend.”  She survived, went on to raise many broods of ducklings, and couldn’t be chased down even with only one good leg.  So don’t hesitate to hand over some of the hard ones.  Sometimes the Lord has got your back.

Those are my basic rules for managing the chaos on a farm.  With simple prioritizing  I manage to get everything done without stress or fuss.  Or usually most things.  At least half.

© Stevie Taylor 2010. All Rights Reserved.

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