Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Check-Out – Day 1

After I arrived on the farm, I was shown to my quarters.  I was staying in the basement apartment of Sheri and Daniel Salatin’s house where two farm employees already lived.  One other check-out (potential intern), Savannah, was staying there, too. So, there were four of us in the small apartment.  Once I was settled in a bit, I went upstairs for dinner where I met even more check-outs, Daniel and Sheri Salatin, their kids, and some other farm people. 

I can’t remember what we ate for dinner that night, but whatever it was, it was good.  We ate good food the entire weekend. Real, whole, clean farm food.  It was all simply prepared and delicious…even the beef heart. We weren’t actually served beef heart, but a couple of the farm employees/apprentice, Brie and Noah, were experimenting with various parts of the cow that aren’t commonly consumed (http://polyfacehenhouse.com/2012/02/odd-ingredients/).  From what I have read, organ meat is good for you. In any case, they happened to be experimenting with the heart when I was there so I got to have a taste. It was…interesting.  I know people who regularly consume beef heart, but I’m not sure I’m there yet.  I know one thing, if I consumed it regularly, I would make sure it came from a cleanly raised creature.

The dinner conversation was nice. I got to know a few of the other check-outs.  They were all very nice young women from various places and backgrounds.  After dinner, it was time for bed, but I wasn’t tired. I was nervous and excited, but also had the time change to deal with. Because of that, I did not sleep well that first night. Plus Michael, the guard dog, was guarding (barking) in the wee hours, which kept me awake. Although I appreciate what he was doing, this did not please me because I knew we had a very hard day’s work ahead.  
Well, morning eventually came and it was time to get up for work!  I got dressed in warm clothes (it was cold and rainy) and muck boots and we headed down the hill to do chores. I will be able to tell you more about this later, but chores involve feeding/watering/tending to animals.  After morning chores, we had breakfast then gathered to lay out a plan for the day.  Check-out season is a good time for the farm to get help with labor-intensive work.  So, we found out our first duty that day would be to unload thousands of pounds of frozen chickens from a trailer into the on-site freezer. The chickens had been stored in an off-site freezer due to space limitations on the farm. So, the trailers of frozen chickens arrived and we got busy!  I prayed “Lord, sustain our backs!” And sustain them He did. We formed a line and passed the boxes from the trailer into the back of the large freezer. These boxes were HEAVY.  I am grateful for the physical strength God has blessed me with because those boxes caused some people to buckle under the weight.  Although this work was hard, it was a fun and rewarding time of teamwork and getting to know each other.  After the first trailer was unloaded, we got a break while another trailer-load was delivered. After we unloaded the second trailer-load, we regrouped to plan the rest of the day.
There were two duties that needed to be tackled.  One involved chipping wood and the other involved gathering logs.  They split the check-outs into two teams (I think there were probably about 10 check-outs there total); one team would start with the chipping and the other would start gathering wood.  I was put on the chipping team to start so we headed up the hill to where the wood was.  They had cleared an area of trees for future construction projects and we needed to take the trees and chip them. So, the wood chipper was put in place and we started to haul the small to medium sized trees and branches.  This was hard work mostly because the trees/branches became entangled and it was hard to get them apart.  This was another good time for teamwork and camaraderie.  After a few hours of this, it was time for lunch!
So, we headed down for lunch.  I was grateful for the break.  After lunch, the teams switched duties so my team headed up the hill to gather logs. We rode in the trailer behind the tractor.  I had a good time getting to know the other check-outs. What diverse stories everyone had!  It was fascinating to hear why everybody was there, but we all had one thing in common and that is our desire to consume and produce better food.  So, we got to the site where trees had been cut into logs and we got busy. By this time, my muscles were made of silly putty and these logs were big and heavy.  I was fascinated and in awe by how Eric (apprentice) could pick up a huge log and toss it into the back of the trailer like it was a toothpick.  Meanwhile, I had to give everything I had to pick up a log (or shall I say stick?) and heave it into the back of the trailer.  Now, I am a strong woman, but I sit at a desk ALL day, and even though I go to the gym, nothing prepares you for this type of work except doing this type of work.  I knew I would not have trouble sleeping that night!
After we finished gathering logs, it was time for evening chores.  I was assigned to gather eggs.  As I gathered and put all my eggs in one basket (that’s right), the hens would start pecking at the eggs in the basket. So I asked the hens “why must you peck at your eggs in this basket while you have free access to all of your eggs in the laying boxes?”  The hens did not answer so I asked Leanna instead.  She said the chickens will eat their own eggs, but they won’t eat the ones in the laying boxes because it is dark in there and they don’t like the dark.  Fascinating.  After the eggs were gathered we went to the egg washing station where we divided the eggs by size and cleaned them.  I think egg washing time was my favorite time of the trip because it was a time to relax in a sense and see what your hard work produced and just spend time with others laughing and conversing.  After chores, it was time for dinner, then showers, then bed. As I suspected, I had no trouble falling asleep that night…


  1. I am already so enjoying reading about your adventures! I find it so rewarding to be PHYSICALLY exhausted from a hard day's work than MENTALLY exhausted from one sitting at a desk working in an office.

    Looking forward to the next one!

  2. I can hardly wait to hear all the adventures that are ahead for you, Heather. So glad you are blogging.

  3. Yea, good for you!! keep writing!

  4. "I love hard work, I can watch it all day." :) I miss the satisfaction of the clear and tangible reality and visisble results of hard labor. I don't miss trying to chop green gum trees, or broken equipment, hauling water in the drought, but the memories are dear. Few of the projects I've done in my latter years as a computer jockey have that near daily satisfaction of a hard physical job well done. God bless you with strength and peace.
    -Tim Alexander