Polyface Farm Summer Internship: Week Four

| 7/9/2014 9:15:00 AM

Hi everyone! It’s hard to believe that this internship is already a month in. We only have three months left! The time has passed so quickly and it’s pretty amazing to reflect back on how much we’ve all learned. I definitely have a lot more to learn, but we as interns have come a long way.

Monday, June 23rd

Shade Structure 2

Monday morning began my week of moving broiler shelters as my morning chore. I had mentioned a few weeks prior that I had gotten the hang of moving the broiler pens. After this week, in the essence of full disclosure and to not create an image of myself as this rock star intern that can do everything extremely well, I want you all to know that while I have a good grasp of the technique involved, I am slow when it comes to actually moving the coops. As I get stronger, I am confident this will change. I like to be good at everything immediately and am sensitive to keeping things running efficiently, so I will admit to having a tiny meltdown because I was flustered by my lack of speed. The way our system operates is we have three interns assigned to move the broiler and pullet shelters and two interns who come behind the movers and feed and water the birds. I felt bad that I was keeping the feed/water people waiting and Tim, one of my fellow interns who was a feeder/waterer, stepped in to help me move the coop. He reminded me we are a team, that everyone is still learning and to not get upset about timing. I appreciated his bringing me back to reality and his assistance that day and the rest of the week in moving the shelters when time was of the essence. We at Polyface are a team and it is nice to work with people who will help you when you need it, be it a hand moving something heavy or a kind word when you need it. Or both.

After breakfast, we headed to one of the properties Polyface manages to set fence posts for some cattle fencing we are building. The property had recently been logged and the fencing configuration needed to be changed entirely. We had brought the hydraulic post pounder, and because the pounder was attached to the tractor (The pounder is time consuming to take on and off), we went directly to another site that needed some fence posts redone once we were done at the first property. It was a busy day of sharpening posts, installing the insulators (plastic pieces that hold the wire in place on the fence post), pulling old posts, installing new posts, removing old cattle fencing panels and installing new wire. We got back to the farm in time for evening chores and after dinner we had a seminar with Joel Salatin on the concept of Cow Days. Those of you who have read Joel’s book Salad Bar Beef will already have an understanding of what a Cow Day is, but for those of you who don’t, a Cow Day is essentially how much one cow will eat in one day. It will take experience for us as interns to get an eye for how much that is depending on the quality of the grasses, but the Cow Day concept is very important in determining how much acreage to give your herd so they can properly mob graze it. This also helps one plan the year; figuring out how many animals one can have, where they can go and for how long.

Tuesday, June 24th

Tuesday morning entailed moving broilers, helping with the buying club load up (we pull meats from the freezers based off an inventory sheet which summarizes that day’s orders), stacking hay in the hay loft and moving one of the pigs and her piglets into a separate corral. Polyface doesn’t farrow piglets, but unbeknownst to anyone, this particular sow had a litter of piglets one night and thus needed to be separated from the rest of the herd. Those of you who have worked with mother sows before know they can be a bit protective, so we had to make sure we had a solid plan of how to get her and the babies from Point A to Point B before proceeding. Everything went well and the pig family is currently enjoying their new digs.

After lunch, we went to a property Polyface manages to make hay. Joel, Daniel and some of the others had gotten to the site earlier, so there was a baler and hay wagons going and bales that were on the ground as some of the wagons were full when they were being made. My job was to drive the truck and trailer while some of the others threw the bales that were on the ground onto the flatbed to stack them. There were some good songs on the radio, but I felt bad that I was in the cab while the boys were trying to throw bales and keep up with the moving vehicle, so I shut it off. We ended up in the property owner’s barn unloading and stacking what we’d collected. We were able to bale and stack over 700 bales of hay for the property owner that afternoon, so it was a productive day.

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