Polyface Farm Summer Internship: Week Two

| 6/20/2014 2:21:00 PM

Tags: fencing, farm internship, beginning farmers, Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm, Virginia, Kristen Kilfoyle,

moving chickensHi everyone! We’ve just wrapped up week two – another busy week. I feel like I’m getting more accustomed to the work routines, but overall, I’m tired! I think I’d have to have been an Olympian prior to coming here to not be tired and a little sore. Chores, projects and all the other farm tasks tend to be very physical work and can take a lot out of you. I remember reading on Polyface’s website before applying for the internship that the interns tend to have a rough time for the first few weeks adjusting to new people, surroundings, water, workload and the like and for me, settling in hasn’t been difficult. Everyone is really nice and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I’m just tired! I have a feeling this will dissipate in the next few weeks as I get stronger and I keep bulking up on the delicious farm food. Enough about that – on to the week!

Monday, June 9th

Monday morning started out with watering the broiler shelters. We usually have teams of three working on the broilers; one to move the shelters, one for watering and one for feeding. After chores and breakfast, we split up into groups and each did different projects. The group I was in unloaded and stacked four wagons of hay making sure to salt each row before stacking more hay on top. Joel and Daniel told us this cures the hay, makes it taste better to the animals and prevents moisture. It was nice to be able to do this under the roof because we had some pretty intense showers that morning. After hay, I helped one of the apprentices fill the pig feeders using a grain buggy hooked up to the tractor, did some clean up projects around the farm and packaged ‘parts and pieces’ (parted up chicken pieces) for the walk in freezer.

After lunch, I went with one of the apprentices to a farm property Polyface manages to move cows into their new paddock. In Joel Salatin’s book Salad Bar Beef, the cross fence/cow days process is explained, but I’m going to wait until we have our presentation from Joel (this is supposed to be in the next week or so) before I go into greater detail. Essentially, the cows are allowed to mob graze a particular section of paddock until it is eaten down to a certain point. They are then moved on to the next section through a system of electric fencing (“cross fences”) that are very easy to set up and dismantle. The cows learn this routine, love getting fresh pasture and are thus very easy to move.

My evening chore was to feed the turkey poults, which was a lot of fun. Baby turkeys, and turkeys in general, are pretty friendly, amiable and funny. I haven’t had the chance to work with the turkey poults in the morning, but at night they are given additional feed and water along with some grasses, which they love.

Tuesday, June 10th

Tuesday morning’s chore was working with the rabbits. I split this with one of the apprentices, so my job was to feed the rabbits their greens and move the mobile rabbit shelters. The rabbit shelters are pretty handy and do a great job of keeping the grass low. I’d recommend building one if you’re looking for an urban homesteading project. (Last week’s blog post shows a photo of a mobile rabbit shelter.) After breakfast, my group of interns went to sort pigs with one of the apprentices. Polyface has this nifty hydraulic pig trailer where the back end lowers to make it easier for the pigs to get on and off. The goal was to remove twelve of the largest pigs from the herd for processing. We end up herding most of the group into a makeshift corral and letting out the ones that are too small, too young or otherwise not suitable until we have the twelve that we want. Once that was completed and the pigs were brought back to the barn from the field, the same group of us went to get Polyface’s bulls that are kept in separate farm managed properties. This was the first time I had ever seen cattle loaded into a trailer, so it was a pretty interesting field trip. This was also the first time we were able to practice our cattle calls, which was pretty funny. We were all being bashful and not wanting to bellow out the wrong sound, so it made for a fairly quiet cattle drive.

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