Rosanna Bauman – Plain Kansas: Diary of a Week, Part I

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CAPTION: (above, prairie grass on the Bauman farmstead in Garnett, Kansas)

When asked to give a sample of an average week on our farm, I always reply that there is nothing average about our lives! I did endeavor to keep a little accounting of the wee of January 26 – 31 so I could share it with you.

Our winter weeks are much more relaxed than summer.   In this column,  you won’t  hear much about the activities of my Dad, John, and brother Kevin (20) this week.  The drought has necessitated that Dad take a job at the power plant for a couple of months. This week was his first switch to nights, on a 12 hour shift, so we didn’t hear much from him as most of the daylight hours were spent sleeping.  Kevin works on a construction crew and they had a job two hours away. The crew spends the week at the job site then comes home on weekends. This is also an unusual occurrence; most of his jobs are around Garnett.  It is highly unusual that we are not all together for our morning and evening meals, so the table felt a little empty this week.

SATURDAY:  Awake at 6:10 a.m.  It’s such a nice day (about 65 degrees) that we think it will be a good day to graduate the baby chicks to a larger brooder.  After breakfast concludes, Mom, Joanna (12), and I gather chicken crates to move the four week old broilers from their starter brooder into the big one.  Their current brooding pen is barely large enough to hold all the feeders and waterers these growing chicks need.  We catch 376 broilers – that’s a lot of bending over!  We calculate that the death loss is 5 percent, not bad considering these chicks were shipped from the hatchery on a very cold day and have endured numerous temperature dives and cold winds.  I’m constantly turning the thermostat up or down trying to keep pace with the outside temperature fluctuations.  The big brooder is twice as large as their starter brooder.  It doesn’t keep as warm as the smaller brooder, so we have to wait until the birds are feathered out to lower the temperature.  It’s quite satisfying to see all the birds spread out contentedly in their new pen, it’s a rewarding sight after all that work!

Dad, Mom, and Joanna then drive to Kevin’s rental house to prepare for the renters we just found out were coming on Monday, but the house needs a deep-cleaning, furniture moved in, and electrical updating.

The afternoon is spent preparing for our employee “Christmas” party we are hosting this evening.  We have about 15 people who come to help us dress chickens throughout the dressing season (April – December) and this meal is our way of letting them know we appreciate their willingness to help with a dirty job.  We invite all of their family members as well, so that they can see just what “working at the dressing shed” means.  There will be over 60 people to feed and we can’t fit them all in the house, so we are using a community building.  We chose a simple but filling menu of Haystacks (kind of like a build-your-own salad) with homemade pie and ice cream. But we are not providing all the food. Each household is contributing some of the ingredients, but we still have fried 30 pounds of fried chicken and 12 cups of rice.  It’s a good thing we have the large building as there are about 6 eight year old boys running around in high gear! After the meal, we give all the employees as small gift as thanks after we had remembered funny incidents from the past year by the presentation of gag gifts.  There are some funny relay games played for a while with much noise and encouragement from the players and spectators alike.  We also have a display of pictures for the family members who aren’t familiar with the chicken processing – some with amusing captions.  Till all the guests leave and we get everything packed back into the vans we get home at 11 p.m.

CAPTION: Rosanna’s brother, Ivin, now 16 years old, pictured a couple of years ago. He’s a helpful presence on the Bauman farm!

SUNDAY:  Sunshine and nice temperatures at 55 degrees.  But it’s not real comfortable outside due to the 20mph gusts. After morning church services we have a lunch of leftover haystacks. This is a quiet Sunday of rest after the busy night last night. We all go our separate ways for some quiet time of reading, reflecting or resting.  About 5 p.m. we all gather in the kitchen and living room. Five of us putter around each other in the kitchen making snacks for the evening meal. Steven and Ivin mix up three pans of unleavened bread. Mom and Kevin make a 5-quart freezer of homemade ice cream. I bake a pound of sugared bacon and decide that all that heavy cream should be turned into a  cream brulee which bakes as we eat. We’ll eat it later.

MONDAY:  I finish the glaze of the cream brulee I made the night before with some of the raw cream we get from our cow and the thick yellow yolks from our hens. Steve (19) inadvertently pokes his finger in it as it cools so I tell him to just take some in his lunch. He leaves for a carpet installation job at 7 a.m.

We began the week with a beautiful day: the wind blew gaily from the south, carrying warm breezes that smell and feel like the damp earth of early spring.  The seventy degrees in January is both intoxicating and alarming.  Warm weather this early doesn’t usually mean wet weather. I skipped excitedly outside to feed the chicks. It is so much more fun to feed the chicks when they have lots of room and fresh bedding. I gave them larger feeders, but what’s really exciting is that the water hydrant is much easier to access in this brooder. It really speeds up my chore time!  Despite their increased rations, they still clambered about me like children around a clown.  I fed 44 pounds of wheat fodder to the broilers and 22 pounds to the hens.

We spend two hours finishing the cleaning of Kevin’s house. We got a notice that the renters aren’t moving in today after all, due to illness.  We wouldn’t have needed to spend so much of that lovely Saturday inside cleaning after after all! The renter isn’t moving in until next Saturday!

TUESDAY: The weather is acting very Kansas-ish. We have a 30 degree drop in one day’s time.  Mom goes out to water the cows after the boys have all left for work around 7 a.m.  It still mostly dark so she didn’t notice a gate that had fallen on the ground until she tripped on it.  Trying to brace her fall, her palm was impaled on a gate corner.  She won’t be using her right hand for awhile but it doesn’t need stitches just soaking and salves.

CAPTION:  Notice the deep, rich golden color? This is one of the Bauman’s eggs frying crisply in a skillet.

I go with Mom on our egg route, picking up the extra eggs from five of our Amish neighbors.  This helps balance our egg supply.  If our hens drop in production it’s not as noticeable on the weekly egg numbers with those other eggs supplementing. By 10 a.m. I start cleaning in the dressing shed.  We will be processing tomorrow after a month’s break. After this much inactivity I feel I should give the processing room a pre-operative cleaning. I soap and scrub the equipment for an hour and a half with cold water because the water heater doesn’t want to work. It makes a cold job colder. The room temperature is about 40 degrees and the cold water on my bare toes and arms doesn’t help. So I work fast to stay warm. I have to stop to keep an appointment in town, but I am only half done, so I resume with the rinsing at 8.  I really want to do my final rinse with scalding hot water, but Ivin and I are still unable to correct the water heater’s issue. So we give up and go inside. It’s 9 p.m. and raining. We finally get 1.5 inches!

TO BE CONTINUED (the second half of Rosanna’s weekly diary will be posted late on Thursday, Feb 14 or early Friday the 15th)

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The Discussion

  1. Enjoyed reading this…….my dad was raised Old Order

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  2. Thanks Kevin and Rosanna, can’t wait till the second half.

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  3. I enjoy this.

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  4. I enjoy this column so much.Please keep it running.

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  5. I sure enjoyed this weeks column Roseanna. Would it be possible to get your recipe for unlevened bread. I am from Kansas, but was raised in So. Ca. I have been back there a few times. I was born in the little town of Galena. Almost on the border of Joplin Mo. My dad raised chickens and rabbits while we were growing up. He worked in a dairy also , so we always had plenty of milk, homemade butter, and cream. I miss that kind of life. I guess that is why I so enjoy reading these columns.

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  6. Great article. Hope we continue to receive it. tks

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