This is part two of Rosanna Bauman’s weekly winter diary, if you missed Part I, just click here to read.
CAPTION: Artistic view from above at little chicks at the Bauman farm
WEDNESDAY: I don’t like waking up before I have to, but I’m so nervous about having not done a hot water rinse that I wake up early. By 5:45 I give up sleeping and go out to rinse everything with hot water. Dad fixed the water heater after he got home at 4 a.m! It’s a cold day for dressing chickens – 36 degrees with gusts up to 20mph, Wish we could have dressed on Monday!
6:05 a.m. Go inside to get papers I forgot and find my 12-year-old sister, Joanna, making buttermilk waffles which is a surprise. She’s not usually an ambitious morning person. I eat a waffle quickly and head back out. I dash inside the walk-in freezer to organize it so we have room for today’s chicken. I didn’t bother to put on a coat and the freezer is -21 degrees. The ground looks funny, the rain has dimpled the ground and frozen so the dirt has a honeycombed appearance. The cold wind makes us realize it’s still winter,but it doesn’t stop our outdoor work. Steven has off work and is helping Marvin on his shed. Ivin, 16, helps a nearby farmer build a fence until 2 p.m. when he comes back to help us in the dressing shed.
7:30 a.m. Inspector arrives. I’ve completed my pre-operational checklist and have everything (just barely) lined up and ready to begin. The inspector gives the OK after his inspection (no problems found!) and we bring in the birds. We are done slaughtering by 12:30, so the employees eat lunch. Mom cooks a hot lunch for the employees every processing day. Today it is sloppy joes with the brownies that Joanna baked last night. One of the employees also brings a cake to share. At 1 p.m. a neighboring jerky processor arrives to test my gizzard cleaning machine for effectiveness at beef tendon skinning. It doesn’t work but it was an interesting experiment.
CAPTION: Below, helpful sister Joanna, 12, feeds Honey the horse.
1:30 p.m. I grab half a sandwich before we proceed to cut up 130 chickens into boneless breasts, thighs, legs, wings, necks, and backs. These are packaged in 1 pound bags, so we keep one person busy just bagging the birds the four of us are cutting up. By 4:30 we’re finished with the packaging and labeling so the employees leave. I prepare the room for washdown but stop before the soaping step to go help Mom and Joanna grade, candle, and carton eggs for tomorrow’s deliveries. It’s hard for Mom to handle the eggs with her right hand still swollen, throbbing, and sore. After an hour of this activity, Ivin and Steven come to help with the eggs so I can start the cleaning. By 8 I’ve finished cleaning and head through the dark to the house. “Rah!” Steven, 19, jumps out from behind the truck. I jump slightly but i don’t make a peep. Having grown up with four brothers I don’t scare easily and I never can scream.
THURSDAY: The already cold wind became colder this morning and we saw 21 degrees on the thermometer. This sudden dip in temperature was too much for the baby chicks. I lost 19 birds to smothering. Right when the chicks were really flourishing they decided they had enough of winter. Ivin opens up the brooder into the next partition, once again doubling their space.
We load the van with 212 dozen eggs, 24 chickens and other assorted meats. Leaving the house at 8:30 we stop by Marvin’s farm and pick up his wife Audrey and two-year-old daughter Ava. They go with us every week, much to the delight of “Grandma.”: We deliver the meat and eggs to health food stores in Lawrence and finish up the day with grocery shopping and stops at thrift stores. We arrive back home at 3:30 with the wind picking up and becoming really strong.
Ivin, Joanna, and Marvin load up 12 cows and their calves to go to the stock sale. We have a hard time selling our faithful mamas, but since we haven’t gotten much moisture this winter (we’re still in need of 12 inches to replenish our water table and ponds) we needed to get rid of some cattle and we really need the cash. Ivin hauls them the seven miles into Garnett for tomorrow’s sale but we have to make two trips. This is partly due to the fact that our cattle trailer is small and partly because we wanted to separate the black cows from the white and red ones. Black cows always bring more at the sale barn which annoys us as our Herefords are much better cattle but they fetch lower prices.
Add that’s what a late-winter week looks like at Cedar Valley Farms. Its demanding variety keeps us creative and makes us a little crazy, but it’s also comforting knowing you have work to do that is constructive. “The Sleep of a Laboring Man is Sweet.”