Every farmer has them, and more to the point – he or she has them every day. They don’t go away because you’re sick, or injured, or working late, or just feeling lazy. They don’t go away because your spouse is away or it’s frickin’ cold or there’s a playoff game on. They’ve got to be done.
The trick, of course, is to make it as easy as possible for yourself.
So here are Dear Husband’s tips for efficient and effective undertaking of chores (with apologies to Billy Idol for mangling his song lyrics above):
1. Minimize travel
If you’ve got to haul feed, water, or bedding between locations, it makes sense to minimize the number of trips involved. This will save you time and energy you may want or need for other things. This is partly done by doing everything you need to in one location before moving to a second, rather than going back and forth. You’ll also help yourself by pre-positioning whatever you can at your destination(s) – for example, placing sheep mineral or poultry scratch in a secure location in their barn. Otherwise, find the biggest container you can haul, and use them in conjunction with your wheelbarrow or sled.
Example: Farmgal hit upon the idea of using a couple of those nineteen litre blue water bottles to haul water down to the barn in the deep winter,. The bottles are big, have sturdy handles, and their narrow ends don’t allow for much sloshing out.
2. Know where stuff is
Chores go slowly if you have to spend five minutes each day recalling where you left the pitchfork and the grain scoop the previous day. What you should do is have a specific place to store equipment. Failing that, at least try to leave the equipment in an obvious place.
Example: I bring the water buckets and bottles back to sit beside the tap when I’m done with them.
3. Keep a few basics in your work clothes
Chores don’t always go smoothly. Sometimes something comes up that you need to deal with – a feed bag that needs to be opened, a chicken with some twine wrapped around its leg, etc. Pick up a few inexpensive tools and stick them in the pocket of your work pants, coat, or coveralls. Most times you won’t need them, but when you do need them, you won’t have to mosey back to your toolbox or your house to get them.
Example: At a minimum, I keep a small pocket knife and a tiny LED flashlight in my pocket.
4. Multi-task / Minimize waiting time
Wait times are waste times. If you can initiate a task and then leave it alone for thirty seconds or a minute, there’s probably time to do a second task. This could be something physical, or it could just be observation – a quick glance at your animal to assess its condition and behaviour.
Example: I stick the water hose in the bucket, turn it on, and then go scoop grain into the bird feeder. When I’m done, I go back, turn the tap off, and distribute the water. Of course, if I dawdle too much in that second task, I’ll come back to find the water running over the top of the bucket.
5. Remove or Circumvent Obstacles
An obstacle is something that slows you down or requires additional effort to overcome as you go about your work. Got an old gate latch that you’ve got to fiddle with to open? Replace it. Got metre-high snowdrifts on the path down to the barn? Don’t slog through them; either dig a passage to remove it, or find your snowshoes and sled and circumvent it.
This also applies to your animals, to a degree. If the barn cats are getting underfoot because their food dish is empty – fill it up so they’ll get out of your way.
Example: When at the barn, I give the daily grain rations to the cow, the pig, and any nursing ewes before I worry about anything else. The critters will immediately run to eat the grain, and will otherwise stay out of my way as I fill up their water, top up hay or bedding, or otherwise work in their pens.
6. Don’t Procrastinate
There’s nothing worse than coming home, having a nice dinner, talking with your spouse, relaxing in front of the television or computer, having an evening snack and then realizing you’ve still got to go out and do the evening chores. Chances are your critters won’t be too thrilled with the late service either. Better to do the chores as soon as practical, while you’ve got at least some energy left, and before you start doing something fun. Once you’re done, you can truly relax.
Example: When Farmgal’s away from the farm, I often get home from work, toss something in the oven, and head right out to do the chores (and hey, multi-tasking!). If I get tuckered out by eight o’clock, that’s fine – everybody’s been done.
7. Start Far From Where You Want To Be, and Work Your Way Back
I find it’s a bit of a psychological thing, but I start down at the barn, then do the chores in the little barn, then the chores in the house. Everytime you feel tired and look up to where your hammock or computer is, you’ll be that much closer to it.
8. Reward Yourself
If something fun presents itself during chores, indulge yourself. You’ve earned it, and let’s face it, it might not happen again. Watch the baby birds peeping. Cuddle a rabbit. Drape yourself over the cow. Sneak a few tomatoes from the garden.
Example: In winter, sometimes I just stop between barn and the house and look up at the stars for a minute or two.
9. Develop a Routine, and Stick to it.
Developing a routine stems in part from some of the things I’ve mentioned above, and otherwise do chores in a set way, in a set order. This has a few advantages; first, once you attempt to develop a routine, it’ll gradually evolve towards something you find optimal. If you’re tired, or have something on your mind, you’ll be able to do some of the chores “on autopilot”. You’ll also be less likely to forget something as you go, because you should instinctively know that Chore A leads to Chore B eventually leads to Chore M.
Example: As noted, I feed the cow, pig, and sheep their grain, then their hay, then their water, and finally deal with any bedding/pen requirements. Nothing and nobody gets forgotten, and occasionally, I can zone out and think about a story I’m working on – or even think of a new idea to start writing about.
10. Learn From Others
Well, that’s where you come in. Got some tips to share about doing chores? Help a Dear Husband out!