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Back in the days when I had more time I remember reading in the “ Our Iowa” magazine as much as I could to learn about the state that I moved to in 1984. I always enjoyed the one part about the day in the life of a particular Amish family where they kept a journal of how things operated on their farm. Most people in today's society don't understand the work that's involved in producing your own food, working with livestock or living in the country in general. Our operation is fairly unique and that we are not very mechanized and most of the work is done by hand. Yes we do have a tractor, two in fact, both small Kubota models one sub compact which we use for tilling and getting the seed plots ready and one medium size one which we attach the plastic layer to that has a bucket for moving things as well. Otherwise the wheelbarrows, the BCS tiller, pitchforks, hoes and shovels are the main pieces of equipment that are used around here and there's a lot of hand labor. Our riding lawn mower is used more with the garden cart attached hauling things than as a mower ( you can tell that from our lawn). There are two basic seasons of the year here: one the school year because I'm a full-time school teacher and the second summertime because I don't teach during the summer. I took the time to figure it out and average about 14 hour days of work 6 days a week and between 6 and 8 hours on Sunday depending upon the season.

School season starts sometime around the 20th of August usually and ends around Memorial Day. As much as I love my birds and livestock I don't particularly care for doing chores in the dark. When I retire that's the thing I look forward to the most when I will only do chores during the daylight hours except in emergencies. That will be my retirement bonus so to speak. During the school year a typical day starts at 4:30 a.m. and I do poultry chores and take care of the sheep and cow. We recently got rid of all of our pigs for awhile until I can build better facilities. I miss them but we will get some back again in a few years. Chores have to finish by 7:00 so that I have time to get cleaned up and leave for work at 7:30. I have a routine and system in operation so that I know when I look at my watch if it's a certain time I should be at a certain building. I have an alarm on my watch that goes off at 6:00 to let me know how to pace myself and then an alarm goes off on my phone at 7:00 to let me know I should be getting into the truck with the dogs and heading down to the house. My truck is parked in the garage at the office and farm end and since 2000 we live on the other end of the property. Our dogs now up to three: Prince, Penny and Muddy love their morning truck ride down to the other end of the property where our house is. It is a real short ride but they so look forward to it each morning an night. They know when I am in chore clothes they get to ride in the truck if I am in good clothes they know it is not going to happen and just sadly look up at me. Off to work at 7:30 where I have a full day of teaching classes every hour of the school day. Usually seven different classes and this year I will only double up one period. I double up when one hour a day I'll have two classes at once. I spend some time in each adjoining room and learn to shift mental gears from one subject to another. My 20 minute lunch break is also my bathroom time and make copies time. There's never a free moment during the school day. I usually get home by 4:00 do chores until 6:30 of some sort, depending upon the season whether that means gathering eggs from February to the end of September or simply feeding water and maintenance. At 6:30 I take a 30-minute dinner break. Back out at 7:00 to finish up on things, candle eggs on certain nights of the week and then process seed and other items on others. It all depends upon the season. September is a particularly challenging month which is why I just have no time for emails as I must still gather eggs, feed and water some of the birds the night before and try to harvest some of the crops. The worst possible thing that can happen in the months of September and October is to have it rain on the weekends. Saturdays are very precious days time wise to try to accomplish everything that needs to be done. In the fall season we have to get the birds ready for winter making sure everybody's cleaned and plastic over the windows before we get into the middle of November when the ground can start to freeze. I mark the beginning of winter when I can no longer use the garden hose to fill up the duck pools and have to start carrying buckets of water every morning. I have hoses set up so that the hose fills each of the duck pools with water and overflows to keep them a fresh continuous supply of water from usually sometime in early April until sometime in November when it doesn't become possible. The day winter begins is when I have to start bucketing about 75 5 gallon buckets of water each day to get everybody watered in the morning. Winter is also the time when I have to do my feeding at the end of the day when I get home from school, because it takes a while to carry 75 buckets of water and distribute it among 180 some pens of birds. I have a step tracker app on my phone and usually just in the morning doing chores I end up with about 5,700 steps. Time is precious and everything is set up for efficiency so that it works well. It is always interesting to see when I try to train somebody to do chores for me how what takes me 3 hours to feed and water everything if I do it all at once usually takes someone else between 6 and 10 hours.

Summer season is a little bit more relaxed I start chores at daylight and then all the time that was used at school is now converted to dealing with the seed crops. The month of June is particularly chaotic as we are dealing with sweet potato plants, trying to till up seed production patches get everything planted, deal with particular chick hatches and all the other things that go along with it. Sometimes it feels like June passes by so quickly because most days then are not 14 hours but 16 hours plus of working on things. Many people wonder why don't we answer emails or phone calls much more quickly. Typically during the summer I don't get in till 9:00 pm and by the time I clean up I usually have just a few minutes to answer emails or deal with other particular things that must be dealt with. Linda's health is such since the 2018 surgery fiascos that she isn't able to do any of the outside work but tries to answer the phone when she's able as well as deal with all of the running of the postage and getting the material to the post office and tries to deal with the emails that she can answer. Our helper Rhonda is the one who fills all the seed orders which I then look at and package to get ready and I answer questions that people have on their orders. This year we had Moriah join us to help fill seed packets and to help out on hatch days as Linda is not physically able to do as much as she used to. This summer I had several student helpers that worked mornings that helped get some things caught up like fences fixed and tasks of learning how to do chores in case I get disabled for some reason for a period of time. We have a lot to work on in that area yet in order to get them up to be able to do chores in a reasonable length of time.

December and January are the easiest times for me to try to keep up with correspondence and get things done inside because the nights are long. I don't have any incentive of staying out with the poultry any longer than I have to when it's dark and below zero so I do try to get things caught up (bookwork wise ) at that particular time of year. That's when the most work gets done on the website and most correspondence gets handled. There are all kinds of projects that people don't realize take time like gathering and marking the eggs from over 230 breeds of poultry each day and then taking them and sorting them into the trays before they get washed and put in the incubators to keep track of production, know how many are going to hatch etc. Everyone's answer is to always hire more people but that would change the whole focus of our operation in many cases as we would have to focus on making money and we would have to discard many of the things that make our offerings special and unique. Let's face it in the real world if something isn't selling they're not going to keep it on the shelves forever. We look at things from an entirely different perspective and one must realize we are looking for what genetic potential each of these things may have for future uses. I'm getting far too old to relate to the people who were born in the '80s on and not understand how much of our genetic material would have been lost had there not been the efforts of a few people. We may think we know it all as a society now but there are genes in some of these creatures that may solve future problems in our food or other supplies in the future when we get to the point where we think we know it all and it's something has no value that's when we perhaps know the least. It is my hope that from reading this those who do will understand a little bit more about the amount of work that it takes to maintain and continue to offer some of these special and unique items that we offer. When someone gets frustrated that they don't get something on the day that they hope to hopefully they will back up and think that's probably the reason that we're the only source for it is because it is difficult and nobody else really wants to deal with it and that's why it's hard to obtain.

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Your dedication to sustainability and preserving genetic diversity is evident in every aspect of your work. It's inspiring to hear how you manage both teaching and farming with such diligence.

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Ann Jane
Ann Jane
May 15

Thanks for your sharing.


At least we know the author will never "rust in place" but more likely "die in the traces". I commend and truly appreciate deeply the steadfastness in the labor of love that is Sand Hill Preservation Center. Many more years to go, I hope!

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