Milking Annabelle is going really well (despite the little incident involving urination and really gusty winds). She is usually pretty still and compliant. She does still have a bit of mastitis in one quarter, but seems to be otherwise very healthy. We've also worked out a system where Don can help me milk 5 days a week. Unfortunately, he's not quite a speed demon. In his own words:
Gina starts on two quarters while I start on one. Gina finishes up those two and then milks out the quarter with mastitis while I'm still working on my one. Then, Gina finishes my one.
Truthfully, it does help, though. It is usually just a matter of a minute or two on that quarter of Don's. And since Burt prefers 2 of the quarters that I do, they usually aren't that full. It sounds worse than it is.
Anyway, my hands are so sore from all the milking. Every morning, I have to work the stiffness out and the blood into my fingers. I thought it would get better, but it certainly hasn't yet. Perhaps it is because there is no break to recuperate through. I suppose Don could take over for a few days, but then again, Annabelle may balk at a 3-hour milking.
Add to that the other farm work and it makes for an achy, hunched-over gait.
And one of those contributing factors was the cleaning of the chicken coop. Wow. That was a job. Did you know that what looks like a couple of inches of straw can, in fact, be 12 inches deep and extremely compacted? We strapped on our dust masks and went to work.
Don was in charge of operating the cart. He did much of the scoop work, including moving the litter back out of the cart and into the compost heap. Our compost heap probably tripled in size from this addition. It was really amazing to see the straw nearest the floor and how broken down it was. After a few months in the compost heap, it'll be black gold. Of course, at the time, in stifling heat with the most wretched smells being stirred up in a relatively small coop, I admit that I wasn't so optimistic.
The kids and I did a lot of the inside labor. We took hoes and pulled the compacted straw from under the roosts, scraped off layers of poo from other wooden perches that the chickens adopted, and tried to move straw to the door for Don to then scoop out. It wasn't fun. The dust masks helped tremendously, as I can't imagine what sorts of respiratory illnesses we might have if we had not had them, but the stink isn't really filtered out.
The worst part? Well besides the achy back the next day, the worst part was getting manured straw down in your muck boots. Just ask Meagan.
The kids really were troopers, though. We got the whole thing done, let it air out, and then put our newest 100 chicks inside. These 100 are all meat birds. They'll stay in the coop until they are old and big enough to stay outside in a chicken tractor. Then, it'll be a daily rotation of fresh grass for them. Unfortunately, though, more chicks in the coop right now means more straw. And more poo. And eventually, more of the nasty business of cleaning it out. But, such is life on the farm. What we get to enjoy by way of wide open spaces, fun, and adventure, we pay for with some of the less pleasant jobs. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.