So I’m gonna open up here. Show you all my dirty laundry (literally). But as a disclaimer for my own self dignity…I do keep a clean house…most of the time.
We’ve all had that phone call. “Hi-yee, we’re in the neighborhood, thought we’d stop by. Mmmmkay, see ya in five.” Now most of the time the house is somewhat presentable and I don’t have to pass out Hazmat suits to unexpected visitors. But I do have my issues that fight me and I never seem to get a grip on, like dog hair.
Dog hair is a never ending battle, I swear Oliver should be bald with all the shedding that he does. I feel like I empty another small dog out of the vacuum each time I clean. I’m used to having carpeted floors where the dog hair tends to stay in place once it lands, and I could vacuum the whole room leaving those lovely vacuum stripes in the fibers of the carpet, knowing that every square inch had been sucked clean. But the hard wood floors of our new house lends the hair to roll about like the tumble tumble weeds. Might be a nostalgic thought for the cowboys out on the range, but not in my house.
Another problem is our water. It’s very rusty and I can scour the toilets, sinks and tubs and they turn orange again within a day making the whole of our bathroom look like someone unloaded a cheap can of self tanner on every surface. It’s a nice look, really it is.
Pride! Pride! It’s all my own pride. I read these charming sayings on my Facebook feed that says your true friends will still love you even if you have cockroaches and dust bunnies scattered about (or something like that, more eloquent and witty I’m sure). And I smile and say to myself “Yes, true friendship is lovely, la, la, la! I think I’ll have another cup of coffee and stay in my pj’s till noon.”
But then, someone says they’re coming over and I go into panic mode. Suddenly I have the strength of ten women and arm-fulls of laundry are being shoved into closets, dishes are chucked into the dishwasher without even a sprinkling of rinse water, and what ever won’t fit will be scurried away in the oven (with a mental note to check it again before preheating the next baking project…lessons learned the hard way) the dust mop races around corners like lightening collecting dog hair, dust and God knows what else with such speed and vigor that the friction of the mop against the floors might start a fire. I tie my hair into a rubber band with a pony tail resembling a Jim Hensen muppet and answer the door panting…slightly. “Welcome to our humble home, oh no, leave your shoes on, yes that’s fine. ” smile.
Truth is, sometimes I’m just beat! I work hard around here. After a day of planting by hand and disking the fields and lifting bales of hay and mucking out stalls and cooking almost all our meals from scratch I take one look at the rust ring in the toilet and think. “Hmmm, that’s nice.” And I start wagering and bargaining imaginary scenarios in my head. like “I wonder how long I could leave it there before it permanently discolors the porcelain in the bowl.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the work. Really I do. It’s a good kind of soreness, a good kind of tiredness, a good kind of dirty. But none-the-less, I’m still sore, tired and dirty, “goodness” aside.
Keeping a tidy house is only half the battle when you have a farm. Not only does the farm make everything dirtier,… the floors, the laundry, the human beings, but I see the coops, the barn and the yard as an extension of our home. Who am I kidding, when people come to visit they could really care less about our house and sometimes I wonder why I put up such a fuss, they are much more interested in the animals and I should just head straight for the pitchfork.
When we first got chickens and goats I was slightly obsessive and would spray the coops and barn with an animal based “odor eater” type spray until one of my close friends wisely told me to snap out of it, and that people liked the smell of barns, it was part of the experience. Wise, very wise.
I’ve relaxed a little and removed the Glade plug ins from the barn outlets but I still like to have a fresh coop and barn not only for company’s sake, but for the health of our animals. I’ve learned that while there are still times when an all day, deep cleaning is necessary, small things done often can help a LOT!
Here are 9 tips that can get you through an unexpected farm tour:
1. Keep extra bedding on hand
When you’re at the feed store, get a couple extra cubes of pine chips, or bales of straw. (If you have the room to store them) You’re going to use them any way and if you make it a regular habit you’ll always have a fresh supply to make things tidy. One of my biggest frustrations is when I get all psyched to do a good thorough cleaning and we’re out of clean bedding. Many times I clean the barn in outfits and hair choices that no other human being should have to witness. So because I’ve failed to plan, I now have to change clothes and prepare myself for “going out” mode. AKA, make myself presentable to go buy bedding.
2. Do a little each day
I know the dirtiest areas of our farm. Under the roosts of the chicken coop always gets dirty faster than the rest of the coop. So if I pitch these areas out every other day or so, the coop stays much cleaner. I have to get it before the chickens scratch and scatter it all over and turn it into the rest of the bedding. But in the grand scheme of things, it takes five minutes and saves me hours.
3. Deep liter method.
I’m still on the fence about using this method during the summer, as warm temperatures and layers of dirty chicken bedding make me a bit weary. We like to clean the coop completely every week to every two weeks depending on the weather. But it never hurts to put a fresh layer of pine chips or straw down if you’re strapped for time and want things to look and smell nice.
4. Vinegar in the water
Vinegar is amazing! And a little added to a non-metal waterer every other day or so keeps water clear and clean. (For more tips on using vinegar around the coop read my post…11 Uses for Vinegar Around the Coop)
5. Change your cleaning day (if your schedule allows)
We used to clean the stalls and coop on Saturdays. We’d get up early, grab some breakfast, go get supplies and then spend the good portion of a Saturday shoveling poo. Not only did this make for a rather lack luster day off, but people like to visit on the weekend. So we’d either have to stop mid-cleaning to chat with guests, or we’d have to present the farm at its dirtiest. I now try to get the mucking done on Thursdays or Friday mornings. Zach’s not always here to help me during those times, which takes me longer, but I prefer the extra work to the feeling of everything done for the weekend.
6. Pick an area each day
Another helpful hint is tackling a small area each day. Rather than mucking the entire barn and coops all at once, maybe Monday do one goat pen, Tuesday clean the chicken coop, Wednesday clean the turkey coop, and so on. It breaks down the process and makes things feel less overwhelming. Plus, the farm is in a constant state of cleanliness.
7. Fix bad systems
Do you have a chore that you hate doing? Is it tedious? Frustrating? Unpractical? Do you hate the sloppy mess of cleaning out waterers? Do your eggs get dirty quickly? Read what other people do and get inspired. You’re probably not alone in your frustration and the Community Chickens website is a great place to start! With a quick key word search there are tons of tips, products and information for making any chore easier.
8. Remember that you’re human
This is a hard one for me, and probably has less to do with raising chickens and more to do with my personality, but I’m sure I’m not alone. The phrase “I’m sorry, today won’t work for me, maybe another time.” Is not one that easily glides over my lips. For many of you who have a hobby farm, and who also have a Facebook page or blog, you’ve learned that the more difficult/ labor intensive/ interesting the project, the more people want to come out and see what you’re up to. And it’s a tough one to call. I love sharing our farm with people, really I do. I remember the days before we had animals and anytime I could visit a farm, look at a farm, think of a farm, was a sure treat and I love to let people live vicariously through us. I also am flattered that people find our way of life so interesting that they want to come experience it first hand, if only for a day. But project time is probably when you’re house/farm is looking it’s worst because of the time devoted to said project. For us, our farm is part of our livelihood. Do not feel bad because you have to tell people “no” sometimes, or ask that they come at a time more convenient for you. You would not feel bad telling people that you can’t have visitors in the middle of the day at an office or business environment.
9. Stop appologizing
Ok, so we’re getting slightly off the topic of chickens here, but it all correlates I promise. So we’re in the middle of building egg boxes and the neighbor stops by. Cue the apologies, explanations, and guilt over all things visibly imperfect. …..STOP!!! Sometimes I want to shake myself as I hear my mother’s voice coming out of my mouth like I’m possed and have no control over the rapid verbage. Must remember that people are not idiots, they can see that we are busy, they do not expect perfection. They are not as judgmental of us as we are of ourselves, so discretely scrape the chicken poo from my shoe and smile.
Most farms have beauty engrained in their very nature. People will remember the sound of the rooster crowing, the way the chickens dot the yard, or the eggs in the bowl on the kitchen counter, not the spotty glass in the windows of the coop.
The seed of this post, is rooted in an experience I had a couple weeks ago. We were contacted by a local newspaper to interview us about a sustainable living piece that they’d like to write about Iron Oak Farm. They wanted to come out THAT DAY! Obviously I wanted the farm to be tip-top and “shine like the top of the Chrysler building” so immediately upon hanging up the phone with the reporter I rushed out to the barn in “go-mode”. After a few minutes inspection, I realized the farm was in pretty good shape. I straitened a few things, swept the ramp to the coop and topped off the feeders and hay. No, the coop didn’t smell like fresh squeezed lemons, but it wasn’t too shabby. I even had time to glide on some lip gloss and change my shirt for photos! Gosh! I’m getting all high maintenance these days!