The Farm Report: The Joy Of Being Dog-Tired Satisfied

When we got the brush-cutting mower we’ve since nicknamed The Beast, Chareva’s first request was that I clear an area around the chicken coop so she could expand the chicken yard.  A day or so later, she put up the electric fence that had previously surrounded Sara’s goats.  The idea, of course, is to discourage raccoons or bobcats from treating themselves to any more chicken dinners.

Here’s more of the fence, from the other side of the coop:

I hope it works.  If it comes down to a choice between losing chickens or killing a predator, I’ll kill the predator.  One chicken produces 250 eggs or more per year.  Rocky Racoon killed four of them, so he cost us 1,000 eggs over the next year — and all we got in return was one raccoon-stew dinner.  The bobcat cost us another 250 eggs per year.  But as several readers mentioned, that bobcat is a beautiful animal, and I’d rather just convince him to go away.

The chickens won’t be wandering the expanded chicken yard until we put some nets over the area.  Hawks aren’t impressed by electric fences.

I got home from work on Friday with about two hours to go before sunset, so I released The Beast and tackled the section of the side field you see below:

That gave me more of a workout than I’d expected.  It’s difficult to appreciate the slope of these hills unless you’re standing on them, but this picture taken soon after we bought the land should give you an idea:

That was the area I cut on Friday, and I found that my usual method of cutting around the perimeter wasn’t possible.  The mower wanted to tilt and turn downhill if I tried cutting across the slope.  So my only option was to guide it downhill, make a 180-degree turn, and go straight back up the hill – over and over.  The back wheels are powered, but there are no front wheels, which means I have to push down on the handles and keep the front slightly elevated, especially when cutting uphill.  It wasn’t quite like pushing a heavy weight uphill each time, but close.  So let’s just say I slept amazingly well on Friday night.  This is the after picture:

Same area, but looking up from near the bottom of the hill:

That left these two big sections of the side field still to be cut:

I figured I’d tackle those next weekend.  I was more interested in clearing the area behind the house, which had grown to look like this:

When I finished my morning coffee on Saturday and starting pulling on my work clothes and boots, it occurred to me that I was actually looking forward to the work.

What the …?  Is that my brain getting all happy about a day of manual labor?

Yes, this is your brain.

But the whole two years we rented a house in a suburb, I never even mowed the lawn.  Mowing a lawn is drudgery.  That’s why I paid a service to do it.  Why the heck is this fun all of a sudden?

I don’t know.  I’m only a brain.  You figure it out.

So I spent two hours pushing The Beast around the area behind the house (only about a third of which is visible in the picture).  Now it looks like this:

I planned on calling it a day after that and working on a music project.  Then my brain started up again.

You know, you still have plenty of daylight left.  You could knock down one of those two sections in the side field.

Why on earth would I do that?

Because you want to.  You know you do.

Look, buddy, I do not want to spend the entire day … holy crap, the brain is right.  I do want to.  Okay, I’ll take down one of those two remaining sections.  Then I’m going inside.

So, despite being drenched under my shirt from the afternoon heat, I took down another section.  Then I turned The Beast towards the garage.

Hey, remember me?  It’s your brain again.  You know, that last remaining section really isn’t that big if you think about.

But I’ve already been doing this for nearly four hours, and it’s ninety-some degrees out here and … okay, I’ll get the gas can.

My muscles were tired and I was huffing and puffing at times as I hit the steeper slopes.  And yet I had to admit:  I was enjoying myself.  I don’t know if was endorphins from the work, the pride of accomplishment, or what Charlie Daniels called Dog-Tired Satisfied in one of his songs, but after spending five hours working outside on a hot, humid day, I felt terrific.

It occurred to me that this is one of the unexpected benefits of living on a small farm.  I’ve been a software programmer for years.  I’m good at it, I like it, and it pays well.  But of course, I sit down for that job (and for blogging).  The whole time I lived in Chicago and Los Angeles, I didn’t even have a yard.  I knew it was important to get some physical exercise, so I took long walks and worked out in a gym.  I still do.  A good workout in a gym is satisfying, but it’s not like this.  It’s not the joy of being Dog-Tired Satisfied.  I get that feeling when I spend a day tearing down a briar jungle, or cutting up a pile of wood, or pounding fence posts into the ground.

When we first bought the farm and started cleaning it up, cutting away the rusty barbed wire, digging gardens, reclaiming the jungle, etc., I occasionally grumbled to myself that it seemed the work would never be done.

Silly, silly man, my brain replied when I recalled those complaints as I was falling asleep on Saturday night.  Of course the work will never be done.  And if it ever is, you should probably buy more land.  You’re Dog-Tired Satisfied, and it’s the best kind of tired.  Now go to sleep.


24 thoughts on “The Farm Report: The Joy Of Being Dog-Tired Satisfied

  1. tony

    Can the bobcats (or other critters) jump the electric fence?

    Can your critters accidentally kill themselves at the electric fence?

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The shock isn’t fatal — Chareva already found out what it feels like — so chickens learn to stay away from it. I suspect a bobcat could jump it, but once the nets are up to protect the chickens from hawks, I doubt he’ll try. I hope not, anyway.

  2. Jana

    It’s the same when Spring Cleaning happens. You get on a roll, things start looking better, you see vast improvements, and you can’t help but keep going. My mom always said, “a messy house is a messy mind.” It’s probably similar for men with the outdoor space.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I think that’s where the energy to finish came from. So close (if you consider another hour close), I just had to see ‘er all done.

  3. LuckyMama

    Sounds like it was a most awesome way to spend a Saturday – seeing the results of your efforts has to be supremely satisfying. The place looks great from the pics!

  4. Tim

    Looks like a blast. I always look forward to seemingly impossible tasks like that, too, like splitting 6 cords of wood by hand (after cutting it and moving it to woodlot).

    The best part is staring at the completed project.

  5. Björn Hammarskjöld

    Can’t you borrow a self propellant autofertilizing methane sinking lawnmower (SPAMSL) beast instead of a fossil fuel driven beast to mowe your grassland?

    If you borrow a SPAMSL beast of a species called horse you can exercise on the horseback, another variant may give you milk.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I’m going to assume you’re not suggesting we get a horse for milk. The long-range plan is to fence in the entire property, divide it up, then rotate sheep through the sections.

      1. Rae Ford

        I imagine once you have the sheep, Chareva and the girls will be learning how to spin wool into yarn. Then people will be avoiding your gifts of zucchini and sweaters.

  6. Wayne Gage

    Here in south St. Louis county we have a cycle-walk trail that borders Grants Farm. When cycling on the trail I decided to stop and watch the Clydesdale horses. I leaned on the wooden fence that was topped with a wire. I got an eye opening shock and was instantly discouraged from touching the wire again. Searching Grant’s Trail St. Louis Mo in Google Map will show within a couple hundred yards exactly where this incident happened.

  7. Quinn

    Tom, the mysterious, undeniable compulsion to do more work is the result of having powered tools. It’s a guy-thing. XY chromosomes + gasoline (or Diesel!) and you forget it’s work. Next, you need to get a small tractor and start adding implements one by one. You’ll find yourself digging trenches, removing stumps, perhaps a moat around the chicken coop . . .

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That’s what I told Chareva: watching The Beast rip through weeds and saplings appeals to the testosterone-driven part of my psyche.

  8. Phyllis

    It’s not just a guy thing. My husband and I have a brush cutter and there is nothing quite like pushing into what looks like a wall of impenetrable brush and discovering what’s on the other side. It’s an adventure. Plus, I’m always happier working outside than in; blue skies, fresh air, sunshine…

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      My only hesitation was the possibility that it was a nest of ground wasps on the other side. A guy who bush-hogged that field a couple of years ago ran over a nest and got stung a few times. I carried a can of wasp and hornet spray as I worked.

  9. David

    I grew up on a farm in WVa. Electric fences were just starting to get some real use (late 60’s and early 70′), that fence provided more entertainment than TV ever did. Watching all the animals, wild and domestic, get acquainted with it was a hoot. Throw in the occasional human interaction and you got the makings of great entertainment. Unless of course you were the one interacting with said electrical fence.

    Get your .22 out and a good spot light, go buy you a critter in distress call, and put a bullet in that bob cat. They, along with raccoons, and foxes are notorious for carrying rabies. And as you calculated out predators, at the least will cost you money, at the worst take your food off the table. I’ve seen farmers kill their own dogs for eating chickens, and I would shot my mutts if they ever got greedy. I know it sounds brutal but that is life on the farm, I’ve had to kill about everything at one point or another.

    Fossil fuel burning equipment brings man the greatest pleasure. They only do what you make them do, no more and no less. Horses kick down fences, bite really hard, kick even harder, and can be extremely expensive to feed and keep up. Nothing like having a vet hand you a $1500 bill for treating a horse with the colic which isn’t worth $500 at the soap factory. And don’t even get me started on farrier bills. Horses can be way more expensive than a tractor let me tell you.

  10. Kristin

    I sure enjoyed that post. As a software engineer with a big yard I struggle between the just sitting here coding part and the gittin’ thing done part. But my yard isn’t quite big enough to hit that sweet spot you are speaking of (or I just can’t quite motivate to that level in my own yard without any company.) But I have two friends with large properties who need help clearing (and more recently digging a foundation in clay and beating a new path through the rain forest to the stream, yikes.) So yes, I go out periodically and spend a day helping out and I find the same thing. This must be hard-wired into our reptilian brain or something.

    I came home from the foundationDiggingStreamFinding day scraped, bitten, nettle-stung, filthy and exhausted. It was a good day in the spirit of that old Calvin and Hobbes script about seizing the day and throttling it.


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