Farm Chores: the First Week

Coming to Chewonki, a lot of things were incredibly new to me. Before my arrival, I’d never lived with anyone other than my family, never been to New England, never seen more than two or three inches of snow, and I’d definitely never worked on a farm. I was excited for all of my new experiences, but I was terrified to work on the farm, especially once I learned how early I would have to wake up.

To be honest, I spent a lot of time during my first couple weeks worrying about farm chores. I’m not a morning person, and I value my sleep a lot. The farm has always been one of my favorite places on campus, but I was still scared to do actual work there. I was especially worried about the smell of animals, and worried that I would smell like the barn after spending my morning surrounded by farm animals. 

This Tuesday, Alice the farmer announced that my cabin, Gillies, was next for farm chores, and I began to panic. The whole cabin was in bed before check-in that night, cramming in as much sleep as possible before farm chores. Despite all those efforts, I still woke up Wednesday morning so tired I could hardly find my way to the farm. Once we got there, though, something changed. We could see the sunrise over the pastures, painting the edge of Montsweag Brook pink, orange, dusty purple. The snow was building up, but the air was clear and the farm was beautiful. As the farmers welcomed us, I realized how excited I was.

The previous night we’d drawn chore assignments out of a hat, so I already knew that I would be on sheep. Megan Phillips took me into the barn to train me, and I got started. First up was feeding the big group of sheep and the two young cows: Grandpa and Hubbard. After only a few days they already get so excited to see me in the morning. The cows lick my hands when I reach in to spread out the hay, and the sheep crowd around me. They’re so excited for breakfast that they start eating while I’m distributing the hay, making my job just a little bit more difficult. 

Then I had to water the sheep, Grandpa and Hubbard, and also two others: mother and son cows Poppy and Peanut. Adele and Molly feed them, but they share a water trough with the sheep. The water buckets are heavy, but I love getting to see Peanut in the morning. He’s only a few weeks old and it’s crazy how much he’s grown since the first time I saw him. My next task is feeding and watering the male sheep. They are much more difficult than the other group, since they stick their heads into the trough as I’m feeding them. That first day we ended up face to face a couple times, which was a bit disconcerting. Their water bucket had also frozen that night, so I had to use a mallet to break up the ice so I could fill it with water. 

Once I’m done feeding and watering the sheep, I get to do communal chores. It may sound boring, but getting hay and sweeping the barn are really fun. I love climbing up into the hayloft to retrieve bales of hay, and I can talk to my friends while we sweep. 
After communal chores, the whole cabin gathered together to walk to the Wallace for breakfast. Anna and I carried a big milk can while everyone else carried eggs. That first morning of farm chores was amazing, and debriefing with the cabin over an amazing breakfast was great! I was worried that the excitement would wear off after the first day, but every morning I’ve done farm chores has been amazing. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done, and I really feel like I’m contributing to the community. And I love seeing the animals first thing. This morning I was greeted by my usual sheep as well as Bob and Ted, the horses.

Katie Stollmack, The Westminster Schools, Atlanta, GA


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