A Day in the Life

A typical day at Valhalla Project? Tough to say because there really isn’t one. Not to sound evasive, but every day is both similar and unique.

First off, seasonality dictates schedule, priorities, and possibilities. We don’t have to break the ice on water containers in July or put tomato transplants into the garden in February. The rising and setting sun tells the poultry and livestock when it’s time to go in or come out. They’re ready for bed by 1630 in December. Try that in June and they revolt.

On a normal day one and all are up by 0700 to let Valkyrie (Valhalla's Border Collie herd dog) out and cats in, make coffee, feed cats, enjoy that first great sip of press-made Italian roast, check for messages, get a look at the weather forecast, and check the nearby critters like Jeremy’s flock of ducks and the rabbits just outside the back door.

Taking a break after erecting a goat-proof fence for a new
 livestock paddock. Valhalla homesteading projects typically
involve not just sweat and concentration but also a lot of
laughing and joking around while getting tough jobs done.
At this point things tend to follow a parallel path. The morning “chores” – caring for birds and animals – usually fall into place with a certain regularity, barring an unforeseen emergency. That includes feeding, watering, egg collecting, a quick pick through the garden if vegetables or fruit is ready, and paying attention to the three dogs who are especially “needy” before their breakfast. Try not to trip as Loki and Sadie block your path while vying for attention and Valkyrie insistently demands that you throw her favorite canvas frisbee at least 50 times. So far, all in a normal day.

Typically (that word again) we have a priority list to address also. Again, this is seasonal. Maybe the garden needs tending, an animal or bird facility needs cleaning which means a compost pile gets filled, something needs to be built, a fence or trellis erected, logs to be split and stacked, poultry butchered and cleaned for dinner (some Valhallans opt out of this occasional task), equipment worked on, or a myriad of other specific homesteading tasks.

Somewhere in there comes breakfast and a second cup of coffee.

In tough weather conditions (e.g. too hot or cold, pouring rain, snow and sleet) operations move indoors where more homesteading tasks lie waiting in ambush. Food storage and fermentation projects are always in progress, and making cheese, sauerkraut, or hard cider are typically carried out during bad weather. Breads and muffins have to be baked and stored in the freezers every week. Carpentry projects -- building book shelves, side tables, storage cabinets and the like -- are often carried out in the living room during inside days. And perhaps something needs to be sewn, swept, mopped, scrubbed, painted, hung, rearranged, or sorted through.

2nd Lt. Ryan with his catfish
Usually we enjoy a break in the afternoon after lunch. Lunch comes with prep and cooking lessons, cleanup, and relaxing afterwards. It’s a time to check your ‘net, contact friends, go hiking, play table tennis or cards, try out your slacklining skills, teach the goats new tricks, or take a brief nap if that’s on your agenda.

Maybe you want to go out for a bit and shoot (firearms or photos), try your hand at fishing in the pond, or play with the animals. Several times a week we will have a “chalk talk” discussion on topics such as permaculture design and implementation, evaluating property for purchase or lease, nutritional subjects, tailoring a resume for a job, translating military experience into language a civilian HR manager understands, or subjects that are relevant and interesting to our participants.

The evening chores are somewhat of a mirror image of morning. They must be done systematically since animals and birds become “institutionalized” in that they accustom themselves to a routine and resist major change. This phase is important because at night the major predators roam and other than the guardian dogs none of the livestock or birds are able to protect themselves. Before the dogs got here we got hit every night by coyote, raccoon, possum, and owls. Mountain lion roamed near the house. The dogs made the difference. We’re their backup if needed.

In December by 1730 evening chores are complete. In June we don’t even begin till closer to 2000. So meal times vary as does down time. We’ll gather around a roaring fire in winter, a small campfire cheers us up in cool spring and fall nights, and watching the summer sun set behind the ridgeline with a chilled beverage and good cigar usually marks day’s end.

Quiet time starts at 2200. We all need sleep and it comes easy at Valhalla. A pleasant day of meaningful activity in the clean Ozark Mountain air and a wonderful quiet night (with occasional barking spells from the pups as they announce their presence to roaming predators with authority) means a good night for all.

Lt. Colonel Gordon Cucullu (ret.) on Combat Vets and Wild Predators at the Valhalla Project

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