Circuit Training on the Farm

My husband is a lifelong athlete. More than thirty years ago, he explained to me the concept of “circuit training”: an athlete moves through a number of exercise stations, each working different muscle groups, for 5-10 minutes at each station, before moving on to the next. The short bursts of intensity prevent both boredom and the exhaustion of any one muscle group, while the circuit itself builds endurance.

This summer, working alone, I have consciously tried to “circuit train” on the farm. An ideal day would follow this circuit, with an hour allotted to each task:

  1. muck barn, bring cattle in, let poultry out, feed and water everyone
  2. move the sheep fence to fresh grass
  3. spread manure, fill truck water, water sheep, mow behind sheep
  4. hike with dogs
  5. attend to family paperwork
  6. work in the garden
  7. mow in the back field

When it comes together, I feel triumphant. Tough tasks are followed by easy ones, and as sweat is dripping off my face I can look at my watch and tell myself, “Only twenty more minutes.” It’s true that I can count on one hand the number of “ideal days” I’ve had this summer — the plan does not account for driving into town multiple times every day or the inevitable equipment breakdowns. Still, it’s an organizing principle that I try to follow.

A couple of weeks ago, having run out of good grass in the back field I bought some big round bales of hay to tide me over.


Round bales are great, and the cattle love them (all you can eat at the unlimited food bar!). Sadly, the trucking costs are so high that they are not a sensible long-term option for me. Still, I bought four to carry me through.

The downside to round bales is waste. Cattle love a comfy bed and the bottom of the bale will be trampled and pooped on, rather than eaten.

There are steel bale feeders you can buy to prevent this …

but I won’t ever use enough round bales for the investment in one to make sense.

Meanwhile, if the thick mat of waste hay is left, it will smother and kill everything underneath it. So I need to fork it and spread it. Yay, mulch!


I plan to add “fill manure spreader at the waste hay” to task number 3. It only takes ten minutes to fork one load and the spreader is empty again before I drive out of the field. In a week the mess should be gone.

The power of circuit training!

 *   *   * 

The big school and camp reunion started yesterday. Today, daily tours begin through this house. I am still coughing and hacking but trying to stay positive as I plan which doors need to remain closed (dogs, laundry, college packing).


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