We were having a discussion about tracking and calculating costs on another blog I follow, and it occurred to me that it’s easier said than done. I don’t spend a lot on my animals in terms of money, although I spend a lot of time, labor and thought. I do track things, however, for a number of reasons.
My primary tracking tool is a small calendar that hangs over my desk. Every day (although I admit that on occasion I miss something) I note the low temperature when I get up. Admittedly that may not be the actual lowest temperature of the day, although I’ve noticed that there is often a degree or two drop just before sunrise, especially in the winter.
If it’s going to snow, that’s often when it starts. I try to keep an eye on the thermometer and record the high point as well. I also write down the basic weather: sun, rain, snow, etc. My decidedly unscientific method of tracking rainfall involves the Tupperware container I use to carry my washing cloths for the milk cow. It sits out in the open and collects rain, hail or snow. I check it each morning and note how much precipitation it has in it. I use it instead of an actual rain gauge because it’s right there handy and I have to dump it out every day in order to milk, anyway – I’m efficient because I’m lazy, OK?
In addition to the weather data, my calendar has all the breeding information on it. I note when we pick up the Rent-a-Bull and turn him out with the cows, the dates on which I breed the mares or sow. We usually actually see the bull when he breeds each cow, since we’re down there every day, but just in case we miss somebody, his arrival date gives me a baseline. I calculate due dates for all the critters that are bred (except the sheep – my daughter does them) and note those on the calendar. I also note due dates on the big calendar we use for general appointments. I don’t like to be gone for several days when we have a cow due to calve or a mare due to foal.
Other stuff that goes on the tracking calendar are the gallons of milk we get each day and the number of eggs. I include broken eggs, even though they don’t do me any good, since I want total numbers. If a hen starts to set or I put eggs in the incubator, I enter the start date on the calendar. I also note births and hatches, including stillbirths. For example, this year we’ve hatched 12 meat birds so far. One had a crooked leg and just wasn’t doing well, while another had bad feet. If I see similar numbers next year, I’ll know to incubate extra eggs to cover the losses.
Garden plantings go elsewhere, as there just isn’t enough room to get it all on either calendar. I do track other stuff, too, just for fun. The first day I see a robin or hear an oriole goes on the calendar, as does the bloom time of various wildflowers, especially those I harvest for my herbalism activities. It’s probably a good thing I use a small calendar, or I’d never get anything else done…