What It’s Like to Work a Day with Heath

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In less than a month, Heath and I will be Alaska-bound and gearing up for our 50th and final hourly job! As we’ve been on the road, a lot of people have asked me what it’s like to work a day with Heath. As I’ve talked about before, it’s more than “just” following him around with the camera all day.

Well, really that is what I do all day while he works. But it’s more than what it sounds. It’s learning about people and jobs so I can take their stories and share them with the world. It’s being creative and artistic to film different shots throughout the day. It’s learning a new skill and becoming better every time I practice. It’s creating a documentary, one day of filming at a time.

But most of all, it’s sacrifice. It’s challenging and difficult and unfamiliar all at once. And no job explains this better than job #15.

what it's like to work a day with Heath

Job #15

3:00 AM

The first alarm of many beeps and Heath immediately hits the snooze. When the farm told us they start to work at 4:00AM, we asked to park our RV on their land. Otherwise, there was no chance of us actually showing up on time. They let us pull in the day before and hook up with electricity from their barn. Surely, I should be grateful to be waking up at 3 instead of 2, but I’m too tired.

3:09 AM

That alarm isn’t getting anyone out of bed. Heath scheduled the coffee pot the night before, so I laid in bed waiting for the sweet aroma to rouse me from my slumber.

3:15 AM

A third alarm meant I should probably get up, since Heath hasn’t moved, save the constant hitting of the snooze button. I crawl out of bed and turn on the coffee pot—which never started, the stupid cheap coffee pot was clearly out to ruin our lives—and get dressed in the dark. I pour a cup of coffee and begin collecting all of the camera supplies for the day.

3:25 AM

I hear Heath’s phone vibrate and see him push it under the pillow. “Heath?” I say gently. “Coffee’s done. We need to get ready.” No response. Nothing will coax him out of bed.

3:34 AM

I have all of the camera gear prepped, I’m dressed and I’m pouring my second cup of coffee into my to-go cup when I see the headlights next to the RV, which are easy to notice considering it’s the middle of the night in the middle of no where.

“Heath?” I called out. “I think Tina’s outside.”

Groans, confusion, and then like a pop-tart from a toaster Heath jumps out of bed.

“She texted me ten minutes ago and said she was on her way over!” Heath half shouts, half slurs as he trips around the bed trying to pull on clothes for a day of work. The night before, Heath and I decided that since we were waking up so early, we would set up the camera in the RV to show what it’s like to wake up for a job in the middle of the night. I took a mental note to not send the clip of Heath popping out of bed in his underwear over to our sponsor company.

My job is more like half videographer, half Heath’s manager/wrangler. Actually, I guess “wife” really sums it all up.

“Why didn’t you get up when she texted you?” I asked.

“I think I was half asleep and tried to snooze it like an alarm.”

I laughed and rolled my eyes and poured a mug of coffee for Heath to bring along with him. Before starting our day’s work on the dairy farm, we were driving over to a local pig farm. Our co-worker for the day, Kurt, raises award-winning pigs and we would work with him there before coming back to the dairy farm to milk the cows.

Have you ever been in a barn filled with pigs? The smell is…well the smell is the exact opposite of the welcoming, happy smell of crackling bacon. This smelled more like 1,000 rotting human corpses covered in sweat, pig poop, and mud. And that is no exaggeration. I gagged and hid my nose under my shirt while I filmed. Mental note: never raise pigs.

By the time we returned the dairy farm and I could breath again—the smell of cow manure never smelled so refreshing, by the way—the sun was still hours from rising.

In the dark, we walked out to where the pregnant cows were, to see if any calves were born that night while we slept. Apparently cows can just have babies all on their own in the middle of the night. I never felt so happy to be a human where I don’t have to give birth in the same place where I and my 100 closest friends all poop. (Is that going to jinx me to say that? Am I now doomed to someday through tragic circumstances give birth to my future child on a farm? I hope not.)

There were no babies this morning, but a calf was born the day before when we arrived. It was the first time Heath and I ever showed up to a place the day before we were working there, since we planned to stay the night on the farm. When we arrived early, Tina—she’s the owner by the way—let Heath feed one of the calves with a bottle. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. But you know what’s not the cutest thing I’ve ever seen? Afterbirth. Cow placenta has scarred me for life. FOR LIFE.

When you sign up to go on adventures with your husband for your honeymoon, you probably don’t assume that you’ll witness a cow giving birth. But you will. Inevitably.

5:00 AM

After bringing the cows in, Heath, Tina, and Kurt start milking. No sooner does the teaching begin when Heath, trying to get a better angle on milking the cows, steps into the trough that collects all the manure (Those boots have since been trashed). How do you react when you see someone stepping into cow manure? Are you allowed to burst into laughter? Is that insensitive? Are you supposed to be really apologetic and compassionate to them afterward?

I decided trying to contain my laughter was the best idea. Heath recovered and kept milking cows, which once you’ve seen it once, it’s not super exciting and you grow increasingly paranoid that you will be the next person to step into the poop trough. So I took a break to make breakfast for myself and drink another cup of coffee.

Afterward, I would’ve gone straight back out to film, except once I got inside the RV, the rain started to downpour rain so I was stuck. 2/3 times we worked on farms it ended up raining on us. I think bringing a camera outside just invites these types of situations. So I sat in the RV waiting out the rain and laying down a bowl and a towel under the leak in our ceiling.

Somewhere around 6 o’clock, I wandered back into the barn to film Heath giving feed to all of the cows, which is a surprisingly complicated process. Like humans, all cows eat different things in different proportions to get the proper nutrition. Then he shoveled some hay into their stalls and cleaned up some of the cow’s messes. Animals are really messy, plus when you stand near them while filming, they try to do weird stuff like lick you and the camera. It’s crazy and terrifying.

Also, have you ever stood next to a cow? I mean, I know cows are big. I’m from Texas. But these cows were HUGE. Chikfila taught us that cows are so cute, but when you’re next to them in real life, it’s like, please don’t eat me because you’re 15 times my size and your tongue is the length of my arm. (But now that I’m not standing next to a giant cow, how cute are cows? So cute!)

Once things slowed down with the cows, I made breakfast for Heath and Kurt so they could take a break. While they took a break, I walked around the farm taking pictures of the sunrise. The clouds had parted for the sun to rise and giant rainbow stretched across the sky to the south. The beauty of it almost made me happy that I woke up early—but when you wake up at 3:00 AM it’s pretty difficult to be too happy.

I spent the rest of the day filming more of Heath’s work around the farm and briefly hiding from a turkey that was chasing me and also trying to avoid eye contact with this one cow who kept looking at me like I was a fresh hay bale. The day ended with an interview, as we talked to Kurt about what it’s like to be a farmer, why more people don’t pursue farming, and we even convinced him to brag a little since he won nationals with his pigs. I don’t know a lot of about farming or FFA, but I do know when someone tells you that their pigs won gold and are the certifiably the best bigs in the country you feel bad about comparing them to the smell of rotting corpses (but seriously, that smell).

By 11:00AM, our work day was done. The cows were all milked, fed, and back outside. Hay bales were moved, stalls cleaned, and we even checked on the chickens for eggs. We worked for eights hours and still had the entire rainy day ahead of us. (So we took naps and watched movies, of course)

[fruitful_sep]

That’s what it’s like to work a day with Heath. It’s long, hard work that involves standing on your feet all day, sometimes on your tiptoes trying to get a shot from above, or sometimes crouching down to get level with a cow’s utter all while avoiding being kicked in the face. It’s constant excitement, surrounded with new people and new lessons and jobs that you didn’t know existed before.

Job #50 a month from now will be the same. New, exciting, and challenging all at once. We’re thinking about working on a fishing boat or at a lodge or maybe as river guides. It doesn’t matter much because we know we’ll enjoy it and learn from it either way.

What type of job should we work while in Alaska?