Years ago, at a CSA pick-up, we were chatting with a couple of sweet shareholders who had homesteading ambitions of their own. It was mid-summer, when we were in the thick of harvest and food preservation chores, all day and into the night. One of the couple asked us, “So, about how many hours each week do you spend working on your land?”
Ever since then, I’ve thought about outlining a workday on the farm, just as an exercise of sorts. Today was one of those, beautiful, wonderful, exhausting days that really drives it home. Here goes…
5 AM. Levon rolls over and says, “Mama, it’s morning time.” Then he rolls back over and goes to sleep. I lay drifting in dreams, wondering about the weather, the time, the day to come, and then, the light in the windows and thoughts of the chickens pacing in their coop pulls me out of bed.
It’s chilly this morning. I open the door to the chicken coop, dump the veggie scraps out for them and watch the birds race out into the day. Their feeder is empty so I haul a 45 lb. bag of feed over to the coop. They were grateful, in their poultry way. The turkeys were low too, and the little chic coop needed to be scooted to new ground.
That done, I grab a bucket and hit the berry bramble. I pick a gallon of thornless “Chester” blackberries. I am grateful for thornless blackberries, and our abundant messy bramble, but I notice a patch of poison ivy bumps colonizing my the inside of my pinky finger. I think the berry juice makes the itchy sensation stronger.
Two overgrown trays of lettuce call my name as I passed by the shade shack (where we tend to our seedlings before they go to the garden), so I park the berry bucket and pick up the trowel. Those two trays finish out a row, and the sun still isn’t over the hill. The waning moon is above me. Nice.
When I go to fetch a watering can, the kids came out to say hi and Lulah tags along when I water the lettuce. Then she helps me pick a peck of cucumbers. She balks when I want to pick the squash, too. Oh well.
8:30 AM. My Fellow Man has made a nice pot of oatmeal (thanks sweetie), and I am compelled to read a chapter of a book about the London Royal Ballet to my girl. Then there’s the bed to be made, and the floor needs sweeping. The kids accompany their dad on some fun outdoor chores and I grab a quick yoga snack before breakfast.
As I make up a bowl of oats (or 2 or 3, as the kids wander in) I call the IRS to see if they can answer a quandary I’m having with the final paperwork for my step-mother’s estate. They don’t help much, but at least I got a live person in a relatively short period of time.
9:30 AM. A friend shows up with our co-op order. Even though this happens every month at about the same time, I never fail to be surprised by the visit somehow, and it’s wonderful to just chat for a couple minutes. We wander the garden and I harvest a nice selection of veggies for her as a tip for her delivery service.
11 AM. We realize that we’re not going to make it up the hill before lunchtime and will just have to busy ourselves in the lower gardens until then. No problem there. I pick up a pitchfork and haul hay to mulch the late tomatoes and tomatillos, while playing I-Spy, watching my children jump hurdles over the dwindling roll of hay, and narrowly avoid spearing my foot with the pitchfork. Lulah picks some nice zinnias for the table, my Fellow Man works up the ground for the next round of squash and cucumbers, and Levon played with matchbox monster trucks in the dust.
1 PM. Lunchtime. Thank Heavens for leftovers. I make a remarkably edible spread by combining a container of cooked cowpeas with liver and onions in the food processor. We spread it on leftover toasted cornbread, then dip chips and cucumber slices into whatever is left.
We stay in the upper garden for about 5 1/2 hours. 700 lbs. of potatoes come out of the ground and into baskets, one handful at a time. Lulah picks up an entire row all on her own (racing us, of course, and wallowing in the soil at every opportunity). Paul and the kids take the full wagon of potatoes down and bring it back empty, with more baskets, and a cultivator, while I pick three rows of tomatoes, which are looking so good. We smooth out the potato beds, and harvest a couple more bushels of onions. We could stay another hour and finish pulling onions, but we are all DONE.
7:30 PM. Coming home. The contents of the wagon gets unloaded, tomatoes spread flat so they won’t bruise, and onions set somewhere dry for the time being. The potatoes will be sorted and packed under the house tomorrow, and hopefully we can get some more onions in before it rains.
My Fellow Man grabs a tray of squash seedlings and heads out into the garden. I hit the kitchen right away, Levon on my heels, dirt all over his bug-bitten body, rattling out a story about puppies, kittens, and monster trucks, and dinner is on the table a little after 8. Oh well. We have fresh potatoes, steamed with butter, and a frittata with new onions, homemade cottage cheese, basil, and a big pink tomato on top. Pretty nice. I was too busy to take pictures of that.
8:30 PM. I walk out to lock up the poultry and collect eggs, pausing a moment to enjoy the depth of the sky and chorus of bird and bug in the green forest humming all around. We wipe down the kids and brush teeth. Everyone is settled by 9, only a little more than an hour later than I’d like.