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A Day in the Life

July 5, 2009

Days here are packed. By lunchtime, the morning’s activities feel like they occurred yesterday. I’ve been wanting to give families and friends some idea of what we do here day-to-day, so I decided this morning to take some notes.  So here’s what my June 29th was like, start to finish.

IMG_2385At 6:20 (6:30 by Nate’s clock—we argue a lot about what time it actually is), I arose to the opening jingle of “Octopus’s Garden.” We’ve been rotating CDs as our wake-up calls, and this past week or so it’s often been the Beatles. It takes Christopher and me a couple of songs to get out of bed and dressed for the day. Downstairs, Nate has put on water for tea and we do morning stretches.  IMG_2399My dad warned me how important it is to stretch when you’re farming, and we all agree—we regularly spend 20 minutes in the morning convincing our bodies that we can make it through another day. Back, legs, arms, neck… We are physically active for 8-10 hours, 6 days a week; even though we’re “young,” we feel it.  Stretching really helps.  We sit at the dinner table here in the lodge after stretching and drink some tea. It’s lovely to have a leisurely morning before chores and the bustle of the day begin.

IMG_6039At 7:15, Nate heads to the garden while Chris and I set out to the shed for chicken chores. Last week we slaughtered our 180 older chickens (aren’t you glad I’m not describing that day’s work in detail?), so morning chicken chores take much less time. We still have our 200 baby chicks eating, growing, and pooping in an old iron horse stall in the shed. Each morning, we raise the brooder hood (which we lower at night to keep them warm) , check the temperature, cover the ground with new chaff from the barn, clean their water dispensers, and give them new feed. IMG_6044They’re eating a mix of corn, soybeans, and oats, and we throw in a couple handfuls of grit for their gizzard to help with digestion. I talk to them in funny voices (I blame Nate for that habit) and they run over and peck my muck boots with intensity.  Even though the stall is large (7’x8’ or so), the chicks take up a lot of space. They zoom-zoom-zoom around, stretch out their legs, fall over, and try out their wings—you have to be careful where you step!  I love chicken chores, especially in the morning because their activity cracks me up.

This morning, Chris realizes that we need another feeder to keep up with their appetites, so he heads out to the now empty chicken tractor hutches out the field that used to house our 200 adult chickens. He comes back with the feeder and news that (surprise!) there’s still one adult chicken left that we somehow missed last week when we did the processing. Miraculously, this Jesus bird (that’s what I named her) survived since Thursday with no food and a hutch completely open to predators. Not mention she managed to camouflage herself last week when we were rounding them up for slaughter.  Crazy!

With chicken chores done, we then head down the garden, where we meet Nate to plant about 40 young brasica plants, including giant red mustard, moi toi, mitzuna, and tat soi . This was high on our priority list, since it is supposed to rain for the rest of the week. We surrounded each plant with a steel can and then covered them all with row covers, which should help with pest control during their first few days outdoors.  All this done before breakfast!

At 8:00, we meet back at the house, returning from the various chores we each do. Every day is the same breakfast—oatmeal with raisins and chopped apple, and a blended-up powdery mix of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds. Healthy and hearty!  My own personal addition is a handful of chocolate chips, which makes me feel healthy and happy.  We eat out on a screened-in porch with a cement floor, which also holds a fridge and freezer for our harvests and meat. We sit and chat over oatmeal about the weekly schedule, the expected weather, high-priority tasks, and today we talk a lot about our Jesus bird. How did she survive? How did we miss her? What do we do with her now?  We divvy up tasks and head out to work again.

IMG_2396By 8:45, Nate, Chris, Mark (a WWOOFer), and I head down to the garden. We have a lot to get done before it starts raining, and it is looking imminent.  The guys continued covering the young brasicas, but I went straight to the hoop houses.  For the next couple of weeks, I’m in charge of irrigation. We use drip tape in the hoop houses, which I helped Fran clean, test, connect, repair, and lay last week.  It should be all set for connection to the hose, but something always seems to go awry—geysers spew from pinholes in the tape, joint fittings explode, the water pump breaks, etc. This morning, I planned on watering our peppers. I noticed 4 pinholes when I turned on the hose—easy to fix with a rag, Leatherman, Tuck tape, and patience. It’s been a bit of a challenge to figure out the correct water pressure so that the bed is watered thoroughly after 6 hours. It’s entertaining (though occasionally frustrating) to experiment and tinker with the system. After 45 minutes I finally have the irrigation working again, but it prompts me to dream of more efficient and logical ways to water our plants. Nate calls me on the walkie-talkie to go get harvest buckets from the greenhouse, so I gather them and return to the garden for morning harvest.

IMG_6021Peas are everywhere. We have nine 150-feet rows of shell peas and a double row of climbing snow peas and they are bursting with ripe bounty. We work straight for an hour and I’ve nearly picked a full bucket and eaten several handfuls. As they pile up, I wonder what we’ll do with all of them since we don’t have a market until Saturday.  At 10:00 we see Tony go by on the 100 year-old riding row cultivator, pulled by Peg and Sharlene, two of our Belgian draft horses.  IMG_6027Tony calls us over at 10:30 to demonstrate how he row-cultivates the field corn.  It’s astonishing how powerfully and precisely the horses move and how simple, antique machinery still make sense. In no time at all, the field is nearly free of weeds. We return to picking peas, which seems an endless task.  By noon, we finished with 5 rows of the shell peas. This last Friday, we harvested 5 gallons of shell peas.  This morning alone, we picked 20 gallons.

Lunch usually starts around 12:30 here. We eat sandwiches with every kind of bizarre topping. Today was especially eclectic. I had three open-face sandwiches—two with cream cheese, spinach, sour kraute, mayo and mustard on homemade bread and one with macadamia-cashew butter and apple butter (which comes from the orchard here). It still hasn’t rained, so we are quick to get back outdoors. Normally we take a nap after lunch until about 2:30 or 3:00, but we’ve got too much to do today. More peas!

IMG_2541We are back to picking by 1:30, and once it starts raining we work in the hoop house tying up tomatoes and hoeing between rows to kill young weeds. It rains on and off for the rest of the afternoon, so we hop back and forth between the rows of peas and the hoop houses. We don’t finish picking the snow peas, but by 5:00 we have nearly 5 gallons of them. Incredible! We usually don’t stop working until dinner is ready, but today we quit early just after 5 pm. Tony is on dinner prep today (we alternate); I’m not too excited about his liver and onions menu. .. That said, we do eat really well here. All our meat and vegetables come from the farm, and we make bread, mayo, wine, cheese, apple butter and other things from scratch. Fran also cans and freezes fruits and veggies every year, so we have quite an array of foods to cook with.  The liver and onions, as expected, aren’t my favorite, but there are several leftovers I can use to supplement my meal.

Evenings pass quickly because we are usually exhausted. We all feel ready for bed by 8:30 or so, but the sun doesn’t go down until after 10 pm. So, after dinner we come back to the lodge, listen to music, and Nate and I work on our blog entries.  While I can list what we accomplished today, it is much more difficult to describe the feeling it gives you to have your hands dirty all day, to harvest delicious food, and to see baby animals grow. I go to sleep tired and satisfied, then dream of peas, chickens, and weeds. Every day is different, but I hope this gives you all an idea of what it’s like for us out on the farm. Come visit us and see for yourselves! ☺


4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2009 7:09 am


    You don’t know how frustrating it is to sit here everyday in my desk, surrounded by my rocks, and check your blog at least twice a day to see that there’s no new from my favourite farmers.

    Dear Chickum, I’m so happy that you’re writing too. We needed someone like you to relaunch this awesome blog. (But I hope ItinerantFarmer don’t get jealous; you know I love you too).

    I’ve specially liked today’s post; i’ve wondered a lot of times about how your daily schedule was, and now I have an accurate idea of how you guys spend your time. I can almost here your conversations, your jokes and your laughter. I’m going to start praying hard every night and asking to the almighty deities of the Olympo to endow me with the gift of ubiquity so I can be here, in the hell-hot and rainless plains of Spain talking to my rocks in funny voices, (at least we share something, Chickum), and there, in the cool and rainy prairies of Ontario, picking peas and laughing with you. I’ not ubiquitous YET, but I eat oatmeal or good-old-granola every morning, and just the smell of them takes me closer to all that.

    Keep on writing!!, and making my days a little happier.


    P.S.: Mmmmmmm, liver with onions. Maybe ItinerantFarmer can tell me if that’s similar to our spanish “hígado encebollado”. If not, I would really enjoy a post with the recipe.

  2. carol permalink
    July 6, 2009 5:11 pm

    loved to hear what you are doing! I would eat your 20 gallons of peas! hee hee. juniper might like them too!
    Keep stretching, taking care of yourselves, and good luck with haying!
    we’ll see you somehow!!!
    We love you, and toothy June says hi!

  3. Marma permalink
    July 6, 2009 6:55 pm

    Wow! Your post gave me a great glimpse into your daily life and now I can envision all of you at work (and rest). I would, however, prefer to see it live–but this is a super second-best.

    I wish I could have you for daily “consults” about my garden. We’ve had enough basil and parsley to dehdrate as well as to add to salads. Jess, the current jar of dehydrated basil was processed by you in 1998 (and still is terrific). Now Ellie is writing the labels instead of you! We’ve had some cucumbers, too. Ellie, Isaac, and Anna harvest the basil, parsley and mint for snacks.

    We will tell them the stories from your blog!

  4. HoosierChard permalink
    July 10, 2009 9:04 am

    This blog rocks! Thanks for the updates and photos “Chickum” ;). Man, there are some hot guys running around that ranch! Although some of those stretches are actually illegal in Indiana. Glad everything seems to be going well and producing. The dogs and pond miss youse guys.

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