On the Farm
Here’s a listing of this week’s happenings:
We’ve been working hard to get caught up with the weeds I mentioned (or maybe complained about) last week. I am happy to report we are making significant headway. It feels good to be restoring order where there was chaos last week.
The main hydrant that supplies water to the fields broke so Bill is taking the opportunity to put in a bigger water line which will increase available gallons per minute. It will make our irrigation more efficient as we will be able to cover more ground with water in a day. This should have a direct result on the quality of our produce - always a good result!
We took a day over the weekend to process the first batch of broiler chickens. All three of the kids get involved now, although Liam is the only mainstay from start to finish. Bill and I can’t believe how much nicer it is to have their help. We remember when we started raising pastured chickens. The kids were 9, 5, and 3. We could only butcher a few chickens a day back then. Now we can easily do 75 to 100 depending on how early we get started. Plus, it is a time for extended conversations about topics on their minds. I don't know when other people have time to discuss why genes can't take over control of our bodies according to Richard Dawkins with their 16 year old? This was the topic on Liam's mind this processing day. As I deconstructed chickens, I struggled to remember the limited scientific lingo I possess about genetic material so as to intelligently participate. Fortunately a well-placed "Wow, that is fascinating!" comment along with a few clarifying questions were enough to satisfy him. Whew!
Then there are the daily and weekly tasks.
Bill waters the vegetables started in flats daily.
We feed and water the chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, goats, horses, and cows – our menagerie - each day. I milk the cow in the mornings, and someone (often Aidan) gets eggs. Sometimes these chores spill over into the afternoon even though we try to have them done by mid-morning.
Afternoons are usually filled with field work, repairing fences, or maintaining/fixing equipment.
And, with a little luck, Bill or Liam mows the lawn each week.
Included in this category is harvest. Each week we spend two days, Tuesdays and Fridays, harvesting produce from the fields for members and market. The number of boxes changes from week to week because shares are every other week.Tuesday is a bigger day with 52 to 54 total boxes to fill. Friday there are 8 to 15 boxes plus the farmers market.
Harvest days are long days, but fun because harvest is the culmination of growing produce. It is also a day to look forward to because others arrive to help us. There is a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie that makes the work go quickly.
We spend the morning and afternoon picking, pulling, digging, cutting, and collecting vegetables. As we harvest, we cover the crates with thin, wet white flour sack towels to protect produce from the heat until it is delivered to the pack shed. Once there, it is soaked to remove the heat from the field, rinsed, bagged (if necessary), and stored in the walk-in cooler.
After that is done for all the crops harvested that day, I print labels. Bill, and whoever is helping, counts out and assembles boxes. Next, labels are taped to the appropriate size box. Then the fun begins, the washed and cooled produce is brought back out of the cooler to be distributed. This is when we find out how well we did counting items in the field. If we’ve done a good job, we have the correct number. If not, someone hustles to the field to get more amid good-natured calls of, “It wasn’t me that messed up!”, or “I got all mine!”
Then with all the produce accounted for, boxes are closed up and sorted in stacks according to their delivery location. We load the boxes in the cooler – first delivered are first in so they are the last loaded into the van the next morning.
All that is left is to shut the lights off in the pack shed. Harvest day is done.