A lot of distant friends and people I’ve met via social media look to my life on the farm with envy. And with good reason. I’m blessed to have chosen this life, and my husband’s job allows me the freedom and financial stability to explore it to its fullest. But least you think I live a life of leisure, leaning on fence posts watching lambs frolic in the tall grass all day, here’s a taste of a typical day here on the farm, and the endless dialog of what needs to be done next that goes on in my head.
The alarm goes off at 6:00 am. I lie in bed, drifting in and out of sleep, listening to NPR and wishing we could all just get along. Around 7:00 I get up, make my husband a pot of coffee, make myself a cup of tea, and take care of basic bodily functions (dragon breath etc.). I decide my hair can go another day without washing. I usually open up my email and facebook, share interesting posts and read soap making discussions while I finish my tea and my husband leaves for work. Realize as I listen to the humming in the background that I really need to clean out the incubator and dispose of the unhatched eggs that have been sitting for a week. Ewww. Later.
Then its outside to let loose the birds. First the ducks and baby turkeys. The Khaki girl (she needs a name) is still in the corner on her nest. Due to hatch around the 18th. The rest of the ducks; 6 adults, 8 teenagers, and 2 that are just four weeks old, are clamoring to get out. The three turkeys I have left, who are about five weeks old, aren’t so sure. They are in the same pen with the ducks because a) there is a place for them to roost at night, and b) it gives them access to the higher protein feed they need to grow up big and strong, without the chickens hogging it all.
I can’t let the chickens out until I close the duck pen back up, as the chickens will go in and scratch the place up and lay eggs in all the wrong places and eat all the high protein feed and disturb mama duck in her corner. So I collect the duck eggs and refill the feeder and waterer while I’m waiting to see if the turkeys want to go out today. Yesterday they stayed in. The day before they went out. Still waiting, I feed the rabbits and check that their waterer is working (its a connected hose system and sometimes algae blocks one of the tubes and no water gets through). I think about the fact that I need to butcher two adult rabbits, breed one or two females, and get the rabbit tractor built so I can get the 10 eight week old babies out on pasture. When is any of that going to happen?
Turkeys decide to go out after eating. I close up the pen and let the chickens out. Then I feed the chickens. Much celebration occurs over the scratch feed. I realize I haven’t taken a head count in a while, and resolve to count everyone when they are back in the coop tonight. I should have 31 birds.
Check on the 7 baby chicks in the stock tank brooder, that hatched out last week. Check on the two broody hens that I’ve moved into their own “brooders” in the same room. Everyone is fine. Need to put food/water bowls in with the adults. They so rarely get off the nest that it is easy to forget and I just set them up in there the night before (so they would be calm and stay where I put them). After letting them initially brood in the nest boxes, which was a disaster, these two girls didn’t give up, so we started over. They each are sitting on three eggs.
Water flower pots still in the greenhouse. Deadhead some of the marigolds so they look pretty for sale at Wednesday’s market.
Walk out to the perennial garden and decide to water the raspberries. Realize, once again, how badly this area needs to have a wire trellis. We have the materials. Just haven’t had time to put it in. I have ripe raspberries resting on the ground. Sigh. Look around yard for sprinkler that husband has moved. Finally find it and turn on the sprinkler, estimating where to put it based on wind speed (it’s gusty today).
Walk out to strawberry patch and realize that there is a TON of puncture vine, starting to flower, in the middle of the strawberry bed, and stop to hoe it out like a mad woman. I HATE puncture vine. This area is covered with it, and its going to take years of fighting it to get it under control. Sigh that most of the strawberries have either died on the vine from hot weather and not enough water (the plants themselves look fine) or have been eaten by the 200 robins that are currently raising babies somewhere on our 4 acres. I really need to get about 300 feet of soaker hose for this area. And put up netting. Which we have, but haven’t had time to put up. Admire the morning glory that is flowering, eyeball the goats that are in the back field, and head out to the vegetable garden, dogs bouncing at my heals.
I plan to plant dill, basil, beets, and a hail mary batch of late radish and spinach. The spinach is Tyee, which is supposed to be good in the heat. The radish is a small area, and the seed was free. What the heck.
But first, those areas need to be weeded. Oh, and OMG, look at the grass coming up in the dried bean bed. It’s really gotten away from me. Stop and weed that area. Remind myself to get some cranberry beans at Andy’s (local natural food store) to fill in the holes for some of the heritage varieties that didn’t come up or got eaten. Notice that most of the other reseeding effort with beans was effective, but something (slugs? rodents?) is still eating the tops off some of them. Still need to get the second been planting in the ground. Tomorrow? No, tomorrow is market. Friday.
Weed in the onion/garlic bed that is next to the bean bed. Notice that a lot of the garlic doesn’t look good and figure that the resident gopher has been eating the roots off, despite putting bait down in the holes to poison the little bastard. Resolve to find the second gopher trap, (it’s like playing a game of memory. I have two, but they are never in the same place at the same time), dig down to a main tunnel, and set one in each direction. And bait it with peanut butter and oats, the universal rodent crack food. But not right now. I need to get stuff planted!
Check to see if the second batch of carrots are germinating under the burlap. I see a few (and a LOT of grass) and so decide to take off the burlap. Get the second dill bed, which is in the middle of the carrot row, ready for planting, and weed a bit of the first dill bed. Feel sad at how few of my carrots came up from the first seeding, and resolve to find sawdust wood mulch for next year’s attempt. (Tried straw once as a carrot mulch and had terrible damping off, so know that doesn’t work). I’m having a hard time keeping the soil moist and not crusted over until the seeds germinate, despite using burlap.
Listen to the killdeer scream at me because I am within 100 yards of her nest. Don’t know how they ever pull off an incubation since they get off the nest for every little thing. I want her to be successful, but I was here first. Weeds trump eggs. Sorry baby.
Reset the drip line valves (I have three sections, and try to run one each day, on a timer, plus a bit of extra), straighten out the drip tape (it snakes all over the place in the heat of the day – a definite drawback), and turn on that section for a short cycle. Plant dill seed. Prepare basil bed, including removing bindweed what I sprayed a few weeks ago (I don’t spray much, but bindweed is an “access of evil” weed. You can pull it all summer and never kill it and the seeds can persist in the soil for something like 40 years). Weed a bit of the first basil bed. Sigh at all the friggen grass coming up everywhere. Plant basil. Hand water in basil and dill. Note that not a lot of the last lettuce planting is coming up. Same issue as the carrots. But the grass doesn’t seem to care. Plenty of grass. Pzzzzzz.
Realize I’m starving, and come in to eat breakfast (at 11:30 am). Homemade sourdough toast. Home grown fried eggs. Lovely. Check email. Husband comes home unexpectedly for lunch (also lovely) and we make plans to go to Tri-cities tonight to pick up some stuff I need for market and soap making. Fed-Ex guy comes and delivers other soap making stuff. Have to open the package and smell the “kids sampler” of fragrance oils that I’m going to use for bath fizzies… someday… when I have time to make them again. Sigh.
Move perennial garden sprinkler from raspberry bed to strawberry bed. Go back out to vegetable garden. Hoe out the spinach, radish and beet beds. Realize that not only does some of the broccoli have aphids, but so does the kale. CRAP. I’ve never ever been able to get on top of an aphid infestation in kale. I’ve learned to just abandon the crop. But this is EARLY in the season. I didn’t see aphids in my kale last year until September. The whole kale crop will be lost. So I go mix up some pyrethrin and spray the broccoli and kale. Mix up a second batch and add some Sea Rich foliar fertilizer. Spray some basil in pots that’s getting chewed by something (and that I want to sell, so it needs to look nice) and the big rose by the back corner of the house that has aphids too. Water plants on back porch while I’m there.
Back out to the garden. Find appropriate plate for my EarthWay seeder, that was relocated by the wind, and plant the beets, spinach and radish. The beets are supposed to be planted with a larger plate, but I find the spinach plate works. Thin out the kale bed in hopes of making plants more healthy so they can fight off the aphids, and dig up and move a few to spots that have holes.
Do the same for the chard. Realize, again, that if you plant chard too early, it bolts. While I’m at it, I throw some cheap mixed sunflowers into the seeder (same plate) and seed the flower row, which I meant to do about a month ago. Notice some nicotina has reseeded from last year. Dig up and move three plants so they will get water and won’t get run over by the mower. Water in all moved plants and new seeds.
Realize the corn also really needs to be weeded, but I’ve done enough out here for today. It’s 3:00 pm and its time to come in a for bit. Move sprinker on strawberries to a new position. Check on baby ducks and turkeys as I walk by the poultry yard. Collect 10 eggs so the egg eating hen (who looks just like 3 of her sisters so she’s hard to cull out) doesn’t have a chance at them.
Come inside and think about the 6 batches of soap I need to make (lavender, vanilla, lemon, shaving soap, chocolate soap, facial soap x2, shampoo bar, dog wash bar…wait, that’s 9 batches). And that I need to make a new batch of Apricot/Freesia lotion. Look at the mess of seeds, mail, soaping supplies, and recipes on my kitchen island and wonder when I’ll have time to clean that up. Sigh.
Make myself a late lunch and start to write a blog post. Realize I’ll need to take some pictures to go with it.
My husband calls all of the above “puttering”. And while I know he means well, and really, it’s code for “getting to do what you love all day”, sometimes it makes me want to stab him in the eye. “Puttering” sounds frivolous. Farming, no matter how much you love it, is still work.
We later go to Tri-Cities, an hour away, and miss one of the stores I wanted to go to, because it had closed by the time we got there. Had a nice dinner and time with my husband. Got home exhausted. Sweet husband locked up critters for the night while I went to bed. TOTALLY forgot to turn off the water on the strawberries or collect any more eggs. The next day is a market day, so most of the morning is spent picking and prepping cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, lettuce, kale, chard and cilantro.
Such is the life of a farmer, or a business owner, or a mom, or really, most people I know. Long lists of things to do. Not enough hours in the day. Is it worth it? Absolutely. But do I sometimes want to just sit on a beach, reach a trashy novel, and drink umbrella drinks instead? Absolutely!
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2013, where my husband, as I was finishing this post, walked in from work and said “You are saintly and not adequately compensated for all you do.” This was in response to my having made a couple of loaves of pumpkin bread for his poker game tonight. But I had to laugh, as it was the perfect thing to say in response to this post.