Summer work schedule

Here’s how typical days & weeks run on the farm during the summer:

I get up between 6-6:30, Joanna shortly thereafter. We both do morning chores; I make the rounds of poultry and goats to feed, water, and milk; Joanna checks on our plant starts both indoors and in our small hoophouse. We usually don’t have breakfast until 7:30-8, then do whatever work is on tap for the morning.

We stop for lunch anywhere from 12-2, depending on weather, work, and employee presence. Early afternoons we try to take a short nap, and do some indoor tasks like laundry, office work, cleaning, cooking, food preservation, etc.

By mid-afternoons we often go back out to work if it’s not too hot, or at least do shadier/less intensive work like weeding. Dinner is wildly variable, anywhere from 5-9pm depending on work. Sometimes we’ll try to get it out of the way early, especially if we spent part of the afternoon cooking ahead, other times it just has to wait until after dark. We definitely try to get back in the fields doing harder work (like hoeing) by 6, when shade is starting to spread over the field (from the tall ridge to our west) and the temperature is dropping a bit. Joanna will work until 9 or so; I do the evening animal chores, including milking, around 8 and often go back to the house to clean up the kitchen and so on. Some evenings I’ll stay out in the field after milking, chilling the milk in cold water so I don’t have to go back to the house until dark either. After showering and often eating a second smaller meal around 9:30-10, we rarely get to sleep before 10:30.

Sunday-Thursday our work schedule is mostly as described above, with employees coming a few mornings and afternoons on a set schedule. Starting soon, Tuesday afternoons will be our restaurant delivery day when one of us drives into Columbia to drop off products to our contacts, and to do any in-town errands we might need.

Fridays are spent harvesting and preparing for market; during the summer this work tends to take part of Thursday as well. Saturday I get up extra-early to make it to market, and get home anywhere from 1-3pm. Joanna usually stays home to do all of the morning chores (animals & plants), then she takes a walk around all of the growing areas to check on plant progress, compile a to-do list, and project upcoming harvests. I generally take part of Saturday afternoon to rest, as market tires us out far more than you’d think. We also tend to make use of the hot Saturday afternoon hours to do a planning session for the coming week. Sometime in the few days after market, we wash out all the market containers and equipment and store those for the next week.

During late spring and early summer, planting and transplanting are prominent tasks, along with weeding and general maintenance. As the summer moves on, harvesting becomes more and more time consuming, with many items needing a strict 36-48 hour picking schedule to keep their quality up (peas, green beans, edamame, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.) Sooner than we’d like, we’re back to lots of planting as all our fall items start to be seeded and transplanted while the main harvest season is ongoing.

Managing the animals takes a little over an hour a day, plus a few days each month of extra work like moving the goat paddocks, cleaning the chicken shed, and so on. Occasionally, animal emergencies come up that force us to drop everything else on the schedule.

Somewhere in all this we squeeze out time for other projects like our walk-in cooler, fencing maintenance, and so on.

Needless to say, our day-to-day tasks are strongly weather dependent, and the urgency of our workload varies with the weather, too. Following rain, we usually do a lot of hand weeding, both because the rain makes the weeds grow and because hand weeding is one of the few tasks that we can do when the soil is saturated. As the soil dries out, we transition to bed preparation, planting, hoeing weeds, and other tasks as needed. Eventually it dries out enough that watering/irrigation start requiring attention, and mulching to conserve moisture also becomes top priority. The busiest time for us, especially in the spring, tends to be at the end of a dry spell when rain is in the forecast. Getting seeds out just before the rain gives them a good chance of getting a good start, and there’s no telling when the soil will dry out again to give us another opportunity to plant. The actual arrival of rain after a dry spell provides initial relief, because it gives us a chance to sit down for a bit; however, the prospect of severe storms often tempers the relief of rain, as hail can set back a lot of work.

We try to take one day off a month during the growing season (March-October), though this doesn’t always happen. We are able to take lots of smaller breaks, taking an hour or so here and there to go watch birds, explore the stream, read, etc. But we rarely do much off the farm.

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