Farm work, mid-August

August is a time of constant harvest. We work on a 36-hour harvest schedule, to ensure that we’re always picking things at their peak of freshness and quality, while minimizing losses of overgrown or overripe items. This covers things like cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, and okra. Cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, and tomatillos are on a slightly longer schedule as they’re a bit more forgiving, but are still harvested multiple times per week. Edamame plantings are picked at least three times, 4-5 days apart, again to ensure that every bean is taken when it’s just right. Items picked Saturday night through Tuesday morning are available for restaurants; we do our deliveries on Tuesday afternoons. Items picked Tuesday morning through Friday go to market.

When we’re not harvesting this time of year, there is still abundant weeding & maintenance work to do, trying to keep up with the lush growth from months of rain. In theory we should also be in the throes of seeding/transplanting all our fall sale crops like carrots, beets, radishes, greens, and so on. Some of this hasn’t happened, some has struggled under intense pest pressure, and some we’re cutting back on to try and stay sane this fall. But it’s still a task that takes significant time during this busy month.

Animal chores are ongoing as always; I’m still spending the hour or so a day dealing with milking, watering, egg collection, hoof trimming, and myriad other tasks related to keeping animals. We move the goats’ shed to fresh ground once a month and their fences to fresh browse once a week or so. This helps manage worms and keeps the pastures & brush from being overgrazed.

Marketing takes significant time. Preparing for market, attending market, and cleaning up after market is a significant time investment, taking most of Friday and Saturday (we often end up finishing washing all the harvest & market containers on Sunday). Writing our weekly restaurant email containing quantities and prices for the coming week takes an hour or so, generally late Saturday evening, then I usually end up making follow-up phone calls to most places on Monday afternoons to nail down orders. Much of Tuesday is consumed in harvesting & packing restaurant orders along with the actual afternoon delivery route.

August is also when we need to make significant time free for food preservation, as much of our winter and spring food supply comes from the production during August and September. Pickling, canning, and freezing everything we need for the rest of the year takes time, but is necessary for our personal budget and personal ethics. This is a good chore to do on hot afternoons when we don’t want to work outdoors.

This extra-hot week, we’ve been setting alarms for 5:30 so we can get outside before dawn and do work in the coolest part of the day. We finish by noon and then spend the afternoons doing office work, housework, cooking & preservation, myriad minor tasks, container washing, and so on. Then we can try to get back out in the late afternoon/evening for more field work and harvesting before it gets dark around 9. We try to be showered and in bed by 10, to allow for a somewhat healthy night’s sleep.

Something like this will be our life through August, as the hottest part of the summer balances with the slowly shrinking daylight hours that force us to get a little more rest.

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