a typical day on the farm

It’s currently Sunday night and I probably should be sleeping. After a long day of berry picking and a road trip 45 minutes North to visit a friend (of a friend of a friend) at the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, NY located in the beautiful Catskill Mountains, I returned home to spend the rest of this very rainy evening attempting to blog, but instead watching several episodes of My So Called Life (really who could resist?)

I’ve been at the farm now for just under two weeks and I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed.  My days here are generally busy and interspersed with an assortment of tasks, some which reoccur everyday and others which I’ve learned to do only once or twice.  My weekends are free, but also spent busily attempting to explore the area and learn as much as possible.  I’m thankful for all there is to do here; I think I’d certainly succumb to stir craziness if I had exorbitant amounts of free time to fill while living in the country without a car (the transition from NYC would surely be at fault).  At the same time though, the country is a really great place to learn how to slow down.

So what is it that I actually do each day?  Well a typical day might look something like this:

7am – Wake up
8am – Drink coffee/eat breakfast. It’s perplexing how much better coffee tastes when you drink it on a farm.
8:30am – Head out to the farm. Abby, the Farm Manager and I generally start the day by harvesting vegetables. It’s best to harvest early or late in the day when produce is cool rather than when the sun has had the opportunity to heat things up. The produce will stay fresh for longer if you do this.
9:30/10am – Start seeds. In order to ensure the constant availability of seasonal produce, farmers often start new seeds every two weeks or so. There is a nifty time-saving, farmer-invented tool which we use to start seeds (and which I will show you later). Depending on how many seeds we decide to start we may spend one or two hours at a time on this project, though it’s often repeated more than once a week if need be.
12pm – Weeding. Weeding is extremely hard work. Hard because of the bent up position you often find yourself in while weeding, hard because it can be frustrating and tedious, and hard because weeds are often determined to grow into trees which require a lot of strength and sweat to rip from the ground. “Weeds” are really pioneer species, hearty and well established plants which have colonized an area and often help improve soil quality. Many are edible (among their other positive attributes), they just happen to be growing where you don’t want them to, thus taking away nutrients from plants you actually want to grow.
1pm-3pm – Lunch break consisting of awesome farm fresh food. When we break for lunch we sometimes take a few hours off depending on how hot and humid it is. Working on a farm in the middle of a scorching hot, sticky Summer day is hardly enjoyable. During our break we may work on other projects (we are fermenting Ethiopian Honey wine w/plums, painting stools, canning, baking, and reading obsessively about wild mushrooms to name a few). Once it cools off again we usually return to the farm to do a bit more work.
3pm-5pm – Water seed starts, finish weeding area from earlier, lay out a thin layer of compost on beds which have been dug up, etc.

I haven’t actually had a day that looked exactly like that, though those are some of the tasks we may work on over the course of a day. Additionally we might mulch an area, turn compost piles and sift through compost which is ready to be used, transplant seedlings into the garden, tie up tomato plants, dig up older beds, and perform other such tasks. I will write in greater detail about some of these activities to come, but for now I must hit the hay!

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