A Day in the Life

Recently I saw a post on a homesteader’s blog that was a recap of her day– she called it “a day in the life post.” I found it interesting, so thought I’d do it too. This was today:

6:30-7:15 coffee and internet time. On Mondays I treat myself to 3 new (free) music downloads. Today I added 3 more tracks from the Pretenders’ 1980 debut album, an old favorite.

7:15-7:30 let the chickens out. Filled their waterer and feeders

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7:30-8:30 went to my mother’s house to change the oil in her tractor. During my chores and work this morning I was listening to an iTunes-U course on the Foundations of Modern Social Theory. These days if you want to learn political theory from a professor at Yale, you can either get yourself admitted to Yale and come up with $68,175/year, or you can download the lectures for free from Open Yale on iTunes. We live in a great time to be a nerd. Unfortunately I didn’t have a tool I needed (an socket extension) so I didn’t finish the job. Visited with my mother a bit and she gave me some more tasks for another time.

8:30-9:40 filling some gaps along the bottom of our new hoop house, with fill dirt I scooped up from a mound on another part of the farm.

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The hoop house was just erected on Thursday.  We’re excited about being able to extend our seasons. But now this old dog has to learn some new tricks. Growing inside a high tunnel is new to me.

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9:40-10:10 breakfast. I cooked sausage and gravy. We didn’t raise any pigs year, as we were concerned that we might not be able to sell all the pork we got from the 7 we raised last year. That concern turned out to be unfounded. All of the most popular cuts are long gone. Fortunately for me, we still have plenty of breakfast sausage, and since no one ever orders neck bones, we still have those too.

10:10-11:10 back to my Mother’s to change the oil in her tractor. A job that should have taken a half hour ended up eating up nearly two hours of my morning. But I got it done, and with only one busted knuckle. Other people in Keeling may have changed the oil in a tractor this morning, but I’m pretty sure I was the only one listening to a lecture about Thomas Hobbes while doing it.

11:10-11:30 cleaned and sterilized our vegetable packing station, which is a corner of our basement. After every market day we spray down and wipe off all containers and table tops with a sterilizing solution.

11:30-11:40 checked on the Chinese cabbage. It’s looking good but still not quite headed up. This Saturday is our last farmer’s market of the year and I’m not sure it will be ready in time.

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11:40-12:15 cleaning debris out of the hoop house and beginning to mark the beds. The house is 30 feet wide. My plan is to lay out 7 beds: two 2 foot wide beds on the edges and five four foot wide beds in the center, with one foot wide walkways between them, imitating what Pam Dawling describes in her book Sustainable Market Farming. I still don’t know what we’re going to plant. I’m open to suggestions.

12:15-1:30 lunch break. I cooked potatoes with onions and peppers.

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1:30-2:15 cleaned the waterer in the pasture, trimmed Fannie’s hooves, cleaned the horse’s stall and spread the manure on a garden.

Goats need their hooves trimmed at least once every six months, for the same reason we trim our fingernails and toenails. I trim our goats’ hooves in the order of their ear tag numbers. That way I make sure no one gets skipped or goes too long without a trim. It was Fannie’s turn (she being number 85). Unfortunately Fannie is one of only two goats in our herd who won’t come to me voluntarily. So I had to chase her down. I ended up with a skinned knee and she ended up with neatly trimmed hooves.

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Annie (L) and Fannie (R). That look in Fannie’s eyes means, “If you want to trim my hooves you’re going to have to catch me first.”

Some may remember me blogging about Annie and Fannie last winter. They both nearly died. Now they’re both strong and healthy, and due for their first kidding in March.

We usually compost horse manure before applying it to a garden. But this time of year, as long as nothing will be planted in the next four months, it’s OK to spread the manure directly on the garden and let it compost there.

2:15-3:00  Checked the sweet potatoes, made sugar water for the bees, checked the tatsoi.

We still have the sweet potatoes in the crates we cured them in. It’s time to spread them out on tarps in a dark corner of the basement, but I haven’t quite finished trimming the garlic that’s there now. So in the meantime I have to check them now and then to remove any that are starting to rot.

The good news is that our hive of honeybees has made it through its first year. The somewhat disappointing news is that they didn’t make enough honey this year to share any with us. As winter approaches we feed them a solution of sugar water (50% water, 50% dissolved sugar), to make sure they can use every opportunity to make honey for the winter while it’s still warm.

Our second planting of tatsoi looks good. It needs thinning but when possible I like to wait until I’m harvesting for market, so I can take the thinnings to market. Should be no problem this week.

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3:00-4:00 Worked on an “inside” project, inputting family history data into Ancestry.com. This is a project I’ve been putting off for years. It’s tedious and time-consuming, but now that things are slowing down I try to devote an hour to it every so often. I’ll finish it this winter during the quiet times.

4:00-4:05  Fed the worms and moistened their bin.

4:05-6:00 cleared along a pasture fence. This is a twice-a-year job. I have to weedeat along the bottom of the fence, pull up or chop down any saplings that are coming up, and (in today’s case) use the chainsaw to cut down a limb that was touching the fence. A lot of this work could be eliminated if we sprayed Roundup along our fence line like many folks do.

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6:00-6:30 A longtime friend of the family passed away a few days ago. He had hunting privileges on a farm once owned by my great aunt (now deceased), and now managed by me. His son and my cousin (my great aunt’s daughter) dropped by to ask about transferring those privileges to him.

6:30 Supper time. Lentil puttanesca featuring our shiitake mushrooms, which have done really well this year.

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7:00-7:45 Post-supper walk. Gathered and washed the eggs. Filled the bees’ feeder.

7:45-now Putting this post together.

So that’s it. Not a typical day, but none of them are.

It’s been an interesting experience, but I don’t think I’ll do this again. It’s too much like filling out a timesheet.

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35 comments on “A Day in the Life

  1. Annie says:

    You made me very tired just reading all that you accomplished in one day. Do you make a list every morning?

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    • Bill says:

      I make a list of 5 things while I’m having coffee. When I finish those I list 5 more. Today I went through 25 things. During the heart of the summer, when it’s impossible to keep up with weeding, harvesting, managing pests, etc. I will sometimes only make it through 3 or 4 things.

      This wasn’t a particularly difficult day. Clearing the fence line was the only thing that seemed like “work” to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Victo Dolore says:

    That was busy but how fun to have all of that to show for it all. And God bless those iTunes Yale professors! 🙂

    Like

  3. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, look at you, moving into high tunnel growing. I just attended a New Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka, Kansas this last weekend. A fellow from Maine called Elliot Coleman. He has high tunnels and grows year round He has written several books but in in particular is called “Four Sean Harvest”. There’s a lot of information about high tunnel growing. He is a bit of a idea person. He has devised many ways to actually move these large structures which in essence expands the use of the high tunnel.

    Being in Virginia with a high tunnel will put your market vegetables far ahead of the others in your area. Watering and feeding the soil is important inside a high tunnel. It’s a more intense kind of growing which can allow successive crops. Some times three different crops in one year can be grown in a high tunnel which in effect increases the productivity up to times three of the space. Elliot really has reduced high tunnel growing to a science.

    As for what to grow in it. It would depend on what you would do with the crops. According to Eliot, restaurant chefs will pay a premium for fresh Winter greens.

    Good luck with your new venture. Have a great high tunnel day.

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Dave. We may actually have that book here. Elliott Coleman is the high tunnel guru. But because he lives in Maine I’ve found his advice to be best suited to growing much farther north than we are. I tend to use Pam Dawling as my primary source for growing advice. Not only is she amazingly good at it, but her farm is in central Virginia so her advice is usually perfectly suited to our location.

      I’ve been reluctant to go to high tunnel growing but everyone I know who has tried it now swears by it. If nothing else it will be nice to know that the crops are safe from deer.

      I’m almost done prepping and expect to start planting in it this week. It will be the first time I’ve ever planted anything this late in the year other than garlic and onions!

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  4. shoreacres says:

    All I could do was drool at the sight of those greens. Believe it or not, I’m presently in the middle of a true food desert, right in the middle of the heartland. Chase County, Kansas, has not one grocery store — the one in Strong City closed down since I last was here. There isn’t a single fast-food joint. There are two restaurants in Strong City, and a couple of them (perhaps more) in Cottonwood Falls, but most of those restaurants only are open on the weekend. Want lunch on a Wednesday? You’re out of luck.

    There is a Family Dollar in Cottonwood Falls, and a few gas stations that have a grill, but even the guy selling barbeque in Strong City only is open on Thursdays, now. I was talking today with a fellow who had a sign on a street corner that said, “VEGGIES”. He sells produce from his garden in season, but the season’s kaput at this point. No more veggies.

    Consumed by a hankering for lettuce and carrots, I finally made the trip to Emporia, just to visit a grocery store. I couldn’t imagine, as I was driving, what the elderly and the poor do for decent food. This isn’t just an urban issue.

    Of course, this isn’t directly related to your day — but it is related. I’m not sure any experience ever has brought home to me more clearly the importance of buying local — to support local people who can provide real food, and keep them in business.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Bill says:

      Dang Linda. I wish you could come by here so we could give you something to eat.

      You make an excellent point. It isn’t just an urban issue. I’d forgotten it until I read your comment but I recall seeing something from the USDA once about food deserts and how common they now are in rural America. And of course you’re absolutely right about the importance of keeping local farms and restaurants in business. Wendell Berry has written about how his community in Kentucky went through what you’re experiencing there. His town once had a grocer, a barber, an auto mechanic, etc. Now it has none of those things and people have to drive an hour to the nearest city for those kinds of things. I can’t recall the details and exactly where I read it, but when I do I’ll send it to you. As I recall he wrote powerfully about the loss we’re experiencing and (as you mentioned) the hardships this kind of thing creates, especially for the elderly and the poor.

      We do still have a country store out here, about four miles from our place. But when I was a boy there were 5 stores between here and there. At Mrs. Wiles’ place (our preferred store) you could buy groceries, gas and hardware. Her husband was a mechanic who could work on your car if necessary. She sold ice cream by the scoop. There was a picnic table inside the place and also a bar/counter. If you wanted something to eat, she’d cook it for you (the store was also their home). Of course there were chairs and a bench so folks could sit and talk. That store is long gone now, as are Mr. and Mrs. Wiles. It’s 15 miles to Walmart.

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  5. freethnkr1965 says:

    That hoop house is awesome!

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    • Bill says:

      We’re excited about having it. I’m still working on getting it ready for planting and hoping to get some seeds in the ground this week. We’ve never planted this late before but with the hoop house it’s a whole new ballgame. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. avwalters says:

    Yeah, I got the time sheet vibe, too. Glad to see your routine is varied and productive.

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  7. Laurie Graves says:

    Never a dull moment, and, oh, those mushrooms!

    Like

  8. Joanna says:

    It is easy to tell that you live in a more southerly latitude to us from the time you start to the time you finish. Today it was around 8am when it was time to let the animals out and the snow soaked animals were put away at 5pm – they could have gone in if they wanted to, but chose to stay outside in the wet snow. 😀

    I love your hoop house and Bill’s suggestion of Eliot Coleman is a good one. I like his approach of telling you what didn’t work for him, just in case it could work for you or to learn from his mistakes

    Like

    • Bill says:

      It’ll be that way here in a couple of months. The days are getting shorter here too now. I consider it a mixed blessing. On the one hand the short days limit how much we can do outside but on the other hand the short days limit how much we can do outside. 🙂

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  9. BeeHappee says:

    Wow, Bill, do you want to come to my house to get something done?! 🙂
    Exciting about the hoop house! Sounds like you will be able to grow the greens year round? I miss tatsoi and all the spicy greens from my CSA I had last year. Enjoy whatever your days bring, even if it is just following a bird into the woods, and ‘loosing’ a couple of hours. 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      You’re not fooling me. I feel pretty confident that you get plenty done every day. 🙂

      Right now I’m planning to plant radishes, spinach and kale in the hoop house this week. Deer wiped out most of our fall plantings this year, but thanks to the hoop house we may have some winter kale after all. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow. A really interesting “day in the life of Bill”. It’s a lot of stuff, yes?

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  11. Still sounds like a busy and productive day to me but I know what you mean. Some days I feel like I’ve been super busy/productive, but when M gets home and I recite my “day in the life” it doesn’t sound like much and other days I don’t feel like I worked that hard but list goes on and on!
    I am so glad to hear you have a high tunnel and look forward to reading your posts on using it. We would like to put in a couple of Coleman style mobile tunnels.
    Does your mother still drive her tractor?

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    • Bill says:

      Yes, that’s it. It’s all a matter of perspective I think. It was not a busy or pressure-filled day. I got some things done, but it wasn’t like some summer days when I’m ready to just collapse into bed when the sun goes down. Seeing comments about how productive or busy I was make me smile. They should go read Val’s blog! Now that’s a hardworking homesteader! The hardest I’ve ever worked in my life was when I sat a desk all day.

      My mother could drive the tractor, but when she wants something done with it she usually has someone else do it. She really doesn’t need a tractor, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow, Bill, you pack a lot into one day! And you are now qualified to write the Hobbesian book on how to change tractor oil. All I can think is Renaissance Man. 🙂 Glad you took the time to give us a look at your day, even down to the skinned knuckles and knee. How much more nitty-gritty can you get? Fun. Thanks. –Curt

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  13. I can see how very busy you have been.. This time of year is all about good housekeeping in the garden.. 🙂 That fence must have taken some time clearing too x

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  14. It is interesting to see a snapshot of one’s schedule. Glad the goats are doing well. Thanks for being a good steward of the land.

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  15. Loved your post! Great looking goats!

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