A Day In Small Farm Life

After all the hard work, there's a pantry full of great food! Can and preserve yourself with help from Lehman's. Click here!

After all the hard work, there’s a pantry full of great food! Can and preserve yourself with help from Lehman’s. Click here!

I get a fair number of questions about how I get it all done. The canning and the cooking and the gardening may well seem like never-ending drudgery to some.

Well, I do work but I don’t consider anything I do drudgery. Compared to the days when I was trying to manage a home and work in the formal economy as well, my life now is a cakewalk. Even the work is fun and afterwards, the family and I are literally eating the fruit of our labor!

I thought it might be interesting to take you through my day. I would like to say it’s typical but no day is exactly like another.

Each has a major task surrounded by all the minor tasks of daily life on a tiny farm. In truth, a farm is stretching it. We only have about 3 acres about and most of it is in pasture. We have a flock of chickens we raise with a neighbor, two pigs we raise with a different neighbor, 10 hives, a small orchard and several large gardens.

The pasture is hayed by the young woman who owns the raw milk CSA we belong to. We take the hay we need to bank the green houses and mulch the gardens and give her the rest. In return, we get all manner of perks. If she can’t sell all her milk she gives the surplus to us. Right now she’s caring for the 25 turkey poults we bought together as I didn’t have room. It’s a very informal arrangement and I think that may be why it works so well.

How do the days start? I get up early. By 5:00 I’m checking the headlines and putting on a pot of tea. I get my shower and breakfast and then get the girls up. Both need to be out the door by 8:30 and neither likes to hurry so they’re up and about by 7:00. After they leave I may put supper in the cast iron Dutch oven or punch down bread I put together the night before. Then Bruce and I tackle a project.

Roma ApplesA recent major task: we finished pressing the cider (6 gallons1) and I sauced another bushels of apples. By the end of the day I had canned 21 quarts. In between there was the washing up and transferring jars from canning kitchen (separate from the house) to the basement. My daughter, Karen, returned from her job at the preschool down the street and washed up the Roma food strainer I use for making sauce. She also kept up with the big stainless steel stockpots and the ladles and spoons too. Having this kind of help makes my day so much easier.

Bruce pressed cider with me with me most of that morning and then he got busy putting in new windows. We got all the windows replaced by Christmas! Doing the work ourselves made this a fairly inexpensive project and certainly worth the investment as our old windows had the wavy glass that gives away their antique status. Pretty, but certainly not practical.

Dutch Ovens are the original slow cookers. Great for wood cook stoves. Available at www.lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Dutch Ovens are the original slow cookers. Great for wood cook stoves. Available at www.lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Dinner is an easy chicken stew that had been simmering in the Dutch oven all day. Karen came to the rescue again and made biscuits to go with this meal. We had just a bit of lard left from last year’s pigs; but I’m getting more processed now. Lard makes the best biscuits ever!

There are a lot of little jobs to do in between the big ones. I ground a couple of cups of wheat as I was low on flour. Since Bruce screwed my hand-cranked grain mill to a heavy table it works much better and that job takes just a few minutes.

Carting jars from basement to the canning kitchen is a lot easier with my jar box. I buy my lids and rings in bulk. When I use up one bunch, Phoebe is in charge of refilling the bin I store them in. Karen makes labels for all the canned goods.

I tossed a load of sage into the dehydrator in the morning. Bruce pulled it out before bed and brought it in for me.  I put a load of laundry out on the drying rack. A friend brought over some butter in exchange for honey and Phoebe had a blast using the butter molds to make the sweetest little sheep to set on the table.

Super-soft, super absorbent Flour Sack Towels are available at Lehman's in Kidron or Lehmans.com.

Super-soft, super absorbent Flour Sack Towels are available at Lehman’s in Kidron or Lehmans.com.

After dinner we all washed up our own plates. With everybody helping, dishes take only a few minutes and I appreciate not having to listen to the hum of the dishwasher. We stopped using ours several weeks ago. Good dish cloths, a lovely biodegradable soap and super soft flour sack towels make this just another pleasant way to spend some time.

After dinner, Bruce played a game with Phoebe. We all read some and we were asleep by 9:00.

I know this sounds like a lot of work but it doesn’t feel like a lot of work. We do it together. We have good tools and we love the rewards of eating a 5-mile (or locavore) diet.

There are things we don’t do that free up the time for the things we want to do. We don’t watch a lot of television. We have never played a video game and we don’t talk on the phone often. Life is all about choices. For instance, I will choose to defrost the freezer soon in anticipation of getting the old laying hens butchered. Another fun day in the real Farmville.

 

Kathy Harrison

About Kathy Harrison

Kathy Harrison is the author of Just in Case, Another Place at the Table, and One Small Boat. She is a national spokesperson for both foster parenting and family preparedness and has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and National Public Radio. She lives with her family in western Massachusetts.