It's official - I'm a farmer! 

Well, a farmer's assistant, anyway.  And pretty soon here, I'll have the farmer's tan to prove it (okay... it's a freckle line - who am I trying to kid?)  So here's a run-down of my 'breaking-in' on the organic veggie farm, here on the Rocky Mountain foothills - it's really a 7-day stretch over two work weeks.

Coming up on this week's Farm Girl Diary - new friends, local food politics, Spanish-language learning, major drought drama, and a lot of planting! 

Day 1

We planted onions all day - shoved little starts into pre-punched holes in a plastic-covered mound (thanks hole-punching crew!) for 6 hours.  Apparently the plastic layer keeps the weeds from choking out the onions while they grow. 
I also single-handedly unloaded the empty farmers' market coolers (all 50 of them) from our truck - good thing I've been working out!

Low-point I pulled a stupid and forgot my lunch...

Highlight:  One of my managers, a kick-ass woman I already knew & liked, split her lunch with me!  We all sat under a baby hawthorne tree, savoring its meager shade. 

Day 2

Fridays are a 12-hour harvest day, since the big local farmers market is on Saturday mornings and we have a lot to do. 
We hand harvested over-wintered spinach and oh-so delicate arugula - in the sun, it wilts where it stands, so we had to move quick!
After lunch (homemade tempeh and chard stir-fry), we moved to the wash station, where I washed hakurei turnips for 4 hours.  Wow... The owner sat with me for a time and talked to me about the economic struggle of small farms, especially in competition with giant zero-sum farming enterprises.  Very enlightening.
Last, I learned to bunch green garlic and walking onions to sell at market, a very detail-oriented aesthetic task.

Low-point:I sliced my finger open (twice!) with my little harvest knife, then had to submerge my hands in soil-y water for hours.  Time to make some healing hand salve...

Highlight: The camaraderie of harvest day is tangible.  We all work hard, help each other out, and have a good time doing it.  Plus, kick-ass manager (that's her official title now) brought us popsicles!  I thought I liked her before!  Now it's for real.

Day 3:

A Monday... not especially exciting: we planted more onions (muchas cebollas, siempre las cebollas!) and painstakingly weeded rows of carrots.

Low-point:  I miss my weekend already... it was such a good one too!  Also, my sunglasses broke - one of the lenses popped out and got lost.  The Mexicans started calling me 'la pirata', for my single eye-patch lens. 

Highlight: Beautiful chorus of red-winged blackbirds, dissonant and haunting by the southern lakeshore.

Day 4:

4000 strawberries.  Beltane, or May Day, and I celebrated by planting 4000 strawberry starts.  Well, I personally only planted about 800, but I was kneeling for 7.5 hours to do so... try to top that, genuflection.

Low-point:  My poor, poor, aching knees.  Ice packs?  Oh yes, I have several.

Highlight:  I got to work at the other farm location, with kick-ass manager.  She made me laugh for a good third of the day, so kneeling wasn't so bad at all.   

Day 5:

Wednesday is a harvest day, too - therefore, it's a 10-hour day
We harvested delicate pea shoots and radishes, then planted onions (seriously, more onions?), hoed the weeds out of the beet field, and did more hand-weeding. 
Oh, the glamorous life of a farmer...

Low-point:  My internal monologue when the manager told us we'd be planting more onions: "Shit, shit, shit."  Pardon my French and all... but planting onions is the worst job on the farm.

Highlight:  Javier, one of the Mexican crew members, complimented my Spanish!  Yesterday I told him, haltingly, that "apprendo mas Español" (or, at least, I'm trying to learn more Spanish).  Today, he said something along the lines of, "You're learning more Spanish!  A little more words."  Since he spoke in Spanish, I only guessed at the gist of it, but I responded, "Si!  Apprendo mas y mas, todas las dias." (Yes! I'm learning more and more, every day.)  Pretty darn proud of myself, yes I am.

Day 6:

Thursday, we weeded weeded weeded.  The beets and carrots are small enough that the lambs-quarter and other weeds will smother them if we don't intervene. 
Then, mercifully, my manager pulled me out to help at the wash station.  Shade... sweet shade.  I washed and bunched bok choy for the rest of the day.

I overheard some pretty grim talk about the coming drought  from the owner, then after work my manager gave me the heads up that it might get pretty bad... so bad that they may have to lay off new hires (including me) if we don't get rain.

Highlight:  I traded language lessons with a sweet Mexican girl, Anita.  While we washed the bok choy, I said, "Puedas ayudarme apprendar Español?" (can you help me learn Spanish?)  She laughed and said, "But I need to work on my English!"  So she spoke English, I spoke Spanish, we corrected each other along the way, and after several hours of conversation I was doing pretty damn good!  Muy bueno, guera! (very good, white girl!)

Day 7:

Friday is, again, harvest day.  This was only a 9-hour day, though, since we got so much done yesterday at the wash station.
I harvested a lettuce blend, then spinach (for such a long time...) - the mosquitoes were pretty intense for about five minutes at dawn, it was wretched.
Then, it was the wash station - washing walking onions, turnips, and lettuce for hours, then bunching onions and green garlic.

Low-point:  The owners called an emergency meeting about the drought.  Long story short, our snow caps are at 26% normal density (we get a lot of water from snow melt).  So we're super low on water, and farmers can lease shares of water, but at this point, a 100-acrefoot share of water (which should cover 100 acres in 1 foot of water) is only worth enough water to cover 2 acres.  So the farm has, essentially, 2% the water they expected.  Unless there is a sudden monsoon, the other new hires and I will be out of a job in about a month. 

Highlight:  It's Friday!  The end of a long and sun-baked week.  I got a bottle of wine to celebrate the end of my first week on the farm... it's been a doozy!

Whew!  Dramatic times in the fields, for sure - a roller-coaster of a first week. 
See what happens next...  Farm Girls Diaries: Week 2

Do you have any questions?  Ask me anything!

You might like:
~ Farm Girl Bootcamp: 50 Pound Challenge
~ Farm Girl Rising
~ Why Homemaking?
~ Homemade Bread at High Altitude

SUBSCRibe & share!

5/4/2012 10:18:33 am

You go girl! I love homemaking and all that goes with it... It's a wonderfully creative vocation!

5/7/2012 12:49:34 am

i found you from homestead revival.hi ilove your blog . I like to read diaries they help me in my day to day ,info on veg. garden .and life, i am in wisconsin so we have not put our seed in. have plants started in the house.thanks little farmer, cheryl

5/10/2012 07:29:41 pm

Well done, can't wait to read about the following week! Thank you very much for sharing this with us on Seasonal Celebration Sunday! Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network x


Hi there! I found your blog through Real Food Forager today. It's fun to hear about your adventures in farming so far. I followed some of your links and saw that you're at Red Wagon farm. I live here in Boulder, so not too far.

I hope some of the rain we've had recently helps at least a bit. I'm looking forward to reading more about your experience. And maybe I'll see you at the farmers market one of these days!

Anna @ Patchwork Radicals
5/16/2012 11:36:07 am

Hi Mindy! Thanks for stopping by. So cool that you're here in Boulder too. :)
The rain here is helping a lot, yes! Maybe I will see you at the farmers market - goodness knows I'll be there!


Hey Anna! I forgot to ask - are you ever at the Wednesday market? I go to that one a lot more now that it's open. If not, I'm sure I'll be at a Saturday one sometime soon!

Anna @ Patchwork Radicals
5/21/2012 08:49:40 am

Hey Mindy ~ I don't go to Wednesday market yet, but as the season gets busier I may be there!

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