Column: A week in the midsummer life of the farm

A checklist keeps track of the quantities of different crops headed to the Downtown Farmers Market.

A checklist keeps track of the quantities of different crops headed to the Downtown Farmers Market. Photo by Emily Asmus

Advertisement

It’s Sunday evening. Dark. Outside chores are done. Kids are asleep and it’s time to plan for the week. It’s been a while since I shared what’s going on at the farm in this column. Perhaps an expanded to-do list for the week might make for an interesting view into day-to-day life on the farm.

The week is full. All summer weeks are full. It takes five of us, more or less full time, to get everything done, June through September. Harvest for CSA, Farmstand, markets and restaurants take up most of the mornings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Fridays. Mondays and Thursdays are the most open days for field work. We try to squeeze the weeding, seeding and major harvests, like that of the garlic, into these days. The crew starts work early in the morning to bring food in when it’s cool. We try not to work through brutally hot afternoons. Someone’s usually moving irrigation pipe again in the evening. I do animal chores first thing in the morning and before dinner every day.

Tasks for the rest of this week look something like this:

Monday

photo

Bunches of garlic being cured.

› Trellis tomatoes in the greenhouse, early a.m.

This is a weekly task of trimming off suckers, training leaders up the twines and pruning off unwanted leaves, blooms and fruits. We’re trying to maximize production of high-quality fruit and reduce conditions that may lead to disease.

› Farm walk

The crew walks the field and makes a prioritized task list.

› Harvest flowers for restaurants and Tuesday CSA members.

Right now is a great flower time. For a couple of weeks the perennial garden is still fresh with roses, larkspur, sweet William, echinacea and daisies, and the field annuals have started up with of sunflowers, zinnias, amaranth, millet, snapdragons and bells of Ireland.

› Weed

(I won’t list all the places that need it.)

› Prepare for garlic harvest

This will entail trying out Chandler’s new root lifter implement, arranging the curing area in the barn and gathering twine for tying bunches.

› Wash harvest bins and buckets.

› Send out weekly “Fresh List” email to restaurant chefs, and “Box Notes” e-newsletter to CSA members.

› Lay out CSA boxes for early Tuesday harvest.

Tuesday

› CSA harvest

We harvest food for the weekly boxes of our 60 subscribers in our Community Supported Agriculture program. This week’s harvest list includes head lettuce, summer squash, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, beets, green beans and garlic. We try to have harvest done and the boxes packed by 1 p.m. This gives Liz time to have lunch before taking the boxes into town to their pick-up location.

photo

Cleaned potatoes await transfer to retail locations.

› Send out weekly “Fresh in the Farmstand” e-newsletter

Chandler is good about taking pictures through the week to include in our communiques.

Wednesday

› Harvest for restaurants, the Made in Walla Walla Box, the Senior Center Roundtable lunch program, Providence St. Mary Hospital and our Farmstand.

› Harvest flowers and make arrangements for Farmstand and special orders.

› Set up the Farmstand for open hours: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, noon-6 p.m.

› Crew group lunch at 1 p.m.

David, the farmwife, has left for Europe. Wednesday is now Andy’s cooking day.

› Emily and Hazel do deliveries in afternoon.

Thursday

› Harvest veggies and flowers for Thursday market

› Harvest and make bouquets for a Friday wedding reception.

› Trellis the field tomatoes.

› Garlic harvest

We’ve got 30, 250-foot rows of garlic of four different varieties to bring in. The horses will walk between the rows pulling our new root lifter bar. This will save us from digging each head by hand this year. It’s still an ambitious goal to get it all up, tied and hung in one day.

› Host the crew from Cloudview Eco Farm on a farm tour. Put them to work with the garlic harvest.

› Crew group lunch

Margaret’s cooking day.

› Thursday market

Pack out truck for market. Head downtown for market around 2:30 p.m. Return home and unpack truck around 8:15 p.m.

Friday

› Harvest for restaurants and Saturday market

› Crew group lunch

Leila’s cooking day.

› Make flower bouquets

On a good market day we can move 15-20 bouquets and 50 sunflowers. Market is too busy to make bouquets on the spot. On really busy harvest days I can make the bouquets after dark under lights in the root cellar.

Saturday

› Load the delivery truck

Andy usually does this from 5:30-6:45 a.m. It’s a puzzle to get everything in. Emily harvests extra sunflowers, sweet peas and basil.

› Saturday market

Andy sets up and takes down. Emily joins for the peak selling hours of 9 a.m.-noon. Blayne Barnhart helps with set up and backstock.

› Market cleanup

Andy is usually home by 2 p.m. to unload.

Sunday

› Just the daily chores of caring for the animals, watering the greenhouse, moving irrigation pipe. Clean the house, mow the yard, cook food, have special family time, nap...

We live by task lists and harvest lists and planting calendars on the farm. I’ve come to trust my memory less and try to write things down more. With so many people involved in the production we need simple systems. Pen and paper and clipboards work adequately, as long as I put some effort into making my handwriting legible.

The sweet spots in the week for me include the quiet while harvesting salad greens at sunrise; the bustle in the root cellar on Tuesday mornings as we pack out the CSA boxes; the hominess of setting up shop in the Farmstand on Wednesdays; the intense relief of getting to cross things off the fieldwork list on a productive Thursday; and the feeling of accomplishment on Saturday afternoon after unpacking from market when Andy and I sit down together to eat lunch, count the day’s earnings and talk through the day’s interactions. This may be the most important hour of the week and it’s not to be found on any to-do list.

Emily Asmus and her husband, Andy, own and operate Welcome Table Farm, a small, diversified farm in the Walla Walla Valley. This column describes what’s going on at the farm each month. They can be reached at 509-529-0772 or emily@welcometablefarm.com.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment

Click here to sign in