A Day in the Life (in the Time of the Coronavirus)

Many of you who’ve been around AoS for a while know that I’m an organic farmer in Tennessee as well as a writer and full-time homeschool mom. The spring farming season has just begun, so my hands feel like sandpaper 98% of the time (the other 2% is when I remember to use the calendula salve I made from last summer’s calendula flowers). But I don’t even care, because I’ve never been more grateful to have good, hard work to do.

When I wrote my last A Day in the Life post, we lived in a different world. I chronicled a typical weekday full of work and homeschooling and visiting with friends. I wrote about how much I desire to slow down time, to log more moments in the present so time feels longer. 

For some of us, the coronavirus has forced life to slow down considerably. Others of us are busier than ever, with extra work piled up, toddlers running feral, kids’ schoolwork to manage. And then, of course, there are all the brave souls out there providing us with healthcare, food, protection, and supplies, and who aren’t able to slow down for anything. 

While schools and non-essential businesses and churches have been closed and all events cancelled, life still hums and roars within our homes. Daily life is pared down to its most precious essentials—health, food, nature, hope, togetherness.

We’re all trying to figure out this “new normal,” for however long it lasts.

For our family, we’re moving forward as usual with a balance of work and play; demanding times mixed with intentional slowness and rest. The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in big ways, and in some ways, it hasn’t changed at all. The day this post is going live was supposed to be our first spring Kindred Dinner of the season. We had three farm-to-table dinners scheduled for spring, but that’s all been postponed for now, along with a loss of income. Thankfully, we’re still able to grow food for our community, although we’ve had to alter the way we distribute it. We’ve been homeschooling for six years, but we’ve never homeschooled during a pandemic. We miss our beloved local library and all the outings with friends. My husband, Steven, is a private chef during the week, and we’re grateful he can still cook for his clients here in our commercial kitchen and deliver to them safely. 

There’s no cooking for clients today, though. It’s all hands-on-deck, because spring doesn’t wait, and there’s a lot of farm work to do! Here’s a typical Saturday for us during the farming season, with adjustments for these coronavirus times we’re living in. 

5:30 a.m. – Alarm goes off, but I’ve been slacking at getting up at 5:30 a.m. lately since “spring ahead.” Steven pops out of bed and doesn’t look back. He lets me sleep a few more minutes while he starts the electric kettle and coffee grinder. We have to move the chickens to fresh pasture this morning.

6:00 – I’m up and dressed in my farm clothes: ripped jeans, Kindred Farm T-shirt, and my favorite hat. I select a mug at the drink bar in the dining room. Lately I’ve been gravitating towards my Colorado mug I got years ago on a trip with my mom in Durango, partly because I have a little bit of wanderlust right now and partly because I miss her and don’t know when I’ll be able to see her again.

6:04 – Steaming mugs of coffee have been secured. Usually the early mornings are our sacred quiet time together where we slowly wake up, talk, and prepare for the day. Normally, I read some pages from a nonfiction book (my latest is Anne Bogel’s new book, Don’t Overthink It—one of the most helpful books I’ve read in ages!), but there are squawking chickens waiting for us…gotta get going.

6:25 – The girls are stirring upstairs. I whip up a green smoothie with lots of peanut butter, spinach, frozen bananas, and protein powder for them for breakfast, put the rest of my coffee in a to-go mug, and head outside. As we walk up the hill, Steven looks over at me with that twinkling in his eye, and I know exactly what he’s thinking: he loves these early mornings on the farm with the mist rising up off the grass when we’re moving the animals. It feels fresh, exciting, full of possibility. There’s really nothing like it.

We get in “Mei Mei,” our white Ford F-150, and grip our coffee mugs tightly as we hitch the chicken trailer to it. We move the trailer and get the electric fencing, food, and water set up in the new location.

7:15 – The hens are happily pecking the ground in their new digs. It’s a glorious blue sky day—the perfect day for working outside. The sun is starting to warm things up. On my walk back down the hill, I stop and open up the doors to our two greenhouses and roll up the sides. Steven heads to the commercial kitchen in the barn to make several batches of granola for our farm store customers who will be picking up orders this morning at 9.

We’d normally be opening our Kindred Farm Store for the season now, but instead we’ve had to scramble and figure out how to take online orders so our customers can come pick them up in coolers on Saturday mornings in a socially-distanced fashion. Instead of greeting familiar faces up close and taking time to linger and hear how they’re doing, we’re waving from across the produce field. We miss interacting with them, sharing the farm with people, and all the excitement of spring gatherings. But it’s better than nothing, hopefully very temporary, and we’re thankful to still be able to safely provide our community with fresh, healthy food. 

7:20 – I work on packing up all the orders. Everything we sell is something we’ve grown, raised, or made: organic salad mix, granola, kimchi, artisan jams, pasture-raised eggs, calendula salve, and candles. 

I fill jars with kimchi from the giant fermenting crock in the walk-in cooler, remembering the day I planted the tiny Napa cabbage seedlings and later harvested them on a fall afternoon before a storm blew in. Steven’s Korean mom drove in from Texas especially to help us with the cabbage harvest and turn it all into kimchi using her family recipe from where she grew up in South Korea.

9:04 – Customers start arriving and picking up their orders. I start gathering all the materials we need to start prepping new rows and planting. Whenever I hear a car rumbling the gravel in the driveway, I run out to wave to the customer and yell “THANK YOU!” Getting to at least wave to them from afar seriously makes my heart so full. My friend and neighbor Sarah Gilliam snaps this photo of me and my oldest girl.

Photo credit: Sarah B. Gilliam

10:30I’ve been practicing 16:8 intermittent fasting for over a year now, so I feel best waiting to eat until 10:30 or 11 a.m. I dash inside and make what I call “a big bowl of random healthy goodness.” Today, it’s ground turkey and veggies leftover from dinner last night with Steven’s “Sassy Sauce” on top. The girls take a snack break.

10:45 – Back outside, the girls help me pull up a bunch of weeds in the greenhouse and cover the whole area with landscape fabric so the weeds won’t grow back all season. 

12:10 p.m. – All the customers have picked up, and my girls are hangry. I clean up the pickup area while Steven fixes them hotdogs for lunch and starts a pot of jasmine rice for dinner tonight.

12:30 – Everyone is fueled up and ready to work as a team. We’ve got 100 tomatoes and cucumbers to plant. So much work goes in on the front end to prepare just one row in the “market gardening” method we use, but it’s a huge payoff.

Over the next several hours, we complete two new 100-foot rows of produce, and here’s what we have to do for each row:

  1. Use a broadfork to lift and loosen the soil—best cardio workout EVER.
  2. Shovel compost into the back of our two-wheeled tractor and then shovel it all the way down the row. 
  3. Shake a bucket of pelleted chicken fertilizer on the entire row.
  4. Harrow the row using our tractor, which mixes everything together and creates a smooth surface for planting.
  5. Lay the irrigation driplines.
  6. Stake down landscape fabric over the entire row to keep away the weeds. This will save us a ton of time throughout the season. There are holes down the middle that we’ll plant the seedlings into.

Thank goodness our girls are getting a bit older and are able to help more—it’s so fun to have them working beside us and gaining valuable life skills. There aren’t many 6-year-olds who can fix a leaky dripline or identify a piledriver! Don’t worry—there are also plenty of whiny attitudes, complaining, and lots of breaks. We’re growing together.

My arms are trembling, but I feel strong. I take a moment to recognize that all the Pilates I’ve been doing throughout the week really has helped my core stability and prepared my body for the heavy lifting and hauling that the farming season demands.

4:15And finally, we plant. My absolute favorite part. We’re fueled by visions of future tomatoes in bowls of salad at a farm dinner, tomato jam going home in the bags of our customers, tomato sauce, homemade pasta and pizza nights, and all the crunchy, tangy pickles you can imagine in glossy Mason jars.

This is the beginning of my fourth farming season, and I can see it now—I know what’s coming. I know the literal dirt smeared on my face, the sweaty clothes plastered to my body, and the muscles that feel like we’ve run a marathon are WORTH IT for the literal fruits of our labor that we’ll get to enjoy and share with friends and the community.

5:00 – We call it a DAY. Tools are put away, and the greenhouses are closed up for the night. Plant babies are watered one more time. My girls can’t get inside fast enough, and both head straight to the shower/bathtub. I can’t resist pulling a handful of Chiogga beets out of the soil that are ready to be harvested—these will be roasted for dinner tonight. 

The golden hour light is so perfect right now as I walk back to the house. But honestly, I’m so freaking tired, I can barely walk. Every muscle in my body hurts in the best possible way.

And then, there’s a deeper ache. We miss our people. 

If this was a Friday night, we’d be used to spending it with just the four of us, because that’s what we normally do on Fridays. Last night, we made chicken fingers and twice-baked potatoes, ate cookies on the roof, and launched slingshot helicopters with LED lights into the dark, clear sky for hours.

But Saturday night is usually for gathering with friends—sharing all the random stuff in our fridge for dinner, or eating hotdogs by the campfire while our children play. We really do love being just the four of us, but probably the biggest change in our lives since the coronavirus has been this inability to gather people, and we miss it terribly.

5:25 – Dinner goes in the oven—a simple pan of roasted rainbow veggies—the beets, Japanese sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and even a few slices of apple. Leftover seasoned ground beef. Rice from the rice cooker. 

While it’s cooking, it’s the grown-ups’ turn to get clean. There’s nothing like hot showers after being covered head to toe in dirt, compost, and fertilizer.

5:45 – We take our spots around our new farm table that we built together, and as my fingers pass over the knots and divots, I’m thankful again that we took the time to build it a few months ago. 

6:15 – The girls help clean up dinner and put the kitchen back in order, and we all pile in the living room to watch a show—my girls are currently into Just Add Magic on Amazon Prime. 

7:45 – We send the girls upstairs to brush their teeth, and we follow them, slowly, slowly…

8:00 – Even on days we’re bone-tired, I try not to skip this step of reading with our girls before bed, because for almost 10 years, we’ve built thousands of memories and shared hundreds of stories. Tonight, our 6-year-old selects Good Rosie! by Kate DiCamillo, a library book we took home over a month ago that’s still in our possession because all the libraries are closed. After prayers and tucking in, we barely make it back downstairs to our own bed.

8:45 – Typically, I like to read fiction or my book club selection before bed, which is currently The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. I glance over at it on my nightstand longingly, but my eyes start crossing. Nope, not tonight. I slather myself with essential oils and close my eyes, reflecting on a day full of struggles, beauty, and grit. What a gift.

Reading Time:

8 minutes

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Ioana

    This read like a short story and it’s beautiful. It almost makes me want to work in the garden, if only for the experience of participating in produce growing from start to finish. It’s beautifully written! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Ginny

    I feel like I spent the day with you on the farm, you’re writing is so beautiful. Such good, hard work you and Stephen are doing. Dinners on the farm will be even more celebratory. I love seeing how you spend your days. Well done, friend. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Stephanie Ahlborn

    I loved reading this!

    Reply

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