A day in the life of a Rootdown Apprentice

Outside the window by my cozy bed, the last of the stars is twinkling faintly in a pink and blue Pemberton Meadows morning sky. I open my eyes at the sound of the rooster, and his chatting hen lady-friends, and look out on the greenhouse, and the fields.

Today is Sunday. The truck and trailer have already been packed and are bound for Vancouver and Whistler, and I put on the kettle and reach for the toaster as I ponder the tasks for the day ahead. On Sundays, Sean and I hold down the fort while Sarah and Simone take the beautiful bounty of veggies and eggs we’ve all worked hard to harvest off to eagerly awaiting Whistler and Vancouver markets. We’ll head out after breakfast to find our day’s task list on the chalkboard in the workshop, but first things first, the pigs need feeding!

   

After some cheerful grunts we put on our boots and head for the shop and our list…

S& E Sunday List

#1: Spread Some Fall Rye

We’re spreading cover-crop seed on the beds from where we’ve pulled up this year’s garlic harvest. Later we’ll move on and seed an acre section of the north field as well, where the pigs and chickens have pastured this season.

Keeping a cover-crop on a field means the soil doesn’t lay bare, but stays protected by plant matter, remaining more fertile and less exposed to the elements. By choosing a crop like rye or clover, we are also able to compete with the weeds and other grasses that would naturally colonize a freshly tilled area, so that there’s less competition for the veggies next year. We measure out some buckets and then head out to broadcast the seed by hand. Working together it takes us a couple of hours, all told. Tomorrow the beds will be lightly turned over, so the seeds can germinate.

#2: Weeding in Salad Plantings

Weeding is actually pretty rare this time of year, as the shorter days mean less growth. Just a quick pass through and we’re done, giving the lettuces a breath of fresh air and some new angles of sunshine. Fall means dream-weeding, apparently.

When we’re done that, Sean waters (and I inspect) our pepper plants in the greenhouse (it’s my first year growing them!), before I head in to make some lunch for us.

I pick a spicy chili pepper, and a perfect cherry tomato, and then head to the farmhouse kitchen. Today I’m making a twist on thin-crust pizza, with whole grain flatbread, fresh basil and black krim tomatoes. In just over a half-hour I hollar out the door “LUUUUNCH!!”

Sean hears me from the workshop, where he’s just finished washing eggs for the CSA add-ons. We eat together, clean up together, and take few minutes to hang out in the back yard before checking what’s on the docket for the rest of the day.

It’s an… Allium Afternoon!!

#3: Place Onions in Slats in Greenhouse to Cure

#4 Clean and Trim Some Garlic

#5 Feed Chickens and Collect Eggs

#6 Feed the Pigs Their Dinner

Sean’s dad came up from the city to visit for the afternoon, so he and Sean go together to give the pigs their afternoon meal. They are so clever that as soon as there’s a squeak of a wheelbarrow, they all gather at the corner of the pigpen and wait, squealing in anticipation!

By the time the pigs have quieted into a steady chomping around their troughs, the sun dips over the western ridge alongside our stretch of the meadows, and it’s time to close the greenhouse. As I walk around to close the flaps to keep things warm in there, I notice and rescue a dragonfly from inside.

Where the dragonfly flies off, Sean and his dad are rounding the corner, and we all congregate to hang out with our ducks for a bit, while we decide how to spend the evening and what to make for supper. Such a good day.

I sigh with the happiness of a good day’s work. I feel like we must be the luckiest apprentices ever…

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