Chances are when you hear the title “farmer” you think of “someone who milks cows”. You’d be right, farmers do indeed milk cows, but here in Wisconsin, the largest producer of cranberries in the U.S., farmer can be “someone who grows, tends, and harvests cranberries”.
Plenty of picture books follow a dairy farmer’s day. Even as a cranberry farming family we have scads of those books. I’d even wager a bet that my pre-school-age-children could tell you what a dairy farmer does better than they could tell you what their own father, a cranberry farmer, does. Hah!
Being married to Warren for almost 20 years, I almost forget that this isn’t ‘normal’ so I thought I would give you a glimpse into our lives with a post about a day in the life of a cranberry farmer in June.
4 a.m. – Warren woke up, started the coffee, fired up the irrigation engines – we have two plus one backup. It takes about one hour to pressure up and check all the lines, then back to bed for a little while.
6 a.m. – Joseph woke up wet; I put him in the shower and tagged Warren, “you’re it”. I tilled the garden, while Warren made graham crackers and milk for the little ones while catching up with some news and of course THE WEATHER.
7 a.m. – Once I came in from the garden, Warren made his way outside to shut down the irrigation engines. No problems today. We were able to sit down for a cup of coffee together. I think he made the eggs that day.
8 a.m. – By this time he was in the office making phone calls. He absolutely does NOT carry a cell phone. It’s just not his thing, so most days he spends some time in the office making calls. Today he called the chemical representative to check prices and the bee man to find out when the rest of the honeybee hives would be delivered. He made a quick check of the budget and made a few crop calculations.
9 a.m. – After an hour in the office he was itching to get outside and work on the spot for the new backup irrigation engine. No sooner had he gotten everything he needed down to the marsh, including the horse trailer jack, Amber showed up on the 4-wheeler. She needed Dad’s help. See, Warren needed the horse trailer jack. The horse trailer was hooked up to the van. Amber wanted to back the horse trailer over to the water hose. She didn’t notice that it wasn’t actually hooked up to the van. She backed up, knocked the trailer off the blocks, and having no jack, 4-wheeled down to Dad to beg for help. Putting the irrigation engine project on hold, he came back to the house (with the jack) to help her out. Peter, with fishing on his mind, ran to dad for the first time today, asking if they could go fishing.
10 a.m. – Back to the irrigation engine. Once he had everything ready to place the fuel tank, he came looking for a helper to guide it into the containment. I quickly appointed Amber in charge of the little ones and was off. We were a good team today. His hand signals made sense and the fuel tank was in place without any bumps or bruises (on me or the tank).
11 a.m. – Warren drove me back to the house. He threw a few pitches for Joseph to hit and declined Peter’s invitation to go fishing, before making the rounds on the marsh. He checked on the bloom and bee activity, chased deer away, emptied rain gauges and assessed soil moisture.
12 p.m. – Time for lunch. After cold cut sandwiches and chips, our normal routine of letting the kids clean up and us walking down for the mail was replaced with Warren driving for the mail. The car was due for an oil change and a little drive warmed up the oil. After changing the oil, he brought in the mail and took a few minutes to look it over. For the third time today, he was ‘invited’ to go fishing by Peter.
1 p.m. – Mondays and Thursdays are moth trap days. Warren spent time counting moths on a sticky grid, determining to apply the fruit-worm spray tonight. He hooked up the sprayer to the tractor, loaded it with water, and parked it in the shade for later when the winds calmed.
3:30 p.m. – He came back to the house just in time to help unload a large UPS delivery including homeschool curriculum, pump-up sprayer and something else for him. He hooked up the Round-up sprayer to the Yanmar, preparing for tomorrow.
4:00 p.m. – Our oldest son, in search of a boat trailer, found one on Craigslist. Warren came in for a quick shower and even quicker pizza supper. Then they headed an hour and a half North in hopes of finding the perfect boat trailer. It all worked out and they arrived back home with the boat trailer just in time for the winds to calm.
8:30 p.m. – Warren finished loading the sprayer and applied fruit-worm spray to the early variety cranberries. After washing up the sprayer, he noticed it was just about time for the 10 o’clock news.
10:00 p.m. – Warren finally assumes his position in the recliner with hopes of dozing off to the nightly news and then I harass him for details of his day for another one of my blog post ideas.
10:30 p.m. – Off to bed.
**For the record, Peter and Dad spent plenty of time fishing the next weekend.
Jennifer Brockman, along with her husband Warren, live, work, and homeschool their seven children on their third generation cranberry farm. Jennifer, once a public school science teacher, has been homeschooling long enough to now have one graduate. She blogs at Camp Homeschool about homemaking, homesteading and homeschooling. She especially loves sharing cranberry recipes, tips on staying sane with a large family, and how she homeschools their son with Down syndrome.