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Today: an assistant farm manager working at a nonprofit who makes $30,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on bread.
Occupation: Assistant Farm Manager
Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,250 before taxes
Rent: $400 (My half of the rent, which includes all utilities. I live with my boyfriend.)
HSA: $50 per paycheck
Health Insurance: $36 taken out of each paycheck (includes vision and dental)
Car Payment: $144
Internet: $17 for my half
Spotify/Hulu: $9.99 (Who else loves that the price of this bundle just went down?)
Cell Phone: $80 until I pay off my phone, then it goes down to $60
Retirement: I contribute 10% of every paycheck and my employer matches 4.5%
Savings: $250 direct deposited from each paycheck
5:30 a.m. — Gotta love that early Monday morning wake-up. Two to four mornings a week, depending on scheduling, I have to be at work at 6:15 — the life of a farmer. I have a unique job — I farm full-time, but the farm is part of a larger nonprofit organization that has an experiential education focus. I still work the hours of a farmer, but I have some perks like health insurance that aren’t usually part of agricultural work. I get ready quietly and hopefully don’t wake my boyfriend up. I take my daily multivitamin and leave the house at 6 for my easy 12ish-minute commute! My day starts with a group of teenagers who are there to help me and another farmer feed all the animals and milk the cows.
7:10 a.m. — We leave the farm and head with milk and eggs in tow to campus for breakfast at 7:15. There’s a breakfast bar every morning, and today there are fried eggs and potatoes.
8 a.m. — Back to the farm after breakfast and my morning meeting. Today we have fifth-graders coming to the farm to help start some spinach and lettuce plants, but other than that it’s a low programming day and we can focus on bigger projects. It’s also lambing season right now, so we’re making sure to check in on the sheep frequently to see if any of the ewes are going into labor.
12:30 p.m. — Lunchtime! I am so hungry. One of the best parts of working in an educational setting is getting meals at work. Some people might think school food would be less than delicious, but everything we grow on the farm goes to the dining hall, and they buy as much locally as they can — it is almost always delicious. Today’s lunch is chicken Parm sandwiches with a side of green beans. SO good.
4:30 p.m. — Time to head home! My coworker and I spent all afternoon starting a big spring project clearing and repairing all the fences, since the snow has finally almost all melted. We wrapped up at about 3:30 to do afternoon animal chores. More feeding, milking, and egg collecting.
5:30 p.m. — My boyfriend and I make an early dinner. I have some work I need to do tonight and am anxious to get started. We don’t have a ton of food in the house, but we pull together a simple meal.
9:30 p.m. — My eyes are done with looking at the computer screen. I’m giving a talk at a local college on Wednesday and have been working on pulling it together. I’ll finish tomorrow night. I head to bed and read for a bit before falling asleep next to my already snoozing BF.
Daily Total: $0
5:30 a.m. — Rise and shine. I get ready and head to work for early morning animal chores.
7:15 a.m. — Breakfast! Today the hot option is French toast and hard-boiled eggs.
8 a.m. — It was a cold night last night, so there’s good frozen ground this morning to try out a new piece of equipment on the farm without damaging the ground. It’s always a careful balance of conditions at this time of year. My boss and I work together to figure out our new machine, and it works great!
10 a.m. — I have an important meeting tomorrow and need some time to get all of my materials and information ready. I spend the rest of the morning in a shared office space getting that and some other admin work done.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch! Today it’s broccoli cheddar calzones with salad.
1:15 p.m. — I have a meeting with a good friend and colleague to talk through our important meeting tomorrow. We write up our talking points and figure out who is going to say what. We are both planners, so it’s great when we get to work together.
4:30 p.m. — Head home! I was distracted all throughout afternoon animal chores thinking about how much I still need to do tonight to be ready for both my meeting and the talk I’m giving tomorrow.
5 p.m. — My BF and I have an after-work snack of whatever is in the fridge — hummus, cheese, pepperoni, and some crackers. We decide to call it dinner. I apologize to him for having to work at home so many nights in a row and then buckle down on getting everything ready for tomorrow.
10 p.m. — I feel prepared, or at least as prepared as I’m gonna get, and call it a night.
Daily Total: $0
6 a.m. — I’m not on the early shift today! I get up a little earlier than I would on just a normal day. I want to be sure I have all my materials ready for my meeting this morning and my talk this afternoon. I put a little more effort than usual into getting dressed, since my day will mostly be off the farm. I make smoothies and my BF and I have a few minutes together before we both leave for work.
8 a.m. — I talk my coworkers through a few tasks they’re going to be working on today and then help some seventh-graders start a data-collection project they are doing on the farm as part of their science class before heading to do some last-minute printing.
10:30 a.m. — I dash out of my meeting. It went great! Then I drive about an hour to the college I’m speaking at. I am feeling nervous but also excited.
1 p.m. — Feeling relieved! My talk went well. A few students who worked on the farm when they were in high school were there, and I grab lunch in the dining hall with them and the administrator who invited me to speak. I’m having college flashbacks and loving all the options! I have pizza, stir-fry, and kale salad. Yum.
2:45 p.m. — I grab gas on the way back to the farm. $28.72
3 p.m. — I arrive back at work and can immediately tell there’s a sheep in labor. There are tons of people in the barn — like 50 — all crowded around to watch. I really love my job, and I think it is so important to teach young people about where their food comes from, but occasionally I wish it were a slightly more normal farm. This is one of those moments. I was hoping to have a pretty quick and simple end of the day after getting past my two big work commitments, but it’s time for educator mode. Luckily, my boss is already talking the crowd through what’s going on, and I work with my other coworkers to quietly sneak around feeding the other animals. The labor is progressing really slowly, so gradually people peel away as they have to get to other commitments.
4:30 p.m. — The first lamb starts to emerge. The lamb is in the right position, front hooves and nose coming out first, so things move quickly. A few more pushes and she drops to the ground. There are always a few long, nerve-racking seconds when a lamb is first born, before it takes its first breath. Everyone in the barn is silently watching, and I hear a collective sigh of relief when we see it inhale. Mom gets to work cleaning off the new baby, but before too long her contractions start again for the second lamb. Sheep usually have twins, though singles and triplets are also normal. She is having some trouble with her second lamb, doing a lot of pushing, but we aren’t seeing any results. My boss and I decide she may need a little bit of help, so I wash up and grab some gloves before hopping in the pen with her.
4:45 p.m. — We can see the second lamb each time she contracts, but it doesn’t look like it’s presenting in the correct orientation. When she starts her next contraction, I carefully slide one of my hands in alongside the lamb to feel what’s going on. Luckily, it’s not breech, but it does have one of its front legs back and the other kind of scrunched up behind its head, which is why the mama is having so much trouble. I gently pull the leg that is mostly forward up alongside the head and pull carefully as she contracts. That was all the help she needed, and lamb number two slides out. I quickly get out of the way so the mom can start cleaning the new lamb off and bond with it right away.
5:15 p.m. — Well, my work day ended differently than I had planned, but I am headed home and feeling great! My BF and I have plans to meet my parents for dinner to celebrate my birthday. (I turned 28 on Saturday.) We live about an hour from my parents, and there’s a cute town halfway between where they live and where we live, so we often meet up there for dinner. Only a 30-minute drive away, which is pretty good for Maine!
6:15 p.m. — Dinner! I had time for a quick wash-up and change at home after my turn as a labor and delivery nurse — haha. We are having dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, and my parents are super excited to do the tasting menu! It’s $20 off on Wednesday nights and the whole table has to do it, so we get ready for a culinary experience.
8:30 p.m. — My parents pick up the tab and we say our goodbyes. I am stuffed! They also brought a few gifts to dinner, so I walk away with a new sleeping bag, a pretty pair of earrings, and a cheese slicer. We drive home and go to bed.
Daily Total: $28.72
6:30 a.m. — Two mornings in a row not on the early shift! My BF and I get up together and make eggs. We usually have toast, but we’re out of bread. Grocery shopping needs to happen soon!
7:40 a.m. — I get to work just in time for the 7:45 morning meeting. Afterward, we talk as a farm crew through our plan for the day. Then my boss and I go through our master to-do list and get on the same page about what projects are done, which are in process, and what we need to be thinking forward about. April is a really important month for us as we get ready for our busy season. The work we do now sets us up to be either efficient and prepared or stressed and scattered when our work gets really busy starting in May.
12:30 p.m. — Herb-crusted whitefish and oven fries for lunch today.
4:30 p.m. — The afternoon flew by as we all picked away at the to-do list. The sheep that gave birth yesterday and her two lambs are doing great! They are both girls — one black, one white. Instead of heading home, tonight I have sewing class. It’s from 6-8, about 30 minutes from where I work, so I have a little time to kill. Usually, I’d bring leftovers from home to eat for dinner, but we didn’t have any, so I decide to give a new-ish Thai noodle bar a try. I love noodles! I am super excited to see khao soi on the menu. I traveled to Thailand almost two years ago, and this northern dish was one of my favorites. The food is pretty good. Not as spicy as it was in Thailand, but very rich and flavorful. With an extra 15-ish minutes to kill before class, I walk down the block and peruse the shelves at my favorite bookstore. $13.99
8:30 p.m. — Home! My sewing class has been pretty funny. This was my fifth class out of six, and I swear there are different people there every time. The teacher is a real character, and I think she scared some people away. I am a mediocre sewer, and I decided to take the class to better understand how to use my sewing machine. Now I can do more than a straight stitch, but I’m definitely not going to be auditioning for Project Runway anytime soon. My BF and I watch a couple of episodes of Parks and Recreation and head to bed.
Daily Total: $13.99
5:30 a.m. — On the early shift again today. After animal chores, there is shakshuka and toast for breakfast.
8:05 a.m. — We get back to the farm after breakfast and are talking about the day when I look over at the sheep pen and see what looks like a newborn lamb! I walk over to check and see that one of our sheep sneakily gave birth to her twins while we were at breakfast! My coworker and I quickly move the trio into the lambing area, where they can have some bonding time before moving back out with the rest of the herd in a day or so. As we’re getting the new lambs situated, my boss gets a call that our new laying hen chicks have arrived at the post office. I quickly transition and get in the truck to go pick them up.
9:30 a.m. — I am back from my errands. I stopped at the post office to pick up the chicks first — they are really loud and need to get set up with food and water, so we try to get them really fast when they arrive. I work quickly to unload the chicks into their nice warm brooders. People are often surprised that chicks get sent in the mail, but unless you hatch your own, most farms order chicks from a centralized hatchery and they come via USPS! We got a box of 80 today. On the way back to the farm, I stop at the hardware store and pick up heat-lamp bulbs, extension cords, seedling labels, and egg-wash solution. ($98.74 expensed)
10 a.m. — My boss and I had been planning to work a bit more with our new machine to spread compost on the gardens since it was cold again last night, but we didn’t get the early start we had hoped for. We decide to try to do a bit anyway and get one garden done before it’s too warm and the ground is softening up.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch! Today it’s banh mi sandwiches and cucumber salad — yum!
5:15 p.m. — I had a student group after lunch today that helped me stack a bunch of firewood. We heat a lot of our buildings with firewood that we produce on our campus, and we’re at the tail end of the wood season, so we just have a little bit of stacking left to go. Then I had afternoon animal chores and a quick chat with the crew to make sure we’re all on the same page about weekend coverage. (I have this weekend off!) My BF met up with a friend after work to do a run on a local river, so I have the house to myself. I get some laundry going, take a long shower, and make dinner after finding a bag of tortellini in the freezer. I eat and leave the rest for my BF.
8 p.m. — My BF is tired when he gets home, and we decide to get ready for bed and settle in with the new Our Planet series on Netflix. He’s asleep after the first 10 minutes, and I only last 30. It was a long week!
Daily Total: $0
8 a.m. — We get to sleep in today! We wake up around 8 but just hang out and chill in bed until 9:30 or so.
10 a.m. — Time for coffee and breakfast! We still have eggs, so we make some scrambled eggs and smoothies with berries from the freezer. Have I mentioned we need to go to the grocery store?
12:15 p.m. — After enjoying a chill morning at home, we head out to meet some friends for a canoe run on a local river. We stop at a small general store on the way and split a sandwich and some chips. My BF pays.
3 p.m. — We’re off the river and packing up. We say see you later to our friends because we’re all going to the same party tonight.
6 p.m. — We had all sorts of ideas about what we could bring to the housewarming party we are headed to tonight, but after getting home from our paddle, unpacking, and showering, we don’t have much time. I grab a bottle of wine and a six-pack from the closet and call it good enough.
11 p.m. — We get home from the housewarming party — it was super fun and I am glad to have spent a long night with friends after a pretty quiet week. When I go to bed early too many nights in a row, I start to feel like I am wasting my 20s! My BF falls asleep right away, but I’m not very tired after hitting a second wind at the party, so I read for a while before I go to sleep.
Daily Total: $0
8 a.m. — I wake up at my predictable time. If I don’t set an alarm, I almost always wake up at 8. I throw on some sweats and let my BF keep sleeping while I make some coffee and get some random emailing and bill-paying done on my computer.
10 a.m. — My boyfriend emerges and makes us some scrambled eggs. We decide today is the day for the grocery store!
11:30 a.m. — BF and I head out for a short hike at a nearby "mountain" (it’s more of a hill). When we get there the parking lot is full, so we detour and go for a beach walk instead. The beach parking lot charges $6 per person, and my boyfriend pays since he has cash on him.
1:30 p.m. — We grab a quick lunch at a deli after our walk. I pay. $17.01
2:30 p.m. — We hit the grocery store on the way home and stock up. We buy lots of veggies, grapes, grapefruit, cereal, some ground pork, laundry detergent, bread, coconut milk, garbanzo beans, pasta, pizza dough, mozzarella, and a few other things. It’s just under $80 altogether, so $39 for my half. $39
3:30 p.m. — We get home from the store and unpack the groceries. I load and start the dishwasher, and my boyfriend gets some laundry going. I decide to head out for a run, since our hike ended up being a walk.
6 p.m. — We have a Sunday ritual of watching Saturday Night Live. Sometimes we do it when we wake up if we’re having a lazy morning, but it was so nice today, we saved it for the evening. We are big Game of Thrones fans, and Kit Harington is the host!
7:30 p.m. — We make pizza for dinner! One is pesto with peppers and artichoke hearts, and the other is red sauce with onions, garlic, capers, and anchovies. We will have lots of leftovers for easy snacks and dinner over the next few days.
8:20 p.m. — Pizza was delicious! We start watching another episode of Our Planet and getting ready for Monday. After that it’s reading in bed until I fall asleep.
Daily Total: $56.01
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