Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 9-6

It’s September!

With the Labor Day weekend fast upon us, it is already FALL in most folks’ minds.    

sheep grazing

But, it hasn’t felt remotely like fall of late. The weather has been sweltering and incredibly dry.  All the moisture that was causing me to complain that my socks were perpetually soggy and my jeans were beginning to smell like algae from kneeling in the wet grass suddenly dried up. Completely. The grass turned brown and crunchy and the mud turned to dust. It doesn’t take many near ninety degree days to sap the moisture reserves.  Amazingly, we found ourselves praying for rain.

Despite the weather, there is definitely a sense of change in the air.  So, it was no real surprise to see that RG was harvesting his corn the other day.  You can actually feel the routine and rhythm of seasons as you drive through his farm. It's probably my favorite place on the drive from town...except home, of course.
corn harvest '15

The routines leading up to season change around here aren’t done on such a grand scale, but, change is evident.
abundant okra

prolific fall potatoes

hearty fall cabbage

We completed the last of the outdoor planting for 2015 by placing at least 250 broccoli plants in the upper garden. (I lost count) Once the Boss got the t-tape placed, I plunked the plants and he back-filled around them. 
placing t-tape for irrigation

mulching broccoli is a dirty job

how do the looper moths know?
the broccoli plants aren't even out of the flats yet!

Leaving me to mulch them in, he headed off to work on clearing out the last of the old crops in hoophouse #1. It was my intention to get the last of the transplanting done, but that proved to be a little too ambitious and will have to be at the top of the next to-do list.
working in hoophouse #1

After we got the broccoli planted (and the irrigation running) it looked as if it might storm…

…and storm it did.  Rain, we needed. Wind…not so much. And, as for hail? No, not at all. However, it all came as a package deal. The storm lasted about an hour, dropped over a half an inch of rain and took out the power with it. A power outage on a hot summer day of field work just before supper preparation time is a bummer. Particularly when it is impossible to predict a restoration time. Since we were both beyond filthy (and with no power you can’t take a shower because we have an electric well pump) we opted for a “run to the drive-thru/eat in the car” kind of evening. 

when you're hungry, tired, hot and dirty
this is greatly appreciated

Our drive home took us right past the power crew who assured us that the fix would be done shortly.
Hooray for the power crew!
…and they were men of their word.

 The garden escaped any serious hail damage and we really needed the rain, so it’s all good.

Apparently, we were not the only ones in search of a chicken supper after the storm.  When the rains stopped, the Boss headed out to open the hoophouse sides again. (we close the sides prior to rain to protect the plants, but since heat is still a factor this time of year, we then have to roll them back up again)

As I went to help, I noticed something odd in the hen yard. There was a hawk, eating one of the hens, or rather what was left of a hen.
what was left of the hen

The rest were cowering in terror in another part of the pen.  When the hawk saw me, he took off and sat in the trees along the fenceline. We had a stare-off until he finally flew off toward Mbrk.

big red-tail in the trees

I have to make an admission here…I hate the raptors. I know, they’re beautiful and majestic and oh, so cool. And, they do eat small critters. Which is good when we’re talking about rabbits and mice and varmints like that.  But, they will also eat chickens (just one reason pastured poultry is not as popular and profitable as you may be led to believe) and other small farm animals, even lambs on occasion.  (no, we haven’t had that particular problem) And, farmers are not allowed to take any sort of action without a special permit.

Did you know that these birds are protected by Federal Law? There are lots of regulations and fines for disobedience.   If you are found guilty of killing an eagle, you will possibly do jail time. (read this) 

That put us (okay, me) on pins and needles for a while, wondering if he would come back and eat more chickens. So far, so good, we haven’t had any return visits.

Back to the jobs at hand. 

With the abundant tomato crop this year, I had hoped to dry some for winter use.  The dehydrator was full when it became evident something wasn’t quite right.  Some switch failed and the heater didn’t work. The Boss can indeed fix it (the part should be here in a couple of days). However, the tomatoes inside turned into some sort of mold-growing science experiment, so they became chicken food and I will try again once the repair is made.

oh well, the chickens seemed to enjoy them

However, I was successful in saving seeds from the big slicing tomatoes.  Yes, you can just squish the seeds out on a napkin and save it for next year.  But, by allowing the tomato to rot a little, getting rid of all the flesh and skin, the little seeds are much cleaner.  The little fuzzy seed hairs allow for better germination, too.  Just another step toward the 2016 growing season.

saving heirloom tomato seeds

I recently read that Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “there are 10 minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat”.  

looks like I missed the window of perfection on this one!
I honestly think old Ralph overstated things and it’s much more like 5 minutes and 18 ½ seconds (give or take)… But, I did indeed get some pears canned and there are still a few on the trees that were not damaged by Wednesday’s hail storm. So, it doesn’t look like we will go hungry this winter.

And, much to our customers’ delight, we began harvesting greens again this week. 

the new lettuce crop

Kale has become incredibly popular…far surpassing the others...and enjoying SUPERfood status. Go figure. My mother had to beg us to eat the stuff as kids. Yes, I will be planting more this week as we work to finish filling up the hoophouses with crops for winter.

Market day dawned dark and threatening. But, thankfully, it did not rain. As a matter of fact, it was quite sunny most of the day.  Once again, the Market was a great success. 

Want to see pics from the market?  You can check out the Boss’ photos on Facebook.

Upon our return, there was a fairly large box sitting by the gate (thankfully it was on the outside and “farmland security”-Gus--hadn’t gotten a hold of it). Inside were some of the most gorgeous heads of garlic I’ve ever seen. This is the seedstock for the 2016 crop that will be going into the ground in the next few weeks.
inside the box of seedstock

…and the cycle continues.

work on the barn project is progressing
(Gus is the self-appointed inspector/supervisor)

While Labor Day weekend conjures images of the last blast of summer with picnics and parties and one last dip in the pool,  around here the picture is slightly different. We will be processing another batch of broilers, doing some work in the hoophouse and working through some apples, pears and tomatoes that are desperately calling for my attention, as we make preparations for the dark, cold days of Winter that always follows the (un-official) arrival of Fall.

Hope you have a 

Happy Sunday! 

Thanks for stopping by.  Come “visit” us again real soon.

signs of things to come


  1. A good read as usual Barbara. Commiserations over the dead chicken - you will see on my blog that I lost two hens to a marauding Jack Russell terrier.

  2. We have a marauding sharp shinned hawk that takes a hen every chance he gets! And if it 's not a hawk then it's a fox or a coon. I'd like to be able to free range but alas, not today.

    Your posts inspire me to do more. My garden was almost a complete loss this year. We'll get raspberries and potatoes. Next year will be much better! Thanx for your inspiration.

    1. So sorry to hear about the "critter issues". Taking care of animals sure isn't easy! Here's hoping you can find a solution.

      It is more than a little humbling to be called an inspiration. Honestly, we struggle to do more all the time. We've known our fair share of failures and frustrations.

      We once read a poem about farming that had a refrain..."there's always next year!" I find myself thinking of that line quite often, particularly when things go wrong. I guess that's part of what keeps us going.

      Best to you!

  3. Hi Barbara,
    This may be a dumb question, but I shall ask anyway.
    Aren't the seed garlic Already garlic? When you plant them, will you get more, or bigger, or what?
    Signed, the sorry-arsed suburbanite, m

    1. There are no dumb questions. I often forget that some things I take for granted are not common knowledge.
      Yes, the seed garlic is well...garlic. But, garlic is not propagated by seed like some other crops. By splitting the head into individual cloves and planting those, you get a whole new, bigger crop. Each garlic head will create anywhere from 6 to 12 heads. Cool, huh?