Sunday, October 21, 2007

Season Slowing

Today was another cloudy, misty day. It was windier and colder than yesterday, and a day more suited to indoor activities, so I have spent the day reading on the Internet about a wide variety of subjects ranging from Alchemy, Spagyrics, and Mundane Astrology to solar water pumps, waterwheels, aquaponics, community kitchens, and the price of wheat. All sorts of things.

I got the October issue of Farmers Markets Today magazine. It's a small mag, but I really like it because it gives me lots of ideas for marketing my food. They do a lot of profiles and I really like those, too, because it's nice to see how other producers are working at their dreams. Check out its web site at

Yesterday was our only nice day in over a week so I took advantage of it and headed out to the field to work on winterizing everything. The first thing I discovered was that the beaver has been busy chewing down some more birch trees. The skid trough he has worked down to the creek is getting deep and smooth. As long as I don't flood, I don't mind that beaver; with drought the last three years I might need his pond. And I need a couple of more fence posts and the trees he has down are just right for me to be handle by myself! Anyway, it took a couple of hours to clear out all the weeds from the high tunnel and put all my bits and pieces of equipment into tubs for the winter -- I work slowly because my asthma kicks up in the Fall when the molds start -- but the tunnel really looked nice when I was done. I watered the rows where I planted winter carrots, spinach, and beets, and talked a bit to my great catnip patch and Italian parsley. I put all of the collards and cabbages in a row that I hope to get through the winter for seed production next year, and that was it. When the cranberries I have in the dehydrator are dry I may cut all the parsley down to the ground and bring that back to the house to dry. I don't worry too much about parsley because it's pretty hardy for me.

Tom and Ed came out to the field in the afternoon and helped me hoe all around the fruit trees. We put their winter bark protectors on and dug the new holes for the Westfield-Seek-No-Further apple tree and the two pear trees I have coming from St. Lawrence Nursery. I remember one pear tree is a Golden Spice, but I don't remember what the other pear tree is. I need to get to the Feed Store in Fifield and buy some mushroom compost, cow manure and peat moss to spread around all of the trees. Hopefully the new trees will come before I go to Marshfield with Lara. If not, then I will have everything ready for Tom so he can put the new trees in the ground for me. Now that we have been getting rain, the field looks pretty good. I still want to cut the grass around the beds one last time, and Tom wants to rake up some of the grass for winter mulch in his garden. I still want to turn over the ground where the potatoes were and sow some oats and rye grass -- as long as the seed sprouts, I'll be happy. It felt good to be outside working. I can't wait to get out and start working with the wood.

I am going to take down the chicken fence after I butcher Chin Lee and the remaining Lisas (I did three hens the other day. It didn't take me as long as I thought, but three was plenty for my arthritic hands). That way if we need to get Dad's tractor to skid logs, he'll have an easier way to get down into that section of the forest. Then I will clean out the coop and get ready for a new batch of chickens next year. I will use that coop for a brooder house and build a bigger coop for the layers.

We are on a pumpkin seeds binge. I figured out a way to make tasty pumpkin seeds and Tom just loves them. I did find, however, that seeds from the giant pumpkins don't taste as good as do seeds from the pie pumpkins; their hulls have too much fiber to chew and swallow. And now I have lots of pumpkin puree to use up. But that's ok, too, because we can have pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, and Lara wants pumpkin soup, all of which I know I have recipes for. We have been drinking pumpkin juice, too. We had plain pumpkin juice, orange-pumpkin, cranberry-pumpkin, and pear-pumpkin juice. It has been fun experimenting with different flavors, and it is a good way to get Lara to drink more fluids. All I have left is 2 jars of unsweetened apple juice and one jar of plum nectar already. But the kids and I have been enjoying Fall. I made apple grunt and caramel apples with the last of the fresh apples I bought in Bayfield. Ed really liked the caramel apples. (I'm a grunt fan.) And I am still trying to get everything in the house taken care of and ready for when I go to Marshfield with Lara so it's not on my mind that I have to enter the bills into the accounting program or dust or clean the basement, etc.

When I took Ed bowling last Thursday, the coach didn't show up. I hope he is ok -- I don't have a phone number for him. Everybody was just standing around so I got the kids bowling and even though I'm not good at scoring, I wrote down all the pins and took the sheets home with me since no one else wanted them. I found an applet on the Internet that helped me score the sheets (I'm so happy I found that applet that I've been practising scoring and I'm confident I know how to do it now. Here's the site: I also had an e-mail when I came home from Special Olympics about special training that they wanted Class A volunteers to take -- it is a little awareness course that you do right over the Internet and when you submit the final test back to Special Olympics they sent you a confirmation e-mail acknowledging that you completed their requirements. When I got the acknowledgement e-mail I saved it in case someone asks if I took the course. Then I sent Billy an e-mail to let him know I had the score sheets (Bill Ertl is my godson and is head of the Chequamegon Agency Special Olympics in Ashland -- I'm VERY proud of him!), and I sent him everyone's score because I wasn't sure whether they needed the scores before the tournament in Duluth on the 20th. (I wasn't sending Ed.)

Well, back to the garden -- my thoughts are never far from it. I still have pumpkins for sale, mostly New England Pie Pumpkins, and a couple of giant Big Moon pumpkins. As long as the weather doesn't get too cold, I should be able to get dill, parsley, and maybe some cilantro, along with Bull's Blood beet greens, Southern Giant Leaf Curled Mustard greens, and Gilfeather Turnips. I might have some St. Valery carrots left out there, too, but would need to check. St. Valery doesn't get very big as far as carrots go, but it is a good juicer. I have decided not to offer any seeds in the Seed Saver Exchange book yet because I want to work on my production methods a bit longer. It would be nice to offer more than one variety of seed, too, and I want to be confident in my ability to save seeds from a number of veggies.

I have also been ruminating about next year's seeds, as well, and imaging in my mind how the field will look. I will leave the hazelnuts where they are, but I am going to move the plums to the perennial bed section next to the horseradish. I need to check how many of the elderberry bushes I planted are still wick, and then decide where I want to replant them because I am really thinking about putting a couple of pigs in that last grassy section next to the high tunnel. The thought of homegrown bacon sandwiches really makes my stomach talk.

I have been working very hard on my plan to build a shared-use commercial kitchen. Mark Kopecky (our Ag Extension agent) is trying to get a book for me, and I am trying to crunch numbers on the first part of the project. Since I don't want to borrow any money, it looks like I will have a lot of time to work on this. I need to build a small aquaponics system anyway and get comfortable with that process before trying to build a larger set-up. Once I understand how the process works, be able to troubleshoot any problems, decide on my fish, and establish markets, then we'll take a gander at a larger view. You can grow one hell of a lot fish and food on only one acre of land if you set it up right. I checked out an aquaponics farm in New York (Laughing Duck Farm ) that makes an incredible amount of money, and if I remember right, their aquaponics set up is on 1/8 acre. I have been reading government publications about aquaponics, and I really think we can get all the help we want if we (Price Direct) want to go this route to build a community kitchen with profits from an aquaponics operation. If not, I'll build the kitchen privately on my property and everything will go into a family trust.

Well, it's getting late so I think I'll sign off. Talk to you soon. BTW, I have about 4 more pictures to use up on the camera so hopefully I'll have some new pics soon.

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