Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

I finished building some nest boxes for the chickens this morning. I built it from an entertainment center we had that got warped when we had our furniture in storage while our house was being built. I was surprised how good they turned out. I got six nest boxes, and Tom helped me put them up in the chicken coop. I think I will make some curtains to cover the entrances. Right now the hens just look at the boxes and prefer to climb into the wood chip bag to lay. I will give them a few days to get used to the boxes before I take away the bag.

This afternoon, Tom, Ed and I went out to the field. There weren't many zucchinis or cucumbers, although the plants are loaded with flowers. I dug up the sweet potatoes and Yellow Finn potatoes. I was surprised at how many potatoes I did get considering how bad the drought was. They many not be very big, but they are a good enough size to eat. No sweet potatoes though. Too bad. We went through the pumpkin patch and picked the ones that were mature -- 21 New England Pie Pumpkins. There are more growing, but the deer have decimated both the pumpkins and the winter squash sections horribly. I almost picked the few pumpkins I thought were close to being mature, but I decided to leave them in the patch and hope for the best. My Agribon 19 fabric is supposed to come tomorrow. I hope to have everything covered before frost. Tom and I both cut more grass. We almost have the field done, and there is yet the meadow to do.

Tom and I remeasured the length of the high tunnel. We will get some 2" x 6"s for the base in the next couple of days. There aren't too many good days left to get work done.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Harvest Time

It's been busy here at Swamp Creek Farm. I am trying to get the high tunnel up and start the simple wood shed while taking care of the field. We have most of the hay cut, but still need to finish, and now I need to till in the wheat and oat straw. I dug up the elderberries from the orchard and brought them to the house until I decide where to move them because they were so close to the fence that is probably going to have to be moved because of this upcoming eminent domain road job. Eddy and I checked the orchard trees and dug up the dead trees. I was ecstatic to find that both the Nova and Golden Spice pear trees were still alive, as are the Knobbed Russet and Egremont Russet. So along with the Fameuse that is thriving, I still have three apple trees, two pear trees, and one Bali pie cherry tree so alive. I want to place an order for trees for fall planting from St. Lawrence Nursery in New York early next week and the cost now is going to be a lot easier to bear! I think I will move the orchard to the south end of the field but still have not decided exactly where I will put everything.

Went to the Farmers Market yesterday and got all the way to Fifield before I realized that I had forgotten the change purse. I wound up being half an hour late, but Nate (a fellow vendor) graciously parked the van in a tight spot for me and I was able to get quickly set up. I was surprised at how many people were there. I sold just about all the zucchini and squash this week, my Stupice tomatoes, and all but two of the Lemon cucumbers. No one is buying my wheat bouquets yet, but I will not go down on my price. The wheat is an unusual variety for this area (Polk hard red spring wheat from Johnny's Seeds in Maine) and I spent a good two weeks sorting, counting stems and bundling each bouquet. In the garden I still have summer squash and zucchini coming, and the fall Bull's Blood beets are looking good. Those will probably be ready about the middle of September. The winter squash is looking good as are the New England Pie Pumpkins -- if I can keep the deer out of the patch! I really want to have some Blue Hubbard squash to eat. I ordered a roll of Agribon 19 from Johnny's Seeds and hopefully will have it before the full moon on September 7th (when I expect the first hard frost). If I can cover everything before hard frost occurs, I think I can keep the harvest going till the end of the farmers market. I am still hopeful about getting basil and beans, but the sweet corn and okra I think are goners. Tomorrow I will dig the sweet potatoes and Yellow Finn potatoes for next Saturday's market. Also will bring some collard greens. I love collards! I think they are the best tasting of the greens, and they are great to freeze, which I think is the best way to preserve their flavor. I will save the German Butterball potatoes for a later market.

Chin Lee and Lisa 1-7 are doing well. Most of the hens have grown back their feathers from molting and egg production is picking up again, although I expect that will not last too long with the daylight hours decreasing. Next year I will increase the flock.

We did well at the Butternut Fair this year. I was pleasantly surprised to get blue ribbons for my French cut green beans, the Dominique eggs, sugarless strawberry jam, lemon cucumbers, a Victorian crocheted doily, and my hand knitted scarecrow doll. The kosher style garlic dill pickles got a second place, and the Clarimore zucchini got third place.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Farmers Market Today

Went to the Phillips Farmers Market today. It was my second time going there. I had a lot of fun and met some really nice people. I was surprised to see all the customers; the farmers market is starting to take off. I wish all of us vendors had more to sell! I can't wait for my small fruits to begin bearing. I sold all my mesclun, half of my zucchini squash, one wheat bouquet, and several crocheted jar toppers. I had several people comment favorably on my display. Talking about recipes seems to be a good conversation starter. It has always been difficult for me to talk to people but I think that is an acquired skill. I hope that over time I get better at it.

Today I put an overturned bucket under the table and set the bucket I put the umbrella in on top of that, and the umbrella was just at the right height. I was so happy. I had noticed last time at the market that people had to constantly duck under the umbrella to get to the table and I needed to raise it up some. I also separated the squash into their respective varieties and put them in separate wicker baskets. Doing this gave the appearance of having more produce than I actually did and gave a nice "country" accent. I was disappointed that the wheat bundles didn't sell well, but it is early in the harvest season and if I don't sell the bouquets, I know Chin Lee and Lisa 1-7 will certainly appreciate them this coming winter. This week I will make some wheat weavings and some more jar toppers.

I am keeping watch over my Yellow Finn and German Butterball potatoes; they should be ready to harvest in about two weeks. The New England Pie Pumpkins and the winter squashes are growing well. I just love winter squash! My sunflowers didn't grow nearly as tall as they should have, but they are starting to head out and hopefully by the time the potatoes are ready I can have some sunflower heads to sell, too.

Yesterday, Tom helped me put up the rafters to the hight tunnel. Boy, that was more of a job than I thought it would be. When you put those pipe pieces together they get pretty heavy! But at least I had everything plumb and squared correctly; I am very proud of myself for doing that all by myself. Now I have to put the cross bars on the rafters.

The grass is about half way cut around the fence. I hope to get the rest of it cut in the next couple of days. Then I need to cut the grass inside the fence. The work just never seems to end. Still, I like keeping busy and the work helps me lose weight -- I have lost 30 pounds this summer so far. I need to dig up the dead fruit trees, and I will move the elderberries, probably to the south end of the field.

Well, I think I'll leave off for now. Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

August Already

Where is the summer going? Between hauling water out to the field at first light because of the drought and helping my Dad make firewood in the afternoon, I am beat! When we had the 102 temperature on July 31st I was afraid for Lara and Ed as we don't have air conditioning, but early in the morning while it was still cool, Tom and I turned off the whole house fan and closed the house up. We turned on room fans and the dehumidifier, and I closed all the curtains to shut out the sun. We stayed inside and just lay around all day. The hottest it got in the house was 87 and I was able to keep Lara and Ed comfortable. I am sure glad we only had one day of that blistering temp. And then, the storms came and we lost power altogether. The power went out Friday night and didn't come back on till Sunday night. I lost everything in the frig and all the 12 dozen eggs in the egg frig. If I had been thinking better, I could have hardboiled them and made pickled eggs, but I didn't think of it till after the eggs were lost. Items in the basement freezer were starting to soften up and I was getting ready to start canning the meat when the power was restored. Whew! Thank goodness Lara had her emergency dynamo radio to listen to or life would really have been difficult. And with all that I was just happy it was raining and I didn't have to go out to haul water. I heard there was a tornado touch down in Butternut that caused the power outage. I am sure the newspaper will have the story this week. I wonder how Butternut Pioneer Days went.

I was lucky enough to make it to my first Farmers Market two weeks ago in Phillips. All I had was some Bull's Blood Beets and Amish Snap Peas -- not the best quality, but still edible (and I won't sell what I won't eat myself). I figured I had enough items to make the trip worth the gas. I also had some craft items I made. It was a lot of work, but I learned alot and got to meet some really nice people. I was very nervous and even made mistakes making change, but people were pretty friendly and understanding. Their attitude sure helped me calm down. I sold most of the beets and just about all the peas, and I even sold one crocheted jar bonnet. Everyone loved my display. And I noted that I made one sale because I sold heirloom varieties; I made another sale because I had recipes to go with the produce; and I made another sale because I am WIC and FMNP program authorized. The other vendors were very friendly -- I was really envious of their beautiful produce. I sure wish I had a well out in my field! Well, everything will come in time; one day I will have my well. The squash is starting to come in now that we've had a good rain and the wheat should be ready soon. My poor oats are shot. If it is nice tomorrow morning, I'll go out and check for more squash and see if I can start cutting wheat. I planted hard red spring wheat, variety Polk, seed purchased from Johnny's Seed in Maine. I am very pleased with how the wheat grew even with the horrid summer we've had. I will sell some of the wheat in unthreshed bundles. If I can sell just three bundles, that will make the trip to Phillips worth the gas. I hope to thresh enough wheat from the stand I planted to last the chickens for the winter. We'll see how it goes. The wheat will make very nice harvest decorations. I think I will get out my wheat weaving book and see if I can make something before market day to give people some crafting ideas.

Tomorrow Lara and I plan to go to the Price Direct meeting at the Ag extension office. Lara is looking forward to going. There is supposed to be a guest speaker. It has been some time since Lara was out of the house and I am sure she is feeling cooped up. I need to make a beauty parlor appointment with Julie for the two of us to get our hair cut, too. Some times I feel so overwhelmed with everything I want to do and just can't seem to get done as fast as I'd like.

As far as the garden goes, I dug up all the beans that managed to sprout and transplanted them into the main veggie section. I then planted the short season sweet corn, Scarlet Runner Beans, okra and basil that I had started in flats the end of June. I consolidated the cucumbers and squash. Everything looks like it is growing well, especially with the rain we've had. It looks like a different garden! I am very happy with the pumpkin patch and can't wait to get some pumpkins. Tomorrow I will plant some fall St. Valery carrots, more Bull's Blood beets and just regular peas (I'm out of any more heirloom seed for this year). The Yellow Finn and German Butterball potatoes should be ready in about two weeks. And next week it is supposed to be cooler so I hope to finally get the high tunnel finished. When that is up I will plant some Forellynschluss and mesclun lettuce under it.

After that it's finishing up with cutting the grass and digging up the dead orchard trees. Since it looks like I will have to move the fence because of the eminent domain action, I think I will move what is left of the orchard to the South end of the field. I am still thinking on this as to where I can put what. In any event, I plan to dig holes this fall for new trees to be planted next spring. Maybe I will line the South end fence border with elderberries. At least it will look pretty in the Spring! I will certainly hate to move the cherry trees though as I am not sure they will make the transplant, and I am very proud of my hardy little Fameuse apple tree, but that will need to be moved as well. I sure hope I don't have to move that asparagus bed. Getting that bed established was a lot of work and having to move it will mean a loss of two years work. Well, we'll see how things go.

I see that it's getting late so I will leave off for now. Talk to to you soon!