Saturday, September 28, 2013

Harvest In Full Swing

Once the leaves start to change colors, they don't waste any time.  We are almost at peak color here already, and the leaves are starting to drop in earnest.  The wind kicked up today and was blowing the leaves off the trees so much that I had to get out and take some pictures before the first Fall rain comes and washes them off the trees altogether.  The only thing yet missing for you to know it is Fall here is the smell of wood smoke in the air.

My annual pilgrimage to Bayfield yesterday for apples netted one bushel mix of McIntosh and Wealthy apples for making apple sauce and apple butter, and one bushel of Cortland apples for fresh eating and baking.  I was also able to find 20 lbs. of pears at Apple Hill Orchard. (I really like Apple Hill.  The people are very friendly; you can buy great apple pies; they have nice dogs; and it is the only orchard I found where you can take your family and pick your own apples.  I suppose there are other orchards that let you do that, but Apple Hill is the only one I have found.)  At Hauser's I bought some delicious local apple wine. I hoped to buy a couple of gallons of cider at Erickson's, but they were just pressing their cider to have for the Bayfield Apple Festival.  I tend to go up to Bayfield early because I hate the crowds and driving through Bayfield is awful.  Thousands of people go to the Apple Festival which is a fun event, but I'm just not a crowd person so I take my chances and go up the week before the Festival.

The house smells real good today. . . .

We dug Tom's potatoes.  He had some nice Kennebecs and Red Norlands. I like my Red Cloud potatoes, but I sure wish I had some winter squash to put up.

Red Cloud potatoes, pears, and apples
I still have one more batch of apples to cook down before I can the sauce up, so I'll let you go.  Blessing to you all!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pass It On

Just had to include a link to this Forbidden Knowledge TV movie.  I sure wish this lady was my doctor!  As a side note, the Forbidden Knowledge web site has links to all sorts of great informational videos.  Check it out!

My Favorite Time of Year

I love Fall. I revel in its colors and smells.  It is always a rush to try to get the outside work done before the ground freezes, but work in brisk cool air is welcome, especially after this summer's heat and humidity.

We had our first frost the other day so I was busy in the field garden.  I dug up my Red Cloud potatoes and picked all the tomatoes.   Most of the tomatoes were green so when I got back to the house, I put them in brown paper bags that I then stashed beneath the buffet in my kitchen. I check them every few days and sort out the ripe ones for processing or fresh eating. Tom doesn't understand why I plant heirloom tomatoes because I always wind up picking them green.  I suppose I just like heirloom flavor and don't mind waiting for them to turn red.

While in the field I also checked for winter squash and found nary a one.  I planted a new variety this year called Winter Keeper, and started the plants in the greenhouse so they were a good size when I put them in the field. I expected at least some fruits, but there were hardly any flowers on the vines.  Was it the weather?  I don't know.  Everything grew so late this year.  Well, I like my winter squash so you know I won't be planting Winter Keeper again! 

Out of the melons I planted this Spring, I found a solitary itty-bitty Moon and Stars watermelon, but a deer ate it. And there were only four tiny New England Pie Pumpkins that I picked before the deer could find them.  What a disappointment! The white Patty Pan summer squash, however, was a nice surprise.  I never grew it before and had to look up how to eat it, but I really like it.  I slice it into pieces and dip them in a little homemade salad dressing; a great lunch when teamed with a nice ripe tomato and raw greens. 

Closer to the house, I picked all of the Old Homestead Brown pole beans and Scarlet Runner beans.  Some of them I strung on a string, like I would if I wanted to make leather breeches with green beans, and I hung them up to dry for planting next year.  I canned the rest.  My late planted Provider green beans have managed to stay alive under row cover, but I don't think I'm going to get any beans off them as they are just starting to get flowers. 

The late planted beets are looking good so I might get some beets this year after all. If no beets, surely we'll get some beet greens.

This Spring I planted 75 heirloom variety Jupiter and California Wonder sweet green pepper plants.  I harvested about 10 small peppers.  The plants looked great and were loaded with flowers; there was just not enough time for them to fully mature. Same with the okra. 

I canned all day today -- tomato sauce, chickens, and chicken broth.  The house smelled so good!  And I had to laugh thinking how the chickens make out so well getting all the canning scraps to eat. 

I didn't make it down to Wisconsin Rapids to take the General Class ham license exam and will try for the December session.  In the meantime I keep studying.  It's hard to stay focused when there is so much other work to get done.  I keep telling myself that I can't become an Amateur Extra until I obtain the General Class license.  That sort of helps. 

Well, that's the latest here at Swamp Creek Farm.  Take care and Happy Harvest!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Snap Your Fingers

And it was just like that I felt the seasons change.  The sun is not as high in the sky, and its light is not so bright. The heat of the day is not as intense, and the leaves on the trees are drooping and losing their lustre.  This morning the dew did not dry off the grass till almost 1:00 pm. 

Today I worked in the forest garden "chopping and dropping" as Geoff Lawton says to clear the pathways and fill the swales with mulch.  I was both delighted and amazed to see all the beneficial insects that were buzzing in the golden rod and other "weed" flowers.  I tried to be careful and not unduly disturb them.  I cleared the path around the black and red currants from one garden entrance to the other.  It doesn't look like much was done, but at least it is a start. Using only a hand sickle gave my arms a work out!  I uncovered the spearmint and lemon balm, and I will transplant clumps of each to the raised bed herb box as I don't want to see them get lost in the taller grasses.  When all the pathways are cut out I will take some pictures for you.  The new apple trees I planted this spring are all doing very well, and there are even some grape clusters on one of the grape vines I transplanted.  When the grapes are a bit riper I will take some seeds and start some new vines.

So far I have collected lots of cilantro, chervil, and dill seed.  The pole beans will be harvested for dry beans so they will stay on the vines till just before we get a hard frost, and I have lots of radish pods to hang and dry, too.  The tomatoes are just coming on and I expect I will have to pick most of them green.  I have harvested the hot red Thai peppers and have them in the dehydrator along with lavender and rosemary stems, nettle seeds, and summer savory.  Lara's fig tree suffered in the greenhouse when we had the recent heat wave.  It does not look happy.  I hope to move it into Lara's room some time this week so it gets used to being indoors before the cold weather comes.  I hope it will perk up.  The little lemon trees are all growing well. 

Lara and I made it to the farmers market in Phillips once so far.  We had our little onions and garlic, some carrots, zucchini, pickling cucumbers, and lots of collard greens.  I also bought some horseradish roots.  I sold all the carrots rather quickly, and even managed to get some people to try the collard greens.  I have a few customers that like my little onions and garlic, but there were no takers for the horseradish.  That's ok; horseradish for many is an acquired taste.  I do wish more people would at least try eating collards; they are so very nutritious.

If Tom plants any cucumbers next year I think I'll have a fit! I have canned enough pickles to last us 10 years.  I'm sick of pickles.  What I'm looking for is beets and green beans, and so far I haven't been able to find any.  I still hope to get some from my late planting in the garden boxes, but time is running out.  Hard frost cannot be far off for us.

Speaking of canning, I discovered that my water bath canner had somehow warped after nearly 40 years of use, so I bought a new pot.  It is a good 40 quart, stainless steel brew pot that I can also use for brewing beer (after I get my hops yard back in order!). It weighs 20 lbs. so I have to put it on the stove and fill it with water there or else it is too heavy for me to lift.  It also takes longer to heat up so I get it heating first thing when I know I'll can. The pot holds 12 quarts at a time.  A large inverted pizza pan works just fine as a bottom base on which to set the jars.  I'm very pleased with it and bought it through Amazon .

Tom harvested his cabbage last week so you know what I did --

Making Sauerkraut 2013
Using the water seal suggested by a commenter on my old making sauerkraut post (scroll down the right side of this blog to find the link) worked very well last year so I am using it on both crocks this year. You guys make great comments.  Isn't it wonderful how people from all over the world discussing a subject can enrich us all?  I wish the habit would rub off on certain people, don't you?

We should have about three more days of clear weather so tomorrow I plan to start cutting the grass in the field and will check on my potatoes, winter squash and pumpkins. I am glad to have the BCS tractor back!

The chicks are growing quickly.  Thankfully,  I have not lost any more chickens to predators since the wolf came through.

I am studying hard for the General class ham radio license exam.  I hope to take it the middle of this month down in Wisconsin Rapids at the McMillan Library, but I must confess I'm not sure I'll be ready.  I am finding all the different math formulas quite intimidating. I guess I just don't learn things as quickly as I used to do.

Well, it's getting late and I have to go lock up the chickens.  Blessing to you all!

Grandpa Ott's Morning Glories