Weekly Homestead Report 9: October 10, 2016

Pictured here: fall’s finest bird food (poison ivy) and aster eye candy! This week a number of longstanding items got crossed off of our big to-do list, and in the process, we learned important lessons about timing harvests.

  • sweep chimney (nothing too bad, here)
  • dig potatoes (grrrrr! voles!)
  • pick and shell dry beans (oh, no! mold!)
  • pick popcorn (oh no, mold again! But not too bad.)
  • harvest remaining watermelon (gah! overripe!)

The dry beans seemed to be doing well last time I checked, but the last two weeks of wet weather caused some of them to get moldy instead of dry. I’ve been doing a rescue operation to try to salvage most of them. I could have picked the whole plants and hung them in the shed to dry, giving up the possibility of the younger pods ripening, but thoroughly drying those that had already made beans. Instead, I’ve been shelling not-quite dry beans, throwing out the ones that are slimy or moldy. There are still a bunch in the field that aren’t ready, but some weeding and propping up collapsed plants to allow greater air flow makes me think they’ll successfully dry on the vine. Lessons for next year…

Digging the potatoes really made me mad, because about 2/3 of the potatoes are damaged—some almost completely eaten—by voles.  Voles seem to be one of our main garden pests. We’re out there all winter shoveling the snow away from our fruit trees so it doesn’t top our hardware-cloth vole guards (they would happily eat all the bark they can get to under the snow, thereby girdling our trees). Next year, I will try to harvest potatoes early to mid September when the vines die back instead of waiting until October to harvest. My strategy was to “store” them where they were, to minimize their time in my root cellar, hopefully maximizing the length of time they would last before trying to sprout. If waiting allows the doggone voles eat them before I even get to them, though, that’s far worse than knocking a few sprouts off and eating slightly squishy (but intact!!) potatoes in March.

When I picked the first ear of dry popcorn, I panicked to find a tiny amount of mold… but it was just on a few ears, luckily. I spent an hour in the afternoon shucking the corn and crafting corn husk dolls to distribute to some of the kiddos in my life. This was satisfying.

When we picked the watermelons in anticipation of another frost tonight, we found that we had waited too long on some of them, and they centers around the seeds had deteriorated beyond enjoyment. This is truly a tragedy.

Because the Nantucket Conservation Foundation is hosting its annual cranberry festival this weekend, we decided it must be time to eat ours. Delicious!

We noticed some doll’s eyes, the creepy fruit of white baneberry, Actaea pachypoda. 

As for the chimney sweeping, it was a good opportunity to view the yard from on high.






2 thoughts on “Weekly Homestead Report 9: October 10, 2016

  1. Having a great time here and loved having your blog to read. Sorry about some of the losses, but you clearly have a handle on the pluses and minuses. Always wondered what to call those white berries. : ) Hugs to both of you and if either of you happen to be near our house, I’m sure some of my inside plants need attention (water) and I’d be much obliged, but don’t go out of your way–Dad’s supposed to be monitoring. . . . We’ll see. I hope I get to see a couple of those corn husk dolls–they look adorable and I know two little girls (and a handsome boy) who’d be tickled to have one. You’ll have to show me how you make them. See you soonish.

  2. We are still learning about gardening after many years. The watermelon loss would have broken my heart as I LOVE watermelon. Did you have directions for your dolls? They are wonderful. love to you both…Carol and Chuck

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