Homestead Report 27: another belated installment in a busy summer season

This is the time of year when I glory in bringing in the harvest. It never ceases to amaze that a tiny seed, given rain, sun, soil, and a little love, will grow into a great vigorous plant that miraculously produces big, juicy, delicious fruits that feed us until we can’t bear to eat any more.

We’re overrun with luscious fruit!! Over 55 peaches eaten fresh in just about 2 weeks of gluttonous delight! Everbearing strawberries are still producing. Tiny blueberry bushes loaded with berries. Raspberries dropping off the canes (but covered with horrid fruit flies). Watermelon, cantaloupe…

Vegetables are doing well too, for the most part. I’m swamped with produce to put up for the winter.

But I say “for the most part” because the tomatoes now have late blight. It’s horrible. The fruits get gross blisters and the whole plants wither and die.

My parents visited and we fixed the hoophouse that partially collapsed in the snow last winter. This fix makes me feel much more confident that we will survive the next big snowstorm without further damage, plus we can now walk through the central aisle without dodging boards.

I’ve also been working on our high porch railing, in part to keep all of our friends’ kiddos safe from a second story drop-off; previously the railing basically functioned as a ladder.

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The flowers are nice too…

Our hugelkultur bed succeeded in growing pumpkins and tomatoes, despite the fact that it is essentially still a pile of logs, sawdust, and grass clippings.

A few hen turkeys along with their mixed-age young like to journey through our yard frequently, eating grass seed and dust-bathing in the potato patch.

We found this gray tree frog resting on a grape leaf.

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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.