Weekly Homestead Report 13: November 7, 2016

It’s hard to think of anything other than tomorrow’s election, but in between reading articles about various election outcomes and watching the Daily Show to try to lighten it up a little, we did go outside a few times.

Charley’s birthday was Friday, and we took the opportunity to go out collecting nuts and berries; specifically, wild cranberries and acorns.

It was a gorgeous day to be outside. The marsh (an abandoned beaver pond) with the cranberry bog was sunny, a little breezy, and had abundant cotton grass growing.


Cotton grass is actually a sedge in the genus Eriophorum, and adds a really nice touch to many of New England’s fens and bogs. It’s like something extra elegant out of a Dr. Suess book.

We also did a little fall yard cleaning this week. We added most of the pile of rotting firewood left over from the house’s previous owner onto our hugelkultur bed. Some grass clippings and leaves also ended up as part of this experiment.


Back to tomorrow’s election. Charley and I are both feeling some intense anxiety about what tomorrow evening will bring, and fear for the country no matter who wins the presidency. Dear readers: please, please go vote, and please don’t waste your vote on a third-party candidate. As Charley wrote yesterday, “There are only two presidential candidates who have a chance of winning. Hillary Clinton is far from perfect, but she wouldn’t be any worse than Obama or Bill Clinton, and they’re the best presidents we’ve been able to come up with in the past 50 years…Okay, thanks. Now back to bugs.”


Or in my case, off to bake some very decadent brownies for the library’s election day bake sale.

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.