Weekly Homestead Report 12: Halloween 2016

Nothing like a little snow to change the scene in a hurry! Don’t worry, it all slid off the solar panel before the sun was up the next morning, and two days later nearly all traces of snow were gone.

But the plants felt the cold. Here are the same three flowers, separated by one frosty night.

Happily, those mums I mentioned last week seem to be able to take it. They’re about the only flower left at this point. The New England asters are still alive too, but barely.

 

The milkweed seeds are dispersing.

Before the snow, we harvested amaranth seeds (below; approx 1.5 cups from 3 large plants), herbs for drying (oregano and parsley),  pink and green tomatoes, the last of the peppers, and huge numbers of butternut squash, pumpkins, and spaghetti squash.

I cut out a new chicken door in the coop, which we’ll be able to manually open whenever our fancy electric door quits working. It seems to run out of battery every few months, just when we are getting used to relying on it (and/or when we go on a trip, leaving our neighbors in charge of the chickens).

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If this works, you’ll see footage of the door closing and opening after manual prompting—a test, after I recharged the battery. The timers are set to open the door for 7:00 am, and close it at 8:00 pm. The chickens are safe and happy, and that makes me happy.

The woods are really lovely this time of year. Yesterday we hiked up to the Crag to enjoy the view and get a little sunshine and exercise, but the little loop through our woods is just as beautiful. It’s worth mentioning that this year there was no fall black fly emergence, for which I am extremely grateful.

I feel like I’m trying to hold on to the essence of this gorgeous season in New England. I’m pretty sure you can’t capture it this way, but the leaves are very pretty.

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But of course, autumn is more than yellow-orange-red; it is the feel of the air, the crisp crunch of a fresh apple, a pot of butternut squash soup simmering on the stove, and the cozy feeling of curling up next to the wood stove with a book after a long day cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood.

 

Weekly Homestead Report 10: Oct 17, 2016

As we try to keep our anxiety about the upcoming election at bay, it is good to be able to walk in the woods and notice flowers.

Indian tobacco, Lobelia inflata, is blooming again, although it already has mature seeds.

Maple leaf viburnum, Viburnum acerifolium, has ripe fruits. Charley says that they’re technically edible but not worth it.

Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii, is (regrettably) also fruiting. Not prepared with gloves, we pricked our fingers pulling up barberry on a walk off of our usual trail where we’ve pulled most of the invasive plants already. Japanese barberry is one of our least favorite invasive plants because of its spines and the fact that it readily sprouts from seeds that the robins poop (along with multiflora rose and bittersweet).

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This was the week of the first frost (10/14) and the first fire (10/16).

Well, it wasn’t really that frosty, but I didn’t get a photo before it was gone, so I found one from last year. We covered our strawberries and raspberries with sheets, and they still seem to be in good shape.

Of course the frost meant that we went out the day before to rescue the last of the tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers… thus more hot pepper jelly, tomatillo salsa, and a batch of enchilada sauce.

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One of our older hens died, so I put the carcass out in front of the wildlife camera. We were able to add a new mammal species to our yard list for the first time in a year or so: grey fox! We also got photos of a red fox, a coyote, and a couple raccoons.

In honor of Charley, and because we led an insect tracking walk today, I give you Coptotriche fuscomarginella (or possibly a closely related species). It’s the leaf mine and larva of a moth in the family Tischeriidae. What a beauty!

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