Two weeks before the autumnal equinox and the rhythms on the farm begin to shift. The humidity lowers to a bearable level for work, the mornings are cooler and summer vegetables are past their peak. Quince jelly and fig preserves grace the larder and the freezers are stuffed with meat. It is time to take stock on our success and failures over the summer season.
Summer Vegetable Garden: a remarkably wet and cool summer affected the garden negatively. My approach to our gardens is to create a fairly low maintenance operation with lots of mulching and trellises to help reduce weeding. But the rainfall overwhelmed the usual efforts and the weeds flourished. The harvest was plentiful but the appearance of the garden was not pretty. Recalling what Mr. William Cobbett said regarding the state of a man’s soul in relation to how he keeps his farm… it might just be best not to inquire into that subject during this particular year.
Fall Garden/New Plantings: Yesterday I planted the fall turnips, kale and mustard greens. Last weekend we planted a small grove of ten hazelnut trees/shrubs. Planted in a double line across the upper portion of the pasture where the pond that is no more was located. We have high hopes to begin harvesting our own nut crop within a few short years. We also purchased five highbush blueberry plants. These will be planted just above the rock wall in the backyard. And to round out the edible landscape portion of our new plantings is an elderberry bush out by the well house.
In the front yard we cut down the green ash that had grown but not thrived. Cindy planted an iron tree to replace it.
Observations: The summer has been characterized by excessive ant infestations in the house and the field, large wasp nests in the barn, out-buildings, equipment and gates, and ticks and redbugs; all in larger numbers than previously seen. It may be that the cooler summer with more rain has allowed them to flourish. Or it could be that, as our 17 year old neighbor said, that we have managed to kill off some important part of the natural world that fed on these critters.
Livestock: This spring we took advantage of the high cattle prices and sold off most of our herd at auction and to our customers. We spent, as previously related, sometime rebuilding fencing. Although there is more fencing to complete we felt secure enough to purchase another small herd of weanling steers. They should be ready for market in 2015.
The lamb flock has done well and we assume most of the ewes have been bred for a winter lambing. The spring crop of ram lambs will be ready for slaughter in November.
The hogs are fat and ready for their date with the butcher in October. We will have a new crop of weanlings ready for the wooded paddocks about the same time. That crop of hogs should be ready to market in May of 2014.
Hay: As mentioned in an earlier update the hay crop in the spring was the largest we have ever produced. The second cutting is always a bit lighter. So imagine my surprise when the cutting just completed surpassed the harvest in the spring! And that was before the drive shaft on the round baler broke with at least 5-10 more bales to roll. So we enter the cooler months with plenty of hay for the farm.
Infrastructure: Cindy has built a new gate leading into the back yard and painted it a lovely light blue. She is in the process of attaching some wrought iron fencing bordering each side of the gate. She picked up the fencing at a salvage store in Knoxville. That is one handy woman.
That is all from our farm this week.
Reading this week: Songbirds, Truffles and Wolves: an American naturalist in Italy by Gary Paul Nahban. A memoir of his walk along the ancient pilgrimage path of St. Francis of Assisi.