November at Living Land

The early winter weather that arrived in November justified my hurried working pace this fall. I’d like to claim an ability to feel the storms coming… but, to be honest, I’m pretty sure that I rush around every autumn. Some years I feel silly for it, but not this one.

The harsh month with some serious cold, very little sun, and snow and ice cut short some of the outdoor work I’d hoped to accomplish and made what had to be wrapped up challenging. Here’s the story…

Our Work in November

Outside

Our first priority this month was bringing in the wood we expect to need for the winter. There was also more splitting and stacking to be done. We didn’t quite finish that before the snow made it too tricky to continue.

Garden Under Snow

I didn’t spend much time in the garden. We did create a few new beds and refreshed some of the older ones with seaweed, manure and our moldy hay. I can pick that work up again in the spring.

In many permaculture designs and zone maps I see the garden placed close to the house with animals farther away. This time of year I give thanks that I didn’t follow that pattern. I might only enter the garden a half dozen times between November and March. On the other hand, the animals need the same care now as they did in the peak of summer. Bringing them food and water, opening and closing gates and doors, milking the goats.

In fact, we spent even more time with the goats in November since that is our targeted breeding window. I observed them carefully, attempting to discern who was in heat and pair her with the right buck at the right time. This is not so easy. My first goal was to breed Honey, who didn’t get pregnant last year despite our efforts. She spent much of this month living with Marley just in case I was missing the signs. I put Luna in with them as well when she seemed interested. All of this reshuffling of the herd agitates the girls, who complain about it often.

Stinky Buck, Riding in the Car

Later in the month, we brought home our buck named Pan, who spent a couple of years with fellow goat keepers for their breeding program. Driving around with a stinky buck in the car is not one of my favorite things, but we did it! He has caused a great sensation here. For some reason, the girls find him appealing to the point of jumping fences to reach him. He also smashed through 17 gauge fencing and broke a few gates to reach them. He is only supposed to be servicing one of my does, Cocoa, this year but he may have over-achieved. Time will tell, coupled with the detailed notes in my Goat Sex Journal. (Pan Romances Lily – November 2018)

Pan Romancing Lily

He is an impressive guy, now four years old, with a long beard, gorgeous horns, and emanating a true stench. As far as his personality, he has actually mellowed some. When he was last here at about 2 years old, I was concerned he might be interested in challenging us humans, not just the other goats. He never did anything aggressive – it was more how he was eyeing me at times. But that seems not to have developed after all and he’s quite sweet in disposition now. I was afraid that putting him and our other buck together would be potentially dangerous for them, but in one of his escapes they ended up together for most of a day and no violence ensued, to my great relief. There was a lot of snorting, peeing and flehmening, but even less horn locking than the girls do with each other as a matter of course.

Which reminds me of another job that Steve has been hard at work at, even in the snow: fencing fixes and upgrades. Thanks to Pan, he knew exactly the weak spots in the system.

Most of our animals share our lack of enthusiasm for this early winter: the goats and chickens don’t like stepping on snow and the cats have given up on going outside to hunt. Even our cold-hardy ducks spent a few of the really

Winterized Bee Hive

cold, windy days in their coop!

We also shoveled out chicken and goat bedding, hopefully for the last time until spring since we use the deep litter method. I am still harvesting leeks every few days and we did harvest and process two goats. I finished winterizing the bee hives, with help from some beekeeping students.

Inside

We have been baking and cooking more elaborately. Given our large amounts of stored pumpkins, we have made a lot of pies. Forget dessert, we think they made a fine breakfast – milk, eggs, squash, a little honey… sounds like a good start to the day to me!

I processed goat fat, and started to clean the dry beans.

I started to catch up on correspondence, get back to writing stories and plan for the new year for Seacoast Permaculture.

We also voted and have spent time reading and thinking about the results. One thing I can say I was pleased about was the increase in the diversity of people elected to office. Understanding the importance of diversity in nature leads me to believe diversity in our human-created systems is a positive step.

November’s Harvest

Leeks for Winter Harvesting

We brought in 3/43 kale, 63 (37#) leeks, 1# celery, 1# brussel sprouts, 1/8# spinach, and 1/4# broccoli from the garden. No eggs at all, 6 gallons of milk (milking just two does now), 62# of meat and 8 pints of high quality rendered lard.

I collected 6 5-gallon buckets of seaweed which the goats have been eating right up (Goats Eating Seaweed).

Not Much Sun, But a Beautiful Full Moon in November

We made 175 kwh from the PV solar panels. One of our least productive months since their installation. Wow, we miss the sun!

We found sources for more hay to re-fill the barn. We were able to bring home about two dozen bags of raked leaves from town. We usually bring in a lot more than that, but there was so little dry weather and wet leaves don’t work well for our uses.

The updated list of food from previous seasons that we continue to eat from is now very long and includes: winter squash, carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes, garlic, honey, canned peaches and blueberries, dried kale, beans and peaches. In the freezer we have: eggplant, broccoli, string beans, salsa, pesto, cheese, various kinds of berries, chicken, duck and goat meat.

Looking Ahead

I hope to complete a few more projects to wrap up the season, like goat breeding, bean cleaning and wood stacking. A summary of this year’s garden would help me in planning for next year. And the seed and plant catalogs have arrived so it is time to assess and choose! I especially look forward to the coming of the winter solstice to mark the growing of the light and maybe even a sunnier year ahead.

Witch Hazel – One of a very few November Blooms

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October at Living Land

At the end of September’s post, I predicted October would be another busy month and it met – maybe even exceeded – expectations, including some big jobs and heavy lifting. Once Autumn arrives, the anticipation of winter and snow cover creates a certain drive to get the work accomplished which can be stressful. I suppose I am like my bees who become hurried, wild and intolerant of interference as the days grow shorter!

The wet, dreary weather and some unforeseen setbacks didn’t help either. All that said, there were many successes and harvests that it will do me good to reflect on and hopefully be fun for you to hear about!

Our Work in October

Carrot and Parsnips

Plants

Harvest this month consisted primarily of a few big days of work. The root crops – carrots, beets, and parsnips – were pulled and packed in sand in buckets to last us longer. For now these buckets are outside the back door. If we get a deep freeze before we eat them all we can move them into the house.

I brought in the dried bean crop, now hanging in big paper bags in our living room.

Then there was the winter squash. We had a very successful season with our final totals indicating we ended up with 1,200 pounds. While I love winter squash for us and the animals and did want a lot, I definitely did not intend to grow this much! We had to come up with a lot more curing and storage space, which proved challenging because of this year’s rodent population explosion. I’d set the squash up somewhere in the greenhouse, thinking it was out of reach of critters, only to have bite marks appear on all of them! I have been carting these hundreds of pounds from here to there to yet another place! This is not the smart, efficient, permacultural system that we strive for, to say the least. But then again, there will always be surprises and challenges no matter how well-laid our plans.

Seminole Squash Hanging, Not Quite Ripe

The mystery of the Seminole squash ended after the arrival of the first frost, causing the leaves to wither. Hiking through the large amount of plant matter – vines and leaves – I found 414 # of squash. However, none of it was truly ripe. We can still eat it, it just isn’t as sweet as it could be, and it won’t keep as well.

I love planting garlic and did so this year on October 22. One hundred and seventy-five cloves of four varieties: Music, NY Extra Hardy, Philips, and Red Russian. Exactly when to plant garlic is a topic of debate lately since the timing has become harder to get right. For the biggest, healthiest plants next year, they should have time in the fall to set roots but not send up green shoots. About a month before a hard freeze is ideal. When I started farming in 2008, we planted in late September. But with the shifting of our climate and seasons, it’s much harder to anticipate when the freeze will arrive.

We had enough decent weather to work on soil building in our new garden and orchard areas. We haven’t gotten as far as we’d hoped because this Autumn mud season makes driving the truck on the land difficult. Using buckets and wheelbarrows takes longer, but keeps the job moving along.

Animals

As I mentioned before, we had some problems this month, and this was probably the worst – all the beautiful, organic hay that we put up for the goats molded! Anyone else notice that we just had an incredibly humid late summer and early fall? I don’t know if we broke any records, but it was not our norm, and many people experienced issues in their gardens. My garden was fine, but not our hay. So, we had to pull it out, spread it around for mulching, and we’re now hunting for more hay. We had one lead, but that turned out to be moldy, too. Tough year here for hay.

We had two more days of poultry processing, then integrated the birds we’re keeping. Our young rooster has not settled into his role, pecking at the hens rather than romancing them. One of the young females is still small and a good flyer, so most nights she needs to be collected from a shelf in Steve’s shop and put into the coop.

Chickens Are Molting!

Hopefully everyone will settle in soon.

For the first time, we had NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Program) testing of our chickens. There is currently a free program in NH for having your birds tested for Salmonella and Avian Influenza. Having a proven clean bill of health (which we did receive) for these is a good idea since we sell birds at times. It also means we could bring our birds to shows if we ever wanted to try that!

I did the first level of winterizing the bee hives by adding an upper entrance and insulation on top. Late November I’ll wrap them up as well, but it’s still a little too warm for that now.

Tabitha and Bella, our cats, got to work once the heat died down, and helping to bring the rodent levels down before we are completely overrun, we hope.

Also Outside

There have been a number of repairs and refinements needed on our various animal houses and outbuildings. Moving the winter’s wood supply onto our porch is about halfway finished with a cord in place.

Inside & Off-farm

We are turning more of our attention back to community involvement. I attended permaculture, political, storytelling and Samhain events. All were important to me, even if they pulled me away from work here.

October’s Harvest

Leeks, Still Happy in the Garden in October

Although we didn’t get a frost until mid-month, the lack of sun and warmth meant much lower yields for most crops:

Last of the warm weather crops: summer squash: 4#, 10# tomatoes, 2.25# eggplant, 10# string beans

Brassicas: 2# kale & collards, 2.75# brussel sprouts, 1.5# broccoli

Plus: 1.5# celery, 12 leeks

It was time to bring in the root crops and winter squash, before the rodents ate them all!

Root crops: 15# carrots, 9# beets, 14# parsnips

Winter Squash: 36.5# long pie pumpkin, 20.75# delicata, 60.5# butternut, 23.5# pumpkin, 414# seminole. That’s 555.25# winter squash harvested this month.

I brought home 8 5-gallon buckets of gleaned apples for the animals and 20 5-gallon buckets of seaweed for the animals and gardens.

From the animals we received 72 chicken eggs, 1 duck egg, 8 gallons of milk, and about 60# of meat. Eggs are done for the year while the older birds molt and we wait for the young ones to start laying.

We made 238 kwh from the PV solar panels. I talked with an employee of a local solar company a couple of weeks ago and he confirmed that it wasn’t my imagination or a problem with our array, it has actually been dark! They have had inquiries from many people thinking that their systems weren’t working correctly, but they were just under-performing due to all the clouds we’ve been experiencing.

From previous years we’re still eating: honey, canned peaches and blueberries, dried kale and beans, and frozen eggplant.

Looking Ahead

November is goat breeding month here, so we’ll be moving animals around, pairing them up, and listening to them complain about the changes. Our buck, Marley, has been ready for a couple months as evidenced by the amazing smell he cultivates. Finalizing wood placement is on the top of our list. Then, we have a lot of projects we hope to make progress on before the weather really turns to winter.

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September At Living Land

The Garden in September

Early September continued to feel like July here in NH, which kept us busy picking produce, especially beans and squash. When the temperatures finally dropped, I was both relieved and sad. On the one hand – enough of picking beans! On the other – I miss all those beans!

The month brought plenty of rain, with NH almost entirely drought-free by mid-month. Ideally, we would have seen more of the sun and fewer storm clouds, but given the floods elsewhere, I won’t complain too much.

By the end of September, there was still no frost. I guess that’s our new normal. It allows for a little longer growing season, although with the daylight waning we don’t get as much out of an extra month of growth as one might expect.

Our Work in September

September is another busy month, with harvests coming in, and some of my off-farm activities picking back up. Finding time to sit down and write this was certainly challenging!

Plants

Beans Climbing

Bringing in the harvest was on the top of this month’s list. Some plants were continuing to produce, like string beans, kale, celery and summer squash, while others ripened up this month, especially the winter squash. As they came in, many needed attention to preserve: freezing, lactofermenting and drying, plus making room for curing then storing the winter squash. We made pesto for the freezer and started hanging bags of beans up to finish drying. I have become fascinated with the great variety of dry beans that I can grow myself. I especially love the climbing varieties, which are so much easier on my back when it comes to picking!

We dug the rest of the potatoes mid-month. We ended up with disappointing numbers due to the extreme rodent pressure this year.  I averaged 4 or 5 pounds yield for every pound I planted – in the past I’ve seen up to a 15 to 1 return.  So, I am changing my potato planting strategy. The past few years I have planted very late – May 23 this year – in order to avoid the Colorado potato bugs. It has worked great at thwarting the bugs, but it has meant that we hit drier times when the plants are trying to get established, then the late summer rodent explosion comes along before they are ready. The plants look beautiful, but I don’t get as high a yield. Next year, I will plant early again, and see how that goes.

Leeks, Almost Ready – green tops loved by goats!

Going into winter, I do only minimal “cleaning up” of my gardens. I want as much plant material to stay put as possible, to add to the soil and to overwinter microbes. I do take out plants that are going by, but would still be enjoyed by goats! Such as: kale or collard leaves that are too chewed up by worms for my taste, broccoli and cauliflower leaves, and bean plants that aren’t producing fruit anymore. I cut rather than pull them out – the roots stay there to feed the soil. Some of the cover crops I also cut back to share with the animals while leaving all the roots. The goats love oatstraw and this year were very excited about the millet stalks.

I did a little more planting of radishes and greens. I want to do more later season planting in upcoming years, but haven’t gotten the timing figured out. I plan to make up a more extensive planting schedule over the winter that will help me remember at the right time next year.

Animals

Dominique Pullets

The animals have grown up by now, at least into teenagers – no more babies! We had one day of poultry processing for the oldest boys, before they got too rough with each other.

This is an otherwise easy, happy time for the critters, who still have plenty of forage of plants and insects, and love the cooler temperatures. We top off food and water, open and close gates, move fences and carry some forage to them, milk the goats twice a day and collect eggs.

I did a thorough hive inspection early in the month, determining that the hives looked healthy and large enough to overwinter with great queens, but didn’t have enough honey. They were making progress with storing some, thanks to the Japanese Knotweed bloom, but I fed them to make sure they’d have enough. Altogether, from late August to the end of September, each hive got about 20# of sugar made into a syrup. I won’t be going back in, because they were already touchy at the last inspection. I don’t want to risk inciting robbing and fighting between my hives, after all this work!

Curing Winter Squash

September’s Harvest

We brought in a lot of produce this month, which I’ll try to present in a readable format:

Summer Squash: 23.5# yellow summer squash, 10.25# zucchini

Other hot weather crops: 16.75# tomatoes, 5# basil, 2.75# eggplant, 11.25# cucumbers, , 51# string beans

Brassicas: 3.75# kale & collards, 1# brussel sprouts, 4.75# broccoli

Root crops: 5.5# carrots, 4# beets, 1# parsnips, 16 radishes, 40# potatoes (not really a root, but close enough)

Winter Squash: 145.5# long pie pumpkin, 41.25# delicata, 247# butternut, 10# pumpkin, 20# Boston marrow

Plus: 1# celery, 3 leeks, 1.5# grapes and 8 large sunflower heads

I know I saw raspberries as well, but they didn’t make it to the kitchen for weighing. I also started bringing in the drying beans, but those I don’t measure until I shell them, which will happen gradually over the fall.

I brought home from local sources 10 5-gallon buckets of gleaned apples for the goats, and 25 5-gallon buckets of seaweed for the animals and gardens.

From the animals we received 204 chicken eggs, 67 duck eggs, 10.5 gallons of milk, and about 15# of meat.

We made 485 kwh from the PV solar panels.

What we are still eating from previous years: honey, canned peaches, blueberries and strawberry jelly, dried kale and beans, frozen eggplant, and pesto.

Seminole Squash Vines (see the blue of my shirt in the jungle?)

Looking Ahead

More harvesting, hopefully! I have barely touched the root crops which look promising, if the rodents don’t get them first. More dried beans will be ready soon. The Seminole squash vines continue to thrive and be impossible to see or wade through to determine if there are actually fruit ripening, so that mystery continues. We also expect 3 or 4 more days of poultry processing. I’ll plant my garlic mid to late October. That’s a task that has moved much later than when I first started gardening due to our warmer falls and later frost. Oh – and stacking wood is coming up!

We’ll also continue off-farm gathering – apple drops, seaweed, and, soon, bags of leaves packed up for us from city-dwellers. Another active month expected!

No September Frost Means Morning Glories Still Bloom

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