Category Archives: Gardens

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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August At Living Land

August brought us mostly July weather, kicking our plants into high production, but slowing us down. Hot, sticky, uncomfortable – I’d still take it over an ice storm any day! Regular, sometimes torrential, rains brought us out of the latest drought completely. Amazing plant growth, the song of crickets and cicadas, and the crowing of a few too many roosters marked the month for me.

Our Work in August

August can be overwhelming with so much to do. It usually coincides with milder weather which helps, but not this time. We just can’t move as fast when it’s 90F and humid. But, we kept on, and a lot did get done, with harvesting and food preservation taking center stage.

Plants

The Garden In August

Upkeep continued in the gardens. Tasks like trimming tomato suckers, thinning root veggies, keeping the beans on the trellises, and redirecting winter squash creeping over other crops. Planting for fall harvests of greens, radishes, and beans plus more cover crops.

And, picking! Here in our gardens, beans, summer and winter squash have been coming in strong, along with cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, radishes, greens and more. I’ll give you exact numbers in the harvest section coming up.

Canning Peaches

The big question is always how to stretch this bounty into the colder months. Some crops store well with simple methods, others need more investment. The kitchen and I were occupied often with freezing, lacto-fermenting (using our own salt this year!), dehydrating, and canning. The weather made those last two harder and I put off what I could for when the heat subsides.

Dragonfly Eating a Cabbageworm Moth

A few pest problems did catch up with us in August: imported cabbageworms and rodents. This year I didn’t cover my brassica crops to guard against the moths. It was partly out of curiosity… and I did discover that the worms really proliferate later in the season. They definitely preferred some plants (collards) and areas (too shady) over others, which I’m noting and thinking on for future planning. Next year, I will add row cover again for a break from picking them off, which does get tedious. The rodents are harder to address. To some extent there are larger cycles that I don’t control that make for better and worse years. There have even been articles about this year’s

So Many Squirrels!

squirrel population explosion and resulting problems on roads. Our cats help with their hunting, but squirrels are too much for them. I see how those little terrier dogs can be valuable, but we’ll stick with cats for now.

We continued with weed management in the fields, particularly keeping an eye on wild lettuce and thistle from which one flower can yield tens if not hundreds of plants.

Animals

We had regular upkeep and tending of our critters, especially keeping their water access constant in the heat. Hay came in mid-month. We don’t make our own, but get it locally. It was a big job just to pick up and unload the two hundred bales we could cram into our various outbuildings. All our reorganizing paid off by allowing us to store that much – about 50 more than we’d thought we could fit. What a relief it is to have a good crop put up for the coming year!

The bees aren’t having a great year. There seems to be a nectar shortage, noted by many beekeepers in the Seacoast. I have great new queens and busy bees, but without more food access they are limited in raising brood and are not able to store for the winter. They were also exhibiting robbing behavior when I inspected, which again pointed to not enough food. Mid-month I decided to start feeding them sugar syrup. I just didn’t feel I could count on a great fall flow to make up for the poor season. The good news is that the last time I opened them up, I could distinctly smell Japanese knotweed nectar. I know that knotweed is a plant that causes some problems and I promise I haven’t planted it, but I have to be honest: it is a huge boon to the bees. Good or bad, black or white, one or the other are dichotomies that don’t hold up that well in nature. Life is complicated!

I guess I am grateful that I didn’t try to grow my apiary this year. A few years ago I was trying an expansion project when we got hit with that intense drought and I ended up buying more sugar for those dozen colonies than I had over all my previous years of beekeeping combined.

Our Animals Deserve a Good Life

A difficult task this month was harvesting the young boy goat. For those of us who didn’t learn that skill when we were young, it is a tough part of farming to get used to and honestly makes me wonder if I can keep doing it some years. But then I see a film like “Eating Animals” which Seacoast Permaculture partnered with The Music Hall to show in late August. It looked at the cruelty and negative environmental and human health impacts inherent in modern, industrial animal keeping for meat, eggs and dairy. Truly, deeply upsetting. Death is the kindest thing that happens to these creatures. I think only people who care about animals and find it hard to take their lives should raise them, and this strengthens my resolve to keep at it. It’s a good reminder as we move into our season for harvest of meat, and probably a good topic to write about more often.

August’s Harvest

Elderberries

Here’s what I brought in from the gardens this month: 79.25# yellow summer squash, 12.75# zucchini, 47# string beans, 16# cucumbers, 6.75# kale & collards, 75 radishes, .75# celery, 1# broccoli, 9.25# tomatoes, 5# basil, 2 leeks, 2 carrots, 190# long pie pumpkins, 1# delicata winter squash, 22# peaches, 1.75# elderberries, and 5# clove currants. There were also grapes and raspberries, but they didn’t make it as far as the kitchen for weighing!

Our Own Peaches!

I brought home from local sources 23# of blueberries, 11 5-gallon buckets of gleaned apples (wild in public places) for the goats (I got tired of weighing them so started measuring them by bucketload), and enough peaches to can about 50 quarts.

From the animals we received 181 chicken eggs, 105 duck eggs, 10.9 gallons of milk, and 16# of meat.

We only made 421 kwh from the PV solar panels because there was a problem with our inverter resulting in the system being off for a week. There were a lot of cloudy days as well. Even though the days are getting noticeably shorter now, I think September will still be a better month.

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

Looking Ahead

Pinto Bean Plants Flourishing

Given the current forecast for an abnormally hot month, I expect to bring in a lot of produce and be working to preserve it. We have tremendous winter squash vines that I hope will set a lot of fruit – it’s hard to tell under the dense foliage – and the tallest sunflowers I have ever grown. I expect I’ll have to compete with the squirrels for those. When it gets cooler I can get back to canning and we can work on harvesting meat.

It’s also time to start paying more attention to larger world issues with elections and other excitement coming up… so, yes, I expect it to be busy but I still plan to enjoy the warmth and the sun and the sounds of summer all month long.

Monarch In The Garden

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