Category Archives: Gardens

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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July At Living Land

July is a beautiful month on the homestead. Flowers bloom, attracting butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and more. There is life and growth, and not much is dying back yet.

Echinacea with bumblebee

Here at the end of this particular July, after a week of storms rolling through and with hot and humid conditions in the forecast, it’s already hard to remember that this month was drier and colder than it should have been. That made work easier, but ripening slower. At least the last week of storms did bring us enough rain to change our status from level 2 (moderate) to only a level 1 (abnormally dry) on the July 31st drought monitor edition.

Our Work in July

Outdoors: Plants

Most of this month brought us excellent working weather and we used it.

Our main annual garden I estimate needed about an hour a day of our attention. We had to keep up with daily watering during the dry weather. I did some replanting of failed or harvested crops. Failures were: I tried planting some corn with 5 year old seed with poor results, and my earliest plantings of root crops – carrots especially – germinated poorly. I have been asking around, online and in person, about my difficulties with early carrots and have a few theories about what I am doing wrong. First, I need to be sure the soil is warm enough for them to germinate in a timely fashion, and the seed bed needs to be kept more

Carrot Germination, July 2018

consistently moist during the germination window, which can be 3 weeks. For my most recent seeding, the soil was, of course, warm by mid-July and I put up shade cloth to help with moisture retention – and had lots of baby carrots appearing in under a week! That is more like it.

Other plantings included next rounds of bush beans, beets, and radishes. At the end of the month, I also started planting the fall crops of lettuce and spinach.

Garlic Drying

Throughout July I pulled garlic. The Russian Red was ready on July 14. I went ahead and pulled the Music the next day, and the New York Extra Hardy and Phillips around July 25. All varieties are beautiful and delicious, as always! They have been drying on our porch and are close to ready to trim and store. The beds I took them out of were replanted with soil building crops. Usually that means a cover crop, and I have one that is growing Japanese Buckwheat, but the others I decided to try growing bush beans in. A nitrogen-fixing crop after garlic makes sense to me, and I’ll get a harvest out of it. Since I always leave the roots and crop residue anyway, I think it will accomplish the goal.

Other garden work included hilling potatoes, tying up beans and cukes for their vertical climbing, pruning off tomato suckers, adding mulch to beds and wood chips to paths. I am not having many disease or pest issues this year. Even if there were, I wouldn’t do very much other than observe and record what I saw. I have hand-picked a few cabbageworms off of my brassicas, which the chickens were happy to eat for me.

Cleome, loved by pollinators

In the orchards I persist in my weeding in order to select for specific plants. I’ve allowed cleome, anise hyssop and calendula to fill in a lot of space. At dusk, it’s just full of foraging bees. I also need to take a daily walk through to redirect winter squash vines, which otherwise would completely take over all the paths, wind their way into the road, and pull down many of our young trees and bushes. I had to

Winter Squash Vines

find and free our beach plums the other day, and we noticed one vine has made it about 10 feet up a young oak! I’m letting that one go for it and look forward to seeing how high it gets.

We continued to bring in organic materials to create more garden beds and to refresh some that were getting low. We came home with the usual: cardboard, seaweed, manure, coffee grounds and wood chips. Then I sowed cover crops to top them off. The goldfinches and chipmunks helped themselves to some of the seeds but didn’t get them all!

Chickens growing, in “tractor” yard

Outdoors: Animals

All the spring babies are turning into adults. We have twice a day feeding, watering, and regular tending to their bedding. The young chickens need their tractors moved to new forage every couple of days. The ducks like some water for their bathing pleasure: Ducks Take A Bath – July 2018

Lily and her growing kids

We bring the goats plants to eat and give them new pasture regularly. They also have their regular hoof trimming and socialization with us.  This time of year, rain water and abundant food choices are reflected in their shiny coats and full tails. All of the blood testing came back like we’d hoped – no diseases or deficiencies found.

We have also taken time on really hot days to do some outbuilding organizing. Our jam-packed, impossible-to-use potting shed is now a well-organized tool shed and the hay trailer is clean and ready for the arrival of 150 bales of organic second cut hay the moment we can get it. I believe it was Scott Nearing who talked about how critical it was to maintain your space on a farm for ease of use and longevity of equipment. (If anyone knows this passage or if someone else said it, please share!) Every minute I am searching or digging around for some item is not time well spent and we just don’t have that to waste.

I inspected the hives a few times in July. First, I had to assess them. I made the decision to requeen both. This required hive visits to prepare for her arrival, then to ascertain that she was accepted. Both hives did allow the new queens to get established, which means that these hives will go into the winter with young, northern-bred Russian queens, which gives them a good chance at living through this winter.  And now that the drought has lessened, maybe we’ll have a strong fall nectar flow from which they can put up lots of nutritious honey.

Indoors

Food preservation has begun! So far I’ve been freezing berries and dehydrating summer squash and kale.  Much more to come.

Off-farm

Since our blueberry bushes are still young so giving little fruit, we have been picking at Tuckaway Farm. I am thrilled to have this access to organic fruit. Some of my early jobs at farms included a lot of berry picking and I still love doing it.

Royal Burgundy Bush Beans

July’s Harvest

As I mentioned but you may not have noticed, July was not as warm as usual, with some especially chilly nights. This slowed down production, especially of heat loving crops. There have been green tomatoes on the vines for weeks, waiting for the heat that will finally ripen them. Here’s what we did bring in from our gardens: 4

Summer Squash

pounds of peas, 65 garlic tops, 4 pounds of a mix of kales and collards, 1 pound of cauliflower, 2 pounds of broccoli, 30 pounds of summer squash, 10 ¾ pounds of beans, 1 ½ pounds of basil, 1 radish, 12 pounds of red and white currants and quite a few hand-fulls of various herbs. I also began gathering fallen apples from some area trees for the goats, a total of 20 pounds so far.

 

We collected 224 chicken eggs, 87 duck eggs, and 11 gallons of milk.

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

We made 678 kwh from the PV solar panels – a very good month. That’s the upside of all those sunny, dry days!

Looking Ahead

Beans growing up

August should be full of food preservation: drying, canning, freezing. It looks like I’ll start curing winter squash for storage very soon as well. There will be plenty of upkeep to do. We will enjoy the bright, bountiful summer, but it’s time to be planning for winter as the days grow noticeably shorter. The cycle continues!

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