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Saturday, September 28, 2013

AutumnTide

Autumn here often shows her colors right around the actual equinox. This year she was a little late to start the party, at least from my frame of reference. My first visit to Maine -- a week long recon mission a few years ago -- coincided with the equinox so that makes a definite point of reference for me. The dramatic colors (especially in contrast to coastal NC) and the discovery of the annual Common Ground Fair both mark a point of change.

Our maple tree by the front gate is showing color now, but it wasn't when we headed out last Saturday to the fair. Neither were many of the trees along the way, which are becoming more dramatic as the days go by. Maples in boggy areas seem to be quite colorful now, while their higher land counterparts are lagging. The night temperatures are in the low 50s and 40s; the quilt has stayed on the bed and we have brought the propane space heater in, but only turned it on for a few minutes early this morning to warm a room for me to dress for work. We have not yet had a frost, though I noticed that the pumpkins and winter squash plants on the fairgrounds were all showing that the first frost has visited there.

Autumn -- prep for winter -- is always a most busy time. There are root crops to dig (onions and potatoes are now all in, but not yet weighed. Good crop of 'taters, onions no so much so. Carrots will be scarce, as they got lost in the weeds.

After a hiatus due to my not getting the seedlings started indoors on a regular schedule nor getting them planted out regularly, our summer lettuce crop was a bust. It all bolted quickly, but the fall crop of summer lettuce (different varieties than the fall crop of winter lettuce, which is supposed to hold longer, and which I hope to put under some sort of protection before the snow flies) is coming on big time. I once again was able to offer it to the buyer's club and had no trouble filling their orders for 3 pounds, plus I ended up with a pound or so to put in our fridge. When I have a large quantity of leafy greens, they get their first baths in the (scoured, bleached and rinsed to within an inch of it's life) bathtub.
Four pounds of lettuce, as the tub fills with rinse water.


Surprise to me, though, my first attempt at celery (despite it getting lost in the weeds) was NOT a failure. the conventional plants could have easily stood more manure side dressing and to be weeded, of course, but they are still there and look like celery! The cutting celery (like a somewhat large, celery-flavored parsley plant) will have plenty for me to dry, too. They are next to be harvested, as well as what tomatoes I can salvage.

I am sick about the waste of tomatoes. This year I planted 300' of row, because I have yet to get a decent crop and wanted to have plenty to can, and a good excuse for having bought the Squeezo strainer last year. I did manage to get several batches of sauce tomatoes processed (batches being my 20 quart stainless steel kettle full to cook down). And we have canned a few whole and eaten some BLTs, but the majority of the crop is laying on the ground with slug damage or has been pecked by the fowl. And of all years, this one brought a bumper crop.

I'll go out tomorrow and early in the week to see how many more I can find to salvage and process. And I have plans in my mind to solve this problem next year. More about that in a future blog, but it involves both penning fowl and supporting the plants with a sturdier support. This year I tried the "florida weave" and it failed.

I have pulled the pickling cucumber plants and most of the table cukes, but there are a couple plants with fruit that might finish off, as the days are expected to be sunny and in the low 70s for the next week.

I am still waiting for the frost to knock down the squash leaves, but have seen lots of fruit out there. Pumpkins didn't get in early enough to turn orange, so I'll use them as decor and poultry feed. There are a few cabbages left, I'll try to store them for fresh use for a bit, leaving them in the garden as long as I can.

And hex signs... wow!  I just shipped a LOT of Abundance and Prosperity, three signs, headed in three different directions. And there are more orders yet to fill, in process.
2' diameter Abundance & Prosperity
2' diameter Abundance & Prosperity
4' diameter Abundance & Prosperity



And none of this addresses getting the propane tanks moved to an easier winter access point in front of the house, nor the wood stove installation. I, for one, am hoping that Autumn hangs around for a bit.