September Harvest

We are now well into September and the weather is feeling more like autumn. Mornings are cooler, although the temperature rises as the day progresses. However, although the thermometer may indicate the same temperature, it doesn’t feel as hot in September as it does in the summer months, which I think is interesting. Most of our trees are still green, but a couple are showing a blush of autumn color.

September is a busy month for us.

EJ has worked at companies that did something they called “Start, Stop, and Continue” in which they evaluated processes and decided which new processes/methods they should start, which they should stop, and which they should continue. We do the same with our garden. Our soil is actually sand so there are vegetables that don’t grow well here. Some plants we are able to grow in raised garden boxes which we fill with good soil but others need more space than a box. EJ is successful growing things like beans, peas, squash, and cucumbers, but corn needs space and good dirt to make it worthwhile to grow. EJ tried different methods for several years to grow enough good corn, but we have been mostly unsuccessful so we decided that this is the last year we attempt it. He does so-so with tomatoes in boxes, but we don’t get enough so we buy a few bushels from the farm market.

EJ bought four bushels of tomatoes at a local farm market and we spent the next couple weeks processing them. In the mornings I blanched, peeled, and cut up a large bowl of tomatoes and then EJ would can them. When we didn’t think he had time to can all of them that day, I froze them in freezer bags. We have 34 quarts of canned tomatoes and several quarts of frozen tomatoes. I didn’t count the bags so I’m not sure how many we have.

While EJ was running errands yesterday, he stopped at the farm market and bought a dozen ears of corn, which we are thinking about freezing. We’ve never done this before so I’m not sure how to take the kernels off the cob. I will research it on the Internet and if we are successful at getting enough corn to make it worthwhile, EJ will probably go back to the farm market and buy more.

EJ also stopped at a grocery store yesterday and bought some beef kidneys to make into cat food for the outside cats. They love his homemade cat food so much that they wait outside the door at about 6 pm every night for me to feed them their special treat. This has the added benefit of bringing them to the house so I can easily shut them into the garage for the night to keep them safe from coyotes and other predators. When EJ makes cat food, he grinds the meat with eggs and maybe a couple other ingredients and then scoops it into cupcake pans and puts them in the freezer. When they are frozen, I take the little cakes out and put them into bags and back into the freezer until I need them. I put one cake at a time in the fridge to thaw and I feed the cats half a cake each day. They also have dried cat food available.

At the store, EJ also bought beef fat to render into tallow to use in venison meat. Or something. I’m not sure of the process or purposes but EJ has researched it.

I’ve been making Kimchi (also spelled “Kimchee”), a spicy fermented Korean dish, with cucumbers from our garden. I am not sure how long Kimchi can be stored. Most articles say that it must be eaten in about a week or so. So I make the Kimchi and eat it, and make more, and eat it.

We have apples on the trees we’ve been planting every year since we moved here. We planted different varieties. Some of the trees are two different varieties grafted into one rootstock. We fence in the apple trees to protect them from deer. We can freeze the apples to make delicious dishes.

I continue to harvest and dry the herbs from my raised garden beds. I cut the heads off a couple sunflowers while mentally commanding, “Off with their heads!” I still haven’t found a good place to plant sunflowers where they don’t rob EJ of valuable garden space or get munched by deer.

We soon need to buy more straw to help insulate our coop for the winter. I’m a bit disgusted by my chickens because at least one hen–and maybe more–are eating the eggs. I have to go out multiple times to try to get the eggs before she/they eat them. I’m concerned that whoever is eating them will teach the other hens to eat them so I will have a flock of 20 hens (plus two roosters) and no eggs. I’m not sure how to solve this problem. My fake wooden eggs didn’t thwart them for long.

Theo likes to come out to the coop with me. He wanders around while I feed/water the chickens or gather their eggs and then together we go out the gate. There is a nest of ground hornets under one corner of the coop left of the door. I’d like to get rid of them but I don’t want to aggravate them so they attack me or the chickens so I leave them be. I’m not sure if they abandon their nest as it gets colder but I’m thinking of waiting until a cold winter day to get rid of them if they aren’t already gone. Because of the hornets, I didn’t let Theo into the pen with me but one day he slipped in. He wandered around as he always does. After I did my chores, I went through the gate and called him. He meandered my way until he noticed the interesting hornets flying in and out of their nest under the coop. He started to chase and swat at them as I frantically yelled “Noooo” and “Come, Theo! Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!” I imagined all sorts of disastrous scenarios, all ending with me, Theo, or the chickens swarmed by angry hornets. Theo looked like a cat chasing butterflies in those sweet videos–but these were not sweet butterflies. Suddenly, one stung Theo’s paw. He shook it and streaked out the gate and through the garden. Later that day he acted perfectly normal, not even limping. Now when he follows me into the pen, he leaves the hornets alone. Theo is very sweet, but he is a bit of a clueless dunderhead.

Hannah Joy is very intelligent, but she makes me laugh. Occasionally she will rush to the window ferociously barking in alarm. We look out but see absolutely nothing. However, there are multiple times when there is a rabbit, or deer, or flock of turkeys in the yard and she is completely oblivious to their presence. Yesterday, for example, we walked with her to the mailbox and she didn’t see a rabbit that was just a few yards away from us. And she didn’t see the turkeys yesterday evening that walked across our yard just outside the window. And she didn’t see the deer eyeing the apples on our trees this morning. Sometimes, when she barks in alarm at nothing at all, I joke in a hushed whisper, “She sees invisible things. She sees ghosts.”

Yesterday our neighbor down the road and around the corner arrived with his tractor to grade our driveway. Several years ago, he saw me snowblowing our driveway. It takes me several hours and multiple trips up and down the driveway to clear our driveway with our walk-behind snowblower. We didn’t know each other, but he had compassion and began to keep our driveway clear of snow with the snowblower on his tractor. He’s done it every winter since. It takes him just a few minutes to clear our driveway with his tractor. He also began grading our driveway whenever he saw it needed it during the warmer months. Although we offered, he refuses to take any payment or even let us reimburse him for his fuel. He is an awesome gift to us.

Here in Michigan we usually get a thaw in January. It melts the snow which then refreezes, covering our long steep driveway in a sheet of ice. The previous owner had dealt with this by salting the driveway, which killed the vegetation that prevents erosion. When we moved in, there were deep and wide gullies alongside and across the driveway. We had to put drainage tile in, fill the gullies with gravel and stones and dirt, build small rock dams to slow the rush of eroding rainwater. We also planted seeds/plants along the driveway for erosion control–like the rocks, they slow the rainwater and their roots also hold on to the soil. Our efforts worked. Our neighbor told us that he had wanted to buy our house before we bought it, but his wife saw the terrible state of the driveway and put her foot down so they bought their current house instead. I think that the only reason our 5-acre home was not more expensive and was not snatched up by others is because of the driveway–so despite the work, the terrible driveway provided us with the gift of our Enchanted Forest.

4 Comments on “September Harvest

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