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Archive for September, 2011

So, the garden is finally winding down.  We made a ton of mistakes, but we’ve still got a pantry and a root cellar that are full to bursting, so, overall, I’d call the garden a success.  Having said that, I don’t know if we can even really take credit, since we had near-perfect weather for growing – lots of rain (for our area, at least) and good heat.

Our corn was planted too late, and did not mature before first frost.  We got a few cobs, but most of it was pulled from the roots and fed to the goats.  They really loved the treat, though!

The peas never really had a flush of pods that was big enough for serious processing.  In all, we ate peas with almost every meal for a couple of weeks, and put a few cups in the freezer, but that was all.  I was disappointed that we did not get more for the freezer, but we sure enjoyed them fresh.

 

We got one lonely cucumber:

 

 

The peppers were hardly worth planting, and we only got a few immature peppers out of several dozen plants.

The beans were a smashing success, with over 40 cups blanched and frozen, plus tons for shelling over the winter.

The tomatoes bore lots – in all we picked 8 two-gallon buckets, though the majority were green and will need to be ripened inside.  They sure make nice salsa, though!

 

 

Squash was pretty good overall, with the butternuts we planted having withered and disappeared, but the pumpkins and spaghetti squash more than making up for it, and giving us over 50 full-size squashes, plus a bunch of smaller ones.  I like picking the squash – it’s like an over-sized Easter egg hunt!  Here is the first wheelbarrow full:

 

 

The real winners, though, were the root veggies.  We got over 30 pounds of beets, and around 80 pounds of onions.  I don’t quite know what we’ll do with over a hundred pounds of carrots, though I’m sure we’ll share with the goats.  Turnips and rutabagas yielded very well, but were more than 50 percent wormy, so we got around 60 pounds of useable roots for our cellar.  The rest will likely be fed to the chickens and goats over time.  A local market gardener told us that, with all the canola around, there were too many pests for turnips or rutabagas to do well, and not to feel too bad if we managed to get any edible crop at all!

 

 

We will have lots and lots of potatoes, as well.

We seriously over-planted, expecting to lose a lot of the garden to pests or drought, but then nature turned around and handed us a great year for growing.  I’m just glad we’ve got a big root cellar…now to figure out how to eat all this stuff…

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Randy Goats

Blood seems to happen a lot here on the Acreage.

 

Hubby has been working like mad to finish the buck yard before the does go into heat, so that we can control the birthdays of the kids – with a five-month gestation, breeding now will mean February kids, and I would rather shoot for May – February is usually still awfully cold, up here.  However, there has been one hitch after another, including a truck purchase that fell through, and the desperate need for more fencing materials.  We’re almost there…but not quite done yet.

 

I have been moving the milking times closer and closer together, with the intent of milking only once a day, in the evening when I get home from work.  Today was the first day of only milking once.  I came home from work, changed, and wandered out to the barn.  Saffron, my milker, was pretty happy to see me, and gave me a “where have you been?” bleat.   Saf had a bit of blood on her, on her tail and back leg.  ‘Oh, darn,’ I thought, ‘the buck’s torn a horn scur off again’.  The buck’s de-horning procedure was not entirely successful, and he has these little hornlets that are growing, but they are fragile, and he often catches or bumps them, with much blood resulting.  It does not seem to bother him in the slightest, though, so all we do is monitor them for infection.  After milking, I went to put Saffron back in the yard, but the buck was hovering around the gate, being a nuisance.  However, there was no sign of blood, and his little horn scurs were about the same length as I remembered.  I was a little mystified.   Then I noticed that Missy’s back end was covered in blood.

 

Uh-oh.

 

I went to go collect Missy, but she was being particularly skittish, and did not want to be caught.  Saffron and the baby girls were also trying to help, or at least trying to get in on the game.  Apparently somebody is in heat, as the buck spent the whole time chasing all of us girls around, hanging out a great big erection the whole time.   Yup, it’s a regular three-ring circus around my place, let me tell you…

 

Eventually, I caught Missy, and managed to fend the buck off long enough to see that there are no major gashes or wounds.  I did not quite get my leg humped, but it was a close thing.

 

Satisfied that nobody was going to die in the next ten minutes, I went inside to cozy up with my buddy google, and wouldn’t you know it, but some goat does bleed when they come into heat.

 

I guess we’re looking at February babies, after all…

 

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Our Big Dog, Cherry, will eat almost anything.  That includes normal stuff like meat, eggs, carrots, and the like, but she does not hesitate at oranges, mints, lemons, and other things that dogs are not supposed to like at all.   This also includes all sorts of things not normally classed as food, such as tin can lids, plastic cucumber wrappers, used kitty litter, and, most recently, half a box of tampons.

 

When we came home, discovered the remains, and finally figured out what all she had eaten, we briefly considered taking Cherry to the vet.  However, from a colleague’s recent experience, we know that abdominal surgery on a large dog costs more than our car did, so we discarded that idea pretty quickly, deciding instead to monitor her condition and see what passed (or, put bluntly, got crapped out) in the next day or two.   Based on all the other stuff she has eaten that has passed with shockingly little fuss, we felt that it was a reasonable decision.

 

By day three, she had only passed one tampon…we think.  It is difficult to tell, and, given what everything was embedded in, we weren’t really keen to do a whole lot of poking around.  She was throwing up almost every day, and seemed a little droopy overall, but did not seem to be in any pain, and was still perky enough to bugger off chasing squirrels in the bush, so we held our ground and did not take her to the vet.

 

By day five, she had passed a couple more, but nowhere near as many as we figured she’d eaten.  Still droopy, and still puking a lot, but still not in pain, and not so miserable that she quit being an annoyance in the kitchen when I was trying to get some canning done.  We continued to wait.

 

On day seven, we were again out of the house…this time, having carefully blocked off the garbage cans, kitty litter, and the like with baby gates.  We normally do this, as if it’s not one dog, it’s the other, but last week we just plain forgot.

 

When we got home, we discovered that Cherry had finally found a way to get all of the remaining tampons out.  They must have been sitting in her stomach, too expanded and tangled together to pass through the rest of her system.  There was puke from one end of the livingroom to the other, little piles of tampon all over the place.  It was disgusting.  We need to clean our carpets.

 

On the bright side, our Big Dog is back to being a Big Nuisance, and I have to admit, we were more worried than we were admitting, so both Hubby and I are feeling quite relieved.

 

You know, though, any life event that includes a dog eating tampons should be funnier than that in the end…

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Well, the harvest continues.  The forecast hard frost did come last night, but we did manage to get most stuff out in time.  We picked 2 wheelbarrow loads of winter squash, now curing on the livingroom floor, 5 two-gallon buckets of tomatoes in various stages of ripeness, now ripening in buckets on the kitchen table, about a million bean plants, now hanging to dry in the barn, and a bunch of half-cobs of corn – not quite mature, but big enough to think about trying to do something with, that are currently in the fridge.  The everbearing strawberries decided to give one last big push, and our crabapple tree had lots of little apples within easy reach, so I whipped up a batch of crabapple-strawberry jam in there, too.  Next, we’ll dig the root veggies, though probably not for a couple of weeks yet, as the weather is supposed to turn warm again for awhile.  Meanwhile, I found a lady selling local apples – some looked like the ones we got off our tree in Alberta, even –  so I plan to get some to make applesauce.  We’re also still waiting for the pears to go on sale, as they were a big hit last year – there is still some canning to be done.

 

Over the course of the gardening season, I kept a running list of what worked and what did not.  While I expect I will still have a few things to add as we bring in the rest of the root veggies, I thought I would share what I’ve learned so far:

 

Start the seeds in larger (4′) pots, so they don’t get so rootbound. Watch about starting squash early – they grow quick.

 

Need to stay on top of recording plant varieties (what went where), especially with vines (melons, cukes, squash), peppers, and tomatoes, where we plant fewer things of more varieties, and might like to know, for instance, which peppers are sweet, and which hot. We did pretty good on the recording for the row crops. Maybe a bigger garden map would help, or sectioned map. A looselseaf page is not nearly big enough.

 

Rows need to be well-spaced to allow weeding and picking comfortably without crushing nearby plants.

 

Need to plan better so that the longest season crops (corn, squash, melons, parsnips, mangels) are planted first, rather than the beans and beets, which can wait.

 

Best to plant the salad type early crops (radishes, spinach, lettuce, etc) up close to the house, where we will remember them. Planting tomatoes and peppers early near the house was a good idea – we could cover them for frosts and get an earlier harvest.

 

Stake the effing tomatoes early.

 

Need to plant rows of herbs in the garden itself – especially basil, parsley, dill, and oregano, as we could use a lot more than our couple of plants will yield.

 

Trellis the peas and consider planting pole beans, just for ease of picking.

 

Could have planted some rows (maybe 2 or 3) close together, then a large space for walking / weeding – this would work well with onions, carrots, beets, spinach, maybe turnips.

 

Beets really, REALLY need to be kept clear of weeds, including mangel beets. Beans, peas, potatoes, onions, corn, sunflowers, and squash do not seem to be so bothered, but weeds really seem to rapidly choke out the beets.

 

Beets don’t like frost. Pull them before the first hard frost.

 

There you have it…more to follow, I am sure!

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Just the Beginning…

Well, all of the onions are in, and finishing out their curing time on a sheet on the living room floor.  We planted 400 sets, and although we ate a bunch over the summer, it looks like less than I expected, somehow.

 

Maybe a tenth of the sunflowers are in, hanging in the back porch, or stacked in baskets to dry.  Planting two rows (of around 90 feet each) was a little on the enthusiastic side.  The birds are helping us with the harvest, though, and there are plenty of flowers that will not form seeds, or not many seeds, before the first frost, which could come any day now.  I don’t really intend to bother pulling the seeds out of all the flowers – I will just toss the dried flower heads into the chicken coop for an occasional winter treat.

 

Tomatoes are piling up, but there’s not quite enough for a big batch of salsa, just yet.  Hubby has been eating one or two (or three or four) of the little ones with supper most days, but he can’t keep up.  And that’s just the eating tomatoes.  The paste tomatoes are just starting to turn, and will hopefully beat the frost, though if the weather stays nice, we’ll cover them and extend the season as long as we can.

 

In the end, we picked maybe 5 gallons of chokecherries, and made a bunch of jelly and syrup, as well as a batch of wine.  There are still some of the late berries coming ripe, but I’m not sure if they’re worth the bother with all the rest of the garden to do.

 

I’ve been trying to keep up with big grocery store produce sales, as well as local produce that we weren’t able to grow ourselves this year.  I’ve put up 20 pounds of peaches, 20 pounds of nectarines, 40 pounds of mangoes, 10 pounds of strawberries, 20 pounds of blueberries, maybe the same of raspberries, saskatoon berries (no idea how many – whatever we picked), plus tons of peas and beans from the garden, celery and  peppers that were on sale (frozen for cooking and salsa making later), and 72 cobs of corn we bought from a local fella last week.  I’ve blanched and chopped and hulled and frozen, jammed, jellied, dehydrated, and pickled my butt off.   The shelves in my canning pantry are groaning, and I’m not sure if we could fit another single cob of corn in the freezer.  I’m waiting for the pears to go on sale, though, as we canned up 3 cases last year, and there is one (!) lonely jar of pears left on the counter, waiting to be dessert on a hot day sometime this week…

 

The garden is mostly still going, and we’re facing a grueling marathon sometime soon…when the frost comes.  We’ve got tons of potatoes, turnips, carrots, pumpkins, squash, beets, and shelling beans that we are leaving till the last possible minute, since the cold room is not the slightest bit cold – it’s been 30+ degrees for the last few days, and will continue like that for at least a week.   We’ve also got corn in the garden that may yet make it to maturity, and the rest of the sunflowers, too.  I’m also eyeing up the little crab apples on the tree out back of the house – they’re terribly sour, but I’m wondering if enough sugar would make them into a palatable apple sauce.   I already sorely miss my apple trees back in Alberta!

 

Then there’s the buck yard to finish, and we need to do a few repairs to the barn before the snow flies.  We’ve got a big order of square hay bales coming someday soon that will need to be stacked in the barn, and we’ve been trying to clear a big enough area for that.  We need to find another freezer, as the chickens will need butchering in the next few weeks, as well.   Hubby’s been trying to dig me some beds for next spring’s herbs and strawberries, as I lost a bunch of my plant starts this spring and summer for lack of places to plant them.   If we can find time, I want to spread the old goat bedding on the garden for the winter, to till in in the spring.   That will be a lot of wheelbarrow loads, though!

 

So, anyways, things are getting just a tad busy around here, and I expect posting will be a little erratic for the next month or so…something tells me we’ll be heaving one big sigh of relief when the snow flies…

 

 

 

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