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December’s Eve

I. Many lights make hands work.

So when the light leaves, my hands don’t work so much. It’s coming into the dark time. I’m struggling with it. My body and/or mind is feeling thwacky.  Part of me craves the  summer energy that comes from being constantly busy. 

Why can’t I wake up on my internal alarm clock when the light fills the room? C’mon, I already slept 9 hours. When mid-afternoon rolls around, I am ready for cocktail hour. By 5:30 I’m ready to eat a hearty dinner. By seven, I feel lost and somewhat ready to implode. What…go to bed? Stay up and read into the seemingly endless night? Go outside and walk in the dim moon light?   I’ve tried all of these options. None feel quite right.  Perhaps because I’m doing them all alone. 

Yes, it’s the time of year to slow down, to not work as much. To go on vacation. Or spend the vacation money on installing a wood stove for the apartment. A great choice and investment, but that far-off beach is still calling. Arm-chair travelling only goes so far. So I’m slowing down and spinning my wheels a bit.

II. So it’s the Learning Season

Went to Animal Powered Field Days in Vermont.

Went to MOFGAs farmer to farmer conference, which was superb. Inspiring and enriching. 

Spent a few afternoon with local horsemen, trying to learn the workhorse trade. The art.

Participated in an Ag-related panel discussion the other night; this Friday attending a hoophouse workshop; next week there’s a roundtable on local agriculture infrastructure. 

Relearning, too. Trying to refocus. Turning inward, and also away from the garden’s throbbing center, moving out to the property’s periphery, the edges, the transitions, the woodlot. It’s an important  season.  Offers a chance for reflection, and important element in learning and making adjustments in the system or in the style of stewardship that I am persuing as a farmerette.

Stack of books.

III. Fall notes

Ate fresh raspberries off the cane on November 3rd

55 degrees on November 17th

So mild this month some trees are budding back out.

Lots of Rain- hurrah.

The annual wind storm, last wednesday. This time the hoophouse didn’t fall in.

Hoophouse poly came off today–now they are just bare ugly skeletons. 

But still eating greens and carrots fresh from the garden, November 30th.

Poe and I, we’re ready for SNOW!

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Noooo!vember

I can say that November is my least favorite month. Call it ‘the sticks,’ ‘the blahs,’ ‘the first dark month’.   And it is looking quite novemberish on the farm…everything brown and flat or unremarkable in cover-crop, the leaves mostly down so that the wind moving through the trees has a new *sound* and *sting*, long shadows and pinched daylight.  Here is some more of that covercrop: oats still not winter-killed, growing thick:

Despite the slowingdown of the season, work and projects abound. Below, the greenhouse renovation nears completion:Allowing for a tripling of space, part of it subterrainian, for enhanced thermal gain and storage:

 A few small winter greens successions growing on in the new space, to trial how and what can be grown there. Salads are guaranteed through the end of the month, at least!

 

Garlic planted and mulched. This year I grew a covercrop on the area to be planted, then planted the garlic directly into the ground, no tilling or bed prep needed!  We’ll see how this method plays out…

Today I pulled some of the last rows of tomatoes, the plants ofwhich had begun to resemble tarnished skeletons strung out on a line. The final blankets of plastic mulch pulled up, too—one of my least favorite fall tasks.

The chickens got a section of the barn made-over for them so that they can be indoors for the winter, with an option to be outside of course.

For now, they are still happiest outdoors, grazing and scratching, pestering the sheep who have been known to head-butt them out of the way.

Sadly, my ‘summer camp sheep’  will return to their main home on Thurday. Though I will miss them, it’s just the right time for them to be going, as I’m about out of good pasture for them.  Hopefully they’ll be back in the spring.  They’ve made me very interested in pursuing sheep-for-fiber. 

Some bed prep has been accomplished for early spring planting. The rows below have been disc-hilled, and will be mulched with hay for the winter. Then in spring I will just peel the hay to the side and do a final pass in order to have a good planting bed. The beds are raised so that they will dry out and warm up quickly in the spring. Spinach, radishes and lettuce, I’m already thinking of you next year!

But for now I’ve still got plenty of those greens growing in the hoophouses. Spinach, Asian greens, Head Lettuce, Collards, Carrots, Mache, Tatsoi.  Yum!

There are things I like about November. Such as having time to lay in the hammock and soak in the late afternoon sun. Or go for longer walks through the woods, which have undergone such a spatial change in the past month it is like a whole new world!

This coming weekend: MOFGAs Farmer to Farmer Conference!

Also exciting: having worked with draft horses two afternoons in the past weeks: once with a neighbors Fjord, and once with a pair of Suffolks.  So very much looking forward to encorporating horsepower into the farm in coming years.

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I get a kick out of you

yup!

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Hanging out with the honey bees. Three colonies of four are still with me now. Not sure if they will make the winter; will be feeding for next while to help them keep their honey for winter.  Did you hear? Maybe a true cause of ‘colony collapse’: read more here.

Progress on the expanded greenhouse!  The final roof panel and hardware arrived today, so hopefully in the next few days that element will be done. Contrast the former, old roof materials on the left with the new twin-wall polycarb on the right—can we say improved light transmission!?!

The side of the barn features a newly graded gravel and stone pad, which will be where the wash and pack will happen, under a roof. Thanks Chris Bentley!

Here’s that Rainbow I’ve been alluding to.  Started off small and pretty…

…And then spanned the entire sky. It even went double for a little while. What does it mean??!?!

In anticipation of co-housing all the chicken clans in the barn for the winter, I’ve transitioned them slowly to hang out together. First in neighboring fences, then comingling a bit, then all-together living together.  It’s fun to see the different varieties together.  They still have little tiffs now and then, but for the most part have adjusted.  And the Auracana rooster is mighty proud to have expanded his henny pennies thrice over!!

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I can’t seem to manage any more than once-a-month blog post.  A big part of this is that my computer and it’s uploading style is so slow; indeed, this initial post will be photo-less until I add the pictures at a later point. A larger part, however, is that time just seems to slip away.  Even now in October, the late, slower season of market gardening, my days are full and I have little desire to sit and type for more than a few emails.  Overall, I’m not sure how farm blogging really fits in to my style.  This will be one subject to muse further –and perhaps act–on as the season slows and changes to winter. Deciding how to move forward with media, and with which platforms, will be decisions that I anticipate making this winter. Maybe I’m just a FFBer (a farming facebooker—and I’m not talking about farmville). But I spend enough time meta-farming as it is, considering I write a once-weekly newsletter for my CSA subscribers. Keeping up with email, blog, facebook, and newslettering is a lot.

So what’s been happening this past month?  I am most excited about progress on a few infrastructure-type projects on the farm. I am expanding the existing ‘seedling greenhouse’ to double the workable space, improve solar gain and retention, and generally be more effective and effecient resource for me early season.  My friend and excellent carpenter Dave Swanson has been doing the work, which includes a lot of thinking-on-the-fly to properly install twin-wall polycarb roofing and other elements. In the last days the final structure has really come to life, so to speak. I got to help with the rafter and roof-panel installation; got to learn how to use a nail-gun (must say, am still happier with a hammer); got to monkey around on a splippery steep surface by climbing up the nails; got to glean a bit more of carpentry knowledge.  We are now just waiting on an extra roofing panel since dummy-kat ordered one too few, and then the sleek solarific roof will be complete.  Then trim and clabbording, and interior insulation, the installation and fine-tuning of climate-control units (fans, louvres, and back-up propane heat), and it’ll be ship-shape.

The other project completed is the creation of a stone/gravel pad the length of the Eastern side of the barn, which will be someday-home to the wash-and-pack shed: a lean-to built off the side of the exisiting barn. I’d like to get the boards for it off of the property’s woodlot; maybe I’ll harvest enough pine this winter to be able to get a neighbor (yes, there are more than one with capacity to hand-mill logs here) to mill them for and with me. The end result will be an awesome facility for all things post-harvest, out of sun and rain, and also a great storage spot for wintertime: implements, tractor, tools, and supplies.  All this will be even more valuable when the barn is fully transformed into an animal space, so as to have a seperate storage space for produce and farm products. But who knows how soon all of it will come to be….

A coyote is yipping in the lower woodlot.  It’s been a regular occurance of late, the last two weeks I’d say.  Probably has roots in a mini-chicken massacre night in which I lost 5 henny-pennies all in one raid. Since then I’ve spotted Wiley in the lower fields, in neighbor’s fields, and –most brazenly– in the middle of the main vegetble plot, a few hundred feet from the fence lines, at noon.  Poe and I made a good time of that one, sneaking up on him as close as possible, then jumping out from behind a row of corn and giving him chase through the field into the woods.  It was exhilirating for all of us. I don’t worry about a single coyote too much. What does concern me is if they starting ‘packing up’, for then the sheep become target.  Makes me want to get a shotgun, if only to fire warning shots; or makes me want to get one of those big white fluffy guard dogs, so unlike the Poe dog I have, who would certainly NOT be content sleeping outside under the stars with the sheep.  He prefers the couch.

There was also an awesome rainbow event a few weeks ago. Full arching double rainbow type thing. Plus super spotlighting in front of Ragged Mountain. Images will begin to do it justice, once I get them up.

And now I am sputtering out of posting-motivation, and would rather be in bed.  But first to put away the pesto and baba ganouj I made away. My freezer is almost full for winter!  A lot of chicken and even more veggies.  tick tock.

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Slip-sliding away…

OK wow, where are these days going!?! I refuse to let an entire month lapse between farm posts, and so here is a hasty one.  Most of these pictures are quite dated, ie. everything is bigger and wilder and there are red tomatoes and flowers everywhere. At the beginning of the month I was prepping for a July 3rd wedding, which was mostly great and fun, except for the vases from hell. There were 6 of these suckers among the other lovely, tall table-top vases. The opening to these were so narrow you could only fit 4 or 5 stems of things in them—rediculous. Luckily, there were enough of the other arrangements that these didn’t stick out like sore thumbs, except to me (note to self for future wedding work where I get to attend the ceremony and reception: just because I am fixating for the entire evening on the length of the groom’s boutonniere stem and how “horrible” it looks, doesn’t mean anyone else gives a hoot).  I hope to share images of the finished arrangements sometime soon. For a peak at the bridal bouquet, go to ARS MAGNA photography site and scroll down to the sneak shot of the July 3rd D & J wedding. 

 

So the wedding happened and I was exhausted and then it got blazing hot. We should also note that it hasn’t rained much here all spring and early summer. A week of hot and dry with temps in the mid- and upper- 90s was rough. The well that I irrigate out of dried up.  I chewed my fingernails and considered finding some old used fire-tanker truck and pumping in water. Most plants held on; the lettuce bolted. The good thing is that this hot streak happened when most successions had become well established and vigorous. If the heat came in the first week of june when many seedlings get transplanted out, it would’ve had more severe consequences.

 

It finally rained, first a ‘taste’ last saturday, and then for real on tuesday night, when we got almost 2 inches. The well is back. The squash are going bonkers. More than tripled in size than the picture above

  

It’s been a great raspberry year. Yum.    The Araucanas (sp?) have started to lay their blue eggs.

Tomatoes in the hoophouse are ripening—will bring the first slicers to market this saturday.  Field cherry tomatoes aren’t far behind. 

 

 Bees are happy in cover-crop buckwheat. They are building out comb, gathering pollen, honey, making new bees—all that good bee stuff.  Oh, and a bear got into one of the top-bar hives. Grrrr.

      

  

On Monday (i worked sunday instead)I went to the ocean for a mental health day with good friends. Oh so restorative.

The battle of the weeds continues. Weedwacking, hand weeding, mulching = keeping up with most of it.  I want to make a DIY flame weeder.

Sleep!

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