Well, so much for maintaining a weekly posting schedule over the summer! It is now late-September and our brief sun-time is waning. Last Saturday was our final Farmer’s Market of the year, and this morning we saw our first snowflakes. I’ve dug all my potatoes and stored them carefully away. (Good thing we didn’t get too many, since storage would be an issue – no root cellar. Still, I’d have liked to get a bit more than “about double” what I planted.) There are still carrots and beets in the ground. Frost and moose very sweetly took care of the rest of my vegetable garden. The Boy is now quite fond of moose, since he didn’t have to choke down any kale or cauliflower this year. There is still buckwheat to harvest, and maybe enough barley to make a couple pots of soup. And I just collected the last of the tomatoes and peppers from the greenhouse. Oh, and we tried growing a couple of tomato family relatives called “Sunberries” and “Garden Huckleberries,” which are supposed to produce mega crops of dark purple berries that are best picked after a few frosts. Well, maybe the “mega” part works farther south. I picked a handful of Sunberries from the 35 or so plants I put in, but the Garden Huckleberries barely even set fruit. Fortunately, those were two gift seed packets from Mom-in-law (Hi, MIL!). They were actually a few years old, which is why I started so many – I didn’t really think many would germinate.
Though we did get some produce (enough to be thankful for!) it’s been a kind of disappointing year in the garden. While I did manage to get some ripe tomatoes and enough summer squash to not mind composting a couple, we were overrun by chickweed
and bird vetch
(and plantain, lamb’s quarters, dandelions and clover . . . ), and it was a very wet summer.
We did not get very far in our horizontal priority list, but we did manage to move our ducks outdoors! Hoorah! The Husband build a lovely outdoor coop for them, with a nice enclosure, several covered areas and a pool for bathing.
They weren’t exactly “free-range”; there are too many free-range dogs and cats in our neighborhood to let them wander the property outside of a sturdy fence, and the property is too large to enclose (well, with our budget). They did get to spend most of the summer outside, though, eating all the mosquitoes their little hearts desired (and as much chickweed as we could give them). Meanwhile, the indoor coop has had a makeover. The Husband emptied and cleaned it, and we’ve repainted the coop side with fresh white paint and polyurethane to protect the floor.
We are still working on the storage/work side. That part can be done with the birds back inside, but since the return to winter quarters had to happen, those quarters needed to be ready first.
Currently we have 20 ducks and 2 bantam chickens. They all returned to the coop but some are just visiting. Several, at least, will take up residence in our freezer in a week or two. Egg production has declined somewhat this year, and our spring hatching disappointingly produced only three healthy ducklings (and one of those even needed some help to get out of her shell). Time to bring in some fresh blood. Next spring we’ll order some new birds to improve the gene pool a bit. We considered just starting over in the spring and sending all of them to the freezer, but that would mean no fresh eggs at all over the winter. Store-bought isn’t enticing after having fresh for so long! Also, we don’t have a stand-alone freezer. Trying to fit 20 ducks in the above-the-refrigerator space would be a nightmare. Hopefully, now that the birds have returned to the consistent 14-hour days and 50-60 degree temps of the indoor coop, they will think they’ve already been through winter and start laying like crazy. If they don’t, we’ll have to do some investigating to find out who’ll survive the cull.
This time of year is always fun. All the many things that should have gotten done over the summer but didn’t are still waiting. School has started for both the teacher Husband and the homeschool Family. The weather always seems to be gorgeous on days we are scheduled for indoor activities and iffy, at best, on those days we could work on those let’s-just-get-it-done tasks. Let me tell you, wading through wet, waist-high bird vetch and slipping on overgrown chickweed to pick buckwheat in the cold rain is not my favorite part of autumn. It’s all good, though. The smell of autumn, the return of sunsets and the sight of the butterscotch birch and cottonwood leaves against the intense blue or smoky gray of the sky makes up for the yucky bits.