Friday, September 27, 2013

Harvest time

The September full moon is known as the Harvest moon and for good reason. Fruit and vegetable gardens are maturing, evening temperatures are dropping, snow is starting to collect on the high peaks, and time is of the essence. Harvest time is underway.

Garlic is the first to ripen so I have already dug, dried and put into storage around three pounds. That will last nearly a year in a cool, dry and dark location which also happens to the wine closet.

Our onion crop began ripening several weeks ago and I dug the onions as their necks became soft and the tops fell over. I hung bunches of onions in the greenhouse to start the drying process then finished them up in the dehydrator. We now have enough bags of dried onions to take us through February or March. I can used the dried onions right from the bag in stews and soups or rehydrate them when fresh onions are called for.

After the heavy (for September anyway) rains in mid-September we dug our potatoes for fear they might rot in the ground. I laid them out on the mesh patio table which we moved into the old cabin. It’s a great place because it is cool, relatively dark and the table affords plenty of circulation around the spuds. I don’t yet have a great long term storage solution for potatoes so we’ll just have to eat a lot of the tubers before it gets below freezing in the cabin. This was the first year in several that I grew potatoes and I used the old horse tank method. In a space of only fourteen square feet, I grew about thirty pounds of Yukon Gold and All Blue spuds. I’m amazed at the production from such a small plot.

This time of year we watch the weather pretty closely and this morning’s weather report predicted a cool, cloudy, breezy day with nighttime temperatures dropping to 29F degrees. That was enough incentive to get us in high gear today to harvest the last of the summer squash and tomatoes and start in on the apple trees. While I wrapped up the tomatoes in newspaper, put them in a box in the closet, and roasted and froze the squash, Don got out the ladder, pulled the bird nets off the Harelred and State Fair apple trees, and picked the fruit. He sliced up the apples with blemishes and started dehydrating them and put the clean apples into storage. Don has one more tree to harvest (Sweet Sixteen) but she’s not quite ready. Hopefully the cold temperatures don’t harm the apples.

Earlier in the week we rounded up the cattle that have spent the summer on our pasture, sent them home and spent the rest of the day cleaning out water tanks, taking down temporary fencing, coiling up hoses and electric cords and cleaning out the barn and corrals. The manure went into the compost pile for use next spring and all the equipment went into winter storage.

We have already had the mountain peaks blanketed by snow twice in the last week and from the looks of things it will happen again tonight. As cold as it is predicted to get, it might even snow at our 8,000 foot elevation. As I write this Don is building a fire in the wood cookstove and we are planning a dinner of burritos smothered in fresh salsa made from our tomatoes, garlic and onions with spicy Pueblo chiles. The fall harvest is nearly complete and we’re ready to enjoy a cozy evening warmed by wood from our farm.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hints of Fall

The calendar may say its early September but Mother Nature is suggesting otherwise. In the last few weeks I've noticed that the choke cherries have ripened, the scrub oak acorns are drying and the leaves are starting to turn color. This week the daytime temperatures are predicted to be in the mid-sixties and the nighttime temps in the mid-forties. By weeks end the precipitation will change to snow above 12,000 feet elevation and as much as eight inches may accumulate.

All these hints of fall have motivated us to finish up our firewood preparation and clean the woodstove. We have one pile of about two cords sitting ready and are working on the second pile which will be in our woodshed.

The change of seasons is not lost on the wildlife either. After several years without an acorn crop, this year’s crop is excellent and everything from Stellar jays to black bears are feasting. We have had three to four different bears visiting the oak clumps on our place and surrounding properties leaving footprints in the mud and scat piles full of acorn hulls.

It won’t be long before the aspen, cottonwood, birch and alder are ablaze in yellow from tree line down to the valley floor. And then suddenly winter will arrive.