Autumnal Harvest

6 10 2008

September has passed and as October rolls in the days are getting shorter and the light is lying long and low across the fields as we start prepping for winter. This year we have a lot more animals to worry about keeping warm and hydrated throughout the cold season. We also have more fields to ‘put to bed’ as soon as the last of the veggies are out and the critters housed elsewhere. We won’t really start slowing down for at least another month, but all the same, the early twilight and the seemingly endless (and cold) rain have been driving us inside earlier and more often than before. And so we catch up on all the little things that get pushed by during the season; the book-keeping, returning phone calls to friends and customers alike, and we even start putting up some food for ourselves for the winter. We make jams of all kinds, tomato sauces and freeze fruits, veggies and greens. While we wish that it was enough to get us through the winter without needing to see the inside of the grocery store, there is no way that we could put up enough to fill all our nutritional needs. It is tough when you work all day with every pot you own bubbling away on the stove containing literally a bushel (or more) of tomatoes, red peppers, eggplant, garlic and onions, only to finish the whole canning process to find exactly 6 quart jars of sauce sitting on the counter for all your effort….and then your husband walks in and says, “great, those look beautiful, but we need, like, 60 of those to get us through till tomato season next year.” sigh. And we again feel a deep appreciation for the generations of women who did exactly that year in and year out for themselves and their families. And now there are two bushels of apples sitting on the counter.

Farm news: Hillside Engineering are surveying the farmyard in preparation for the new barn and sugarhouse addition coming next spring. While they are in and out in a day or so, they will be helping us to site the new barn which involves some serious earth-moving. It turns out that we need to level a chunk of the farmyard in order to build the new barn- this is a huge amount of excavating, but it will actually solve many of the drainage problems that we have at the farm (such as the draining of the farmyard, literally, right into the main alley of Main Barn or into the road which runs between Main Barn and the Round bale barn- where is ends up leaching into the stalls on that side of the barn….yuck). We probably won’t get into this until the spring, but it is nice to see the process getting started.

Another interesting event in the last month is that we worked with Berkshire Grown and took all their food waste and compostables from their annual Harvest Dinner. They even bought in biodegradable tableware and used unbleached plates, napkins, bowls and cups. We are also working with Central Berkshire Regional Schools to collect the food waste from the three elementary school cafeterias. We’re very excited about this project even though it is still in its infancy- we hope to be able to expand it to include middle schools and high schools. Composting the food waste is way better than watching all that fertilizer go into the landfills.

Animal news: There is still a lot of winter prep to do for cattle, pigs and chickens. This is going to involve some new fencing and renovations to Cooper Barn (near the Cottage) and to the existing pig barn. The cattle will be moving to one side of Cooper Barn, where they will have access to shelter from the wind and lots of solar gain. The girls grow nice furry coats and their breeds hale from the wet-cold of Scotland- the snow just adds insulation, so unless the day brings wet and wind, they probably won’t spend too much time inside. The boys aren’t so lucky and will want a dry spot out of the wind and all types of cold weather. The south side of Cooper Barn can easily accomodate our small herd and with a little renovation and moving of other stuff, make it suitable for horses and cattle.

photo by D. JenningsWe moved Penelope (Penny) and Portia up to the barn as soon as the weather turned cold and bitter since Penny, at least, is due to have her first litter of piglets any day and we didn’t want to lose any to hypothermia with it being so chill. We were surprised that the walk up from the pasture didn’t send her into labor, but she’s still hanging in there, looking incredibly uncomfortable, but warm in her new stall, snuggled into at least a foot of dry oatstraw. The other pigs will also move to the barn later on- for the moment they are still in the pasture and happy to bask in the sun (when we have it) and root for worms and grass.

The poor chickens have had a real time of it this year. First it was a fox, then coyotes, and now it is an owl. Somehow I just wasn’t concerned that the Barred owls that I had been hearing in the woods would ever be a problem. They aren’t very big and we had never had trouble with them before, only with their cousins, the Great-Horned Owls. However, it seems that the Barred is indeed the newest murderer of chickens. They have also managed to do more damage than any of the other predators to the ‘Chicken Pysche’ and they have pretty much stopped laying eggs.

CSA & Veggie news: The CSA is winding down to the last few weeks and while the fields are still looking full of veggies, there really isn’t a whole lot left. The winter squash harvest went great and we got in all the Delicata in one big swoop. The rest of the squash- the Sunshine and other Buttercups, went a lot more slowly without all the wonderful help and company. The big potato harvest is planned for this coming Saturday, the 4th and we’re hoping for nice, dry weather and many hands to pick up potatoes and load them into bags. Another big upcoming job is the garlic planting. We’re tripling production of garlic for next summer and that means we have 3 big beds to put in this fall. If only we had as many helpers as we did for the garlic harvest! In any case, traditionally garlic is planted right around Columbus Day, but we’ll be waiting on the extra garlic seed to get the other two beds in.

We also put in and received our first Buyer’s co-op order this past month and while there are still some bumps and kinks to work out in the system, we’re very excited about actually getting this started. I’m one step closer to eliminating trips to the grocery store and hopefully, I’ll save some money to boot.

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One response

7 10 2008
Bob Bunt Burke

The Hills are alive at Holiday. Great job you are doing .
Miss the mountains and colors. Your Barnyard Bull Newsletter is a gift we keep on enjoying.
My old paint brush misses the trail by Turkey Meadow.
Give our love to Dicken and all.
Bob and Maragret Burke

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