Early Fall Gardening

We’ve been harvesting tomatoes left and right. We’ve gotten a little bit of zucchini.  It’s funny how you plan for the year and things just grow how they want, with no regard for your planning. Last year I was overrun with zucchini and yellow squash, so this year I grew one plant of each.  They have not done well, so I’ve gotten 2 zucchini and it’s already October.  With the amounts of rain we had this year (and it’s not done) the garden has been a little hit or miss for some things.  Here are some newer pics of our garden:

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Some of our many tomatoes
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Some very tiny cherry tomatoes. These are very tasty, and super prolific. I even had some sprout from last year’s lost broken tomatoes (I call them rogue tomato plants).
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Some of our purple tomatoes. I thought these were Black Krim, but as I had others ripen I think these darker ones are actually blue beauty. I remembered Black Krim having a lot of green and these don’t.
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The largest pumpkin I’ve grown, shown between my feet. These were supposed to be pie pumpkins. This is more jack-o-lantern size.
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Another view of the pumpkin.
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A nice sunny sunflower. This grew in my yard (not in the actual garden bed) , in an area that didn’t get mowed this year. The chickens didn’t eat it before it had a chance to grow either, so that was lucky.  I think the deer have stayed clear of my yard with all the dog and chicken activity.
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The ducks enjoying a nice day in the back yard.
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Here is our garden at the end of September.
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Another view of the garden, from the porch.
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Another large pumpkin. This one was hanging from our fence but I picked it so it could finish ripening on the porch. I like how the leaves look still attached here.
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Downey checking out the porch. There are other pumpkins behind him.
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A bumblebee on a sunflower.
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A view from inside the garden in early October.
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We finally are getting some cauliflower heads! I had given up, but then a few days ago I saw a white head. I tied the leaves up on the plant, like you’re supposed to. A day later I found another of my plants has a head, so I did the same thing. This is my first year growing it.
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A pretty sunflower.
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Here are the rest of the tomatoes. We are supposed to get down into the 30s tonight, so I got spooked and figured I’d rather bring the large ones in. It was a little dark when I picked them, so there may be others out there. These will ripen on the table. There are still a ton of cherry tomatoes outside.
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Another Bee on a bright red sunflower.
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A butterfly on our zinnias. There has been a lot of bee and butterfly activity on all the flowers lately – I think some are getting ready to migrate somewhere, or store up food for winter.

The garden is starting to wind down a bit.  We still have a lot of stuff to harvest, but most of it will be ok if we get frost.  Carrots and beets are still getting larger, and I have some Kale to pick.  We also have peas and beans, but I’m letting those dry on the vines. I’m hoping I get enough peas to make a little bit of pea soup.  I usually don’t let them go that long (they are so yummy picked earlier) but I want to give it a try.

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A Nice Autumn Day

It was a bit chilly today, but the sun was out.  We have had colder temperatures lately, and the garden is mostly done. We had a couple of watermelons that just were not growing anymore.  My son asked if he could pick them today, so I said yes. I figured they weren’t ripe, but when we cut into the largest one (the one we’d set up a sling for, from previous posts), it actually had some pink to it. And it was surprisingly sweet tasting. So this was our first ever successful watermelon:

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Our watermelon, cut up.

For some reason (maybe the sunshine), I got the bright idea to let the chickens and ducks out of their run today.  We have had so much rain, and it rains so often, that we just haven’t gotten a chance to mow our lawn in the last couple weeks.  So I thought, since they’ll eat grass, and they’re hanging around in a semi-wet / muddy run, maybe they’d like to hang out in the yard for the day.  It wasn’t that unwise, I suppose.  It was just a cluster trying to get them back in. They wanted to hang out in the woods, and they found the sand pile for some much-needed dust baths, and didn’t want to give that up so easily.  They didn’t really do much “mowing” for us, but they enjoyed themselves. We got some good pictures:

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The slow spillage into the yard. We just left the door wide open – it didn’t take them very long to figure it out.
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Here they are, wandering around. They don’t usually stray too far from their home.
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Here they are near the sand pile.
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Basking in the sun.
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The ducks had fun too. They rooted around a bit – you can see one of them has a huge mudpile on her bill. I tried to catch her to clean that off but she was not cooperative. It came off later.
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Here is the General with some of his older-hen harem. They were weeding / de-bugging the strawberry patch.

We also moved the adult rabbits to their winter home, inside our entrance shed/mud room.  We got some new cages, and my husband has been putting them together and setting them up for us.  Last winter was really hard with our old setup, so we wanted to make it easier this year. Here are photos:

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Here is the setup in our shed. They are all about chest high. We had to make sure they are taller than our dogs’ noses.
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Here is wind (now “Day” – we somehow changed their names in recent weeks).
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Here is Fire (her name is now “night”)
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Here is Buddy (he was Earth).

The cages are pretty nice, we got them from KW Cages. They have a slide-out tray for easy cleanup, which should make it really nice. The rabbits are getting settled in – they weren’t so sure at first but  they seem to be relaxing more tonight. We have a gate to the shed, so we can keep the nosy dogs out (Especially Atat, who is almost as tall as the cages, and very curious).  I think this will work well for winter.  We’ll get them set up outside again in spring.

Harvesting the garden…

This year’s garden is starting to wind down. Our growing season is not typically very long. I’m hoping we’ll hold off on getting a frost for another month, but a lot of plants are done producing anyway. I pulled out our yellow squash, and picked most of the tomatoes. There are a few straggler tomatoes left on the vines. My son harvested about 8 ears of corn from his 10 or so plants.  We still have a few things waiting to be picked, like beets, kale, chard, eggplants, and zucchini. Take a peek at our recent harvest:

tomatos
I grew five varieties of tomatoes this year: Early Girl, Druzba, a Blue type, Cherry (very tiny) and some Romas. We got a good crop of them this year.
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My first attempt at canning tomatoes! I think it went alright. The half pint jars were a little small, I have realized. I will do pint jars for the next batch I can.
green-tomatoes
My canning book talks about picking tomatoes green and letting them ripen on the counter, maybe so they all ripen at the same time? We picked most of what was left. I keep worrying about frost anyway, so this way I don’t have to rush out and cover anything.
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One of the last yellow squash we picked. We got a whole lot of these. I had three plants, which was too many for us this year. We froze a lot of this.
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One of my sunflowers from our back yard. This was several days ago, when it was still standing tall, before we got days and days of rain…
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Here it is today… looking very sad.
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The watermelon has not grown a whole lot. I think it’s supposed to have stripes as well. It’s still hanging in there. I will let it sit as long as possible and see if we get an edible melon.
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Our tiny pumpkins. The plants are done for this year. I really like these, and will grown them again next year, along with a little bit bigger variety.
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A tiny eggplant. These plants grew wonderfully, but didn’t flower until late August. Now they have tiny fruits on them. They are not ripe yet. Hopefully they will get bigger and ripen before we get a freeze.
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Our Kale, still going strong. I’m going to attempt to leave these, and see if they will come back in spring. I have heard that Kale (and Chard!) will grow as perennials. We will see if they come back in spring. I have been cutting, using/freezing, and then waiting for more to grow, like cut-and-come-again style. We have a lot of kale frozen for winter.
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Here’s my garden today. It’s still very green but there is not much in terms of vegetables left.

Pre-snow November

I’m a little late with this post.  This November has been a little strange, with warmer temps than normal… that is, until a few days ago.  I took some pictures last week, before we got snow, when we were in the 50s temperature wise.  The snow started a couple days ago. We only have about an inch on the ground right now. We’ve had some flurries here and there, and now our temperatures are in the 20s.  Brrr…  Here are some pictures of our pre-snow November.

what is that
I was out on our porch, and saw what I thought was a white rose on our already-done, pink rosebush…
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On closer inspection, I realized it’s a white clematis. We have purple clematis growing here, but not nearly this tall – this is up about 8 to 9 feet in the rosebush. And it’s bloomed in November.
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I haven’t pulled the plants out of the garden yet, and noticed my artichoke plants still looked alive after hard frosts and one day with a dusting of snow. (I have not seen them since we got our current snow).
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My Brussels sprouts. Update on these – since this picture, we dropped into the 20s. These plants were dead as of yesterday, and the sprouts never got bigger than about dime sized. The plants were completely frozen. I gave them to the chickens, they seemed to like them even though they were frozen.
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Our yard – all the trees have lost their leaves.
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The chicken coop with the leafless forest behind it.
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The chickens enjoying the sunshine on one of our last nice warmish days.
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The chickens in the sun
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Another pic of the chickens.

I’ll get some new pics soon to show you what our snow looks like.  I’ll also update on the baby bunnies – they have grown a lot in 2 weeks.

Early October on the farm

Fall is definitely here.  We’ve had lower temps – 50s and 60s.  We got a touch of frost – I saw some on the grass one morning.  But I think my house is in a bit of a microclimate – in our town there was a hard frost at the end of September, where you had to scrape frost off your windows.  We didn’t get that here – I’m only about 12 miles outside of town, but the way our property is situated we sometimes are spared from the frost.  I was worried things would die, so when we got the hard-frost warnings,  I harvested everything in the gardens that was anywhere near being ready.  I didn’t worry about things that can deal with frost, like Kale.  And then nothing happened, my plants that were left out there are all still doing fine.    Here’s a photo tour of how things are looking lately.

Here's what my garden looks like - a tangled mess with not much left for picking.
Here’s what my garden looks like – a tangled mess with not much left for picking.

I’m debating on whether to pick everything out, and cover it all with compost now, or wait and do that all in the spring.  Either way, the soil will have a layer of plants between it and the snow; I’ve read that is better for any mycelium networks (which are very helpful for your plants) – if you leave bare soil any beneficial mycelium that may be there can die, and you are depleting your soil.  That is why people plant cover crops – I don’t really want to do that because we really don’t have time.  Last year, we got snow at the beginning of November. I don’t think a cover crop would have time to sprout and grow.  So I may just use my already-there crops as “cover crops”; then in spring, I’ll pile on compost, and till it all in.  (I’ll still have to pull big stems out, like the old corn and sunflowers).

Our trees are very colorful – they had just started changing last week and then suddenly everything’s orange, red, and yellow (with a touch of green).

Here are some of the trees in our yard.
Here are some of the trees in our yard.
Another picture of those trees.
Another picture of those trees.
Here are the maple trees that we get sap from in the spring.
Here are the maple trees that we get sap from in the spring.

Most of my plants in the garden are on their way out for the winter.  Most of my sunflowers are spent, and have seeds that the chickadees have been enjoying.  I found this one that is a late bloomer.  It’s really tall but it fell over so it’s laying on the ground:

My maybe-last sunflower for the year.
My maybe-last sunflower for the year.

My marigolds are still going strong. They are so pretty, I love the orange color of these:

My marigolds.
My marigolds.

Our apple trees are doing well.  The biggest problem is that most of the good looking apples are way up on the tree.  I’m planning on picking a bunch more this weekend.  I picked a few several weeks ago and made apple butter.  I’m planning on making some more (since it’s delicious) and also drying some apples for snacks.

One of the apple trees.
One of the apple trees.
A closer view of those yummy apples.
A closer view of those yummy apples.

One thing I planted this year, just to try, was Amaranth.  I found out you can cook the seeds up kind of like rice.  I would like to try it but they are not ready yet.  The “flowers” are supposed to drop their seeds – you can test it by running the flowers in your hands, and if the seeds drop into your hand they are ready to pick. Mine are not there yet.  But they look like they are on their way:

Here's one of my Amaranth, it is a good 8-9 feet tall.
Here’s one of my Amaranth, it is a good 8-9 feet tall.
Here is the same plant, I leaned it over so I could get a detail of the flower.
Here is the same plant, I leaned it over so I could get a detail of the flower.

I got my hens some “chicken aprons” – they can wear them and it’s supposed to protect their backs from the roosters’ shenanigans.  I had the roosters separated but it’s getting colder, and I was worried that if the roosters are separate, they can’t actually do their job of protecting the hens.  So they are all together now.  Most of my barer backed ladies are now wearing these aprons:

Here is one of my australorp hens wearing her apron.  It doesn't help here wing "elbows", as you can see here, but her back is protected.
Here is one of my australorp hens wearing her apron. It doesn’t help her wing “elbows”, as you can see here, but her back is protected.

I also thought the aprons would help keep the hens a little warmer this winter.  Some of my hens still have completely bare backs, and I was worried about winter because with no feathers there, they would be too exposed to the cold.  They work pretty well, I do have a few hens that these seem a bit too big for. I ordered some standard size aprons from someone on Amazon.  They do have some smaller ones, I may have to get some of those.  Mine are all “standard” breeds but some are on the smallish side.  I have a barred rock hen that these didn’t fit – it’s like the middle bit of the apron is too wide to fit between her shoulders, so she just kept getting tangled up in it.  I only tried it on her for an hour or two, and then I had to take it off.

My escape artist chicken decided to pose today for me, I got some really nice pictures of her:

Here she is.
Here she is.
Here's another picture.
Here’s another picture.

She doesn’t have a name except “Escape artist” because if anyone gets out, it is usually her.  And she gets out almost every other day.  She must fly out, but then she can’t fly back in for some reason so I have to catch her and put her back in the run.  She sleeps in the rafters of the coop now, and she’s actually gotten one of her friends (my Cornish hen) to sleep up there with her.

Thanks for checking out my Fall farm pics.  I do like fall, but it always leads to winter, which I’m not really looking forward to.