When family calls, you do what you have to do, and the homestead suffers. I had to leave from September 24-29, and that after we had gone on a quick trip to California to see Eric Clapton the week before. There might have been an actual week of work somewhere in there, but it’s a mostly blur of trying to keep food from spoiling and prioritizing jobs that had to be done before the first frost.
Husbandry and gardening: We nursed the tomatoes and other tender crops through the first night of frost on September 21, and usually that is enough. This year, we had three nights in a row, and by the end of that, they were done. We pulled a lot of green tomatoes off the plants before the first night, basically anything that might ripen. We are canning green tomato salsa this year; so few tomatoes ripened (we had to buy plants after all my transplants froze in April and now think a bunch of them were mislabeled). A new-to-us variety, Paul Robeson, was the surprise winner this year – two of my seedlings survived all the abuse and actually produced a reasonable amount of fruit.
I also brought in a heap of jalapeño, habanero and bell peppers. Skunk #7 met his maker. We collected over 2 gallons of honey and have a couple of hives that look ready to split into two next spring, with only a few stings each. We finally organized a hay delivery for the goats, and R finished tidying up the barnyard area.
We replaced the greenhouse film on the hoophouse. Unfortunately, the replacement came with a tear, so we are going to have to take it off and redo it when the replacement for the replacement arrives. I wanted to do a time-lapse of how we pull it over the structure, but we were rushing because a storm was coming, so I’ll do it when we repeat the exercise, hopefully this weekend.
Food, harvest and preserving: Tomatoes became salsa, were roasted and covered in olive, and pureed into sauce. R brought the shallots in. Early on, I had the dehydrator going for herbs and jalapeños, and froze a bunch more beans, herbs and a butter/parsley puree for dolloping on potatoes. I made some fermented salsa to eat before we tap into the canned stuff. We have been eating potatoes again, both the Daisy Gold and Kennebecs did well this year. We gathered a heap of winter squashes, mostly Burgess Buttercup. I really shouldn’t bother growing anything else since that one outperforms everything else I try.
Finances: We went to Costco for the month on the way back from the concert. It had been over six weeks since the previous trip and we only ran out of cheese. We didn’t buy a single thing from Amazon in September, which may be a record. We are still trying to figure out what our monthly medical insurance costs are going to be, what with Medicare supplements and add-ons.
Energy and conservation: We got a phone call from the guy who cleans our chimney – he had a cancellation and could do ours right then, so we jumped on it. We are breaking ice on the animals’ waterers, but are holding out on setting up the electric deicers for as long as possible.
Other projects: I have been less focused on training Wyatt than I’d prefer, but more consistent in enforcing the daily rules of the ranch that Carson already lives by. Wyatt hass learned to back up, lie down, and respect the “Slate first” command. Backing up and “me first” are essential good manners at all gates and doors. We are working on heeling now, and trying to break the infernal jumping when anyone arrives at the homestead. I’m trying to think of a trick to teach them to do together, sort of a snow day project for when they are bored inside. Suggestions are welcome.
Carson is finally getting a bit more control when he helps herd stray birds back into their pens. He gets so excited that he puts too much pressure on them, but lately he’s been better at following commands at a distance. Carson is super at letting us know when a turkey has escaped from the orchard (their wings need clipping) by barking at them and running back to us. He doesn’t do this behavior in other situations, so we know he’s telling us something, and if we don’t get on it, he gives us an urgent bark like no other. Wyatt hangs back and observes more than gets in the way when we are herding poultry; he’s much more interested in four-legged beasts. The deer are starting to migrate down from the mountains and neither dog is tolerating them being anywhere on the property.
Community: R and I went to an economic development meeting about Torrey’s Main Street commerce.
Creativity and recreation: I bought a new eight-string electric Fender mandolin in Los Angeles and promptly hung it up. I think I have had the chance to play it once. It is a great little instrument and I’m looking forward to making a lot of joyful noise with it.
Next week: More tomato canning, then a quick trip to Salt Lake to get new phones, a brake job and a computer repair. R has to do some science, so he will stay a couple nights extra. I need to drop into the thrift stores and hunt for coolers. We don’t have a proper root cellar, so we pack things into coolers in the unheated garage. If it is predicted to drop below 0 deg F, we might bring them in the house, but other than that, things hold up pretty well. We have a lot of carrots, beets, parsnips and potatoes to bring in once I’m sure it’s really going to stay cold.
On Saturday, October 7, we are doing a honey tasting for the Entrada Institue. Usually we do an apple tasting this year, but with no fruit, we decided to showcase local beekeepers instead. If you are in the area, please join us at 6:30 at the Robbers Roost on Main Street in Torrey.
Seasonal observations: The bird life shifted dramatically as the weather started to get colder. We have seen a juvenile Golden Eagle, a Cassin’s Kingbird, a pair of sandhills and a mixed flock of starlings and red-wing blackbirds. The peach trees have just started to color up. Mostly what we notice is the shorter days and how far north the moon sets in our bedroom window. There’s still a lot to be done before our “long winter’s nap” but the food slowly moves from ripening on the counter into the pantry, and we can spend some time reflecting on what worked and what we want to do next year.