The green tomatoes have started ripening!

I made two fresh loaves of bread and we had a simple lunch by toasting bread with tomatoes, basil and Parmesan.

We’re prepping the gardens for winter. For the garden in the yard we’ve picked the tomatoes and are letting the vines wilt where they stood. Peas were growing on the fence along the retaining wall and all along my wattle fence (the bent saplings) on this garden but they were spent a lot earlier in the year and I just added them to the compost. Turnips matured earlier in the year to but some strays popped up and continued to grow so I’ll leave that area along while they mature. Beans were over not long after peas, I left the plants in the garden.

Leeks, Kale, brussel sprouts, and artichokes are still growing so I’ve been cleaning up their beds. In preparation for winter I stripped all the lower leaves off the the brussel sprouts to let light through and encourage sprout development (they form in the crooks of the leaves as seen in the third photo) and cut down the artichokes (fourth photo). While I’m letting the old plant matter decompose in the garden I cleared it away from the living plants to avoid rot and will cover them with buckets and mulch over that. The idea is to insulate them and make a refrigerator, not a deep freeze. I’ll probably mulch directly over the kale but not until the ground starts to freeze otherwise it may just get soggy.

I’m also experimenting with a no-till method in this garden and just adding new compost on top of decaying plants and straw in spring, rather than mixing it in. I think this will smother weedlings as they germinate instead of bringing them to the surface.

Judas Jr. is standing proudly next to the brussle sprouts (brussasprows!) and munching kale. Kale and sprouts (assuming they are large enough to pick) will sweeten with light frosts. Carrots are the same way (though we didn’t grow any this year).

jaxxbfox:

ratfarm:

We are still more prepper than farmer but we’ll get there. Here’s the Autumn Harvest for 2014.

After such a strange summer we did better than I expected and I think next year has a lot of potential. The are so many small tomatoes and gourds and blooms littering the plants still, hundreds but it’s so late in the season they’ll never get far enough to pick. Spring was late (the ground was still frozen when it was time to plant), we spent a lot of time expanding and setting up one garden, and it was very rainy, cloudy, and cool all summer. Everything grew agonizingly slow! We had plenty of peas and beans, most got eaten before they made it into the house, Judas Jr. loved eating them right out of the garden. We had kale, turnips, and took small leeks. A lot of the berries and apple trees were just trying to recover from chicken and deer damage, though the blackberries and strawberries are flowering now.

The acorn and butternut squash were plentiful but didn’t grow fast enough. This was our first year growing Hopi Pale Grey Squash (pictured above) and they did wonderfully! I’ll likely dedicate the whole driveway plot to them next year as the vines were so sprawling.They’re suppose to be around 10 lbs. each but some are nearly 20 plus they’re suppose to be very long lasting (two years in a root cellar). I’m excited that the three of us will have enough squash for the winter and I can make pies for the holidays! We had 11 total with a couple acorn squash but no mature butternut.

I brought in all the green tomatoes that were big enough to pick and not damaged by animals (chipmunks?). I left about as many grown tomatoes in the garden that had been gnawed on and left the door open for the chickens to finish off and with the squash. The flowers and tiny tomatoes were staggering! Had the weather cooperated we could have potentially had four times as many based on what was still on the vines! Tomatoes were a half-bushel.

We’ve still got brussel sprouts, kale, leeks, and artichokes alive in the garden as an experiment in winter crops or stuff I’m hoping will come back next year. More on that later.

Sounds like you had a lot of the same problems I did. The weird weather this year just didn’t do it for a lot of the plants.

My Butternut squash vines were slowed by bad weather, and I lost a lot of early fruit to pests (squirrels mostly). I’ll be lucky if I’m able to harvest the single big one I have in the backyard that’s almost ready. My tomatoes went NUTS, but again… late in the season. I managed to harvest probably a total of eight pounds of cherry tomatoes during the season but it probably would have been more like ten pounds if it’d been as warm as it should have been. Same can be said for my single bell pepper plant. It was covered in at least a dozen peppers when I dug it up and had to cut them off. Such a shame.

Those Hopi squash look amazing! How do they taste? I’d love to try growing something like that but so far I haven’t found an organic seed supplier who offers them up here in my area.

I want to try the Sweet Dumpling squash next year on an Arbor and see if the smaller fruits mature faster and the arbor keeps the damn squirrels from destroying them (the Butternut squash that was hanging suspended off the ground was the one that survived long enough to get big).

My Kale and Swiss Chard were a big hit this year. I need to double the amount I plant next year I think… so I can actually get some myself! (My grandmother’s caretaker fell in love with the stuff and I let her pick most of it.)

I hope the weather is more cooperative next year.

We weren’t alone, I have a friend in Wisconsin who had his tomatoes freeze at the end of June! Then not too many miles North of us there were frosts about a month ago. I think I read somewhere it was record lows and winter is suppose to be another hard one. Aside from slow growth all the rain brought a lot of slugs to our garden. The turnips in particular really got invaded but since I was experimenting with them as a future livestock crop I tossed most of them, slugs and all, to the chickens. Kale didn’t get as big as it can but it was fine for eating and I moved a few plants into pots inside. Last winter I had potted kale from the garden, as well as green onions and leeks. We munched on them all the time, removing the lower leaves or snipping the tops of the onions. I don’t remember ever reading about kale as a perennial crop but it’s come back every year, so this year I made sure to plant them in a permanent location and not till their spot. They were always up before we got to tilling and planting so I’m hoping for a head start.

One thing about this year, it impressed the importance of figuring out the hardy staples of the garden and made it obvious I need to buckle down and not just start seeds for things like tomatoes inside, but start them much earlier. I’ve heard February for tomatoes and pepper so I’m going to buy pots and soil instead of just peat pods so I can repot them as they grow. Or maybe grow some in salvaged Rubbermaid storage bins we pulled from the barn. Then I could just drag the bins onto the porch and avoid disrupting them by transplanting. Come to think of it, I could probably do acorn and butternut squash the same way. I tossed some leftover seeds in 2’ recycled tire planters and was surprised to see them do fine in them. The vines sprawled out but the root space was adequate.

I haven’t eaten any Hopi squash yet but I will definitely do a post on them once I do. They are suppose to be very versatile and with the long storage life I can squeak by another year without a pressure canner (and save time/jars for other foods next year). Assuming they aren’t disagreeable they’ve proven their hardiness and will be a constant in the garden. Hopi Pale Grey are hard to find, they were almost extinct and I bought my seeds directly from Jackie Clay, “Ask Jackie” columnist and homestead writer from Backwoods Home magazine! I’d be happy to send you some seeds. These originate form the US and were originally grown by the Hopi tribe, it’s by dedicated seed savers that they are available at all. Over the years I’ve only ever seen about two or three sources. Seeing how reliable they were in a bad growing year makes them even more valuable.

I’ve seen squash arbors and they look amazing! I was contemplating one as an efficient use of space in the fenced in part of the yard. Every year my squashes climb up and over (or through) the fence. They are better with smaller ones that won’t pull down the vies as they grow but I’ve heard of making hammocks to support larger ones. I’ve also seen people grow squashes over one side and down the other on the roof of a garage or shed! The squirrels, chipmunks, and what I think was a ground squirrel(?) definitely did a lot of damage. The tomatoes within the part of the yard were the dogs were fenced and we were running around a lot did much better and the hanging squash were also untouched.

We are still more prepper than farmer but we’ll get there. Here’s the Autumn Harvest for 2014.

After such a strange summer we did better than I expected and I think next year has a lot of potential. The are so many small tomatoes and gourds and blooms littering the plants still, hundreds but it’s so late in the season they’ll never get far enough to pick. Spring was late (the ground was still frozen when it was time to plant), we spent a lot of time expanding and setting up one garden, and it was very rainy, cloudy, and cool all summer. Everything grew agonizingly slow! We had plenty of peas and beans, most got eaten before they made it into the house, Judas Jr. loved eating them right out of the garden. We had kale, turnips, and took small leeks. A lot of the berries and apple trees were just trying to recover from chicken and deer damage, though the blackberries and strawberries are flowering now.

The acorn and butternut squash were plentiful but didn’t grow fast enough. This was our first year growing Hopi Pale Grey Squash (pictured above) and they did wonderfully! I’ll likely dedicate the whole driveway plot to them next year as the vines were so sprawling.They’re suppose to be around 10 lbs. each but some are nearly 20 plus they’re suppose to be very long lasting (two years in a root cellar). I’m excited that the three of us will have enough squash for the winter and I can make pies for the holidays! We had 11 total with a couple acorn squash but no mature butternut.

I brought in all the green tomatoes that were big enough to pick and not damaged by animals (chipmunks?). I left about as many grown tomatoes in the garden that had been gnawed on and left the door open for the chickens to finish off and with the squash. The flowers and tiny tomatoes were staggering! Had the weather cooperated we could have potentially had four times as many based on what was still on the vines! Tomatoes were a half-bushel.

We’ve still got brussel sprouts, kale, leeks, and artichokes alive in the garden as an experiment in winter crops or stuff I’m hoping will come back next year. More on that later.

Pole barn progress continues!

It feels good to see the roof on with winter looming, we even have electricity now, all thanks to Lieblings! Aside from being beefier than it’s predecessor, the repaired barn has a clear ridge cap and panels for skylights and windows. There’ll also be some regular windows that open. There’s better ventilation which was severely lacking in the old version and caused wood to rot as moisture condensed horribly. The green on the side is spare roofing used to patch the parts of the walls that were mangled where it blew out.

This is going to be our machine shop, firewood and animals will be housed elsewhere from here on. Which means yes, we are planning to build a small livestock barn eventually!

Happy October!

Happy October!

It’s here!

Autumn on Rat Farm! Our freak warm week ended, it went from high 70s back down to 45.

It’s been a cool year and had been getting colder, autumn is definitely upon us. Then this week has been ridiculously warm and sunny, it’s been nicer than a lot of the summer was! I’m hoping this will be what the gardens need to catch up after a slow growing summer.

Pictured in order: kale eaten by some critter, first sign of brussel sprouts forming in the crook of the leaves, tiny purple kohlrabi starting starting to gt recognizable, grass seed coming in around the new stone path, green tomatoes, tomato flowers, and butternut squash trying to beat the clock, strawberries in the stone retaining wall grown from transplanted runners, this years new ivy turning red, and very very late blackberry blossoms!

If you missed what we’re growing, this year’s planting list is here.

Standing in the front yard looking South (last photo). I’ve been watching the shadows moved as the sun travels across the sky all summer and plotting. A lot of the front yard, including the newly expanded garden are shaded at least part of the day. Eventually everything except that double trunked maple in the center of the first photo (our chill spot to remain shaded) will get cut save for a tree line/privacy buffer along the edge of the property. The area will be used for an orchard with dwarf fruit trees that won’t block out the sun so the garden will do better and the house will benefit form more passive solar heat in the winter. There’s two apple transplants as f this summer. We already removed a few trees near the house (the bright spot behind the playhouse in the second photo) and it made a big difference over the winer.

The orchard will be fenced in, still separate from the front yard. It’ll be the location for a final coop and the chickens will be permanently enclosed but with a much larger area than the run and they’ll have plenty of access to foraging. I love letting them free-range but we loose too many to predators: foxes are our biggest nuisance but neighbors dogs and feral cats also cause trouble. Dogs don’t usually get far before ours go nuts but feral/loose pet cats have killed entire broods of chicks and left them dead without even eating them.

I’m not sure when we’ll start this project because there’s so many things we’re doing but next summer we’re getting goats and will be tethering them to clear the weeds and brush in that area.

Adventures in our enchanted forest!~

Mushroom Tag