Crown’d with the sickle and the wheaten sheaf,
While Autumn, nodding o’er the yellow plain,
Comes jovial on.
~ James Thomson, The Seasons, Autumn c.1730
It’s that time of year already. Fall is falling, but summer hasn’t quite quit. Many of our crops are done & harvested for the year, and we’re taking stock of what worked and what didn’t, beginning the planning process for next year.
We learned a lot about carrots. After waiting out wireworms, we still faced carrotastrophe from the twin terrors of carrot rust fly and kitty litterboxing. Enter the floating row covers. They worked great! A little fussy uncovering for periodic weeding, but both flies and cats didn’t stand a chance. Little did we know we provided perfect conditions for yet another menace to wreak havoc – gophers! We’d planned to leave the carrots in the ground, harvesting as needed until frost. Imagine the shock and horror when pulling what looked like a tasty well-grown root, only to find the lower half had been munched away. In many cases only withered greens poking out of a carrot-shaped hole stood witness to these subterranean feasts.
So we harvested the whole row, losing about 25% to the varmints. Seven Trees being a diversified subsistence farm means that there is always someone around to help with disposal, no matter what the crop. BB & Q loved the damaged carrots, especially deployed like fruit from the bushes in their pen. We’re still not quite sure how to deal with the triple-threat attacks on our carrots next year. Maybe collateral damage is just part of the game.
The onions did fine this year. There was a late attack of mildew, thanks to a stretch of warm damp overnight weather. Luckily they were far-enough along that we were able to hasten harvest by bending the tops over and letting the sun do its thing. We grew a few Walla Walla sweets, some old-standby Copra, and trialed a new-to-us variety called Varsity, just under 600 bulbs total. The Varsity onions seemed to show more tendency to go to seed, and more of the bulbs were oddly-shaped. I think next year we’ll go back to Copra as our maincrop. We just recently used the last of last year’s onions, which isn’t a bad shelf life.
The PNW seems to be having a tough time with tomatoes this year. It’s always challenging to get a full crop in, but this year almost everyone growing maters has noticed abundant foliage, plenty of late-setting green fruit, and very little ripening. Our Romas grew like jungle vines in the hoops, then decided to get a bit of blight. We finally waded in and pruned them back drastically, so fingers crossed. We always grow a few Stupice maters, since they reliably mature before blight and frost. This year one of the plants is producing lovely striped fruits from some ot the branches. I can’t see any sign of grafting, so maybe these are a spontaneous mutation. We’re saving seeds to plant next year, just in case.
The new incubator is set up and almost ready for action. We’re saving some of our own eggs, plus have a dozen on the way from an Olive-egger breeder, which means more chickens that will need more space. Our little ‘barn’, which started out as a lean to for goats and Stella, later morphed into an enclosed stall with hay mow and milking area, then became a stable for Gemini, is now a dedicated hen house. The former hay bay is being converted to a pullet run, giving not-quite-grown hens a place of their own when they outgrow the baby coop.
They will have an enclosed outside run that opens onto the grazing paddocks, just like the laying flock on the other side of the wall.
The potatoes did fairly well this year. A little bit of blight hit right as the vines started dying down, so we cut all the vines off and will let the spuds stay in the ground another 2 weeks to cure for storage. We grew Butte (a russet baking potato) but probably won’t again, because they went blighty first, and the vines grow annoyingly low and all over the place. We trialed a newish take on German Butterball called Crackled Butterball. They are a hit! Good blight resistance compared to the other varieties, prolific spud set, and big tasty tubers. We’ll grow these again for sure. Our usuall early variety, Caribe, did just ok this year. It didn’t flower much, or set many spuds, but that is probably weather-related. And we grew Ozette fingerlings, mainly because they are a heritage variety with a long history in the PNW, and they taste good oven-roasted with olive oil and herbs.. The purple fingerlings were an impulse buy from the produce department of our local co-op. They did about as well as the Ozettes, and the insides are as dark as the outsides.
Nights are starting to get a little chilly, sending some of the smaller inhabitants into winter preparations. This frog has been spending nights inside a workboot kept on the porch with all our yard shoes, so we named it Das Boot. The other morning we were rather surprised to find it amongst some Amplissimo Viktoria soup peas that are drying down in a cardboard box on top of the woodbox. It left that evening, and we haven’t discovered its new hiding place.
The other critters of Seven Trees are getting in practice for long nights lounging in front of the woodstove. Guess we’d better top up the wood shed soon or we’ll have some unhappy farmhands this winter.