Playing catch-up

We took a few days off to catch up with some of our undone fall tasks. Naturally the weather (and our tiller) didn’t cooperate, and there is still a lot to do, but we had a lot of fun working hard during our vacation….as strange as that sounds….

The pigs have about a month left until freezer camp, so we bumped out their pen a bit to give them more elbow room, and used the string method to estimate their weight. Girth x girth x length divided by 400 is supposed to be a good ballpark.

BB & Q are both around 155#, if this method is accurate. We’d like to see them closer to 200# by slaughter time, but Berkshires are often smaller at 6 months than production crossbreeds (Patty Pig, a Duroc/Hampshire cross was 240# at 6 months). This weekend we bought some Berkshire pork chops from Farmer Ben’s and were very pleased with size, flavor and texture. If BB & Q turn out like that, it may be worth the trouble of locating heritage breed weaners for next year’s batch.

Time out for a tummy rub. Look at that piggy smile!

Our lovely Painted Mountain corn didn’t take too kindly to being hung up to dry in a chilly, damp garage. It started to develop mold in the cobs, since they retain moisture much longer than the kernels. So we abandoned the decorative bundles and shelled it all out as fast as we could. The piggies got all the bits & pieces, and the kernels are in boxes on the hearth to make sure they are completely dried down before storage. Next year we’ll save out the prettiest ones for decoration and bring them in to dry by the woodstove right away.

With a little help here & there from friends & neighbors, it turned out we only needed to buy 1 cord of wood this season. But it still needs to be stacked out of the weather to finish drying. The unintentional camouflage worn by our intrepid woodsma’am didn’t fool Stewart any. We were delighted to discover recently that the prince had returned to Seven Trees. But imagine not just one royal fungus, but a whole crowd of minor royalty! It seems leaving some to set spores was a good idea, because this year we ended up with 6 giant tasty fungi.

Agaricus augustus, slumming with we peasants.
These twins have already started to melt back into the ground.

We harvested one prince to accompany the Berkshire pork chops at dinner. They were indescribably delicious sauteed in olive oil and butter with chives and garlic. I can’t wait to see if the prince & company return next year. Another exciting discovery on the homestead front is the provenance of the winter peas brought over from Bosnia. We’re finally getting around to shelling and sorting all the legumes we trialled this year (we’ll share more about that soon) and some concentrated googling turned up Biskopens Gråært, aka Bishop’s Greypea.

Bishop’s Greypea

It is a fairly rare heritage soup pea from Sweden. Before potatoes became a staple food in Northern Europe, these peas were cooked to a very thick consistency (like mashed potatoes) and eaten as a side dish. They are easy to grow, can handle both cold and heat, and the dried peas store a long time. What a wonderfully useful crop to rediscover! We only harvested seed from 2 plants, but hopefully enough to maintain some genetic diversity. The only other sources for this pea are a few hardcore enthusiasts and a seed bank in Norway.


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