Harvest time is year round at Seven Trees Farm, but late fall is time to wrap things up and put most of the garden to bed until spring. This year, chores that we normally spread out through the beginning of winter have had to be accelerated into just a few weeks. One of the humans here is about to have rotator cuff surgery that will put her out of commission (in terms of manual labor) for months, and there was quite a lot on the list that wouldn’t wait.
But the critical things are done, and the rest can be done by one person, or even one one-handed person. It’s time to look back over the 2013 growing season, take stock of the harvest and make plans for spring.
We grew Hidatsa shield figure beans for a few years, then stopped in favor of trialing other bean varieties. There were less than a pint jar left from the 2008 crop, so we decided to grow them out and replenish our seed stock. These are pole-habit dry beans, originally grown by the Hidatsa tribe who raised corn, squash, beans, and sunflowers in the Missouri River Valley of North Dakota. The term ‘shield figure’ refers to the shield-shaped markings around the eye of the bean. Some of ours are darker than normal, and we may grow some of these out separately to see if they breed true. These make wonderful soup beans, especially good with ham & greens. And they are also very productive. Only 18 beans produced over 8 pounds dried this year, and only took up two 9 foot long rows. The chard is performing like a champion as the weather turns colder. The leaves are not as tender as they were in summer, but they make up for that in brilliant colors. Even after steaming and tossing with apple cider vinegar, they are vibrant. We have fall plantings of chard and other greens coming on, and most likely will continue to produce until we get sustained temperatures below freezing.
We didn’t grow many beets this year, since the pantry is still stocked with pickled beets from previous bumper crops. In fact, we ignored a number of beets until it was time to clear the garden for tilling. We ended up with monsters. There is a normal sized Cylindra beet on the left for comparison. Luckily these cook up just fine for chicken treats, though they are a bit woody for human preferences. After burning out on winter squash last year, we limited ourselves to a few sugar pie pumpkin plants. We planted them where a manure compost pile used to be, and those 5 plants went to town. You can see the sad fall garden in the background that has since been cleared and tilled. It will need a few more tillings before spring to knock the weeds back as they germinate (incompletely composted horse manure is filled with weed seeds), but we’re ready as we can be for winter.