September 13, 2010

Around The Homestead

Random updates, comments, and observations since my last Around The Homestead.

 I'll start with a report on my blueberry dehydrating experiment. Click here for what that's all about. After 7 weeks, I can report that only the blueberries that were dried the longest (15 hours) remain with no sign of spoilage.

Speaking of dehydrating, we've had a second round of cantaloupes so I dehydrated some of those too.  Many of you have told me how good these are, and I trust your recommendation!

In general, food production and preservation are slowing down to a point where I can start to focus on some other things. I'll have to do a tally post soon. Still to be harvested are the pumpkins (of which I have only two, very disappointing), sweet potatoes, popcorn, sunflowers, and amaranth. Okra, sweet peppers, and black turtle beans continue to produce well.  Everything else is getting to be slim pickings until the fall garden starts producing.

Piliated woodpeckers have moved into the neighborhood! We both love woodpeckers, but piliateds are our favorites. I hear them, but they're shy, so I've only seen one, feasting in our blueberry bush. We do hear them calling back and forth to one another though.

We've also spotted hawks again. We had them frequently when we first moved here, but they seemed to  migrate elsewhere after our neighbor clearcut all that acreage. Not only are they back, but they are surveying and hanging out on our property. I saw one take off from the very tree Riley and Katy got stuck in near the animal's shed.  With chickens and small cats, that's a concern.

Speaking of that clearcut property, it remains as is. No development, no for sale signs, no "improvements." It just sits there growing brush. It turns out that the property has been in the family for generations, with each generation receiving the benefit of selling of the timber.

I went out hunting for muscadines the other day. Actually Charlie and I did when we went on one of our walks. Nary a grape did I see!!! I am really disappointed about that, as wild muscadine jelly is my absolute favorite. There's still one vine in the woods that may have some. I'll have to go check. If not, perhaps I can find a local pick-your-own.

After all that work putting down landscape cloth in my battle to keep my strawberries and comfrey from being smothered out by the "wire grass," I am annoyed to report that the stupid stuff did not do the job!  

The grass just pokes right on up through it, even with several inches of mulch. The directions tell you that it needs at least 5 to 6 inches of  rubber mulch, to which I thought "Ha. It's about profit not results."

It was an expensive lesson learned. The bottom line is that cardboard is cheaper, faster to put down, works better, and is compostable!

Speaking of the comfrey (in the pic above: strawberry plants in the foreground, comfrey plants toward the back) the goats love it. Next year I'll be able to harvest it once a month for feed, compost, or mulch. I need to figure out how to dry it too; I'll probably need to make drying racks though. Just what I need, another project.

Do you remember what I told you about my chickens' egg color? Well, it seems that as the Laying Ladies have matured a bit, their egg color has become more typical for their respective breeds. The Barred Holland is laying whiter eggs, and the Wellsummer eggs have gotten darker, though sometimes I still can't tell them from the Delaware's.

The color in the photo above isn't completely accurate. I find the flash washes out the green, so I took it without and tried to lighten it with The GIMP. It should give you an idea anyway. From the left: Welsummer, Delaware, Ameraucana, Barred Holland, & Ameraucana.

I'm not getting enough to freeze a lot, but I'm grateful for what I can do.

Speaking of chickens, I've discovered that they don't mind sharing one of the dust bath spots with Charlie.

One project I haven't mentioned in a loooong time is painting the house. On the project list, the new front door needs to be installed first, plus the front porch is sadly in need of repair. We can't get to these until we finish the HVAC ductwork and some insulating of the crawl space. These things will need to be done before we are ready to paint. I am however, finishing up some scraping, sanding, and priming on one last section of the house.

The fall garden is just starting to come up. Some of it that is. I'll post about that soon. My big duh was when I set out the soaker hose and let it run for a good hour, only to discover that I didn't hook it up to the hose connected to the house. I ended up with a huge puddle where it wasn't needed.  sigh  One step forward, two steps back.

Lastly, kitty news (there's always kitty news.) Katy discovered my big pot of catnip.

I reckon that's it for now. Unless you can think of something I forgot.

Around The Homestead © September 2010 


Life Looms Large said...

Pileated woodpeckers and hawks are two of my faves!

Hawk migration is in full swing around here, so maybe some birds will spend the winter down there! (Or even stay with you permanently)


Theresa said...

WEll, a hawk lover here too, but I can see your point about the chickens. Woodpeckers are always fun and esp. the pileated ones. We have tons of woodpeckers here, of all kinds.
The fall garden sounds like it might be just as bountiful as the summer one, except for the grapes. Bummer.

Woolly Bits said...

I think with gardening there is always some failure with the successes. something that is so dependent on the weather cannot work all the time? from your list you've had rich pickings though - apart from the pot with catmint though - but doesn't she look like she's in cat heaven?:)) maybe you need to put several - and one,where she can't reach it that easily?

Nina said...

I saw my first pileated wp when I was 10 years old. It was so impressive, it's one of my formative memories.
Crows are supposed to keep hawks away, so feeding them helps keep a family of them in the around. We've a pair of red tailed hawks which frequent our area. They respond to the squeak of the clothesline of all things. In the winter they hang out on our lawn at times. I've not put my chooks out yet because of them. Even though they say that hawks won't take full sized chooks, I'm not willing to risk it.
I've got 14 pumpkins from 3 plants.That's an awful lot of processing to get them in the freezer.

Leigh said...

Sue, I hadn't thought about hawk migration. Of course, we live in an area that does have permanent residents. I know it's true of robins.

Theresa, so far so good with the fall garden, except it could use a little more rain. I can expect first frost in about a month or so, and that will be it for summer's harvest. I am thankful for the bounty.

Bettina, one of the things I learned this summer, is that I need to plan for the failures as well as the successes. I'm going to try and make a list of things I need to keep in mind and take care of next year.

I've always grown catnip for the cats, and harvested a little for my herb cupboard. Once Riley gets in it though, I certainly may need some "off limits" plants!

Nina, chickens and kittens! We hope the chickens are too large to be a temptation (though who knows if general pickings are slim). The cats though, are still small enough to worry about.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Katy isn't going to give up that catnip spot easily! The dried melon sounds interesting - I have never tried it so might buy a couple of local ones and do them. Ours jusst didn't grown this year.

Kids and Canning Jars said...

Just loving your blog. You are so inspiring to me. My Fall garden is slowly coming along. But, to make up for it my orange tree is sooooo full I most likely have around 400 oranges. I will be doing a ton of juice and dehydrating.


Michelle said...

How do you keep track of what needs to get done? You have so many projects going on! I often wish for helpers & do delegate a few small tasks out.
Today is a day for working in the strawberry patch here. I have to say that while your mulch system seems to have failed to you, the grass clumps are much fewer & shorter than the weeds I've been pulling out for 2 weeks now in our patch. The strawberry plants could not be seen under the 2 ft weeds! I am still not finished, but nearly there. today I am making a mulched row down the middle. Mostly trying to figure out a good mulch is going to have to be brown packing paper, paper bags or cardboard with grass clippings on top. Someday I hope to have a chipper/shredder for making my own organic mulch....the amaranth stalks would be great for that.

Benita said...

Man, that green egg is huge compared to the others.

You have had a very busy summer. And lots of food to show for it. Too bad about the blueberries - I guess they need to be little rocks to survive.

Watch those hawks. They do have their uses (mice, snakes, bunnies), but until the kittens are bigger, you might want to keep an eye out.

That wide-eyed look of a catnip junkie make me laugh out loud. It's a good thing I'm the only one in the office at the moment.

Leigh said...

Evelyn, Katy was pretty indignant when Riley came by to see what was going on. Usually he takes over, but this time she wouldn't let him!

A lot of folks loved the dried cantaloupe. I thought it was okay. I've frozen some too, so we'll see how we like that.

Melissa, thank you for your kind words! I envy those oranges. What a treat. Are they the kind you can make marmalade with?

Michelle, I make lists. About once a week or so we have a planning meeting, evaluate our progress since the last list, and make a new list of everything that needs to be done. I keep these in a notebook so we can track our progress. Then I make daily lists for myself. Somethings get priority, others keep getting put on the next list and then the next.

Weeding is a chore but mulching is work too! I have to say that at least with the landscape cloth, the grass has no place to put down roots so it's easier to pull out. Then it leaves holes in the barrier, which of course invite more weeds. :) I found cardboard lasted the longest, but still needs something on top of that. I like leaves, but sometimes the wind blows them away. Good idea about the amaranth! I do have a chipper/shredder but zoinks is it ever noisy.

Benita, the Ameraucanas do lay the largest eggs. The others seem medium to small, but I'm happy to have them.

Even though I lost some blueberries, I'm glad I did the experiment. They do have to be pretty hard and dry it seems.

I hear you about the hawk. I only wish I could teach the kitties to hide when they hear it.

Sharon said...

We've had flickers and kestrals through here in the last couple of days. The American Kestral, i.e., Sparrow Hawk, can clear the songbirds out of here faster than you've imagine possible. We've also had a golden eagle lurking around here this past week.

Our sitting outside, watching the world days are coming to a close as the days keep getting cooler. The weather, she is a'changin'.

upinak said...

You know I grew catnip this year and the cats don't like it for some reason. I have two overly loved and completely adored cats whom I call Bubba and the Turdinator... but they did NOT like the cat nip and actually tried to bury it.

Maybe it is me but I don't think they liked the nip. *sighs* I guess it can't be any worse then my corn. Thanks for stopping by the blog, and having a chuckle. :)

Eat To Live said...

I have been dehydrating Honey Crisp apples lately. They are so sweet that they taste like a piece of candy when they are finished.

I have never dehydrated a cantaloupe...Hmmmmm,, I just might have to try that next. Thanks for the tip.

Ozarkhomesteader said...

Gee whiz--that's a lot! Your blueberry bush sounds like our grapevine, serendipity.

I was just talking with Mr. Homesteader tonight about why we need a dehydrator instead of doing things his grandmother's way. Your berry situation would have answered him better. :-)

Leigh said...

Upinak, thanks for the return visit. It's interesting about your cats. I used to have a cat that didn't care for catnip. I researched it and found out that it's true, not all cats are sensitive to catnip. It does have a number of medicinal qualities however, and makes a nice relaxing tea for humans with insomnia.

Terry, I've dried apples before (tasty) but never Honey Crisps. Obviously they're as sweet as advertised. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on some.

Do try the cantaloupe! Then come back and tell me what you think.

Ozarkhomesteader, having lived in Arkansas for several years, I know all about Ozark humidity! It's true, a dehydrator is a fabulous tool. Some are fairly reasonable. Maybe you could break him in on one of those :)

Robin said...

Thats to bad that the weed block didn't work. :(