Saturday, September 27, 2008

Farm Report

Don't I wish this really was an honest-to-goodness Farm Report. If Roy and I had been born a hundred years earlier (possibly even just 50 years earlier), I know we would have lived on a sustainable family farm somewhere in the depths of farm country. But our life is here and now, and a mighty good life it is, so a more accurate title for this entry would be Small Homestead Report.

A view of some of the garden beds with the cold frame covers up for the day . . . which blocks the view of the garden beds!

Part of the field garden which looks pretty good yet.

Comin' up fast on the last of September we are and we've avoided even a light frost in our neck of the woods. The garden is still unbelievably lush and green looking for the most part.

These are a couple of the full-sized heirloom tomatoes we've been getting from the garden. One sitting in a cup measure to give an idea of size.

The tomatoes are slowly ripening, I'm still harvesting slicing cucs, lettuce, Swiss chard, cabbage, cherry tomatoes, and sweet peppers. I could be picking beans and pickling cucs if I wasn't already up to my ear lobes in them. We've got potatoes and carrots that we're leaving in the ground a while longer.

We're still getting a few blueberries. These were picked yesterday - about 3 cups.

Two female ducks; Mini Silver Appleyard on left and Khaki Campbell on right.

Geese gobbling up food, as usual. American Buff on left and Shetland female on right.

Proud rooster decked out in all his finery. A molting hen who wants to run away and hide. She's having a very bad feather day.

The ducks, geese, and chickens are all doing well. Chickens are molting a bit as expected this time of year and egg production is down some. 'Cept for our crazy little banty hens who have hardly laid an egg all summer and have now decided to start poppin' 'em out like crazy.

Our two full-sized mama hen chickens who were sharing a nest of eggs have just one little chick. (Two others did hatch but didn't make it.) The little one who made it looks for all the world to be a Bantam (yes, we do have one Bantam rooster) as he/she doesn't look any bigger than the day he/she hatched out over three weeks ago. The two mamas are so protective they refuse to let me get close enough for a picture.

Roy took a quick walk by the bee hives a couple of days ago and came in to report that there was a HUGE mound of dead bees outside our strongest hive. What happened? What could have caused such a die-off? Two possibilities come to mind. The bees could have gotten into some nectar of plants that had been sprayed with poison. But if that were the case, wouldn't the bees in our other hives have also been affected? The other really scary possibility is the fact that there are one or two beekeepers in our county who we suspect have brought in mite-infested bees. The bee mites are currently a serious problem in virtually all parts of the country. We, along with a group of other concerned beekeepers, originally obtained mite-free bees from a unique, uncontaminated area in Ontario. If, indeed, our heretofore healthy bees have come in contact with those few unhealthy bees, we are in big trouble. Bees are so important to our crops and gardens. I know my garden has gotten better and better for several years now and I attribute much of it to our bees.

I didn't think about taking a picture of the dead bees until too late. When I got out there, the ever-efficient bees had cleared the carnage away and there was nothing unusual left to photograph. When Roy took the hives apart for a really good inspection a few weeks ago, he said that he didn't think we'd be able to take off any honey this year. The bees would need all they had to winter-over. He recently spoke with a very successful beekeeper of 40-some years who lives over the border in Canada. She said this is the worst year for bees she's ever had.

Even though we've had strangely warmer than normal temperatures (both day and night) lately, the calendar tells us that a different season is coming and we need to tend to those important outside chores in preparation for winter. Duck, geese and chicken houses and pens need to be cleaned and readied, any painting or jobs requiring warmth need to be done now. We've got one side (a big side!) of the garage that still needs to be sided and painted. Window boxes and potted plants should be emptied, and there's always more wood to be worked up and sheltered. Roy wants to do some brushing and mowing in the woods in preparation for winter logging of firewood he'd like to do. It's time to finish the shoring up of our stores of livestock grain and feed for the winter. The annual job of mowing the weeds and volunteer saplings on either side of our quarter mile long driveway needs to be done so the ditches and drop-offs can be seen when snowplowing.

Well-gosh, I think by giving this "Farm Report", I've just made a jim-dandy list for us to work from in the next few weeks of good weather. And, oh yeah, it sure would be nice to squeeze in a few day trips to get out and hike and paddle and sight-see and enjoy our gorgeous fall scenery during what I think is the most enjoyable weather of the year.

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